If you want to quit your job to start a business or become a freelancer, you might need a different residence permit. Usually, you must apply for a freelance visa.

This guide shows you how to go from employee to freelancer. It's based on my personal experience.

Side business with a work visa

If you can, start your business before you quit your job. It gives you time to register your business, find clients, and prepare for the transition. You need at least a few weeks to register your business and apply for the freelance visa.

How to start a business in Germany ➞

Does your residence permit allow it?

If you need a residence permit to live in Germany, check if it lets you freelance.

Some work visas and Blue Cards let you freelance1. Look on your residence permit, and on the Zusatzblatt:

If your residence permit allows you be self-employed, you can have a side business, but you must keep your job. Your job must be your main source of income. If this changes, you must apply for a freelance visa.

Does your employer let you freelance?

You do not need permission from your employer to have a side business1, but there are exceptions:

  • If you are a civil servant, soldier or judge, you need permission from their employer.
  • If your work contract prevents you from having a side business1. Each work contract is different.

Apply for the freelance visa

Next, you must apply for the freelance visa. This can take many weeks.

The freelance visa will replace your current residence permit. You can't have both at the same time. As soon as you get the freelance visa, your old residence permit will become invalid. You must stop working for your employer as soon as you get the freelance visa, but you don't know when you will get the freelance visa. This can be hard to synchronise.

Tell your health insurance company

When you are an employee, your employer pays half of your health insurance. When you are self-employed, you pay the full amount yourself. This means that your health insurance will be twice as expensive.

Sometimes, it makes sense to switch to private health insurance. Talk to a health insurance broker about it first.

How to choose German health insurance ➞

When you are an employee, health insurance is taken from your paycheck. When you are self-employed, it's taken from your bank account with a direct debit authorization.

Need help?

Where to find help ➞ Immigration questions

Where to find help ➞ Business questions