This article discusses 14 Business Visas for global entrepreneurs and how a business visa can add value to your business portfolio.
By taking your business offshore, you can legally save on taxes. Moreover, there are more than a few countries around the world that will offer you a second residence in exchange for setting up your business in their jurisdiction.
Being offered residency for simply establishing your business in a country that is already more business-friendly than where you currently reside is the ultimate win-win situation.
Some countries will require that you hire a specific number of locals, invest in only certain industries, or that you put a minimum amount of capital into a local bank business account.
Before settling on any one country, it’s good to get a feel of the options that are available to you.
Whatever your needs and preferences, we’ve done the homework for you. Nomad Capitalist has the world’s largest database of up-to-date information on tax, residence and citizenship, banking, and corporate structures in over 100 countries.
Want an actionable holistic Plan to expand your business and generate wealth? Set up a call with us today and go where you’re treated best.
1. Belgium Business Visa
The heart of the European Union, Belgium is a country where you can incorporate a business and obtain residence and an eventual passport quite easily.
However, you should be aware that Belgium’s business visa is only an option if you genuinely want to set up and run a company there. In other words, putting a couple of hundred euros in a bank account there and forgetting all about it won’t cut it.
What will be expected of you? Starting a real Belgian company with a thought-out business plan. Your business plan will also need to undergo a stringent approval process.
It’s not easy, and foreign investors get rejected all the time. That’s because this is a highly desirable EU country, and they can afford to get picky about the people they let in.
And with a real Belgian company come real taxes. The corporate tax rate is 25%, and if you want residence (along with all the perks that it offers), be prepared to pay.
So, given its tax rates, how is Belgium a smart financial move?
For starters, the business you would run in Belgium doesn’t need to be your main or primary business. You can structure your corporation in a way that you would only pay tax on your Belgian income, but not your global earnings.
Keep in mind, however, that if you want to continue living in Belgium, your business will need to turn a profit – this is a condition that your annual residency renewal depends upon.
Here are the other requirements to pull off Belgium residence and incorporation:
- Your company must have a college-educated director, which can either be you or someone else you hire.
- You must invest at least €6,200 upfront if you have a business partner or €12,400 if you set up a company by yourself.
- You should expect to spend approximately €150,000 in the first year on your business, which includes processing fees, legal costs, property rental, and employee salaries.
- You should register as a tax non-resident if you don’t want to report or pay taxes on your foreign earnings in Belgium. You’ll need to demonstrate that the center of your social and economic life is outside of the country.
Other benefits of residency or citizenship in Belgium include that the country allows dual citizenship, and Belgium only requires that you spend a few months per year in-country, as long as you spend at least some of your time elsewhere in Europe.
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.You can read more about Belgian residence and citizenship here to further help you decide if the Belgium business visa should be on your list of offshore options.
2. Colombia Business Visa
One place you may have never considered is Colombia. The country boasts 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 ~$25,000 in capital that you can spend immediately on your company.
This is called the Colombia Business Visa, and it’s a temporary residence visa. You will need to visit the country at least once every six months to retain this visa.
Once residency is obtained, Colombia only requires that you visit the country at least once every six months in order to keep your residency active. If you meet that condition and a basic Spanish and Colombian history knowledge requirement, the timeline to naturalization is ten years.
A Colombian passport is much better than it used to be and will grant you visa-free access to over 139 countries. Besides having unlimited access to all of Central and South America, a Colombian passport will allow you visa-free access to all of the countries in Europe’s Schengen Area, as well as 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 its business culture. Colombia’s consistent economic stability over the past few years has been noticed by foreign investors and expats worldwide.
The country was named one of seven emerging markets worth investing in by Fortune Magazine, and 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.
The start-up scene in Colombia has been moving forward at an impressive pace, thanks in part to a large number of engineering and computer science graduates and postgraduates in the country that affords 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.
And then, of course, there is Colombia’s vibrant culture, beautiful people, breathtaking nature, good weather, great cost of living, organic and diverse food, the Amazon jungle, modern skyscrapers, pristine coastline, numerous museums, historic neighborhoods, modern shopping malls, sophisticated restaurants, electric nightlife, and so much more.
The list truly does go on. No wonder things are going so well for Colombia. You can learn more about Colombia’s residence and business visa program here.
3. Panama Business Visa
Panama also has a brilliant Business Investor visa.
Here are the requirements:
- The minimum investment amount is $160,000, and that has to be put into a Panamanian company, or a new one needs to be established with those funds.
- Your new venture should create at least 5 full-time jobs for Panamanians.
- This visa is renewable after 2 years, which is when you can request permanent residence.
