How do I obtain a visa, residence and work permits?

The regulations concerning entry into or staying in Germany vary considerably depending on your country of origin. The main difference is between citizens of EU/EEA states and citizens of non-EU states.

EU and EEA citizens

Citizens of EU and EEA states generally enjoy the same legal status as Germans when it comes to living and working in Germany. To enter Germany, all you need is an ID card or passport. A visa is not necessary. It is usually not a problem to be self-employed.

Schmuckbild residence and work permitsVergrößern
Source: LHS

Foreigners from other states

Foreigners from other states need to obtain a visa prior to entering Germany with a valid passport. Thanks to international agreements designed to make it easier for individuals to be self-employed, citizens of some countries are exempt from this requirement. This applies to the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, United States of America, and the CEECS agreement with Romania and Bulgaria.

Visa application forms and additional information can be obtained from your local German embassy or consulate-general. For a list of German diplomatic offices abroad and their addresses please contact the German Foreign Office.

The German Foreign Office in the Web:

Business visa

The business visa is generally issued for periods of up to 90 days. You must have left Germany by the time the visa expires. It is not possible to exchange this visa directly for a temporary or permanent residence permit. The business visa is ideal for making contacts, conducting business on behalf of the parent company, and making preparations for the relocation of the company.

Visa, residence and work permits

To work in Germany long-term (longer than 90 days), you need a visa to acquire a (temporary) residence permit. You also need to apply for this at the German embassy or consulate-general in your home country before travelling to Germany. Holding a residence permit entitles you to be self-employed.

The following steps need to be completed:

  • Submit a residence permit application to the German embassy/consulate in your home country and send a copy by fax to the Stuttgart Economic Development Department.
  • Fill in and return the questionnaire sent to you by the Economic Development Department. The Economic Development Department then forwards the questionnaire accompanied by an evaluation to the Aliens Registration Office, thereby accelerating the process.
  • The application is also assessed by the Chamber of Commerce of Industry and Commerce and/or other institutions. The result has an influence on whether the residence permit is granted.
  • Once this procedure has been completed, you are free to set up your business and enter it in the commercial register.
Temporary residence permits are usually issued by the local Aliens Registration Office upon arrival in Germany and are valid for 1 year, as long as the terms and conditions remain fulfilled. The residence permit may be extended. After approx. 5 years a (permanent) residence permit may be granted.

Proof of health insurance must be provided to obtain a residence permit. Travel health insurance is generally not sufficient.

Should you have any residence permit queries, please contact the Stuttgart Aliens Registration Office directly. You can also obtain more information from the Federal Foreign Office.

The Federal Foreign Office in the Web:

Permanent residence permit

The former permanent residence documentation (Aufenthaltserlaubnis and Aufenthaltsberechtigung) issued in accordance with the Aliens Act (valid till 31.12.2004) was superseded on 1.1.2005 by a new permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis). It entitles the holder to fill any job and is not subject to any limitations in area or duration.