Visas and residence permits

As a non-EU national you are generally required to apply for a respective visa before entering Germany. Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States of America may apply for a residence permit after entering Germany. However, if you want to be able to start your business activity soon after your arrival, all nationals are advised to apply beforehand.

You can convert your visa for the purpose of self-employment into a residence permit after you have arrived in Cologne. A residence permit for the purpose of self-employment is issued for up to three years. You can then apply for a permanent settlement permit.

Depending on your type of business, the visa application procedures vary. Find out how to get your visa as:

You are welcome to contact us before your arrival in Germany. We are happy to support you at any stage of your business formation!

Our services

  • Advice on the visa process and work and resident permits
  • Guidance and assistance with administrative and legal matters for yourself, your family and your employees
  • Contact to relevant departments of the city administration

Schengen Visa | Entrepreneur | Short-term Stay

A Schengen visa (“business visa”) will generally suffice to establish your company in Germany. The visa allows a 90-day stay in a 180-day period and enables you to take all the fundamental steps you need to such as notarising your articles of association, registering your business in the commercial register, opening a bank account and preparing your business activity (e.g. make a rental agreement, meet business partners, conclude contracts).

Please bear in mind: If you expect to need more than 90 days for your business formation, apply for a visa for self-employment instead. Also, receiving a Schengen visa to set up your business in Germany does not warrant the issuance of a residence permit. Check in advance whether a visa for self-employment, which can later be converted into a residence permit, is better suited for your business plans.

 

  • My purpose of stay in Germany is plausible and reasonable in regard to my business intentions
  • My financial means are sufficient to cover travel costs and living expenses
  • My health insurance policy is valid for all Schengen states, covers the entire duration of my stay and provides medical coverage equivalent to the value of at least 30,000 Euros
  • Find your embassy or consulate here
  • Find out which documents the embassy or consulate requires

Please keep in mind: The German missions usually provide information about possible waiting times for appointments and the required documents on their websites. You can apply for your visa 6 months in advance of your trip. You may contact the mission to schedule an appointment beforehand.

  • Fill in your application here
  • Prepare supporting documents which are commonly required of entrepreneurs:
    • Business license/trade registration
    • Articles of association
    • Bank statements
    • Letter of invitation by a German business partner
    • Statement regarding the business purpose of the trip
    • Travel itinerary

Please keep in mind: Your documents should emphasise that you fulfil the requirements mentioned in Step 1. The German missions provide detailed information on the required documents.

  • Submit all documents
  • Receive your visa and enter Germany

Please keep in mind: Processing time usually takes up to 14 days.

 

This overview is a simplified depiction of the visa process to help clarify the essential steps. Further details are provided by the German Federal Foreign Office and the German consular mission in your country of residence.

Visa for Self-employment | Entrepreneur | Long-term Stay

 

  • There is a strong business case for my product or service or it meets a regional demand
  • My business will most likely have a positive effect on the economy
  • My capital or loan commitments are sufficient to realise my business plans
  • If I am older than 45 years of age, I can provide proof of an adequate pension plan
  • Find your embassy or consulate here 
  • Find out which documents the embassy or consulate requires of you

Please keep in mind: The German missions usually provide information about possible waiting times for appointments and any additional documents that may be required on their websites.

  • Fill in your application here
  • Prepare additional documents the Cologne Immigration Office requires as part of the assessment of your visa application:
    • Curriculum vitae
    • Academic, training and professional certificates
    • Business plan:
      • Detailed description of the planned business activities
      • Financing strategy
      • Information regarding business relations (e.g. letters of intent, cooperation contracts or similar)
      • Expected number of employees and description of their role
      • Revenue forecast for the next three years
  • Proof of equity (e.g. bank statement)
  • Proof of German language skills, if available

Please keep in mind: Your documents should emphasise that you fulfil the requirements mentioned in Step 1. The following aspects may be assessed: viability of the underlying business proposition, investor’s entrepreneurial experience, level of capital investment and availability of capital, effects on the regional employment level and contribution towards innovation, research and development in Germany.

  • Submit all documents
  • Receive your visa and enter Germany

Please keep in mind: Processing time may take several months. It is mandatory to have sufficient health insurance coverage prior to entering Germany.

  • Make an appointment at one of Cologne’s Registration Offices, prepare the required documents and receive your registration certificate
  • Make an appointment at the Cologne Immigration Office, prepare the required documents and receive your residence permit
  • You are now all set to start setting up your business in Cologne!

Please keep in mind: There are usually waiting times for appointments. Therefore, contact the relevant offices as soon as possible after your arrival in Cologne.

 

This overview is a simplified depiction of the visa process to help clarify the essential steps. Further details are provided by the German Federal Foreign Office and the German consular mission in your country of residence.

Visa for Self-employment | Freelancer

 

  • I have permission to practice in my profession, if required
  • I am able to finance my project
  • I will be able to make a living for myself by practicing my profession
  • If I am older than 45 years of age, I can provide proof of an adequate pension plan
  • Find your embassy or consulate here
  • Find out which documents the embassy or consulate requires of you

Please keep in mind: The German missions usually provide information about possible waiting times for appointments and any additional documents that may be required on their websites.

  • Fill in your application here
  • Prepare additional documents the Cologne Immigration Office requires as part of the assessment of your visa application:
    • Curriculum vitae
    • Academic, training and professional certificates
    • Detailed description of your freelance business
    • Information regarding client relations (e.g. letters of intent, invoices, freelance contracts or similar)
    • Expected monthly income
    • Proof of equity (e.g. bank statement)
    • Proof of German language skills, if available

Please keep in mind: Your documents should emphasise that you fulfil the requirements mentioned in Step 1.

  • Submit all documents
  • Receive your visa and enter Germany

Please keep in mind: Processing time may take several months. It is mandatory to have sufficient health insurance coverage prior to entering Germany.

  • Make an appointment at one of Cologne’s Registration Offices, prepare the required documents and receive your registration certificate
  • Make an appointment at the Cologne Immigration Office, prepare the required documents and receive your residence permit
  • You are now all set to start setting up your business in Cologne!

Please keep in mind: There are usually waiting times for appointments. Therefore, contact the relevant offices as soon as possible after your arrival in Cologne.

 

This overview is a simplified depiction of the visa process to help clarify the essential steps. Further details are provided by the German Federal Foreign Office and the German mission in your country of residence.

Any Questions?

We are always happy to help!