What do I need?

Following your application for recognition, you hold refugee status in Germany and have one of the following residence permits: § 18a German Residence Act (AufenthG); § 22 clause 1 German Residence Act; § 23 para. 1 German Residence Act; § 23a German Residence Act; § 24 German Residence Act; § 25 para. 3 German Residence Act; § 25 para. 4, clause 1 German Residence Act; § 25 para. 4, clause 2 German Residence Act; § 25 para. 4a German Residence Act; § 25 para. 4b German Residence Act; § 25 para. 5 German Residence Act; § 25a para. 1 German Residence Act; § 25a para. 2, clause 1 German Residence Act or § 25 para. 2, clause 2 German Residence Act.  You can become self-employed in Germany.

You must apply to your local immigration authority (Ausländerbehörde) for a permit to practise self-employment (Erlaubnis zur Ausübung einer Selbständigkeit) in line with § 21 para. 6 of the German Residence Act (AufenthG). This permits you to work on a self-employed basis. You keep your previous residence permit.

Here you can find out where and how you can apply for the required residence permit and what you need to register as self-employed. These steps differ depending on whether you wish to start a trade business or become self-employed as a freelancer.

Trade or Freelance Occupation?

What is a trade?  What is a freelance profession?

Applying for a residence permit

If you want to set up a trade or work on a freelance basis, you must apply to your local immigration authority (Ausländerbehörde) for a permit to practise self-employment (Erlaubnis zur Ausübung einer selbständigen Tätigkeit) in line with § 21 para. 6 of the German Residence Act (AufenthG). The immigration authority will require a business plan in which you have described your self-employment and detailed your professional experience or experience as a freelancer. You must also provide proof that you have fulfilled the formal requirements and qualifications for your self-employment. The documents you provide will be mainly judged based on the economic feasibility of your business idea – will you be able to generate a profit? – and on your business experience.

Business plan

We recommend that you draw up a business plan for your business in Germany, so that it is set up correctly from the very beginning. Business plans do not just help to give you a better overview of the various steps and requirements required to set up your business, and to help you reflect on these; they are often a necessity should you require external financial support, for example a bank loan. The main aspects addressed in a business plan are: Why your idea is a good one. Who your customers are and how you will reach them. Why you are better than the competition. How you will earn money with your business. How you will finance your business.

What to do if the immigration authority refuses your application

In this case, seek support from a business adviser; if you do not have an adviser, then get in touch with one of our members of staff. They will accompany you through the following steps: 

  • Inquire at the immigration authority for the reasons for the refusal.
  • If formal reasons are given, for example missing documents, then hand these in as required.
  • If the reasons for the refusal concern your business idea and its implementation, then revise your business plan and/or seek support – ideally from the business advisory service that has already assisted you. If you do not yet have a business adviser, then get in touch with one of our advisers.
  • If the reasons given concern your personal and entrepreneurial skills, then ask your local Chamber of Commerce or business development organisation to see if there are any seminars or courses available that will allow you to develop the necessary expertise. You can also contact one of our advisers who will do their best to assist you further.

Please give us a call or send us an email if you have any questions! We will show you creative ways to achieve your goal.

Registering your self-employment

If you receive a positive decision, the next step for starting your self-employment in Germany is to register the business or register your self-employment at the local tax office (Finanzamt). The latter applies to freelance professions.

Registering a trade
In order to register your trade, go to your local trade office (Gewerbeamt) – the office in the town, district or region in which you want to become self-employed. You can find the contact details for the trade office in your local citizen's support office (Bürgerbüro), or search online at: www.bmwi-wegweiser.de/suche/behoerden/. Select "Gewerbeamt" and enter the postcode of the town in which you wish to found your company. The contact information and opening hours for your local trade office will appear on screen. The trade offices' websites often feature forms for registering a business: Some offices expect you to have already completed these forms before coming to the office in person.  

In order to register a business, you need: 

  • A valid personal ID or passport; sometimes you also need a registration card (Meldebescheinigung) from the residents' registration office (Einwohneramt)
  • Proof that you fulfil the requirements of the profession
  • Ten to fifty euros for the registration fee 
  • In the case of trades requiring a licence, you will also need a CRB check (polizeiliches Führungszeugnis) or an extract from the commercial register 
  • For itinerant trades, you will require an itinerant trade card. You will also need to provide a CRB check (polizeiliches Führungszeugnis) and pay a fee of between forty and seven hundred seventy euros. You must carry your itinerant trade card with you at all times when practising your profession.

Registering a freelance profession
If you want to become self-employed as a freelancer, you must register at your local tax office (Finanzamt). There is no form to be completed for the registration; instead, you must write a letter with a short description of the business that you intend to set up. The tax office will send you a tax registration questionnaire (Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung) and will issue you with a tax number. Aside from registering with the tax office, most freelance professions require the fulfilment of certain qualifications, financial requirements and/or other conditions. You can find out which ones here.

Do you have questions about the requirements for becoming self-employed? Do you want some help in getting together all the necessary documentation? Get in touch – we are here to help!

Contact persons

Dr. Ralf Sänger

Dr. Ralf Sänger
IQ Fachstelle Migrantenökonomie
+49 (0)6131 9061855

Julia Siebert

Julia Siebert
IQ Fachstelle Migrantenökonomie