How to apply for a German Visa?
Traveling to a foreign country can sometimes result in a nightmare when you don’t have the right visa prepared beforehand. For example, one arrives in Germany and finds out they need to stay for more than 90 days. Can the schengen visa be extended? Also, what type of visa is needed to open up a business in Germany? Does one even have to apply at the German Embassy? Therefore, Ecovis would like to give a brief introduction into the visa regime of Germany and how it affects business travelers and long-term investors.
All nationals who are not a national of Germany, the European Union, the European Economic Area, or Switzerland must obtain a visa in advance, unless a specific visa waiver agreement has been reached. For example, Germany and China has no such agreement, and therefore all nationals of the Peoples Republic of China must obtain a visa. Whether they must obtain a Schengen Visa or a German National Visa depends on how long they plan on staying in Germany.
A Less than 90-day stay in Germany – “Schengen Visa”
There are several types of Schengen Visas. The two most common types for business investors to apply for are a Tourist Schengen Visa or a Business Schengen Visa.
If one just wants to travel around Germany and decide where to set up a business, a tourist visa should suffice and requires less documentation. However, Ecovis strongly advises that if one is truly going to Germany to set up a business, sign business documents, or do any activity that is related to a business purpose, a Business Schengen Visa should be applied for.
For the purposes of only setting up a business in Germany, and not staying in Germany to manage the business, a foreign national only need to apply for and obtain a Schengen Visa that allows them to stay in Germany for 90 days. Foreign nationals who apply for a Schengen Visa for the first time are usually only granted a one–time 90 day entry visa; however, it depends on the individual circumstances. This is usually enough time to set up the business in Germany and then subsequently return to the country of ordinary residence. Depending on the country one currently resides in, one must apply for the visa at the nearest German Embassy or German Consulate and an appointment is necessary.
A business visa to Germany requires:
- a current passport, application form, and 2 passport sized photos
- visa fee of 60€ (paid in RMB)
- Chinese residence booklet (户口簿)
- applicant’s biometric data, which includes all 10 fingerprints and a digital photo
- a letter of invitation by the German Business Partner
- documentation of employment and salary certificate
- a letter from the applicant’s employer confirming the business purpose of the trip
- proof of travel health insurance
If the applicant is an entrepreneur and is personally applying for a Schengen visa, other documents in lieu of the aforementioned documents may be required which include:
- copy of the foreign company’s entry in the foreign commercial register
- articles of association
- bank statements from the last three months
If all documents are duly submitted the visa normally requires 3 days to process. However, the visa should take no more than 10 working days to process and cannot be applied for more than 90 days in advance.
Since the Schengen Visa is a uniform visa scheme set up by the European Union, one can travel freely to other Schengen countries within the validity period of the visa. Also, if one already has a business or tourist visa issued by another Schengen State, and the visa is still valid, it can be used to travel to Germany. One also does not necessarily have to apply for the visa with the German Embassy, but if Germany will be the main place of travel, then it should be applied for at the German Embassy. For example, if the supporting documents show that the main area of travel is not in Germany, the German Embassy may reject the application and require the applicant to apply to the appropriate Embassy.
Ecovis can assist in preparing the documents for the visa application and can advise if a business or tourist visa is required.
B More than 90-day stay in Germany – “National Visa and Residence Permit”
If an individual uses a Schengen visa to establish a business, and then subsequently wishes to stay in Germany longer than 90 days to run the business, there is no guarantee that the original visa will be extended in Germany, and will usually not be extended. Therefore it would be better to apply for a national visa from the start.
A national visa is a visa that allows an applicant to apply for a residence permit in Germany that also allows the individual to stay in Germany for more than 90 days. All national visas and residence permits are tied to a specific purpose. The national visa must be applied for through the German Embassy or Consulate that holds jurisdiction over where the applicant lives. The applicant must apply for a visa for the purpose of self-employment (Visum zur Ausübung einer selbständigen Erwerbstätigkeit). In order to obtain the visa, the German Embassy will check all the documents carefully to ensure that the business one wishes to establish is viable. Therefore, the more information provided, the better chances one has of obtaining the visa. The documents required for this type of visa include and may not be limited to:
- a current passport, application form, and 3 photos
- Chinese residence booklet (户口簿)
- proof of health insurance in Germany
- full curriculum vitae
- copy of all qualifications obtained which include:certificate of incorporation of the company
- school and university degrees obtained
- job references
- proof of knowledge of a foreign language(s)
- current extract from the commercial register
- list of shareholders
- a detailed business plan including:
- corporate solutions
- business objective
- corporate data (legal status, location etc.)
- description of personal qualifications
- market and competitive analysis
- marketing strategy
- description of the development prospects
- projected balance sheet
- projected income statement
- projected liquidity
- information on the number of expected jobs that will be generated
- if possible: an explanation on the impact of innovation and research sectors that will be positively affected by the project
Ecovis can help prepare these documents for the visa application.
All of these documents must be in German and if not, must be translated into German. Each embassy or consulate may require more or less documentation, depending on the individual circumstances of the applicant. After one applies for this visa, and the visa is granted, one can travel to Germany. The visa usually takes a few months to process depending on the individual circumstances and how thorough and complete the application is.
C German Residence Permit
A foreign national, after entering Germany on the appropriate visa, is required to apply for a residence permit for the purpose of self-employment (Aufenthaltserlaubnis für selbständige Tätigkeit) at the local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) in Germany. Failure to do so can lead to the cancelation of the visa and subsequent deportation from Germany. These residence permits are usually only issued if:
- an economic interest or a regional need regarding the intended business activity exists;
- positive economic consequences are to be expected from the investment project;
- the planned investment has secure financing in place.
In order to make the decision the local immigration office takes into account the following criteria:
- viability of the underlying business idea
- investor’s entrepreneurial experience
- level of capital investment and availability of capital
- effects on the regional employment and (employee) training level
- contribution towards innovation, research, and development in Germany.
In order to make this assessment the local immigration office will also consult local trade offices (Gewerbeamt) as well as local trade and business associations. A residence permit for the purpose of self-employment is limited to a maximum of three years. After which, if the investment project is successful (and appears to be successful for the long term) then after three years the individual may apply for a settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) which is a permanent residence visa.
Ecovis can help in preparing the documents needed for the residence permit application.
D German Citizenship
After being granted a settlement permit, one enjoys most of the rights granted to German citizens. However, the right to vote, the right to a German passport, and full integration into German society can only be achieved by naturalizing as a German citizen. In order to do so, one must fulfill certain requirements. These requirements include:
- holding a permanent residence permit
- living in Germany for 8 years
- giving up or losing ones previous nationality
- confirming commitment to the free democratic constitutional system enshrined in the basic law of Germany
- having no criminal record
- possessing an adequate knowledge of German (by obtaining a Zertifikat Deutsch which is equal to level B1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages)
- Cpassing the naturalization test
The period requirement can be reduced to 7 years if one provides evidence of successful attendance of an integration course. The period will be further reduced to 6 years if an applicant can demonstrate outstanding efforts at integration by exceeding the language requirements.
Richard Hoffmann is a partner at ECOVIS Beijing China. Richard obtained an honors degree in law and worked in Germany, the United States, and China for various prestigious law firms prior to joining ECOVIS. In addition to being a member of the board of ECOVIS International, he is Supervisor for the China business of a respected German company and shares his extensive knowledge to students by teaching commercial law in China at SRH Hochschule Heidelberg. He has published more than fifty articles in international magazines, frequently speaks at high profile events in China and abroad and is often invited as a legal expert by international TV stations. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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