Start a company in Europe: the 10 Best Visa Options for Entrepreneurs and Startups

[This blog post was last edited December 2014 – you can read it here in Russian Language.

For more recent information on visa options for Entrepreneurs & Startups, do refer to infographic for startup visas – or download Migreat Startup Visas Comparison Report for free]

Last month we wrote about the  different work visa options to work at a startup in the UK, and extensively about how to get the UK Entrepreneur visa successful.

This time we want to list visas available for Entrepreneurs and startup founders that want to start a company in Europe; and share some insights about the current trends of European Immigration policies for entrepreneurial migrants as of December 2014.

Red dots are locations of Flickr pictures. Blue dots are locations of Twitter tweets. White dots are locations that have been posted to both. Credits: Eric Fischer
Red dots are locations of Flickr pictures. Blue dots are locations of Twitter tweets. White dots are locations that have been posted to both. Credits: Eric Fischer

This list is timely because the UK has just launched an exceptional talent visa last April for entrepreneurs and startup employees in the Digital Industry and there is a growing trend across European countries to try to attract foreign investment and entrepreneurial migrants to start businesses in Europe and create jobs.

Lastly, our company has been much involved in speaking at conferences and in the media about the opportunities for highly skilled migrants in the UK and have launched a report on applicants to the UK Entrepreneur visa.
Countries with specific visas for Entrepreneurs & Startup Founders
Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 17.03.25In the UK, entrepreneurs and start-ups founders can come on one of the three following visa options:

– The Entrepreneur Visa

– The Graduate Entrepreneur Visa

– The Prospective Entrepreneur Visa

The choice between them depends on your personal situation and visa history as well as the length of their stay and the stage at which they are with their business. The most difficult to get is the Entrepreneur visa because you will have to prove either access to 50K or 200K investment. For others, you will just have to prove a business model that works and to be genuinely motivated to build a company in the UK.

There has been a growing demand for those visas for the last five years; and stricter rules are being implemented throughout time to check the genuineness of applications. The latest changes in July 2014 are pushing entrepreneurial students to apply for the graduate entrepreneur visa instead of the main Entrepreneur Visa. tumblr_m6nqbvE0oF1rt63wmo1_1280In Ireland, entrepreneurs and startups founders can apply to the startup visa targeted at innovative companies. You will have to show €75,000 in funding investments. No job creation targets have been set as it is recognized that such businesses can take some time to get off the ground.

The intention of the programme is to support high potential start-ups. The scheme is not intended for retail, personal services, catering or other businesses of this nature. More information can be found on the following link: http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Guidelines%20for%20Start-up%20Entrepreneur%20Programme.pdf/Files/Guidelines%20for%20Start-up%20Entrepreneur%20Programme.pdf

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 17.06.19 On paper, Italy is the easiest country for an Entrepreneur to obtain a visa to start a business: it has two visas options available for them; a groundbreaking startup visa, which is reserved for innovative business ideas; and a ‘standard’ self-employed visa (residence permit).

The Italian startup visa is aimed at attracting and promoting innovative global entrepreneurs and was launched in June 2014. It offers a simplified visa procedure for entrepreneurs by cutting red-tape and providing a range of tax and labour regulation benefits. To qualify for it, the entrepreneur applicant must prove the innovative character of the business idea ; and show access to €50,000 in investment capital for the business. The visa is granted for a year and renewed each year.

Migrant Entrepreneurs to Italy can also choose to enter the country via the ‘standard’ self-employed visa. The process requires the applicant to apply for a work permit (nulla osta) from within Italy. Italian entrepreneur visas can be given for economic activities in any sector. The minimum  funding investment to show  is a mere €4,962.36 which contrasts to the €50,000 investment required for the Italian Startup Visa.

Nevertheless, you must pay careful attention to demonstrate you are contributing to the Italy’s economic growth by the amount of investment you are bringing in, the amount of revenue you are planning to generate and how many jobs you plan to create. As such, working closely with the Italian Chamber of Commerce can greatly help you make your application successful.

The Italian Entrepreneur work permit allows you to stay for two years. You can renew your permit by submitting an application at least 60 days before the permit expires.
Countries without a specific visa for Entrepreneurs
Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 17.06.16

Currently France does offer two visas for entrepreneurs:

  • a resident permit called Compétences et talents (Competencies and Talents).
  • a FrenchTech Ticket or Entrepreneur visa

It grants visa for entrepreneurs that “are likely to make a significant or lasting contribution,  to France’s economic development or to its prestige, and directly or indirectly, to that of their country of origin”.

In other words, your business must have show a clear contribution to France’s economic prosperity and to your country of origin back. Very very few of these visas have been issued.

What is a most often used solution for entrepreneurs in France that want to start a company is to come under the EU Blue Card rather than apply for a Competencies and Talents resident permit.

The only advantage of the Competencies and Talents resident permit is that it will grant you a stay as long as 6 years, one year more than the EU Blue card.

The French Ticket or entrepreneur visa, is granted to entrepreneurs selected by specific Paris based incubators and starting a business related to technology and the digital industry. Learn more about the FrenchTech Ticket application process.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 17.06.24 To start a company in Germany, you will have to apply to a work permit. Unless you are a recent graduate, you’ll have to prove that you have access to €500,000 in investment funds and that your business will create at least 5 job opportunities in Germany. If you are a graduate from a German university, you are exempt form this minimum financial requirement and minimum job creation.

This will allow you to start a business in Germany legally for three years at the end of which, you can apply for permanent residency if the business is viable and successful. Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 17.06.31

Recently, Spain created a specific fast-tracked visa route for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are offered the normal resident permit, requiring them to have a government-vetted business plan, health insurance and enough money to support themselves while living in Spain. Visa decisions are promised within 10 working days, and residence permit decisions in 20 days.