- Within 5 years of permanent residence, you can apply for naturalization. You’ll need to have Spanish language skills, knowledge of Panamanian history, and attend an interview. The process of naturalization takes 3 years, on average.
4. Portugal Business Visa
Many people don’t know about this gem, but Portugal has an excellent visa program aimed at non-EU entrepreneurs looking to set up or invest in a business in the country.
Portugal’s D2 visa, also known as the Immigrant Entrepreneur Visa, offers non-EU/ EEA/ Swiss entrepreneurs, investors, and self-employed professionals a chance to start a business in Portugal. It also allows them to relocate their business or invest in an existing business in Portugal.
A D2 visa holder is granted a two-year temporary residence permit. After which, the permit can be renewed for another three years. After five years of legal residency, you may apply for permanent residence or citizenship.
No minimum investment threshold exists for the D2 visa. Moreover, there are no conditions regarding job creation or yearly profitability, making the D2 quite a flexible option for entrepreneurs looking to establish an EU corporate base.
Nonetheless, depending on your business or investment plan, you’ll need to demonstrate adequate financial proof that your investment or business is viable and offers social, cultural, or economic benefits to the country’s economy.
Moreover, applicants must prove they have the financial means to live in Portugal for a year, regardless of their business structure or income.
They can do so by showing a bank statement with at least €9,120 (for one year). This threshold is based on the minimum wage set by the Portuguese government, which is €760 per month (or €9,120 per year) for 2023.
There are several other requirements to fulfill depending on your D2 visa motive, which we have discussed in detail in our Portugal D2 Visa Ultimate Guide.
5. Hungary Business Visa
Hungary is a country in the European Union that’s extremely welcoming when it comes to foreign investment, especially when it comes to setting up new businesses.
With a workforce that is highly educated and that speaks English proficiently, plus its many industrial sites, Hungary is most suited to those business owners who are looking to set up manufacturing businesses and similar enterprises.
With a central location in a rapidly emerging area of Europe, the Hungarian business visa looks even more appealing.
Here are the key points of the program:
- Non-EU nationals can obtain Hungarian residence by establishing a local company.
- The minimum amount required for initial business capitalization is €50,000.
- Don’t forget about the legal and professional fees of approximately €30,000 that will be charged when you set up a Hungarian company.
- You’ll need to provide proof that you’ve legitimately obtained all of the funds necessary for the investment.
- A clean criminal record and an outstanding international standing both need to be proved.
- You’ll initially be granted temporary residence for 1 year; this can be extended for another 2 years. Subsequently, you’ll be granted permanent residence for 5 years, provided you maintain the business investment.
And if you turn a profit on your business, it can help you equalize the mandatory social security contributions and the other taxes that you’d be liable to pay on your business in Hungary.
For example, the Hungarian corporate tax rate is currently 9%, which makes it an appealing jurisdiction in which to set up shop.
So, what are some of the main benefits of Hungarian residence? For starters, being a resident in this country will enable you to invest in any EU country freely, open up bank accounts, as well as purchase real estate. This is great news for your portfolio diversification.
Furthermore, you can apply for citizenship once you’ve been a resident for a period of eight years. That doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it, but if you do get approved, you’ll get your hands on a highly valuable European passport.
So, what are you waiting for? Huge swathes of expats have already uncovered Hungary – and Budapest specifically – as a great place to live. We’ve listed it as one of our favorite cities in Europe.
An alternative to setting up a business in Hungary is obtaining Hungarian citizenship by descent if you have Hungarian ancestry.
6. Türkiye Citizenship by Investment
As part of its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program, Turkey has two offers for foreign investors. Either you opt to invest in real estate, or you invest in a local business.
While the vast majority go for the real estate option (and there are definitely great property deals to be had), the entrepreneurship route could be interesting to (aspiring) business owners.
The main point of this route is to create jobs.
It doesn’t matter if you want to move a part of your already existing business to Turkey or if you want to set up a brand new operation, you’ll need to meet this program’s requirements:
- Create at least 50 jobs for Turkish citizens. The total employee cost of one minimum salaried job is nearly $604 (in 2023).
- All of the administrative costs of setting up and running a business should also be considered, although there is no exact number as to how much that will be during the first and the subsequent years.
- Only people interested in running a legitimate business for the long term should apply. You’ll need to either run the business yourself or hire someone to do so for you.
- There is no predefined minimum investment sum to qualify for residence and eventual citizenship in Turkey under this program’s job creation route.
- You don’t need to physically reside in Turkey to take advantage of this entrepreneur program.
- Bringing your family under the same investment is entirely possible; your spouse and dependent children are free to join you in obtaining residence and a Turkish passport.
