How to do business in NRW: Coming to Germany

Who Needs a Visa?

EU Nationals

Generally, citizens of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland may enter, stay, and work in Germany without any visa. They only have to register at the local registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt), e.g., if they change their residence to Germany. Swiss nationals have to notify the local immigration office about their longtermstay in order to get a residence permit certifying their right to free movement.

Non-EU Nationals

Citizens of non-EU countries generally require a visa to enter, stay, and work in Germany.

For short-term stays in Germany (stays not exceeding 90 days within a 180-days period starting from the initial date of arrival) a Schengen visa is needed for entry into Germany. A Schengen visa is generally sufficient for most steps required to establish a business in Germany.

Is the duration of the stay exceeding 90 days (within a 180-days period) or is a (self-employed or gainful) occupation taken up, all non-EU citizens require a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) or settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis). For this purpose, the German embassies or consulates issue a national visa for entering Germany which is "transferred" into a residence or settlement permit in Germany.

Nationals of certain countries do not require a visa for entry into or short-term stays in Germany. The Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) provides detailed information on entry requirements into Germany for different countries. Please refer to the following site:

For detailed information on German residence titles, please read below.

Please note: the type of residence title depends on the investor's country of origin, the length of the intended stay and the intended business activity in North Rhine-Westphalia. Read more about the different types of visas for different business activities in Germany on the following sites:

 

Schengen Visa and National Visa

For short-term stays in Germany (up to 90 days per six-month period starting from the initial date of arrival) all non-EU citizens require a Schengen visa to enter Germany. With this visa, entrepreneurs can perform most activities necessary to set up their business in Germany. For more information, please refer to the following site:

Is the duration of the stay exceeding 90 days (per six-month period) or is a (self-employed or gainful) occupation taken up, a national visa is required to enter Germany. In Germany, this national visa must be converted into a residence or settlement permit by the responsible local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) in order to stay in Germany according to the intended purpose of the trip.

Visa Exemptions

However, there are visa exemptions for several countries. Citizens from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, the United States and some other countries may stay in Germany up to 90 days without any visa. Still, a national visa is required when entering Germany for long-term stay purposes or when a (self-employed or gainful) occupation is taken up.

Only citizens from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States may enter Germany for long-term stay purposes without a national visa. These foreign nationals may directly apply for the necessary residence or settlement permit at the immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) in Germany.

The Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) is able to provide detailed information on individual rules for certain countries.

 

Residence Permit and Settlement Permit

Entrepreneurs from non-EU countries require a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) or a settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) if they want to run a business in Germany on-site or if they are employed in Germany.

A residence permit is always limited in time, a settlement permit is unlimited. A settlement permit will usually be issued, if a non-EU citizen has been in possession of a residence permit for at least five years. Both residence and settlement permit are always issued for a specific purpose, usually for the purpose of self-employment or for the purpose of taking up employment in Germany. For more information, please also refer to the following site:

A residence or settlement permit will be issued by the local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) in Germany. To enter Germany, a national visa is issued for the trip to Germany by the responsible German embassy in the applicant's home country or country of residence. This is then converted into a residence or settlement permit in Germany.

For more information on visa application and issuing, please refer to the following site:

However, there are exceptions for several countries. Citizens from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States may enter and stay in Germany without a national visa (up to 90 days). The application for a residence or settlement permit for the purpose of self-employment or taking up employment can be filed at the local immigration office in Germany.

The German Federal Office (Auswärtiges Amt) has detailed information on visa requirements available. Please also refer to the following site: