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Setting up a Company in Germany as a Foreigner: A Step-by-Step Guide


Apr 25, 2023

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Germany is one of the largest and most prosperous economies in the world, making it an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and businesses looking to expand. With a stable political and economic climate, a highly skilled workforce, and a favorable business environment, Germany is an ideal location for setting up a company. However, like in any other country, there are certain legal and regulatory requirements that need to be followed when setting up a company in Germany. In this article, our DNBC Financial Group’s experts will provide you with a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process of setting up a company in Germany.

Setting up a Company in Germany as a Foreigner: A Step-by-Step

Setting up a Company in Germany as a Foreigner: A Step-by-Step Guide

Steps for starting a company in Germany as a foreigner

Choose your Business Structure

The first step in setting up a company in Germany is to choose the right business structure. There are several options available, including:

  • Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen): This is the simplest and most common form of business structure in Germany. It is a business owned and operated by a single person, who is fully responsible for all aspects of the business.
  • Partnership (Personengesellschaft): A partnership is a business owned by two or more individuals who share the profits and losses of the business.
  • Limited Liability Company (Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung or GmbH): A GmbH is a separate legal entity from its owners, which means that the owners are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the company.
  • Stock Corporation (Aktiengesellschaft or AG): An AG is a publicly traded company with shares that can be bought and sold on the stock market.

Each business structure has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it is important to choose the one that best fits your specific requirements.

Obtain a Residence Permit

Foreigners who wish to set up a company in Germany must first obtain a residence permit. There are several types of residence permits available, including:

  • Business visa: This visa allows you to stay in Germany for up to 90 days to explore business opportunities and set up a company.
  • Entrepreneur visa: This visa is for foreigners who wish to start a business in Germany and stay in the country for longer than 90 days.
  • Blue Card: This visa is for highly skilled workers and allows them to live and work in Germany for up to four years.

It is important to apply for the correct visa that corresponds to your intended business activities.

and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the one that best fits your needs.

Choose a Company Name

Once you have chosen your business structure, the next step is to choose a company name. The name should be unique and not already registered with the German Patent and Trademark Office. You can check the availability of a name by conducting a search on the website of the German Patent and Trademark Office.

Register your Company

The next step is to register your company with the local trade office (Gewerbeamt) or the chamber of commerce (Industrie- und Handelskammer). You will need to provide the following documents:

  • A copy of your ID or passport
  • A copy of your business plan
  • A description of the business activities
  • Proof of financial resources
  • Proof of a registered office address in Germany
  • A declaration of compliance with the German Commercial Code

Once your company is registered, you will receive a tax number from the tax office (Finanzamt).

Register for Taxes

All companies in Germany are required to register for taxes. You will need to register for the following taxes:

  • Value Added Tax (VAT)
  • Corporate Income Tax (CIT)
  • Trade Tax (Gewerbesteuer)

You can register for taxes online using the ELSTER portal.

Open a Bank Account

In order to operate your business in Germany, you will need to open a business bank account. You will need to provide your tax number and registration documents when opening the account.

Obtain Business Licenses and Permits

Depending on your business activities, you may need to obtain specific licenses and permits. For example, if you are starting a restaurant, you will need to obtain a food service permit. You can find out more about the specific requirements for your business by contacting the local trade office or chamber of commerce.

Hire Employees

If you plan on hiring employees, you will need to register with the social security office (Deutsche Rentenversicherung) and obtain workers’ compensation insurance. You will also need to comply with labor laws and regulations, which include minimum wage requirements, and working hours.

Cost of setting up a company in Germany

The cost of setting up a company in Germany can vary depending on various factors such as the type of business structure, the amount of initial capital, and the professional services required to complete the process. Here is a breakdown of the typical costs associated with setting up a company in Germany:

  1. Business Structure Registration Fees: The registration fee for a sole proprietorship is generally between €20-€60, while the fee for a GmbH can range from €300 to €1,000 or more.
  2. Notary Fees: A notary is required to authenticate the articles of association for GmbHs and AGs. The notary fees can range from €100-€500 depending on the complexity of the documents.
  3. Commercial Register Fees: Once the company is registered, it needs to be entered into the commercial register. The fees for this process can range from €150-€500.
  4. Professional Services Fees: It is highly recommended to seek the assistance of professional service providers such as lawyers, accountants, and tax advisors during the registration process. The fees for these services can range from €1,000-€5,000 or more, depending on the complexity of the business structure and the services required.
  5. Initial Capital: Some business structures such as GmbHs require a minimum amount of initial capital. The minimum amount required for a GmbH is €25,000, which can be raised through equity or debt financing.
  6. Value Added Tax (VAT) Registration: Companies that are required to register for VAT must pay a registration fee of €60.

A useful tip to save money when setting up a company in Germany as a foreigner

Setting up a company in Germany as a foreigner may involve transferring funds from your home country to Germany. This process can be time-consuming and expensive, with many factors to consider, such as exchange rates, transfer fees, and regulations. You can consider using DNBC Financial Group’s international transfers , which always offer competitive exchange rates and lower fees compared to banks.

About DNBC Financial Group

DNBC Financial Group has a strong dedication to simplifying cross-border financial transactions. The organization has rapidly grown and is now able to assist customers and businesses worldwide by reducing the costs associated with international shipping and purchases, receiving payments from overseas clients, transferring funds between multinational operations, and managing the risks associated with currency fluctuations.

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Note: The content in this article is for general informative purposes only. You should conduct your own research or ask for specialist advice before making any financial decisions. All information in this article is current as of the date of publication, and DNBC Financial Group reserves the right to modify, add, or remove any information. We don’t provide any express or implied representations, warranties, or guarantees regarding the accuracy, completeness, or currency of the content within this publication.