All in all, if you’ve always wanted to set up a company abroad and your business could benefit from affordable Turkish labor, or if you need to outsource some of your current operations to a cheaper country, Turkey could be what you’re looking for.
The entire process of getting Turkish citizenship by investing in a business takes about three to four months and is rather easy.
Read more about citizenship by investment in Turkey here.
7. Lithuania Business Visa
Lithuania is yet another European country where you can set up a business and get residence in exchange — it’s as easy as that.
In fact, Lithuanian residence by way of investing in a business is one of the easiest to obtain in Europe, with no excessive requirements and not that much red tape either.
However, we wouldn’t recommend Lithuania for just any kind of business. If you would like to run a service-based business or something in retail, we don’t see much potential in this Baltic country.
The best way forward is to think regionally or globally; you would be best off if you offer professional or business-to-business (B2B) services to companies in the region or in Europe in general.
Of course, location-independent companies can also benefit from being located in Lithuania, thanks to the country’s flat 15% corporate tax. That’s comparable to Ireland’s 12.5%.
Plus, while Lithuania’s neighbor Latvia requires that you pay thousands in taxes every year to keep your residence permit active, Lithuania takes a more relaxed approach and doesn’t track the numbers that closely.
As long as it’s clearly an active company and you pay some tax annually, you’ll be able to continue to enjoy the benefits that a Lithuanian residence offers.
Interested? You’ll be glad to know that the process is actually very simple:
- The company will need to have at least €29,000 in equity, conduct business in the country for at least six months, and employ a minimum of three Lithuanian citizens or permanent residents with an average Lithuania salary.
- You will need to have some aspect of your personal or financial life “center in Lithuania.” While many construe this as needing to live in the country, the officials are flexible in most cases. For example, a lease agreement should suffice to keep your residency active.
- Citizenship is available to those who have resided in Lithuania for a minimum of 10 years. However, you should keep in mind that the country doesn’t allow dual citizenship in most cases.
Read more about starting a business in Lithuania here.
8. Latvia Golden Visa
A neighbor of the aforementioned Lithuania, Latvia is another Baltic country that has a pretty interesting proposition for entrepreneurs looking for European residency.
So, what’s the main appeal of Latvia? Here are the highlights:
- Efficient application process. You’ll gain residence in 2-3 months.
- It’s one of the cheapest ways to gain European residence for business investors. You’ll need to invest only €50,000 if the company turnover is less than €10 million a year. The investment will need to be doubled if the company earns more than that.
- You’ve got choices. You can either create your own company, or you can invest in an already existing Latvian company and become a shareholder.
Beyond these key points of Latvian residence by business investment, there are a few quirks as well.
The main catch is that if you form a company, you must pay at least €40,000 in tax per year to retain your residence.
If you do the math, the total investment for a period of five years, for example, is a minimum of €250,000. And, suddenly, Latvia is no longer a ‘dirt cheap’ proposition.
Still, lots of investors choose to go the business investment route in Latvia. Over 40% opt-in because a €50,000 investment to bring your entire family to Europe is a good price to pay.
And, if you’re running a legitimate business with a decent turnover, the €40,000 in annual tax shouldn’t be a hard feat.
Read more about starting a business in Latvia here.
9. Singapore EntrePass Visa
Singapore is a notoriously hard country in which to get residence. It simply has an overabundance of investors, expats, and internationals of all varieties to feel the need to welcome just anyone.
However, for many foreign entrepreneurs, the lure of Singapore is simply too strong to resist. Luscious food, a multicultural environment, and a central Asian location are the main benefits of setting up shop in this Asian nation.
Plus, it’s one of the best residences (and eventual citizenships) to have in the world. In addition to an exceptionally strong passport, it also has territorial taxation which means that you can structure your global assets in ways that benefit you directly. However, Singapore does not allow dual citizenship.
So, what does an entrepreneur do to gain permanent residence in Singapore? We can’t lie and tell you the process is quick or cheap.
Quite the contrary.
You used to be able to open up an ice cream shop, employ a few locals, claim their permanent residence, and call it a day. Not anymore.
The requirements are much more stringent now for each of the three routes into the country.
First, you’ve got the Singaporean entrepreneurship visa called the EntrePass. Here are the main eligibility criteria:
- People of any nationality can apply.
- The program is geared towards serial entrepreneurs, high-caliber innovators, and experienced investors only. No beginners will be accepted.
- You must either already have a new company (less than 6 months since incorporation) or intend to set one up after you’re approved for the EntrePass.
- It will take approximately 2 months to process your application.
