The world’s best 15 startup visas
Startups are a massive boost for economies, and many countries around the world recognize this. Governments offer fast-track residency and citizenship through startup visa programs. What is a startup visa? These programs (also called entrepreneur visas) are aimed at people with great innovative ideas and entrepreneurial drive. It’s a good idea to have a startup in another country because there are many opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs to obtain nonimmigrant visas by investing in an existing business or launching a new company.
The list of countries offering a startup visa (entrepreneur visa) programs includes:
• Hong Kong
• New Zealand
• San Marino
• South Korea
• United Arab Emirates
• United Kingdom
The range of countries is impressive, and the list of startup visas available is growing all the time. Each country has its own different set of requirements for startup visa programs. These differences mean that each startup founder needs to evaluate their personal situation to choose the best fit country for their business. To make it easier, we went through all the available entrepreneur visa programs and chose the top 15 countries with startup visa programs worldwide.
The Canada Startup Visa program offers permanent residency for qualifying startup founders. This program is one of the most entrepreneur-friendly visa opportunities available worldwide. The critical point for this program is firstly to get support for your startup from a designated organization.
Requirements to qualify for the Canada Startup Visa:
• The applicant`s business must be innovative, have the potential to create jobs for Canadians, and be able to compete outside of Canada.
• The business owners can be up to 5 people, but each must own at least 10% of the voting shares. Also, the owners must have more than 50% of voting rights jointly.
• The applicants should be able to communicate in English, French, or both through proof from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
• The applicant must have sufficient funds to support any individuals immigrating to Canada alongside the applicant. Remember that no funds can be borrowed.
• The applicant must have an investment of $200,000 CAD from an accredited venture fund or $75,000 from a designated angel group. There is no need to meet the capital requirements if the business is accepted into a listed incubator/accelerator program.
Australia has a program called Australia Business Innovation Visa, which aims to attract foreign entrepreneurs and investors to start, grow, or move their businesses to Australia.
Requirements to qualify for the Australia Business Innovation Visa:
• The applicant must be nominated and invited to apply for the visa by an Australian body.
• The applicant should have prior entrepreneurial experience and success.
• The applicant must own at least $400,000 AUD in net assets and have funding agreements from the third party of at least AUD $200,000.
• The applicant should have at least $1.5M AUD of net business and personal assets transferred to Australia within 2 years of the visa grant.
• The applicant should have at least $3M AUD turnover in at least 2 of the 4 business years before you are invited to apply for the visa.
The New Zealand Entrepreneur Visa program helps entrepreneurs establish or buy a business in New Zealand through a 12-month work visa at the startup stage. Through this program, startup owners can apply for residency under the Entrepreneur Residence Category.
Requirements to qualify for the New Zealand Entrepreneur Visa:
• The New Zealand government must approve this business. There is a point system with 120 points required. Points are based on the potential success of a business and the value of the company added to New Zealand.
• The applicant must have a minimum capital investment of NZ$100,000 (this does not include working capital).
• The applicant needs a business plan that lays out a business idea and the next steps.
• The applicant must have a record clear of bankruptcy, business failure, or fraud.
• The applicant must meet good character, health, and English proficiency levels.
Singapore’s EntrePass visa program is designed to capture the value and retain it within the country. The program is for foreigners intending to establish a startup in Singapore. It offers residency for 2 years with an option to apply for a permanent stay after the visa expiration.
Requirements to qualify for the Singapore EntrePass Visa:
• The applicant should be sponsored by a Singapore-based company through a bond worth at least $3,000 SGD that is refunded when the visa ends.
• The applicant must have a prior entrepreneurial background.
• There should be a plan to have paid-up capital of a minimum of $50,000 SGD.
• The applicant must provide a 10-page business plan.
• Proposed business ideas must be able to create local employment, and the entrepreneur must plan to retain at least 30% shareholding in the business, which encourages personal investment in growth and value creation rather than quick exits.
• Companies can only be pre-incorporated or a max of 6 months post-incorporation. The company must be within 30 days of visa approval and issuance if it has not yet been incorporated.
Chile has several programs, and for innovative ideas, they go way beyond the visa. There is access to government funding, business incubator support, and much more. Start-Up Chile is one of the methods to secure a startup visa. Through this program, Chile issues successful applicants a 12-month work visa within 15 days of application, which is one of the fastest approval times available.
Requirements to qualify for the Chile Startup Visa:
• The applicant should be an owner, employee, partner, or investor of a tech company in Chile.
