Visa for non-EU entrepreneurs coming to Europe

If you are an entrepreneur looking for ways to set up your business in Europe, there are several ways of achieving that. It is increasingly common to obtain a startup visa, but there are other ways too. Find an overview below.

Do you even need a visa?

Schengen Area: Many non-EU citizens don’t actually require a visa for short stays (up to 90 days within a 180-day period) in the Schengen zone, which encompasses 26 European countries. You can check if your nationality is visa-exempt here: https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/.

For other EU Countries: If you plan to visit a non-Schengen EU country like Ireland, Croatia, Cyprus, or Bulgaria, separate visa requirements might apply. Check the embassy website of your target country for details.

Startup Visa Schemes

A startup visa scheme is a government program designed to attract talented foreign entrepreneurs to establish and grow their innovative businesses in a particular country. These schemes offer faster and more streamlined visa pathways compared to traditional work visas, often with additional benefits like mentorship, networking opportunities, and access to funding.

Here are some key features of startup visa schemes:

  • Eligibility: Typically open to entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas, strong business plans, and the potential to create jobs and contribute to the economy.
  • Requirements: May involve securing endorsement from designated organizations, demonstrating funding or investment, and meeting specific business milestones.
  • Benefits: Offer temporary or permanent residency permits, fast-track processing, and sometimes tax breaks or other incentives.

Several European countries offer startup visa schemes, each with its own unique criteria and application process. It’s important to note that not every European country offers a startup visa scheme, and their availability and specific requirements can change over time. Therefore, it’s crucial to research the latest information from the official government websites of your target countries to determine if a startup visa scheme is a viable option for you. We already wrote more information about this, for example on the Dutch startup visa.

Comparison of Countries and their Visa Schemes for Entrepreneurs

CountryScheme nameEligibilityRequirementsBenefitsNational Government Website
NetherlandsNetherlands Startup VisaInnovative business with high growth potential.Business plan, endorsement from designated organization, proof of funding or investmentOne-year residence permit, possibility of extensionhttps://business.gov.nl/coming-to-the-netherlands/permits-and-visa/residence-permit-for-foreign-startups/
IrelandStart-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP)Innovative business with potential to create jobs & €1 million in sales within 3-4 years.€50,000 investment, comprehensive business plan, experience, endorsement from Enterprise Ireland2-year residence permit (renewable), possibility of renewal based on milestoneshttps://www.irishimmigration.ie/
GermanyStart-up visa GermanyInnovative and scalable business ideaBusiness plan, funding proof (€50K), support letter from incubator/investor2-year residence permit, renewal possiblehttps://digital.diplo.de/navigator/en/visa/overview/startup
BelgiumNo dedicated programPossible eligibility for a Professional Card and Type D visaA business plan demonstrating viability and potential for job creation in Belgium and sufficient resourcesLive and work in Belgium to run your business and eventually apply for permanent residencyhttps://globalresidenceindex.com/news-belgium-entrepreneur/
LuxembourgNo dedicated programPossible eligibility for Self-Employment Permit a well-defined business plan demonstrating viabilityLive and work in Luxemburg to run your business and eventually apply for permanent residencyhttps://guichet.public.lu/en/citoyens/immigration/moins-3-mois/ressortissant-tiers/entree-visa.html
FranceFrench Tech VisaInnovative tech entrepreneur with funding or support from designated incubators/investors.Business plan, proof of funding or support letter, endorsement from French Tech MissionFast-tracked residence permit, possibility of extensionhttps://lafrenchtech.gouv.fr/en/come-work-in-france/french-tech-visa/
ItalyStartup and Innovative National VisaInnovative business with high growth potential.Business plan, endorsement from designated entities, proof of funding (€50,000)Two-year residence permit (renewable)https://italiastartupvisa.mise.gov.it/
GreeceNo dedicated program, but similar optionsResidence permit for self-employed persons (specific requirements for innovative endeavors)Business plan, proof of funding, expertise relevant to the businessTemporary residence permit (renewable)https://www.mfa.gr/usa/en/visas.html?mission=was
FinlandResidence Permit for a Start-up EntrepreneurInnovative business idea with growth potential and positive impact on Finnish economy.Startup Eligibility Statement from Business Finland, business plan, proof of funding, health insuranceTemporary residence permit (1 year, extendable for 2 years), possibility of permanent residencyhttps://migri.fi/en/start-up-entrepreneur
SwedenNo dedicated programResidence permit for work (specific requirements for entrepreneurs)Job offer, employment contract, proof of sufficient fundsTemporary residence permit (renewable)https://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Working-in-Sweden/Self-employment.html
NorwayNo dedicated startup visa. Self-employed visa may be an option 
Skilled worker visa (requires pre-approved job offer) or Self-employment visa (complex application process)Varies depending on visa typehttps://www.udi.no/en/want-to-apply/
DenmarkStartup DenmarkAssessment based on a business plan by a team of independent expertsMinimum funding of 143,328 DKK residency and work permit in Denmark as a self-employed entrepreneur, free guidance, funding assistancehttps://startupdenmark.info/about-programme
EstoniaStartup VisaInnovative, scalable tech-based business.Approval from Estonian Startup Committee, business plan, proof of funding (€800/month)Temporary residence permit (up to 18 months, extendable), possibility of permanent residencyhttps://startupestonia.ee/start-up-in-estonia/startup-visa/

Additional factors to consider:

  • Language requirements: Some countries might require proficiency in the local language.
  • Processing times: Visa processing times can vary significantly between countries.
  • Startup ecosystem: Consider the overall startup ecosystem and support infrastructure in each country.
  • Taxation: Research the tax implications of starting a business in each country.

Get started with your business in Europe

If you need more assistance, we are happy to take a look at your specific case. We can also advise you which country makes sense in your case. Fill out the form below to get in touch.

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