This visa gives you two years legally in the country and is renewable.

***

This list is an overview of major European countries’ immigration policy towards entrepreneurs.]

You will eventually have to renew it and most renewal can lead to residency. You will just have to prove that you have been successful at the business.

For more information about those schemes, you can always ask Migreat online or below in the comments.

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32 thoughts on “Start a company in Europe: the 10 Best Visa Options for Entrepreneurs and Startups”

  1. I find that for the UK, the “genuine test” is pushing more and more people away from investing in the country and to other countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia.

    This issue about writing a business plan is ludicrous – I can very much run a business, manage staff and make a small fortune, but how does my business writing skills determine if I am genuine or not?!

    I’ve even had to look around for UK visa business plan writers and having used a firm like http://www.ukvisabusinessplans.com, they must be making a small fortune right now! I bet they are run by a PSW-Entrepreneur now!!!

    God save us!

    Like

    1. “I bet they are run by a PSW-Entrepreneur now!!!”
      Ahaha. Must be indeed, there is a real business in the domain 😉

      Like

    2. The UK is trying to push not only entrepreneurs but the entire humanity away from its soil,seriously where else do you need to convince the border officer at Heathrow airport that you came for tourism if you don’t need a visa to enter the UK?! Ironic!

      Like

  2. I am an Indian sand stone query partner, stockist and export licence.
    I am interested to work from Ireland, UK,Canada and USA.
    Please suggest me how..?

    Like

    1. Hi Somdutt, I am afraid we only have information for the UK and four other countries of europe for the moment. Still, I would suggest you ask the Indian community online at migreat.co.uk for more information about how they did go to the UK and why the UK is an interesting place to live in. At least you will get an accurate idea for the UK.

      Like

  3. Hi
    I am from India ,i am postgraduate in English with diploma in journalism,what are the ways I can enter legally in Uk either as employee or as an business women in my field

    Like

    1. Hi Dolan,

      I would suggest you play with Migreat online immigration assistant to figure out your visa options to the UK: https://www.migreat.com/en/uk-immigration-services-gb it will give you an answer to your question with a list of documents and things you have to do to come legally to the UK.

      When you have understood your visa options to come legally, you can ask the community of indians living in the UK to answer your questions about jobs in the UK here: https://www.migreat.co.uk/en/south-asians/london

      Hope that helps,

      Like

  4. hello…sir…i want to ask if the enterpreneourial visa allows to purchase a running business such as a superstore or petrol station….if it allows…i want to invest 300000$ in europe…so for which visa catagory i can apply???

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  5. Hii i am from india .
    I do like to start a bussines in europe, but not still confirmed about bussines idea I wants to do and also dnt have any of the european I can talk to .
    If I would get connected to one of the person from europe who stays in india in mumbai, I can get a a better connectivity with it .
    Thank you

    Like

    1. Hi Mahesh, i would suggest you go on http://www.migreat.co.uk and ask your questions to the south asians leaving in London. Indians living in london will be able to advise you on doing business in the UK and europe.
      Please do remember that to start a business you will most likely need to show funds for it – unless you are interested in starting a business in France where you can get funded by the government.

      Like

  6. Hi Josephine Goube,
    I have been reading all the comments and you are very active. I appreciate your effort. I have a business startup idea that I want to immediately start in Europe. I have heard some news that Free visa for incubator in Germany. Can you help me

    Like

    1. Hi waqas. Thank you very much for your kind words. I strive to be as helpful as possible on the topic i am most passionate about. It is nice to hear that it has been useful to you.

      Germany does not yet have such programme. Are you fixed on germany or you could consider some place else?

      Like

      1. Hi Waqas,

        I would suggest you explore Migreat website which has gathered all this information in its free visa tool online:
        https://www.migreat.com/en/welcome/visa_work
        Play with it – state that you are an entrepreneur for each single country and see if you qualify and what the entrepreneur visa looks like.

        So far, here is Migreat most complete list of all countries welcoming foreign entrepreneurs – and recently Korea and Taiwan have launched similar programs.
        https://blog.migreat.com/entrepreneur-startup-visas/

        Though, I think you read the report Migreat did on entrepreneur visa – so you know already all of this right?
        http://pi.migreat.com/entrepreneur-and-innovator-visa-report

        Like

  7. Hi,
    I am have student visa of France . and living there from last 3 years. Now I would like to open a company in Europe. Please suggest me about best countries in terms as Tax haven and easy to run business, less regulations etc.

    Thank you

    Like

    1. Hi Amit,

      You’re luck, Europe is opening up to young and talented entrepreneurs. There are quite a few countries with visa options targeting entrepreneurs. France for example is offering the TechTicket. In Spain, the Entrepreneurs’ Law has made it pretty straightforward for non EU-nationals to start an innovative business. I guess the country you’ll pick, will depend on the type of business you’d like to start and personal settings. Here‘s another tool that can help you figure things out.

      Hope this helps!

      Like

  8. Hello Josephine, I am from India and wish to migrate to UK. I want to open a restaurant business there in UK. Can I get an entrepreneur visa for UK if I invest £200000 there. One more thing I wanted to ask is , can I share the investment with a friend here in India who also wishes to immigrate to UK ?

    Like

    1. Yes and yes Manish. If you have the minimum investment from a legitimate source and the ability to roll out the business, you can apply to the visa with a co-f0under. If you need help from a lawyer expert on entrepreneur visas, let me know and I will connect you to the UK expert. Good luck!

      Like

  9. Hello Sir . I want to start steel scrap export business from any European country ( which have sea ports ) . I have 15 years experience in this Business as well have funds $ 400000 for start up . This business could create 3 to 8 jobs . So Dear which country is suitable for getting easier and fastest entrepreneur visa lead to permanent residence

    Like

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