• The applicant needs a letter of invitation or certificate of sponsorship from InvestChile, Start-Up Chile, or the Undersecretariat of Economy.
Ireland offers 2 options for entrepreneurs: The Immigrant Investor Programme and the Startup Entrepreneur Programme. Both of them have slightly higher capital requirements than similar programs in other countries, but they have unique benefits of starting a business in Ireland, such as a low rate of corporation tax and a range of tax incentives.
The Ireland Startup Entrepreneur Program helps founders to gain permits to live in Ireland through building startups. The applicants are granted a residency for 2 years with options to renew for 3 years. Immediate family members also qualify for this visa.
Requirements to qualify for the Ireland Startup Entrepreneur Visa:
• The applicant should have an innovative business idea that can create a minimum of 10 jobs in Ireland and earn at least €1 million in turnover within 3-4 years.
• The startup headquarters must be based in Ireland.
• The startup must be less than 5 years old if the applicant is already based in Ireland.
• There should be funding of €50,000 for the business for one founder and €30,000 for each subsequent founder for a capital requirement.
The UK remains a great destination for startups, with an established startup network, an efficient formation process, and a low corporation tax rate.
What is the UK Startup Visa?
The UK Startup Visa (originally called a Tier-1 Entrepreneur visa) is the entry-level option for entrepreneurs who wish to set up a new business in the UK without a significant amount of initial capital investment. This visa is granted for 3 years and 4 months and is extendable for 2 years.
Requirements to qualify for the UK Startup Visa:
• The visas are awarded on a points-based system, and successful applicants must score full 95/95 points.
• There should be proof of £50,000 - £200,000 available to be invested.
• The applicant must have funds available to support the stay. Also, they must consistently have this amount for 3 months or more.
• There should be a letter of recommendation from one of the institutions listed.
• The applicant must meet the English language requirements.
• The applicant should submit a criminal record certificate.
• If the applicant is from one of the Home Office’s list, they should submit a clear tuberculosis test result letter.
Estonia has the highest number of startups per capita in the European Union. The government offers the innovative e-Residency scheme, which allows businesses to be based and run in the country, even not residing there.
Estonia Startup Visa is a program to help non-EU founders and startup employees launch and grow an Estonia company. The standard founder visa is a 1-year renewable visa, which also gives the founder’s spouse a working visa and residency.
Requirements to qualify for the Estonia Startup Visa:
• The applicant should have at least €130 for every month planned to be spent in Estonia.
• The applicant should receive approval from the Startup Committee.
• The applicant should have an innovative and scalable business model with global potential.
• The applicant should show evidence of securing accommodation for the stay and intent to leave (i.e., a departing plane ticket).
• There should be a valid insurance policy for the Estonia or Schengen area with at least €30,000 coverage.
The Italy Startup Visa is one of Europe’s most generous startup visa schemes. It will be of particular interest to any startup wishing to expand to Italy to benefit from R&D funding. Applications for the Italian Startup Visa program can be made directly or by applying to one of Italy’s incubator programs. Successful candidates are rewarded with a self-employment visa with a 1-year duration and an extension possibility of 2 years.
Requirements to qualify for the Italy Startup Visa:
• The applicant should submit a list of documents online and receive approval from the Startup Visa Technical Committee.
• The applicant should personally contribute at least €50,000 to the business.
• The company has to be less than 5 years old and has an annual turnover of less than €5 million. There should not be any distributed profits in the past.
• At least 15% of the costs must derive from research and development, with at least a third of the team holding PhDs or two-thirds holding master’s degrees.
• The company must already hold some intellectual property.
• The company does not need to be based in Italy, but must at least host a headquarters in Italy and make some tax contributions.
The French government has 2 separate visa programs for tech startups - French Tech Visa and French Tech Ticket.
French Tech Visa is a program designed to help startup founders, employees, and investors in tech companies to live and work in France for 4 years with renewal options. The applicants of this visa can extend the visa to their immediate family members.
Requirements to qualify for the French Tech Visa:
• The founder has to be selected by one or more French Tech Visa partner incubators or accelerators through the regular selection process.
• There should be a capital equal to at least the French annual minimum wage of €17,763.20.
• There should be a plan for an economic innovation startup to develop in France.
• Founders need to obtain approval from the Direccte (a French public organization).
The French Tech Ticket program is designed specifically for entrepreneurs who want to start a tech business in France without the French Tech visa's long-term commitment and sponsorship requirement. This is more of an acceleration program for 6 months for early-stage startups. Through this program, visas have an extension option for an additional 6 months.
