Can a company founder apply for a work permit?

The below describes the requirements for processing a work permit application to carry out self-employment activity. This includes the case the applicant is acting as a CEO (Geschäftsführer) of his own GmbH.

Under certain conditions, a foreign entrepreneur has the possibility to engage himself as a self-employed individual.

As self-employed ha is also required when the applicant is acting as CEO of a company which he is holding the majority of the shares of (shareholdership 50 % +).

The standard way of processing this is to install a so called GmbH (company with limited responsibility), which requires the pay-in of a base capital of € 25.000.

To obtain a self-employment work permit (including the above described CEO-permit), the following minimum conditions need to be fulfilled:

A detailed business plan for the company business needs to be handed in with the immigration authorities, which will be the base of convincing them that the intended business has realistic chances of success and is well thought through.

  • The founder needs to prove that the other criteria to carry out the business are fulfilled. For instance, he has to show that he is holding or can organise the relevant capital to start and carry out his business.
  • If the entrepreneur is older than 45 years, then he will also have to show that he has sufficient funds to cover his pension time.
  • Other documentation has to identified when preparing the specific application.

A self-employment work permit will usually be granted for a period 3 years.

The application process requires the involvement of different authorities and is also in general a relatively complex manner. It is, therefore, strongly recommended to file the application with professional assistance.

Having filed the application in a professional way also offers the possibility to convert the self-employment work permit into a permanent residence permit. A main requirement to do so is that the business has been running successfully for a period of 3 years.


Please do not hesitate to contact us, if you need additional information or support with processing for a work permit applications for Germany.

Dwyer Legal Law Firm, Schwanthalerstr. 13, Aufgang IV, 80336 Munich
Tel: +49 (0)89 24 88 14 310,

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