Startups Visas: How to Get Support For Your New Venture Overseas

Startups Visas: How to Get Support For Your New Venture Overseas

Startups are a massive boost for economies. Savvy countries around the world recognise this and are fast tracking great people with great ideas to residency and citizenship. They also recognise that fostering a startup culture can help local entrepreneurs learn and grow.

So, why would you add moving countries to the list of things to do when founding your start up?

There are many reasons that a founder might choose an international move as a mission critical item on the path to success, including:

  • Access to support in the form of incubators, accelerators, mentors and startup know how.
  • Access to markets and customers.
  • Access to new government and private funding sources.
  • Access to key skills and technologies that may be more difficult to source in your home country.
  • Access to favourable tax regimes.
  • A pathway to residency, citizenship and a passport for you and your family in a new country.

The range of countries is impressive and is growing all the time. Hard to access, highly desirable destinations include Japan, the USA, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Austria, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden and Denmark. Low cost of living destinations include Portugal, Italy, Chile, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Spain and Estonia.

So, what is the catch? Well, each country has a set of requirements and each country offers different things to a budding founder, so you’ll need to choose wisely.

Here’s 10 Startup Visas that we are particularly excited by:


Denmark will assess your startup and get an answer to you within six weeks. They offer a 2-year residency and work visa (repeatedly extendable by 3 years) for high potential startups supported by a government agency. Founders get access to a wide range of government support and, remarkably, you, your spouse and children are eligible for most welfare benefits, including Denmark’s renowned health and education systems. In 2015 Forbes nominated Denmark as the number one country in the world to do business and it was rated the happiest country in the world in 2016 - with an offer like this, founders are going to agree with those ratings.

People on bicycles in Copenhagen


Portugal’s government has been at the forefront of attracting immigration through investment. They have worked hard to make it easy to do business with initiatives like “On the Spot Firm” centres allowing you to set up a new business, or the branch of a foreign business, in under an hour. Government and private incubators and accelerators are available in both Portuguese and English, and Lisbon has an exciting startup community. A low cost of living, a high standard of living and access to EU markets and funding all add to a very attractive package for founders looking for a new start.

Click here to speak to our Immigration Partner about residency in Portugal

Train in Lisbon city

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has secured 30% of all European VC funds for several years and, although France and Germany are catching up, the U.K. will be a powerhouse for years to come. What makes the U.K. such an attractive destination for startups and the money that follows them? There is an abundance of well-educated and experienced talent to pick from, a strong ecosystem with both government and private support through coworking spaces, incubators and accelerators and access to large pools of private, institutional and government funding. Accessing a U.K. government approved accelerator dramatically eases the entry requirements for this visa and so could be a great boost for both your business and your visa. The U.K. also offers generous tax incentives to startup founders. The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa gives you 3 years and 4 months and is extendable by another 2 years. After 5 years in the U.K. you can apply for settlement, and then residency.

Click here to speak to our UK partner about an Entrepreneur visa.

Lady on London Undergraound


Spain’s principle criterion for assessing your application is a decision around the benefits your business will bring to Spain. While some other visas have a clear focus on innovative products, Spain’s criterion is wider. While generally considered a relatively easy visa to obtain (with a relatively fast processing period), Spain does have a 10-year residency requirement before it will grant citizenship and a second passport.

Click here to speak to our Immigration partner about a Spanish Startup Visa

Paella Dish in Spain


Chile has a number of programs and for great ideas they go way beyond just a visa. There is access to government funding, incubator support and much more. Their Startup Chile Community offers support throughout the entire startup journey and in return looks to founders to spread the entrepreneurial gospel throughout Chile. A radical scheme that is already bearing fruit with over 1,300 startups in the process already. With good infrastructure, extensive access to talent, a low cost of living and low taxes there is a lot to like for a startup founder looking for a break.

