Establishing a Business

International companies planning to engage in business operations in Germany are faced with a number of questions.

Establishing a Business Hamburg

  • Where can I get the market information I need?
  • What type of company would best suit my plans?
  • Which regulations have to be complied with in my field of business?
  • How do I find suitable office space, warehousing or production facilities?
  • How can I recruit the right staff?
  • How do I obtain residence and work permits?

We have specialists to provide you with answers to all these questions and will direct you to external experts as required. As early as possible get in touch with your nearest representative office or the our team in Hamburg. Obtaining detailed information from our specialists, e.g. regarding visas, will simplify all subsequent steps.

Visa for Business Trip to Hamburg

A visa is generally required for citizens of non-EU countries travelling to Germany on business. Visas must be applied for at your German embassy or consulate. To obtain a visa, you will need a letter of invitation from us or from another company based in Hamburg.

Health Insurance for Your Stay in Germany

Proof of health insurance coverage in Germany is required for obtaining a visa. You can take out health insurance in your home country.(Health Insurance for Foreigners in Germany)

Accommodation in Hamburg

Whether you will book hotel accommodation or rent an apartment for your stay in Hamburg will, of course, depend on the duration of your business trip. We will gladly make a reservation for you.

Necessary Documents for Establishing a Company

Which documents are required depends on whether the company is to be established by an individual or a legal entity.


  • Passport
  • Nominal capital for a GmbH (25,000 EUR plus fees)

Legal entity:

  • Original copy and certified translation of parent company’s entry in the commercial register
  • Letter of intent from the owners (shareholders) documenting the decision to establish a company in Hamburg, and stating the name of the designated managing director
  • Possibly power of attorney for an individual to subscribe to the share capital of the new company if not all of the shareholders can be present
  • Nominal capital for a GmbH (25,000 EUR plus fees)

Persons Involved in Establishing a Company (partly optional)

If you are setting up a company in Germany, even the consultancy provided by Hamburg Invest cannot replace the work of a number of specialists. The following may be involved:


  • Information on legal requirements of business operations in Germany/ Hamburg
  • Drafting of company’s articles of association
  • Search for an admissible company name
  • Drafting of managing director’s contract
  • Lawyer’s address as preliminary business address

Tax advisor

  • Information on commercial and tax laws
  • Filing an opening balance sheet
  • Concluding a consultancy agreement, if required

Notary public

  • Notarization of the articles of association
  • Submission to Hamburg commercial register


  • Opening a business account for the new company
  • Depositing nominal capital

We will make the appointments for these meetings.

Corporate Legal Structures

It is impossible to make a general statement as to which legal form is best suited to your business project. The choice of legal form is always based on the individual circumstances and requirements. In the majority of cases, however, a limited liability company (GmbH) is the preferred legal structure for foreign start-ups in Germany, making it the legal form most commonly chosen by foreign investors. The main advantage of a GmbH is that the company is only liable to the extent of its share capital. The minimum sum is € 25,000, half of which has to be paid in when the company is established. All of this share capital can be invested in the company at a later date and is thus never blocked. Every GmbH in Germany has to be registered in the commercial register.

Companies without previous business involvement in Germany may well find it more sensible and cheaper to set up a representative office, e.g. to explore the German market. However, one has to bear in mind that such an office may only provide information and advisory services and cannot conclude business transactions in Germany. Legally effective business dealings may be conducted only by the parent company in its country of domicile.

We will provide the support you require to comply with all the formalities involved in setting up a company or representative office.

Searching for Office Space

You will, of course, need business premises in Hamburg. These may take the form of

  • A regular office
  • An office flat
  • Space in an office center
  • Industrial premises

We will provide all the support you need in finding the right premises and subsequently registering your business with the local authorities.

Residence Permit

Citizens of countries that are not EU member states must have a residence permit to do business in Hamburg.

The following steps are required to obtain a residence permit:

  • File application at the German embassy/ consulate in your home country and fax a copy to us.
  • Fill in a company profile (possibly incl. detailed business plan and earnings forecast) and send it to us.

Your application will also be evaluated by the Chamber of Commerce. This assessment has a great bearing on the granting of residence permits. We will process the documents concurrently and send copies of the company profile and the application for residence permits with its own comments added to the Hamburg aliens registration office to speed up the procedure.

Commencing Business Operations

The following aspects should also be considered when business operations in Germany are initiated:

  • Marketing strategy
  • Business contacts
  • Business partners
  • Hiring personnel
  • Housing
  • Suitable warehouse space
  • Display site(s)
  • Information on customs regulations
  • Information on compliance with German technical standards
  • Information on compliance with German trade legislation
  • Application for phone, fax, Internet lines
  • Purchase of office furniture, office equipment, etc.
  • Stationery, business cards
  • Purchase/ lease of a car, if necessary

We will either directly assist you in all matters listed above or put you in touch with the appropriate contacts.

Consult the Hamburg Welcome Center free of charge and get information about working, studying, living and family care in Hamburg. Various brochures are available, and the team will gladly answer your questions regarding matters of everyday life in Hamburg.