And whereas there is no minimum sum that you must have to start your Singapore company, there is a checklist of criteria. The more of these you tick off, the higher your chances of getting approved:
- You have secured at least $100,000 in funding from a government-recognized venture capitalist (VC) or business angel.
- You’re an incubatee at a government-approved incubator or accelerator.
- You have a vast business network and an entrepreneurial track record.
- You hold intellectual property that delivers a significant competitive advantage to your business.
- You have a research collaboration with the Institute of Higher Learning or another research institute in Singapore.
- You have achieved exceptional milestones in your area(s) of expertise, and are able to prove it.
- You have a positive track record of investing in businesses.
If you get approved, you’ll need to jump through a considerable amount of hoops to renew your residence annually, including meeting an annual spending sum figure and employing a minimum amount of people.
Don’t fancy having to do all that? Then your second option to gain entry to Singapore is the Employment Pass.
While this program is mostly geared towards skilled workers, you can set up a company and hire yourself as the director.
Keep in mind that:
- It’s not cheap to run Singaporean companies. Local directors must be hired, and an annual audit must be conducted.
- Singapore is no tax haven. All businesses pay 17% tax on their worldwide income. You’ll be expected to show a business profit, which will also be taxed.
- You must pay yourself a salary of about $100,000. This will be subject to local income and social security taxes.
Finally, there is another relatively new program that can lead to residence in Singapore called Tech Pass. It’s very similar to EntrePass but is geared toward leaders and innovators within the tech industry.
So, it’s up to you to pick from these three options and make your Singapore business and residence a reality. As always, the Nomad Capitalist team can help you navigate the process.
Read more about setting up a business in Singapore here.
10. South Korea D-8 Investor Visa
South Korea is a country that is not just heating up; it’s probably the hottest country on the Asian continent right now.
Its music, its food, and its culture, in general, is something that has exploded onto the global stage in recent years. There’s little wonder that investors have been looking towards this eastern Asian country and seeking to find out whether they can get a slice of that economic success pie.
Luckily, there is an opportunity for foreigners to get permanent residency in South Korea if they’re looking to invest in a local business.
However, it’s not as easy as it was just a decade ago.
Now, as the number of expats in South Korea tops 1 million, residence permits are much harder to come by.
The visa is called the D-8 Investor visa, and it requires a minimum investment of approximately KRW 100,000,000 ($76,832). It will also need to be an actual profit-generating company for your residence permit to get extended.
The South Korean program is somewhat of a hybrid visa as it combines investment and entrepreneurship.
This means that your business doesn’t need to be as innovative as for, say, the UK or the Singapore business visas. You could open up a restaurant or some sort of a lifestyle business and thrive in South Korea.
Meanwhile, if you have an earth-shattering start-up idea that you think you could use to conquer the world, we would recommend taking it elsewhere. Since countries are wrestling for people to bring these ideas to them instead of their neighbors, you need to play your cards right.
Read more about investing in business in South Korea here.
11. North Macedonia Entrepreneur Visa
The North Macedonian entrepreneur visa program is so under the radar that the government bureaucrats don’t even have a set procedure for it.
That often makes for the best investment opportunities — ones that haven’t already been seized upon by thousands upon thousands of investors from around the world.
Despite its visa program being quite unknown, the country itself has been gaining traction over the last decade. It’s a beautiful country in the Balkan peninsula, dotted by mountains and the pristine waters of Lake Ohrid.
So, what does it have in store for entrepreneurs?
For starters, North Macedonia has an EU candidacy status as it has applied to join, and its accession to the union is in progress. While there still remains a long road for North Macedonia to become a fully-fledged member of the EU, its citizens, and residents do have visa-free access to the entire union.
And when it comes to obtaining a passport, North Macedonia is one of the fastest countries in the world to let you do that. Within a few years, you could not just have a residence in the country but citizenship as well.
But don’t forget the business investment aspect of this. While North Macedonia is a slightly more obscure country on this list, and you would assume that it would give you some concessions, they will actually expect you to run a legitimate business.
You will need to have a presence “on the ground”, form a company, as well as put at least €400,000 into a local business bank account. Furthermore, you’ll need to hire ten local people full-time.
All that said, it shouldn’t be a problem if you’re genuinely interested in taking advantage of the many opportunities that this emerging country offers, one that is among the most business-friendly countries in Eastern Europe.
Its tax regime is also highly favorable, with a flat 10% corporate tax.
All in all, setting up shop might take some time and quite a bit of research, but if you’re set on giving North Macedonia a go, we’re sure it will be worth your while. We can also deal with the bureaucracy on your behalf – feel free to reach out to the Nomad Capitalist team.
