Dateline: Tbilisi, Georgia
You have successfully launched your business and, despite the normal ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, things are doing pretty well.
Nevertheless, the idea of being able to save on taxes and other expenses that you could use to reinvest in your company is more than enticing.
So you begin to investigate your options.
You discover that by taking your business offshore, you can legally save on taxes — and, of course, the idea appeals to you.
But then you discover something even better: not only can you take your business offshore, but there are more than a few countries around the world that will offer you a second residency in exchange for setting up your business in their jurisdiction.
We often discuss here the many benefits of having a second residence, so being offered residency for simply establishing your business in a country that is already more business-friendly than where you currently reside seems to be the ultimate win-win situation.
Before settling on any one country, it’s good to get a feel of the options that are available to you. That said, I’ve done some of the homework for you. The following is an introductory fly-by of five countries where business and global living go hand in hand.
Argentine residency for entrepreneurs
Offering one of the fastest paths to citizenship in the world, Argentina is willing to naturalize most anyone who wants to call the country home for at least two years. You will need to be physically present in Argentina for at least six months each year, as well as during the naturalization process.
In comparison with many European passports, an Argentine passport is not only faster to get (the minimum waiting period for citizenship in European countries is five years), but also just as powerful.
Argentine citizens can travel visa-free or visa on arrival to 150 countries, making it the 18th best passport in the world. Plus, with their National Identity Document, citizens from Argentina don’t even need a passport to travel within South America.
But, besides it’s quick and powerful passport, why would you want to set up your business or get second residency in Argentina?
For starters, the country has a burgeoning tech sector that foments the ability of entrepreneurs to make connections with other start-up founders in the region. Plus, Argentina is the second-largest economy in South America and has the highest rate of university students in Latin America, providing businesses with a highly-skilled, fresh, creative and innovative workforce at a lower cost.
Perhaps the biggest draw, however, is Argentina’s incredible culture.
The cultural metropolis of Buenos Aires has come to be known as “the Paris of the South”, and for good reason. The city boasts more than 100 galleries, 300-plus theaters (including one that National Geographic ranked as the third best opera house in the world) a multitude of museums, European architecture, modern gastronomy, and a diverse population of foreigners and porteños (residents of BA).
The city offers a low-cost upscale living ratio. In chic neighborhoods like Recoleta, Palermo, and Puerto Madero, a flat that could be compared to a Parisian loft — one that would go for $3,500 in a place like San Francisco — only costs $700 a month. Even better, these upscale residential and commercial districts are lined with parks, galleries, boutiques and tasteful dining.
If you’re looking for a place that is rich in culture where you can run your business, Argentina just might be the perfect place for you. In fact, if you have an online business that generates any kind of income, becoming a citizen of Argentina is especially streamlined. You can enjoy all that the country has to offer, while simultaneously building your business and obtaining residency and an eventual second passport.
The benefits of a Spanish entrepreneur visa
Just the other day we spoke about the Spanish entrepreneur visa and whether or not it is a good idea. My recommendation was that, if you plan on spending six months or less per year in Spain, you should seek out a different residency option and simply live in Spain as a tourist for the 183 days you are allowed each year.
If, however, you are dead set on living in Spain year-round, there are a few positives we didn’t cover in the original article.
The good news is that anyone willing to start a new Spanish company will enjoy a tax rate of only 15% for their first two years in business. After that, rates will be 25% with various other caveats. While these types of rates don’t make Spain a tax haven, they are still lower than corporate taxes in the US.
The real benefit of having residency in Spain, however, is that it allows you to spend a full year in Europe instead of the six months you are allotted as a tourist. If the idea of living and traveling throughout Europe year-round sounds like a dream come true, that is exactly what residency in Spain will get you.
Just weigh your options.
European residency for entrepreneurs in Belgium
If you’re heart is still set on living in Europe, but Spain’s taxes and long timeline toward citizenship are making you think twice, Belgium is a great option for anyone interested in Europe.
It has always been relatively easy to obtain citizenship in Belgium. Until 2012, it was possible to obtain Belgian nationality after a mere three years of living there. Now, it takes at least five years, but that’s still a very reasonable timeline for a relatively well-managed, low-tax country with one of the best passports on earth.
Residency in Belgium can be obtained by anyone willing to start a small business and hire at least one part-time employee, or simply by demonstrating “significant means” to support themselves (usually around €1 million).
The cost of setting up a business as an entrepreneur in Belgium is still cheap: €12,400 in paid up capital, or potentially even less if you have a business partner to go in with you. And, while income tax in Belgium is high, capital gains taxes are zero.
Other benefits of residency or citizenship in Belgium are that the country allows dual citizenship and that Belgium only requires that you spend a few months per year there, so long as you spend at least some of your time elsewhere in Europe.