City scapes


An exciting new kid on this block is Japan, with a new scheme announced in December 2017. The offer is restricted to the Fukuoka prefecture for the moment. The city has founded the Fukuoka Startup Café to help founders through the entire relocation and setup process, including assistance with a range of issues from opening bank accounts and the visa process itself, to marketing a product in Japan. The six-monthly visa is renewable with regular reviews of the start-up progress being assessed. Successful founders also have access to office and residential rent subsidy schemes offered by the city.

Tokyo at night


Which European Union country has the highest number of startups per capita? Estonia owns that title, Skype was an Estonian startup and active investors in the Estonian startup landscape include Richard Branson, Peter Thiel, Seedcamp, Matrix Partners and Intel Capital. The Estonia government saw this potential and now offers a range of visas. The standard startup visa is a 12-month renewable visa which also gives the founder’s spouse a working visa and residency. If you want to base your company in Estonia but not settle there the government also offers the innovative e-Residency scheme which allows your business to be based and run in this European Union country even if you don’t reside there. At a cost of only €80 it would be crazy not to get onto this!

Estonian village startup visas

The Netherlands

The Netherlands is a country of entrepreneurs and this is reflected in the fantastic startup visa offered by the Dutch government. This European Union country requires only that you have a great idea, will work with a Dutch facilitator (a mentor/accelerator/incubator – check out launchcafe, ahti, xrbase, rotterdampartners,  impacthub, startupbootcamp, rockstart, collider or makerversity for just some options) and that you have from €13,000 to support yourself and you’ll get a 12 month visa which is renewable a pathway to residency and citizenship if your business is successful. A country that regularly ranks in the top 10 best places to live, access to the markets of the E.U. and a well educated population in a buzzing technical community – a perfect match for a founder with dreams.

Lady on a bicycle in Amsterdam


Ireland is home to 3 out of 5 of the worlds top gaming companies (like EA and Activision) and 9 out of 10 world-leading technology and internet companies such as Facebook and Google. Ireland’s capital, Dublin, is home to 2000+ startups and in 2015 €300 million was raised in the city. So, why is Ireland so popular with boards and founders? Access to fantastic government support (both financial and practical), low corporate taxes, E.U. membership, close ties to the USA, a rich tech ecosystem and a highly skilled international work force to staff your company. Add in a famously welcoming country and there is a compelling argument to be made. The cherry on the top is a well administered and flexible startup visa scheme. The visa allows family members to migrate under the same visa and has no job creation targets initially (but should have potential to create 10 jobs in 3 – 4 years). Founders need to prove €50,000 of available funding for the business and have a high potential startup idea. The visa is a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship for the founder and their family.

People sitting outside a pub in ireland


France rolls out the red carpet for startup founders, investors and tech employees. While each category has different requirements, it is worth investigating France’s startup scene wherever you are in the environment. Investment in French based startups has steadily increased from $1 billion in 2014, to $2 billion in 2015 and to $2.4 billion in 2016 – this reflects the fact the France is home to the fastest growing startup ecosystem in Europe over the last five years and today has the highest number of Venture Capital deals in Europe. To be eligible your innovative startup will need to partner with a French incubator or accelerator and you’ll have enough money to support yourself for a year (around €18,000).

Beautiful cheese shop in France

So, if you have a brilliant idea and a drive to see that idea come to life there are governments around the world queuing up to help you make it happen. Like every part of being a founder, this decision is going to have a massive impact on the trajectory of your company but expanding your horizons may just be what you need to bring your idea to the world!

Moving to Spain? Your Spain Visa Guide

Do you dream of settling in Spain?  Spain holds many attractions for potential tourists and ex...

Live in the UK on the Tier 1 Investor Visa

For high net worth individuals, the Tier 1 Investor Visa is a great pathway into the United Ki...

How Sephardic Jews can get citizenship to Spain and Portugal

The governments of Spain and Portugal have passed laws to allow descendants of Sephardic Jews to ap...

Author image

Alastair Johnson

A digital nomad, born and raised in South Africa before heading off into the wider world. Developed a serious case of itchy feet and found some amazing places to live along the way including London, Sydney and now Spain. Happiest sipping a sundowner looking over the ocean talking about the day’s diving.…

Start the Smart Wizard!