Starting a Business

Find out about the various business structures in Belgium and how to get a venture started...

Foreigners can start a business in Belgium as long as they meet the minimum requirements and are entitled to work in the country. If a person meets the requirements, they can choose whether to be self-employed or to start a company. No prior government authorisation is required and there are no restrictions on the transfer of capital in to or out of Belgium.

Non-residents may carry out self-employed work in Belgium for short periods and some companies (especially international companies) may be non-resident for tax purposes.

Professional card

Foreigners who are citizens of an EU member state or of Norway, Iceland or Lichtenstein can set up business in Belgium without restriction. Non-EU nationals must apply for a professional card (beroepskaart/carte professionelle) at the Belgian embassy or consulate in their home country, or, if they are already in Belgium, at the municipality where they live.

The following documents are needed for the application:

  • A completed registration form
  • A photocopy of the passport or residence permit
  • A medical certificate
  • A certificate of good conduct from the last country of residence (or an equivalent document recognised by the Belgian authorities)
  • A CV

Applications are sent to the Federal Public Service for the Economy, which investigates the application. If it is approved, the municipality issues a professional card with an exact description of the authorised activity. This card can be valid for up to five years.

In addition to nationals of a Member State of the European Economic Area, this formality is waived for certain other persons, such as asylum seekers and nationals of countries which have a special relationship with Belgium under a treaty. The countries that currently have such a special relationship are Bulgaria and Romania. However, nationals of these countries require a permit to be able to conduct a self-employed business. The permit must be applied for from the Federal Public Department for the Economy.

Prepared using information supplied by ING Bank SA/NV