Self-employment – Commissioning refugee artists and persons engaged in the cultural sector


Who can be commissioned?

Whether a person can take up self-employment also depends on the residence status of the artist and can be gleaned from the residence documents and ancillary provisions. In the case of electronic residence titles, which are now used in many federal states, the ancillary provisions are stored on the chip and printed on an additional sheet. The client should review these documents.

  • Formally recognized asylum seekers with a residence permit or settlement permit have full access to the labour market and may therefore also be self-employed. The residence documents or ancillary provisions include a reference that states "Gainful activity permitted" ("Erwerbstätigkeit gestattet"). In individual cases, the residence documents may contain the reference "Employment permitted. Self-employment permitted after authorization by the Foreigners' Registration Office" ("Beschäftigung gestattet. Selbstständigkeit nach Erlaubnis der Ausländerbehörde gestattet"). In this case, an application for authorization to take up self-employment must be submitted to the Foreigners' Registration Office.
  • In the case of persons with a residence permit other than one granted on the basis of a formally recognized asylum application, information on the authorization to take up self-employment can be found in the residence documents or the ancillary provisions. In most cases, authorization must first be sought before taking up self-employment.
  • Asylum seekers with a temporary residence permit or persons with exceptional leave to remain are not permitted to take up self-employment.

If authorization for self-employment must be obtained, the Foreigners' Registration Office is responsible for its issuance. When applying for authorization to take up self-employment, the person in question must prove to the Foreigners' Registration Office that the self-employment in question will be sustainable. The authorities must determine how this proof is to be furnished; there is no uniform rule that applies nationwide. To obtain authorization, it is helpful if the applicant submits concrete job offers or orders to the Foreigners' Registration Office.
As a rule, the approval of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) is also required. This agency is automatically consulted by the Foreigners' Registration Office if a person applies for such approval.

Foreigners' Registration Offices in Germany – Website 

Federal Employment Agency – For people coming from other countries

If an individual is not permitted to take up self-employment, he/she should consult a counselling centre to discuss further steps (see information on counselling centres below).


Good to know!

Registration of self-employment (freelance and business)
There are no special registration requirements for refugee artists and persons engaged in the cultural sector who take up self-employment; they simply have to register their activities like anyone else (see also the information provided by touring artists here):
Freelance activities must be registered by the freelancer with the responsible local tax office and an application submitted to this office for a tax number.
Commercial activities must also be registered with the trade office by the business owner. The responsible trade office is always the trade office in the city in which the business is run or where there business is headquartered.
These offices usually review the residence documents and check whether self-employment is permitted.

Further information can be found in the GründerZeiten 10. Existenzgründungen durch Migrantinnen und Migranten brochure, published by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (in German only).

To top

Information in cooperation with bridge - Berliner Netzwerk für Bleiberecht