Starting a business

If you are a citizen of an EU member state, you do not need a residence permit to start a business. Citizens of a non-EU country can apply for a residence permit for the purpose of carrying out self-employment. This application must normally be made at the responsible German representative office in your home country. If you are already in Germany with a residence permit, you can apply for permission to carry out self-employment at the responsible immigration authority.

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If you want to start a business, you not only need a business idea but also a detailed concept of how you can implement this idea. For a detailed business plan, you will need to rethink all the important points of your new business, all the opportunities and threats to its existence.

The key components of a business plan include:

  • Entrepreneur's profile
  • Business idea (performance programme, target group)
  • Assessment of market, location and competition
  • Marketing strategy
  • Organisation and staff planning
  • Plan of offices/technical equipment
  • Capital needed and finance planning
  • Profitability forecast
  • Viability with regard to private expenses
  • Liquidity planning

As a start-up entrepreneur, you normally need to invest money in your project. A capital requirements plan will indicate how much you need to invest. A capital requirements plan is an essential part of every business plan regardless of whether you are financing your project from your own savings alone or with the help of a business loan. If you fail to draw up a capital requirements plan, you risk running out of money eventually.

One of the key questions is the choice of legal form. This will affect the formal procedures to be carried out on establishing the company:

  • Partnerships differ from stock corporations in that the focus is largely on the personal commitment of the partners. In particular, the individual partners are liable for the liabilities and not the company and this liability is personal and unlimited. Partnerships include the partnership under the Civil Code (GbR), the general partnership (OHG) and the limited partnership (KG). With the exception of the GbR, partnerships also need to be entered in the Commercial Register.
  • Limited liability company (GmbH) requires an initial capital of 25,000 euros and is characterised by the restriction of liability to the capital brought into the company by the partners. A GmbH can also be founded by an individual.
  • The entrepreneurial company – colloquially known as Mini-GmbH and 1-Euro-GmbH – was introduced as a start-up entrepreneur-friendly version of the conventional GmbH in Germany in 2008.

The simplest way to start a business is to register a business at the business registration office. No additional approval is generally required to carry out a business. For certain businesses subject to approval such as restaurants, estate agents, property developers and crafts businesses, you need to apply for a business licence in addition to registering the business. You can obtain this licence from the business registration office too. You can register your business personally or in writing. If you register it personally, you can normally take your business registration certificate away with you immediately. It is important when establishing your business that you register yourself at the responsible tax office. Only when the tax office has checked your application will you receive a tax number for your company. Submit your application early because registering can take some time. You can obtain the application form from the business registration offices, your tax office or from the website of the Federal Central Tax Office.

Please see the following links for further important information:

Information on starting a business and on the series of seminars “Setting up a business“ at the Office of Economic Development Düsseldorf:
Legal form and employment
Support for start-ups

Information and contact for the "Startercenter" of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Düsseldorf as well as information materials on starting a business:
Startercenter NRW at IHK Düsseldorf | German
Information material for start-up entrepreneurs | German
Advice on starting a business | German

Information and contact for "Startercenter" of County of Mettmann:
Starting a business STARTERCENTER NRW

This is how you can find the tax office responsible for you:
Tax office finder

Start-up network Düsseldorf | German: