Europe Startup and Entrepreneur Visa Index
There are 20 entrepreneur and visa programs currently active in Europe, including Ireland and the UK.
Startup visas aren't limited to rising or low-profile countries. In fact, of the 27 EU countries, 16 countries currently offer some form of visa for entrepreneurs, whether they've got an established business or nothing but a business plan.
Here at ShoreListed, we view these visas as keys to the increasingly international tech ecosystem. To that end, we're collecting data to break down each current program on the market: the cost, allowances, requirements, and how to take advantage as a tech founder.
Summary of Europe Entrepreneur and Startup Visa Programs
|Country||Program||Program Type||EU Country||Information||Application|
|Austria||Red-White-Red Card for Start-up Founders||Startup||EU member||Apply|
|Cyprus||Cyprus Startup Visa Scheme||Startup||EU member||Apply|
|Denmark||Start-up Denmark||Startup||EU member||Read more||Apply|
|Estonia||Estonia Digital Nomad Visa||Digital Nomad||EU member||Read more||Apply|
|Estonia||StartUp Visa Estonia||Startup||EU member||Read more||Apply|
|Finland||Start-up Entrepreneur Residence Permit||Startup||EU member||Read more||Apply|
|France||French Tech Visa||Startup||EU member||Apply|
|Georgia||Remotely From Georgia||Digital Nomad||Not an EU member||Read more||Apply|
|Germany||Self-Employed Residence Visa||Entrepreneur||EU member||Read more||Apply|
|Ireland||Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP)||Entrepreneur||EU member||Read more||Apply|
|Italy||Italian Startup Visa||Startup||EU member||Read more||Apply|
|Latvia||Latvia Startup Visa||Startup||EU member||Apply|
|Lithuania||Startup Visa Lithuania||Startup||EU member||Apply|
|Netherlands||Dutch Startup Visa||Startup||EU member||Apply|
|Portugal||StartUP Visa||Startup||EU member||Apply|
|San Marino||San Marino Startup Visa||Startup||EU member||Apply|
|Spain||Entrepreneur Visa Program||Entrepreneur||EU member||Apply|
|Sweden||Self-Employed Residence Permit||Entrepreneur||EU member||Read more||Apply|
|United Kingdom||Innovator Visa||Startup||Not an EU member||Read more||Apply|
|United Kingdom||UK Start-up Visa||Startup||Not an EU member||Read more||Apply|
Best Entrepreneur and Startup Visa Programs in Europe
Denmark: Start-up Denmark
Denmark offers a start-up visa for anyone that has an innovative business idea, particularly if it can create jobs. It allows you to reside in Denmark for up to two years.
The start-up visa scheme in Denmark requires your business to be approved by a Danish Business Authority panel of experts, and that you have DKK 138,648 (around 21,000 USD) in disposable funds to prove your ability to support yourself while in the country. The minimum amount required is higher for families. There is also a DKK 1,900 application fee, and a limit of 75 approved applications per year.
This visa type may be extended perpetually in three-year increments. Visa holders enjoy visa-free travel in the Schengen area for up to 90 days within the past 180 days period.
Estonia: Estonia Digital Nomad Visa
Estonia's digital nomad visa program is an exciting option alongside their existing startup visa program, which opens the country to remote workers and lowers the barrier to entry in terms of capital. It is the only digital nomad visa program that was not designed specifically due to Covid-19 in 2020, and as such is viewed as a more permanent program that plays into Estonia's general strategy of positioning themselves as a startup hub among Baltic states.
The visa is aimed at remote workers who make at least €3504/month (about USD $4000) pre-tax income through remote work or online self-employment. You must be able to document at least 6 months of income meeting the minimum requirements via bank statements, making this a more rigorous application process than Barbados or Bermuda.
The visa is not extendable, but Estonia offers several other programs including residence programs aimed at startup founders and entrepreneurs. Therefore, it may be viewed as a good 'first step' into the country.
Estonia: StartUp Visa Estonia
Startup Estonia is a government program aimed at establishing wide-impact startups from international founders in Estonia, allowing participants to reside in the country for an extendable 18 months. The program helps applicants through the application process, making it very user-friendly compared to other programs. This is seperate from their famous "e-residence" program, and unlike their investor visa program, does not require a large investement locally for approval.
The primary requirements for an Estonian startup visa are that you have a disruptive, large-scale business plan (no consultancies or small dev shops) which has been approved by the Startup Estonia Startup Committee, €160 for each month that you plan to be in the country and an insurance policy covering at least €30,000 for the duration of stay.
