Admitting third-country nationals for business purposes (EMN)

This EMN study aims to compare the different national policies in place for non-EU investors, business owners and other business persons at the various stages of migration (pre-entry, entry and stay).

Background information

This EMN study aims to provide an analysis and further understanding of the conditions in place in EU member States that regulate the admission for business purposes from third-countries to the EU. The study focuses on: (1) immigrant investors, (2) immigrant business owners and (3) other business persons. The study examines national definitions, national rules/restrictions on admisson and stay, experiences of the above categories, challenges and good practices as well as lessons learnt in this field.

Belgian study

Among other conclusons, the Belgian study highlights that:

  • There is, in Belgium, an awareness of the need for and importance of attracting foreign investments and promoting business opportunities in the country and on this basis specific actions are undertaken inter alia to enhance the attractiveness of the Belgian economy.
  • There is however, in Belgium, no specific immigration policy or scheme targeted at immigrant investors, business owners and other business persons as envisaged in this study. There is no definition of such categories in the immigration legislation.
  • Third-country nationals willing to work as employed or self-employed individuals in Belgium, may be authorized to do so according to national rules regulating the employment of foreign employees and self-employed individuals but measures remain fragmented in the legislation.
  • Initiatives have nevertheless been taken to facilitate the immigration of business owners and other business persons in Belgium, referring to (i) professional card and work permit exemptions for business visitors, (ii) the flexibility in reviewing professional cards' applications, (iii) the service for economic migration (SMEDEM) within the Immigration Office to facilitate the residence procedure for economic migrants.
  • The lack of specific policy, scheme or program for immigrant investors, business owners and other business persons creates difficulties in collecting data on their numbers or their specific activities in Belgium.
  • Current changes in the distribution of competences relating to economic migration, and the transfer of the concerned competences to the Regions, are an opportunity to better align the policy on the attraction of foreign investments and the policy on work authorizations and professional cards.

For additional information, please read the full study in attachment.

Authors: Jo Antoons & Evelyne Van der Elst (Fragomen Brussels)

EU Synthesis

The synthesis report is based on contributions from EMN National Contact Points in 24 Member States and Norway. The EMN Inform summarises the findings from the study. Among other key points:

  • Designing and implementing policies/programmes and schemes to attract and facilitate the admission of third-country nationals for business purposes is a growing phenomenon. In many cases, national approaches have been introduced relatively recently, and in response to the economic crisis, which accounts in part for the limited availability of supporting statistics and evaluation information available to better understand the phenomenon.
  • The admission of third-country national investors and business owners is not harmonised at EU level. Other categories of business persons are not recognised by all Member States and are not distinguished in practice by existing definitions in all Member States.
  • In terms of migration policy design, Member States strive to find the right balance between incentives and rights offered to third-country nationals on the one hand and admission criteria which guarantee effective controls and secure borders on the other.
  • Higher-rate immigration Member States with tailored programmes for business persons have developed and / or adapted them with the aim to better meet the needs of their national markets and seek higher economic benefits. Detailed admission criteria are purposely designed to target specific groups of third-country nationals whose presence would constitute a certain added value to host country, a region or a specific economic sector.
  • In lower-rate immigration Member States, immigrant investors’ programmes may have been more recently designed as economic recovery measures or, more ambitiously, to act as (regional) hubs for investments.
  • In other Member States, however, immigration for business purposes does not seem to be a priority, or to be attributed any higher degree of attention.
  • Few specific instances of misuse/abuse of the investor route by third country nationals has been reported (rather incidences in specific sectors).

For additional information, please read the full synthesis report in attachment (available in English and French).

Publication Date:
Mon 23 Feb 2015
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