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Who Needs a Visa?

Germany distinguishes between different kinds of residence titles for specific purposes subject to the length of stay and the intended (business) activity in Germany.

Residence titles include Schengen and national visas, residence and settlement permits.

A Schengen visa is sufficient for conducting most business and administrative activities that need to be organized prior to locating to Germany. It authorizes the holder to enter and stay in Germany for a temporary period (up to 90 days in any 180-day period).

A residence or settlement permit authorizes the holder to stay for the long term (i.e. more than 90 days in any 180-day period) or to work on a self-employed basis or as an employee in Germany. 

EU Nationals

Generally, citizens of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland may enter, stay, and work in Germany without any visa. They only have to register at the local registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt), e.g., if they change their residence to Germany. Swiss nationals have to notify the local immigration office about their longtermstay in order to get 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.

Non-EU Nationals

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 a 180-days period starting from the initial date of arrival) 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.

Is the duration of the stay exceeding 90 days (within a 180-days period) or is a (self-employed or gainful) occupation 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. Please refer to the following site:

For detailed information on German residence titles, please read below.

Please note: the type of residence title depends on the investor's country of origin, the length of the intended stay and the intended business activity in North Rhine-Westphalia. Read more about the different types of visas for different business activities in Germany on the following sites:

Overview of Different Types of Visas for Germany



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