Migratory Pathways for Start-Ups and Innovative Entrepreneurs in the European Union and Belgium

Over half of the EU Member States consider that attracting and retaining innovative entrepreneurs and start-ups from countries outside the EU will promote a vibrant entrepreneurial culture. What are the main pull factors and requirements for foreign start-up founders and employees? A new study from the European Migration Network reveals good practices and challenges from Belgium and 24 EU Member States.

National report

Belgium has no specific migration policies and programmes in place for start-ups or innovative entrepreneurs, as the categories of start-up and innovative entrepreneur are altogether unknown in Belgium’s migration legislation and thereby leaving only the option of the self-employed route through the professional card for third- country nationals wishing to set up their business in Belgium. The legislation concerned is vague, unclear and still centred around the need of an a priori work authorisation in order to protect the Belgian economy. This leaves the third-country national start-ups and innovative entrepreneurs with a cumbersome, long and unclear process, which does not help in making Belgium an attractive start-up destination.

However, Belgium does have a business friendly environment and has the potential to be a thriving business destination for start-ups and innovative entrepreneurs from third-countries. Belgium has lots to offer to new businesses through subsidies, investment incentives, tax breaks, a well-situated geographical location, the correct socio-economic factors and an entrepreneurial mindset. 

Alhough not a priority on any level, the regional authorities have started to realise the added value and importance of third-country national start-ups and are working towards a policy, and in Flanders even a legislative change. The biggest challenge will be to get the necessary political interest and overcome the issues related to the division of competences in Belgium.

EU Synthesis Report

This Synthesis Report presents the main findings of the EMN Study on Migratory Pathways for Start-ups and Innovative Entrepreneurs in 25 EU Member States (including Belgium). The Study is timely, given the recent proliferation of  admission schemes (including visas and/or residence permits) for innovative entrepreneurs and start-up founders in many EU Member States. The Study explores in a comparative perspective the national and legal policy frameworks for the admission of start-ups and innovative entrepreneurs from third countries. Recognising that special admission schemes are only one means of attracting start-ups, the Study explores a wider variety of policy measures and factors affecting the attraction of start-up founders and entrepreneurial individuals from non-EU countries.

Some of the key findings:

  • In about half of the Member States, attracting start-ups and innovative entrepreneurs from third countries is recognised as a policy priority and is part of comprehensive national strategies to promote vibrant entrepreneurial culture.
  • Most specific start-up schemes have been introduced in the last three years, and the design and set up of the schemes differ significantly across the Member States.

  • Most Member States do not grant preferential access to permanent residence for start-up founders and entrepreneurs.

  • There is a lack of data on the survival rates as well as economic results generated of such start-up schemes.

Publication Date:
Wed 18 Dec 2019
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