Regulation changes smooth way for innovative foreign start-ups


Entrepreneurs with innovative ideas welcome in Flanders, but traditional companies must prove their worth

Easier for some, harder for others

New regulations are being drawn up for entrepreneurs from outside the European Union who want to start companies in Flanders. The aim is to attract those with innovative business ideas, while ensuring that traditional companies make a clear contribution to the local economy.

“Innovation will be key in overcoming the current crisis, and it must also be a factor in attracting foreign talent,” said Flemish minister of the economy Hilde Crevits. “At the same time, we are adding objective criteria to the procedure for foreigners starting a classic company in Flanders.”

Under the proposed rules, someone from outside the EU who wants to start a business in Flanders must meet criteria in six areas. These cover: the business plan, resources for the entrepreneur’s salary, the company’s start-up capital, the profile of the entrepreneur, the company’s potential to create jobs and investments, and its legal compliance.

Innovation will be key in overcoming the current crisis, and it must also be a factor in attracting foreign talent

- Minister Hilde Crevits

These criteria differ according to the kind of business proposed. New companies with innovative business ideas will need to jump fewer hurdles. “We are putting a significant focus on attracting start-ups and scale-ups because these are often companies that grow across borders and conquer international markets,” Crevits explained.

Setting up a traditional company will not be so easy under the new system, however. In this case, entrepreneurs from abroad will have to demonstrate added value for Flanders, such as creating jobs, addressing shortages in the labour market or by investing in the region.

This will make it harder to set up a kebab shop or a construction company, the government suggests. There are also some minimum criteria to be met. For instance, a traditional company must have at least €18,600 start-up capital, and entrepreneurs must have a secondary education or better.

Special occupations

Finally, there are special arrangements for people in certain professions, such as sport, the arts and the diamond trade.

Procedures for verifying professional qualifications will be also revised, with the aim of making them simpler and compatible with digital methods. However the validity of a professional card will be reduced from five to three years.

Meanwhile, the Flemish Social Inspectorate will carry out more checks to detect abuses of the system.

Photo courtesy StartupVillage Antwerp