A Belgian passport has all the benefits of a Spanish passport in Europe, allowing freedom of movement throughout Europe’s Schengen Area. And for travel outside of Europe, Belgians are considered about as low-risk as they come while overseas.
The quality of life in Belgium is very high and the country has a welcoming attitude towards other nationalities. Brussels is an international city and is at the heart of European business. Universities in Belgium are very internationally oriented and students can even follow courses in English.
All of this makes Belgium a prime location for anyone looking for a great place to live and do business in Europe.
Colombia’s entrepreneur visa program
One place you may have never considered is Colombia. While many still associate Colombia with its dark past battling drug lords, making that mistake now could lead you to entirely miss out on one of the strongest markets and most vibrant cultures in South America today.
Anyone looking to start a business can get the added benefit of a second residency in Colombia with as little as $20,000 in capital that you can spend immediately on your company.
If you have been planning on starting a company or were already planning on investing 20k in your current company, you can deposit that money into a Colombian bank account and then use it to build your business there AND qualify for residency.
Once residency is obtained, Colombia only requires that you visit the country at least one time each year in order to keep your residency active. If you meet that condition and a basic Spanish requirement, the timeline to naturalization is just five years.
A Colombian passport is much better than it used to be and will grant you visa free access to nearly 100 countries. Besides having unlimited access to all of Central and South America, a Colombian passport will allow you visa-free access to all 26 countries in Europe’s Schengen Area (something US passport holders may not have in the future). Colombian passports also grant access to traditionally difficult countries like Russia.
Even better, Colombia also allows dual citizenship, meaning you will not have to renounce your current citizenship to become a citizen.
What makes Colombia really stand out as a destination for entrepreneurs, however, is it’s business culture. Colombia’s consistent economic stability over the past few years has been noticed by foreign investors and expats world-wide.
The country was recently named as one of seven emerging markets worth investing in by Fortune Magazine; the World Bank has ranked it as one of the best economies in Latin America based on the short amount of time it takes to start a business there; and, back in 2012, Medellín was named the ‘World’s Most Innovative City’ by Citi and the Wall Street Journal.
The start-up scene in Colombia has been moving forward at an impressive pace, in part thanks to the large number of engineering and computer science graduates and post-graduates in the country that afford entrepreneurs access to the second largest skilled labor workforce in Latin America.
This growing technology ecosystem is further benefited by Colombia’s low taxes and great incentives, making Colombia a major competitor for offshore operations. It seems that every time I turn around, someone I know is investing in Colombia and making a profit.
And then, of course, there is Colombia’s vibrant culture, beautiful people, breathtaking nature, good weather, great cost of living, organic and diverse food, Amazon jungles, modern skyscrapers, pristine coastline, numerous museums, historic neighborhoods, modern shopping malls, sophisticated restaurants and electric nightlife scene.
No wonder things are going so well for Colombia.
Irish residency for advanced entrepreneurs
My final suggestion is for those of you who already have a business and likely fit the definition of an advanced entrepreneur with a larger corporation. Due to its attractive 12.5% corporate tax, Ireland is home to pretty much any large company you can think of: Microsoft, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Dell, Boston Scientific, Kellogg’s, HP and hundreds of others . . . they all go to Ireland.
So if you’re looking for a low tax jurisdiction for your business, this is it.
If you don’t need a huge salary from your company, you can set up shop in Ireland with at least €300,000, have very little corporate tax, live in a great jurisdiction, have access to all of Europe, qualify for residency and be on track to get an Irish passport in five years.
Ireland is a great place to live and has one of the world’s best and most respected passports, offering visa free travel to more than 170 countries, including the United States and Canada (the most difficult ones) and freedom of movement around Europe.
If you are interested in obtaining an Irish passport, but don’t have a large company to get your foot in the door, Ireland has a very open policy of granting citizenship to those whose family tree includes ancestors from Ireland.
Like Italy, Ireland offers citizenship by descent to anyone who can prove they have a parent or grandparent who is Irish. If you take that route (which is usually much cheaper and faster), you can choose to live in Ireland as much or as little as you want.
To be honest, I love Ireland. And for anyone who might worry about getting lonely living abroad, an English speaking country like Ireland is the perfect solution. Plus, the Irish have a well-earned reputation for being some of the most friendly people in the world.
With a friendly people, business-friendly policies and some of the lowest taxes in Europe, a straightforward residency and citizenship plan, and one of the highest levels of economic freedom in the world Ireland is a place any entrepreneur should have on their list when considering taking themselves and their business offshore.
If you’re ready to set up a business in a foreign country in exchange for a second residency and want my help, apply for a personal Strategy Call to see if you qualify as one of the few people I choose to work with on a one-on-one basis each month.