Read more about operating a business in North Macedonia here.
12. Bulgaria Business Visa
Did you know that Bulgaria is a member of the European Union and the Schengen zone? Did you know that Bulgarian residence could mean you’re free to traipse all over the continent with just an ID card?
If you’re eager to unlock Europe and are willing to give Eastern Europe a chance, Bulgaria is as good a place as any.
Sitting at the confluence of the west and the east, the new and the old (ex-Soviet), Bulgaria is a really interesting proposition for foreign investors seeking to reap the benefits of its EU status, affordable labor, and its geographic location, among others.
We wouldn’t necessarily recommend going for citizenship by investment in Bulgaria, as that will cost you at least half a million euros and take years.
Similar benefits of the passport can be had with just a residence.
Bulgaria is great for those who want to outsource all or part of their labor overseas. That’s because the Bulgarian workforce is highly educated, most young people speak fluent English, and the average wage in the capital of Sofia is about a thousand euros per month.
If you were considering Portugal before, but that seemed a touch too expensive, then you can’t go wrong with Bulgaria.
This country should be of particular interest to those in the tech industry. Tech has been booming in Bulgaria, and there are plenty of highly qualified specialists for hire.
Read more about running a business in Bulgaria here.
13. Romania Business Visa
A neighbor to Bulgaria, Romania is a very similar proposition.
You can get residence and perhaps even a second passport by incorporating a business in Romania, but then again, many European countries offer that.
So, what’s special about Romania in particular?
It’s a quick and relatively cheap way to obtain permanent European residence. You will need to invest a minimum of €150,000 into your company and hire some employees to get going.
The undefined number of employees makes Romania a better choice for those who aren’t necessarily in need of 10 or more employees (such as the requirement in Bulgaria).
When it comes to tax, Romanian corporations pay profit tax on their worldwide income – that’s a flat 16% in Romania. And while that’s quite a low percentage, it’s certainly not as low as some of the other jurisdictions in Europe.
The important takeaway for running a tax-optimized business is to use a “micro company” — this isn’t exactly easy to pull off for non-residents, so we recommend having professional guidance along the way.
Any company with a turnover of less than 1 million euros in the preceding year would qualify to pay reduced tax rates between 1-3%. There is also a dividend tax of 5% that needs to be paid, but it’s a far cry from what Western Europeans are paying.
So, what sort of business should you create in Romania?
As there are certain limits to what types of companies can claim tax benefits, we would say that the ideal business to run in Romania is product-based with healthy margins and the need to hire staff locally.
Read more about opening a business in Romania here.
14. Puerto Rico Act 60
Long-lauded as the ultimate alternative to citizenship renunciation for Americans who are oh-so-tired of inflated tax rates, Puerto Rico offers many business investment opportunities.
But tread carefully, it’s not the right option for all people.
It’s not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, and going to Puerto Rico for residence and to do business does come with strings attached.
Additionally, it’s really not the best of locations for top-level living.
Scrambling to raise capital, Puerto Rico has done what a lot of other governments have had to do — launch an investment program in exchange for tax incentives and residence status.
Their main goal is to attract US corporations that are looking to legally optimize their taxes. And because Puerto Rico has a special status with the US, companies are able to cut their tax by as much as 90%.
Your company will most likely need to have a physical office on the island, apply for all the tax concessions, and go through the bureaucratic motions.
But, for many, it’s still worth it.
Many Puerto Ricans speak English, and the island is just a quick plane ride away from many American cities. Also, you don’t have to renounce your American citizenship to take advantage of the various tax incentives.
On the other hand, the physical presence requirement for yourself (and your family, potentially) puts many people off of life in picturesque Puerto Rico.
Could you see yourself spending half of your year there? If not, then Puerto Rico may not be for you.If so, then read more about Puerto Rico’s tax incentives here.
Get Your Plan B While You Can
From Golden Visas to Business visas to CBI programs – countries are shutting down immigrant investor programs at record speed.
Last year, this list included sixteen countries. This year, it’s fourteen. Who knows how many programs will get canceled by next year?
That’s why it’s imperative to act now and get a Plan B to expand your business and passport portfolio.
Whether you want to live and work in Asia, the EU, the Caribbean, or some other region, Nomad Capitalist can help you. We have the world’s largest database of actionable information on tax, residency, citizenship, and corporate structures in over 100 countries.
From billionaires and celebrities to everyday entrepreneurs, we’ve helped over 1,500 successful clients create their Plans, grow their wealth, and increase their peace of mind.
Sounds like something you’d want to do? Set up a call with us today to go where you’re treated best.