Can a foreign GmbH-Shareholder work for his company in Germany?

To work in Germany, a non EU national must apply for a work visa. This option is not blocked if he is holding shares in the company. However, if the shareholder wants to act as the CEO of his company, then the visa procedure becomes more complex.

The visa application procedure for a CEO / managing director (foreign national) depends very much on the question if the applicant is at the same time a major shareholder.

Major shareholder means that the shareholder is holding 50 % or more of the company shares or if he has a dominant role in the shareholder group.

Depending on the shareholder-percentage the following option are given:

CEO work permit processing for a non-dominant shareholder

As long as applicant is holding less than 49 % of the company shares, he can apply for a CEO permit with only the following requirements: 

  • CEO-employment contract to be set up between company and employee (salary min. € 3.500, a higher amount might be requested by the authorities)
  • CEO-Employment visa and work permit application to be processed
  • Once the employee has arrived in German, he then has to be registered with city hall and immigration authorities
  • CEO to be registered in company register (notary appointment required)
  • Payroll to be installed
  • Salary, CEO income taxes and Social Contributions to be paid on a monthly basis

Processing time: 4-8 weeks

Alternatively, an applicant holding less than 49 % of the company shares can also applys for an EU Blue Card, providing he fulfills the requirements. 

CEO work permit processing for a dominant shareholder

1. Detailed business plan in German language to be prepared.

2. Self-employment application to be processed with German immigration and employment authorities.

Within this process, the business plan and documents provided will not only be evaluated by the German authorities, but also by other institutions like the chamber of commerce. A self-employment application will only be approved if the applicant can prove a sufficient pension fund base.

3. Self-employment visa application to be filed with the German immigration authorities.

4. Visa application with the relevant German consulate to be filed when advised.

5. Once (successfully) completed: 

a. German company (GmbH) to be purchased (Shell company)

b. CEO-employment contract to be set up between company and employee

c. Documents to be provided to German consulate / embassy

d. Visa to be picked up, applicant to travel to German

e. Once the employee has arrived in German, he then has to be registered with city hall and immigration authorities.

f. Applicant to be registered as company CEO (notary appointment required).

g. Payroll to be installed.

h. Private health insurance to be installed.

i. Salary and CEO’s income taxes to be paid on a monthly basis.

Processing time: 4-6 months

To put it in a nutshell: The higher the influence of the applicant on shareholder decisions is, the more complex and time-consuming the visa application becomes.

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you need additional information or support with CEO work permit processing for Germany. More about starting a company in Germany here.

Dwyer Legal Law Firm, Schwanthalerstr 13, Aufgang IV, 80336 Munich

Tel: +49 (0)89 24 88 14 310, www.dwyer-legal.com

Note: Information provided in this Knowledge Database is for orientation only and not binding.