This visa type may be extended for an additional 183 days, for a total of 18 months in the country. Startup visa holders may use the visa to visit the Schengen area for up to 90 days.
Finland: Start-up Entrepreneur Residence Permit
Finland's startup permit residence program is available for established startup teams only, with the intention to achieve rapid growth within the Finish economy. Startups are vetted by Business Finland, the government organization responsible for promoting economic development in the country. While criteria are strict and selective, those granted access get extensive support from Business Finland and access to funding opportunities within Finland.
Criteria includes a strong business model that can convince Business Finland that it will scale rapidly within the Finnish economy, and a team of at least two team members owning 60%+ of the company. There is no minimum for funds needed to prove ability to sustain team members.
The visa can be extended for up to four years, at which point you may apply for a permanent residence permit. Travel within Schengen area is permitted. (90 days within any 180-day period.)
Georgia: Remotely From Georgia
Georgia's digital nomad visa is aimed specifically at freelancers, and permits most countries including the US 1 year of residence with relatively low income requirements or paperwork. This is relevant because while normally any US citizen can visit for 1 year on a tourist visa, that is no longer permitted due to Covid-19. The country is an established hub for digital nomads as well as a commerce-friendly location with low taxes, many long-stay and residency programs, and easy banking for international travelers.
The income requirement for this visa is at least USD $2000 per month from remote work and freelance sources. Health insurance is also required, as well as mandatory quarantine during the Coronavirus pandemic.
This visa may be renewable on a case-by-case basis. As the program is young and directly tied to the tourism hit from Covid-19 in 2020, it's not yet clear if this visa program will last beyond 2021–2022.
Germany: Self-Employed Residence Visa
Germany's startup visa scheme allows one year (extendable) residing in Germany. It is targeted at experienced founders who can create jobs in the country.
Applicants must submit a business plan and finance information to prove they can fund an innovative job-creating business in Germany. There is no minimum investement in the business, but funds suitable to the business type will be required.
Visa may be renewed after one year, and can be a path to permanent residency or citizenship if other conditions are met.
Ireland: Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP)
Ireland's Startup residence scheme, called STEP, is for experienced startup founders and permits residence in the region for an extendable 2 years as a gateway to citizenship.
Eligible startup founder(s) must have a business plan which can convince the approving board that it will create at least 10 jobs within the country. Approved applications are expected to generate $1M within 3–4 years. Companies must target international markets.
The residence visa is renewable in 3-year incriments. Holders may become Irish citizens if they pass application after eight years in the country, so long as at least half of their time has been spent physically in the country. The visa permits travel with the Schengen area during your residence. If you are outside Sweden for more than one year, your residence permit may be revoked or extensions to visa extension denied.
Italy: Italian Startup Visa
The Italian startup visa is highly selective and has accepted relatively few applicants compared to other programs in Europe.
Sweden: Self-Employed Residence Permit
Sweden's self-employment visa allows holders to obtain a residence permit for a year at a time, and is a gateway to permanent residence for those who successfully build and operate a business within the country. However, it is highly selective.
Self-employment visas in Sweden require proven and extensive experience in the field your proposed business operates in, a strong business plan, and that goods or services be sold within Sweden.
This visa type can be extended annually. After 6 years, visa holders may qualify for permanent residence in Sweden. The visa permits travel with the Schengen area during your residence. If you are outside Sweden for more than one year, your residence permit may be revoked or extensions to visa extension denied.
United Kingdom: Innovator Visa
The Innovator visa allows residence in the UK for up to three years, and is targeted at experienced business owners looking to start a novel business in the UK.
The primary requirements of the Innovator Visa are that you are approved by an official approving body, which are mostly incubators and research organizations. You must also be able to prove your ability to sustain yourself during your stay (an oddly low minimum of £945 maintained for three months prior to your arrival). For new businesses, you must also have access to $£50,000+ in investement funding.
This visa type may be extended perpetually in three-year increments.
United Kingdom: UK Start-up Visa
The UK Start-up visa is similar to the Innovator Visa, but with a lower time of residence (two years) and lower investment and experience requirements.
So long as a UK higher education institution or business organisation (incubator, research organization) has approved your business plan, and you can pay the £363 application fee, you have a shot at approval.
This visa type may not be extended. However, you can switch to an Innovator Visa if you meet certain requirements (in short, if your business succeeds).