Starting a Business while Studying in Germany?


I am an international student at a German University. I am now thinking about starting an E-Commerce business in Germany to support my university expenditure, namely, I plan to import iPhone cases from China and sell them online in Germany. I know that an international student is normally not allowed to be "selbständig", unless he gets permission from the Finanzamt. I would like to ask, if and how it is possible for me to get such permission.


Thank you for your inquiry and your interest in setting up a business in Germany. Make it in Germany provides international professionals with information on working and living in Germany.

Detailed information on studying or setting up a business are also available on “Make it in Germany”.

Regarding your residential status please consider the following:

Before starting your own business, you should clarify if your residence status allows you to do so. As a foreign student in Germany, coming from a non-EU country, you hold a residence permit for the purpose of studying according to §16 Residence Act. With that permit you are allowed to work 120 full or 240 half days per year without approval by the competent authority, the Federal Employment Agency. Taking up a self-employed activity while studying in Germany is also possible under the Residence Act (§ 21 (6) Aufenthaltsgesetz). However, the self-employed activity needs to be authorized by the foreigners’ authority (“Ausländerbehörde”) separately. The work must not hinder the success of the study. If you want to start a full-time self-employed activity, you will hardly get an approval. (Source: BMI, BAMF, DAAD)

For further information, please try out the Quick-Check on “Make it in Germany”.

For personal advice regarding visa issues, you can also contact the “Hotline Working and Living in Germany” under the telephone number +49 30 1815 – 1111.

Please note that “Make it in Germany” does not issue or support any visa application even if you may be qualified for that. The information presented on Make it in Germany is a general service offering. Only the German missions and the foreigners’ authorities are responsible for the issuance of visa or residence permits. For further questions, please contact directly the respective authority.

Reference: Justina Godesberg
Projekt „Make it in Germany“
Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln e.V.
Oktober 2020