Starting a business in Belgium as a foreigner
Are you ready to start your activities in Belgium? Liantis can help you get started, hassle-free! Liantis offers a one-stop shop where you can get all the required formalities done easily.
Starting in Belgium - from A to Z
Are you starting a company in Belgium and have a registered office or address in Belgium? Then your company will be treated as a Belgian company.
If you are going to start a trading company, you may - depending on the region – have to demonstrate your knowledge of business management and possibly your professional competence too. Non-trading companies often follow their own professional regulations*. Liantis is very happy to help you get started in Belgium and to answer all your business questions.
* As of 1 November 2018, the distinction between trader and non-trader is no longer explicitly recorded in Belgium's business register, the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises.
Before you start: professional card
You are not a European Union national? Then you probably need a foreigners' professional card before you can carry out independent activities. Besides EU nationals, citizens from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are exempt from the need to have a professional card. You may also be exempt for other reasons, if you are married to an EU national, for example, or you are starting as a co-working partner.
You can apply for a professional card at the Belgian diplomatic post or consulate in the country in which you permanently reside. If you are already legally resident in Belgium, then you can apply through the Liantis one-stop shop if you open a business unit in the Brussels-Capital or Walloon Region. If you open a business unit in Flanders, you can submit your application through the one-stop shop of the Department of Work and Social Economy.
How much does it cost?
There are a number of costs associated with starting a business in Belgium, such as opening a current account. But incorporating your company is perhaps the biggest cost.
How long will it take me to get started?
How quickly you can start depends on precisely what you need to start up in Belgium. It takes more than a month to get a professional card or incorporate a company, but you can do other things much more quickly, such as registering at the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises.
Which start-up scenario applies to you?
Are you starting up in Belgium as a self-employed person (natural person), with or without a business unit, or as a company? Different scenarios are possible …
You are starting in Belgium as a self-employed person, without a business unit
As a self-employed person in Belgium, you should:
- open a current account;
- complete the required formalities via Liantis: if you need authorisation through the one-stop shop, i.e. if you have to prove your entrepreneurial skills in the Walloon or Brussels-Capital Region or you are starting to operate as an itinerant trader (in all three regions): register at Belgium's Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, research other requirements (business management and professional competence), join a social security fund, and apply for any licences or permits you might need;
- register with Limosa if you are coming to work in Belgium either temporarily or part time;
- get in touch with the Centre for Specific Matters in Brussels, to find out whether you have VAT obligations in Belgium; their contact details are: email@example.com en tel. +32 2 575 57 57.
You are starting in Belgium as a self-employed person, with a business unit
If you start working as self-employed in Belgium, as a natural person with a business unit, you should:
- open a current account.
- complete the required formalities via Liantis' one-stop shop: register with Belgium's Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, research other requirements (business management and professional competence), join a social security fund, and apply for licences and VAT status.
You are setting up a company in Belgium (= Belgian company)
If you are setting up a company in Belgium, you need a current account.
Furthermore, for most types of company you have to go to a notary to officially incorporate it. You can easily complete the required formalities via Liantis' one-stop shop, including:
- registering at Belgium's Crossroads Bank for Enterprises
- researching other requirements (business management and professional competence)
- joining a social security fund.
We can also help you with other formalities, such as activating your VAT number and applying for licences.
Your foreign company is coming to work in Belgium without a fixed business unit
You may be subject to Belgian social security requirements. Furthermore, you may need to prove your knowledge of business management and your professional competence. You might also need a particular permit. Get in touch with Liantis and go through your situation, so you know exactly where you stand.
You should also get in touch with the Centre for Specific Matters in Brussels, to find out whether you have VAT obligations in Belgium. Their contact details are: firstname.lastname@example.org en tel. +32 2 576 57 57.
Your foreign company is opening a branch (without legal personality) in Belgium
If you are opening a branch in Belgium, you should:
- open a current account;
- submit your company’s founding documents to the Registrar of the business court;
- ensure that the trustee or legal representative who has an unlimited mandate and can take all decisions is named in these documents;
- complete the required formalities via Liantis' one-stop shop: register at Belgium's Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, research other requirements if this is necessary (business management and professional competence) and join a social security fund; we can also help you with other formalities, such as registering for VAT, applying for various licences, etc.
Your foreign company is opening a business unit in Belgium
In this situation, follow the procedure below:
- Provide Liantis' one-stop shop with your company’s founding documents and any changes to the statutes, or a summary relating to your company from the companies' register in the country where it is registered. These documents must not be more than three months old.
- Liantis' one-stop shop registers your company at the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises and takes care of all relevant formalities, such as joining a social security fund, applying for VAT status and licences, etc.
- Open a (preferably separate) current account.
The manager of the foreign company may have to demonstrate his or her entrepreneurial skills. All decisions must be taken at the foreign company's registered office.
Example: starting up a business from the Netherlands
You are a Dutch salesperson from Cadzand and want to sell your products on the Belgian market. You do not need a business unit in Belgium, so you arrange the formalities with Liantis.
The consultant at Liantis' one-stop shop will take a copy of your ID and may ask for evidence from your municipality, so that we can register your company, apply for an itinerant traders' card and create a BIS number.
A BIS number is a national number for foreign entrepreneurs based on which we create an enterprise number for you. Once these formalities have been completed, you will be able to sell your products in Belgium.