Requirements to qualify for the French Tech Ticket Visa:
• The applicant must have an innovative business idea.
• The applicant must have enough money to support himself for a year (around €18,000).
• The startup needs to partner with a French incubator or an accelerator.
• The startup should have a minimum of 2 co-founders. Only one of them can hold French citizenship, although this is not a requirement.
• Unusually, applicants must be fluent in English, and the startup must be their sole focus and means of employment during the 12-month visa period.
The Netherlands offers the Netherlands Entrepreneur Visa. Approved applicants are referred to Startup Delta (a partnership between government, accelerators, investment groups, and startups) to provide them with mentorship and guidance on starting a business in the Netherlands. This program provides entrepreneurs 1 year to launch an innovative company in the Netherlands with a potential extension of 1 year.
Requirements to qualify for the Netherlands Entrepreneur Visa:
• The applicant must have an innovative idea.
• The applicant must show funds of at least €13,000 to support himself.
• The reliable Netherlands will supervise the applicant-approved facilitator, mentor, accelerator, or incubator. The facilitator must have experience guiding startups, be financially independent, have a significant stake in the company, or have receivables or being family members of the entrepreneur.
Denmark is becoming a great destination to start a business, as it benefits from great support for startups, including angel investors, incubators, the Danish Growth Fund, and assistance from Start-up Denmark. Denmark Startup Visa is one of the most attractive visa options for entrepreneurs looking to get started in Europe. It is particularly popular due to the absence of a sponsorship requirement. This program targets self-employed people outside of the EU who have innovative, scalable, and ideally tech-driven businesses.
The Denmark Startup Visa offers a 2-year residency and a work visa for high potential startups with the possibility for multiple 3-year extensions of this visa.
Requirements to qualify for the Denmark Startup Visa:
• The applicant must play an active role in running the business, provide a presentation about the business idea, product, and personal capabilities, and include a comprehensive business plan, pitch-deck, or product presentation.
• The applicant is expected to have a high level of English competency.
• The applicant`s business idea must be approved by a Start-up Denmark panel.
• The applicant must get evaluated by the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration.
• The applicant must be able to support himself, requiring between 137,076 DKK and 319,236 DKK in savings depending on co-dependents.
Portugal has been at the forefront of attracting immigration through investment. It is easy to do business in Portugal with initiatives like “On the Spot Firm” centres. These centres allow setting up a new business or a foreign company's branch within an hour.
Requirements to qualify for the Portugal Startup Visa:
• Startups are assessed across 5 categories: the degree of innovation, scalability of the business, market potential, the management team's capacity, and potential for creating jobs.
• The startup needs to be technology-focused.
• The startup needs to show the potential to generate a turnover of €325,000 per year.
The Spain Startup Visa is considered a relatively easy visa to obtain, with a relatively fast processing period. This program is focused on providing an immigration opportunity to skilled and experienced employees and investors outside of the EU. Successful candidates are provided with 1 year of residency.
Requirements to qualify for the Spain Startup Visa:
• The applicant should stay in Spain regularly.
• The applicant needs to present a favourable report from the Commercial Office, where the visa is requested to confirm the business plan’s intentions.
• The applicant needs to show bank accounts containing enough money to support himself.
Unlike other visas, Lithuania Startup Visa does not require founders to fulfil a capital or employment metric to obtain the permit. Startup founders get a 1-year residency with permission to bring along the family.
Requirements to qualify for the Lithuania Startup Visa:
• The startup must operate within biotech, nanotech, information technology, mechatronics, electronics, or laser technologies.
• The applicant has to submit an online application on the team, experiences, and the business and get interviewed online.
• The applicant needs to receive approval from a panel of experts.
• The applicant needs a letter from the migration department, stating that the business idea is suitable for the program.
If you have an innovative startup idea, consider expanding your horizons abroad, as it may be exactly what you need to bring your idea to the world. There are governments around the world competing to attract international entrepreneurs to their respective countries. We hope this blog will help you in choosing the country to apply for a visa you need to launch your startup.
Nargiz was born in Russia where she grew up until the age of 12 before moving to Baku, Azerbaijan. At different life stages she lived in Turkey and Serbia. As of 2020, she has been to 38 cities in 11 countries. AIESEC Azerbaijan Alumna. She is fond of participating at youth projects and making friends with people from all around the world. Her biggest dream is to visit all the continents and as many countries as possible. Following her passion to travel, she joined the team of a “Trawell Group” company.