Starting your entrepreneurial adventure, especially as a foreigner or an expat, is a serious undertaking. To assist you with the initial stages of this process, read through this article, where we talk about the easiest countries to start a business in Europe as a foreigner and why!
Our list of countries are Denmark, Estonia, Georgia and Norway. They have great benefits, including one or more of: very low taxes, a high ranking on the “Ease of Doing Business” list issued by the World Bank, and flexibility regarding bureaucracy, duration of stay and availability for foreign nationals.
Estonia a buoyant environment for startups
For years now, the Baltic EU country of Estonia has been attracting entrepreneurs from all around the world with its amazing startup programs. With 90% of business and bureaucratic tasks in the country done online, Estonia is pioneering the digitalization sphere.
A great solution for digital nomads is certainly e-residency or an e-business, which allows entrepreneurs to open and operate a company in Estonia and manage it remotely.
With the StartUp visa, expats and foreigners can obtain long-term residency as well.
How easy is it to open a business in Estonia?
Estonia is ranked 18th on the “Ease of Doing Business” list by the World Bank, making it a more relaxed country to achieve this goal.
To start the process of opening a business in Estonia as a non-EU resident:
- Apply for the startup visa to be able to live in the country, or
- Apply for e-residency and run the business remotely
To be able to open a business in Estonia, it must be deemed innovative and scalable. Once you have your business plan, the StartUp Committee reviews it and decides whether you are eligible for a visa or not.
Besides the application, you will also need:
- At least 160 euros per month (1920 euros a year) for a one-year visa, which is the minimum length required by law. Renting a flat will cost around 500 euros, plus another 500 euros or so to live a comfortable life in Estonia.
- After the StartUp Committee’s approval, you will need to get a visa.
For the visa, the requirements are:
- Valid travel documents
- Confirmation letter from the Startup Committee regarding qualification as a startup or confirmation regarding participation in a qualified accelerator program
- A 35 x 45 mm size color photo
- A document confirming a payment of the state fee
- An insurance policy valid for Estonia, or for the Schengen area, with a coverage of at least €30,000 for the entire duration of your stay
- Evidence of sufficient means of subsistence
- Evidence regarding your planned accommodation in Estonia
- Any information that supports your intention to leave the Schengen area before the expiry of the visa, such as a return flight ticket
Visa expenses are done with a one-time payment. It will cost around 100 euros for a long term visa, and 80 euros for a short term visa.
For opening a business in Estonia, the state fee is an additional 265 euros. It is obligatory to have a legal address in Estonia, as well as a contact person. To register your company, you need to be present at a notary.
It takes 2-5 business days after the application is submitted for the company to be registered.
Pros of opening a business in Estonia
There is no minimum investment required for opening a business in Estonia, which is obviously a big plus. There are also no taxes on retained earnings or reinvested profits, and opening a bank account is easy.
The Estonian government supports entrepreneurial endeavors in general, and being able to do almost everything online makes the process a breeze. Registering takes up to 30 days.
Cons of opening a business in Estonia
For some businesses, the language barrier can make it nearly impossible to operate, but the majority of people do speak English very well.
Paying taxes in Estonia
As a resident, a person is not required to pay taxes for up to 183 days in the country. After that, resolving the tax obligation can be done by going on a border-run to reset your amount of days in the country, or simply accepting the 20% tax. This corporate tax is calculated from the taxable net payment.
All of the above and more is why Estonia made it into our Most exhilarating locations to work from in Europe not once, but twice. Check it out to get inspired when looking for your next dream remote work destination!
Georgia – digital nomad and entrepreneurial emerging hot spot
Georgia, according to the World Bank’s list, is the second easiest country for opening a business as a foreigner. This impressive ranking is due to their flexible policies for digital nomads and foreign entrepreneurs, as the country provides many opportunities for doing business there. And the cherry on top is that the country has a European cultural heritage, while also being influenced by Asia, which it shares a border with.
Is it easy to set up a business in Georgia?
According to Georgia law, a person is required to register their foreign company in Georgia if they are “transacting business” in the country; that is, if the majority of the daily operations take place within the country.
Additionally, if you earn less than 500,000 GEL ($155,000 USD) a year, you can register as an individual entrepreneur in Georgia and pay only 1% in taxes.
To register a company, you will need to:
- Provide information about your role in the company
- Provide evidence of ownership/partnership
- Choose a registered agent: a person or a business that will accept tax and legal documents on behalf of your business.
- Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): a number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to help identify businesses for tax purposes.
- Fill out information documents
More information can be found on Georgia’s government website.
The basic requirements for staying in Georgia long-term under their digital nomad visa are:
- A monthly recurring income of at least $2000 USD, or $24,000 in savings to last 12 months.
- Being a passport holder from one of the countries on this list.
Pros and Cons of starting a business in Georgia
Georgia has a really low cost of living, and it is quickly becoming one of the next big digital nomad hubs. There are no application fees for your visa or business, as well as very low local taxes.
Apart from obtaining the required documents, registering a business is fast and straightforward. However, the language barrier can be an issue outside of the capital, Tbilisi. Another thing to keep in mind is that the internet is not yet amazing. Some cuts and low speed can be experienced.
Denmark – the Best country in the world for trading across borders
This Scandinavian country has great benefits for self-employment and offers a startup visa for individuals with innovative, scalable ideas. It is ranked 4th on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” list, and it’s particularly great for non-EU residents to register and run their companies. Denmark is also often cited as a country with the best standard of living!
However, the process of opening a business in Denmark is a bit more demanding compared to the other countries that we’ve listed due to the mass appeal of the program. But it is well worth it.
How to open a business in Denmark
To register a company in Denmark, you will first need to apply for residency and a work permit. Those can be obtained either through the Danish Immigration Service or the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration. More information is available on the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
To register a business in Denmark, you will need:
- Between 137,076 DKK and 319,236 DKK (18,420 EUR and 42,900 EUR) in savings for business expenses.
- The approved amount needed to execute your business plan.
- A comprehensive business plan, with a presentation and a pitch deck, showing the applicant’s active role in the business.
- Approval of a panel from Start-up Denmark.
- Evaluation by the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration.
Pros and Cons of opening a business in Denmark
Another great thing about running a business in Denmark is that the state makes it easy to access investors and other financial resources. However, due to the attractiveness, competition is high. If you have resources and a brilliant idea, Denmark is the place for your business.
Norway – the ideal location to further expand your business
Ranked as the 10th best country in the world on the ease of doing business list, this Scandinavian country is perfect for expanding your business further.
Non EU citizens who are seeking to start and operate a business in Norway need to obtain a Norwegian personal ID number, called the D-number, and a Norwegian business address. The D-number allows access to public services while living in Norway. Applying for a D-number is done at the same time as registering a company.
This application is for individuals who didn’t previously obtain their D-number, but need to in relation to registering a business or getting married in Norway.
A residence permit is obligatory for Non-EU individuals. The process is fairly easy but requires a lot of documentation. To start the process, go to the Norwegian government’s official website to apply.
Once you’ve obtained the residence permit, the next step is to apply for the D-number.
To get the D-number, your personal ID number:
- Fill in the paperwork
- Fill in the application
- Send by e-mail to
Near the end of the process, the applicant will need to turn in the paperwork in person, to verify the validity and the identity of the applicant.
The process of registering the company can be done through Norwegian Startup visa.
Paying taxes in Norway
In Norway, anyone who is engaged in commercial activity must pay a tax advance. For foreigners, the general tax is 25%, which can be reduced to 17% under certain conditions.
Furthermore, the required tax is influenced by the form of the organisation of the company.
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