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12 startup visas you should know about

A round-up of countries that offer startup visas to entrepreneurs worldwide.

Startups contribute massively to local economies and attract a large number of highly skilled people to immigrate to the host nations. Recognising this, various countries have launched temporary residency programs (startup/entrepreneur visas), designed to entice entrepreneurs from different parts of the world.

We've rounded up a list of countries that offer startup visas to entrepreneurs worldwide, and have included information about the application procedure and requirements.

1. Canada 🇨🇦 (Startup Visa)

Qualifying startup founders can apply for the Canadian Startup Visa. This is one of the most entrepreneur-friendly visa programs, and it allows permanent residency in the country. The critical point to qualify for this program is to get support for your business from a designated organization.

The designated organisations are listed here. Essentially, the applicant needs to have a minimum investment of CAD 200,000 committed from an accredited VC fund or $75,000 from a designated angel group. Alternatively, if your business has been accepted into one of the listed incubator/accelerator programs, you don’t need to meet the investment requirements.

The applicant must be fluent enough to communicate in English and/or French, and must also prove that they have adequate funds to support themselves and their family members in Canada.

Processing time for the Canadian Startup Visa is around 32 months.

2. United Kingdom 🇬🇧

The UK Startup visa is for individuals who are new entrepreneurs and want to establish a business in the UK for the first time. You do not need to be a graduate or have secured any initial funding. However, you will need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which has been approved by one of the endorsing bodies listed here.

Startup visas are one-off visas, valid for 2 years and the category does not lead directly to settlement in the UK. However, Startup visa holders may extend their stay via the Innovator visa category (providing they have received a minimum investment of £50,000 from a designated organisation). The Innovator visa offers better prospects for permanent settlement.

More information on the startup visa here, and the innovator visa here.

3. Denmark 🇩🇰

Any self-employed individuals outside of the EU with innovative, scalable, and ideally tech-driven business ideas can apply for the Denmark Startup visa. The visa is granted for 24 months, and can subsequently be extended for up to five years. The applicant can also include close family members in the application.

The Startup Denmark program is gaining popularity mostly due to the absence of a sponsorship requirement (i.e. you don't need any investment secured to apply for it). The applicant must simply submit a business plan to be evaluated and approved by a Startup Denmark panel and the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration. Once your business plan is approved, you can apply for a work and residency permit in Denmark.

Processing time for approval from Startup Denmark is around 1 month.

4. Portugal 🇵🇹

Portugal has attracted a lot of entrepreneurs and investors in the past few years. The startup visa program allows foreign business founders to easily set up a branch of an existing business in the Portugal.

The startup must be technology-oriented, and it must be capable of generating a turnover of €325,000/year. Additionally, the startup idea must be innovative, and have the potential to create qualified employment in Portugal.

The visa application can be submitted online, and the processing time for the startup visa program is around 2 months.

5. New Zealand 🇳🇿

The New Zealand Entrepreneur Visa enables entrepreneurs to establish or buy a business in New Zealand through a 12-month work visa at the startup stage. The visa can be renewed for another 24 months after the review of business milestones and progress.

The critical requirement for this visa is a minimum investment of NZ$100,000. However, if your business is in the science or ICT sectors, and/or shows a high level of innovation or export potential, the government may consider waiving the NZD $100,000 capital investment requirement.

Processing time for the Entrepreneur Visa is around 10-11 months.

6. Spain 🇪🇸

The Spain startup visa program is relatively easy to obtain and offers one year of residency. Foreign startup founders outside of Spain can apply for the entrepreneur visa at a Spanish consulate, and must submit a business plan to the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Processing time for the Spanish Entrepreneur Visa is around 10 days.

7. Chile 🇨🇱 (Startup Visa info)

Start-Up Chile is a government funded accelerator for startups from around the world. It provides an equity-free grant, mentorship and network to support founders, and access to a co-working space in Santiago, Chile. There are three programs: Build, Ignite and Growth depending on the stage of your company.

Chile is also one of the fastest visa approval countries, with processing time at around 15 days after the application is submitted.

8. Estonia 🇪🇪

This visa allows non-EU founders and employees of startups to launch and grow a company in Estonia. The applicants can apply for either a 3 or 12 month visa. To qualify for the visa, applicants must agree to spend at least €130 every month in Estonia. Applicants must also have a valid Estonian insurance policy covering at least €30,000.

Founders applying for the Estonia startup visa must fill out the visa application form detailing their business plan and team. This is then evaluated by a Startup Committee consisting of members of the Estonian startup community, and the processing time is around 30 days.

9. Singapore 🇸🇬

Singapore’s EntrePass is intended for serial entrepreneurs, high-calibre innovators or experienced investors that want to operate a business in Singapore that is venture-backed or owns innovative technologies.

A company is considered venture-backed or owns innovative technologies if it has:

  • Raised funding from capital providers including government investment vehicles, venture capitalists, corporates, family offices, and business angels.

  • Developed, produced or commercialised tech products, services or platforms.

  • Registered patents with an approved national IP institution.

  • Ongoing research collaboration with a research institution.

EntrePass offers residency for two years with an option to apply for a permanent stay if you wish to extend after the initial period.

10. Netherlands 🇳🇱

The Dutch startup visa scheme makes it possible for ambitious entrepreneurs from outside the EU, EEA or Switzerland to apply for a temporary residence permit for the Netherlands. It gives entrepreneurs 1 year to get their innovative business started, and it is mandatory to receive guidance from an experienced facilitator (list here). The facilitator provides the entrepreneur with a tailor-made package of support depending on their specific needs.

Applicants must prove that they have funds of at least €13,000 to support themselves, and processing time is around 6-weeks.

11. Ireland 🇮🇪

The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP) was introduced by the Irish Government in 2012 to allow for innovative entrepreneurs to apply for permission to establish their business and reside in Ireland on a full time basis.

Although the programme has higher capital requirements, Ireland provides unique business benefits to immigrants, including tax incentives and low corporate taxes. The programme grants residency for two years with an option to renew it for three years thereafter.

To apply, a startup must have the potential to create 10 jobs and generate at least €1 million in turnover within 3-4 years. Applicants must also have €50,000 in funding available to them. Processing time is around 12-16 weeks.

12. France 🇫🇷

The French Tech Visa is for startup founders and tech company investors looking to live and work in France for up to four years. Applicants can also include their immediate family members in the program.

To qualify for the visa, the startup founder has to be selected by a French Tech Visa partner (i.e. an incubator or an accelerator). Applicants must also be approved by the Direccte (a French public organization) and have a business plan for their startup in France.

Applicants must be fluent in English, and the startup must be their sole focus whilst in the country. Additionally, the startup founder must not seek any other means of employment during the 12-month visa period. Process time is 2-5 days.


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