Nine steps to setting up a business in Schleswig-Holstein

1. Visa for a business trip to Schleswig-Holstein

Business people from non-EU countries often need a visa for business trips to Germany. You should apply for this at the German Embassy in your country or at a German Consulate-General. An invitation letter from WTSH or any other company or institution based in Schleswig-Holstein is the necessary precondition for obtaining such a visa.

2. Medical insurance for your stay in Germany

In order to obtain a visa, you have to prove you have medical insurance cover for your visit to Germany. You should take out such a policy in your home country.

3. Accommodation in Schleswig-Holstein

Whether you stay in a hotel or hire an apartment for your stay in Schleswig-Holstein depends on how long you will be staying here. WTSH can assist you in this.

4. Documents required for setting up a business

The documents you need depend on whether the company founder is a natural person or legal entity.

Natural person:

  • Passport
  • Share capital to set up a limited liability company (GmbH): €25,000 plus fees

Legal entity:

  • Commercial Register entry of the parent company – original document and certified translation
  • Letter of intent by the owners, shareholders or partners about setting up a business in Schleswig-Holstein, including the name of the future managing director
  • Authorisation of an appointee to take on the share capital of the new company if not all the shareholders or partners come to the location in Schleswig-Holstein
  • Share capital to set up a limited liability company (GmbH): €25,000 plus fees

5. Parties to setting up a business (partly optional)

When setting up a business in Germany, even the advice WTSH provides is no substitute for the involvement of various experts, who may be any of the following:


  • Advice on the legal preconditions for business activities in Germany/Schleswig-Holstein
  • Draft version of the articles of association
  • Search for a legally permissible company name
  • Draft version of a managing director’s contract
  • Temporary domicile for your new company at the lawyer’s offices

Tax advisor

  • Advice on tax and commercial legislation
  • Production of an opening balance sheet
  • Conclusion of a consulting contract (optional)

Notary public

  • Notarisation of the company’s establishment
  • Application for entry in the respective Commercial Register


  • Opening of a business account for the new company
  • Paying in of the share capital

Our business consultants will be glad to arrange for appointments with the above persons.

6. Legal form

We cannot generally say which legal form is most suitable for your project. The specific needs of individual case are the determining factor. However, in the majority of cases a limited liability company (GmbH in German) is the most economical legal form for foreign investors. That is why most foreign investors choose this solution for their branch or subsidiary in Germany. The main advantage of a GmbH is that the company’s liability is limited to the share capital. The minimum sum is €25,000, at least half of which has to be paid in when the business is set up. At a later stage, the entire share capital can be used to pay for essential capital expenditure and is thus not blocked. Every GmbH in Germany is entered in a commercial register.

For companies that have not previously had any business contacts in Germany, a non-independent representative office is often a sensible and, above all, cheaper alternative, e.g. for exploring the German market. However, it is important to realise that this solution only provides information and advice but does not allow direct business transactions to be concluded. Legally binding actions may only be conducted by the parent company in your home country.

We will accompany you in completing all the formalities involved in setting up a business or a representative office.

7. Searching for premises

You will naturally need business premises to begin operating in Schleswig-Holstein. We can help you find the right premises or industrial site in Schleswig-Holstein or work with you to come up with a customised solution for your business location. We will also be glad to assist you in registering your business.

8. Residence permits

Every citizen of a non-EU country needs a residence permit to do business in Schleswig-Holstein. This is how you go about obtaining a residence permit:

  • Apply at the German Embassy or a German Consulate-General in your home country, and fax a copy to WTSH (+49 431 66 666-794)
  • Complete a company profile (possibly with a business plan and forecast of revenues attached) and send it to WTSH

We will glad to support you in this and can arrange for the necessary steps to be taken through our political contacts.

9. Commencement of business operations

Some or all of the following aspects need to be taken into account when commencing business operations in Germany:

  • Drafting and implementing a marketing concept
  • Looking for business contacts or partners
  • Hiring personnel
  • Searching for a house or flat, storage facilities and/or attractive showroom facilities
  • Information about customs, technical and/or commercial law regulations
  • Provision for phone, fax and internet connections
  • Purchase of office equipment, devices, etc.
  • Production of business stationery, business cards, etc.
  • Purchase of a company vehicle

WTSH will partner with you through all the above-mentioned steps or put you in touch with suitable contacts and business partners.