Generally, citizens of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA) may enter, stay, and work in Germany without any visa. They only have to register at the local registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt), for example, if they change their residence to Germany. Swiss nationals have to notify the local immigration office about their long-term stay in order to obtain a residence permit certifying their right to free movement.
For British citizens, Brexit-related information can be found at the website of the Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community.
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 any 180-day period) 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.
Where the duration of the stay exceeds 90 days (within any 180-day period) or an occupation (self-employed or gainful employment) 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.
Overview of Different Types of Visas for Germany
Types of Visa
|Stays in Germany for up to 90 days within any 180-day period|
Schengen Travel Visa (for business persons in the form of a "business visa")
Entrepreneurs setting up businesses
Residence permit for the purpose of self-employment
Entrepreneurs running the business in Germany
Residence permit for the purpose of taking up employment
Employees working in Germany