Starting a business in Belgium

business centre
Updated 2021-12-17 14:05

Thanks to its geographical location at the center of Europe, Belgium has become one of the most popular countries to start a business. Here's how to proceed so you can have a prosperous future in this country.

Why start a business in Belgium?

There are many reasons to start a business in Belgium. Some of them include its ideal location within Europe, its international harbors, and its undeniable presence on the international scene, thanks to the European institutions present in Belgium. But this country also has a rather simple administration when it comes to starting a business, so it won't be too much of a hassle to do so.

Because of its location within the Old Continent, Belgium is dynamic and experienced. This attracts people who wish to be their own boss. Belgium offers attractive advantages and professional opportunities.

Key sectors

Belgium has many dynamic key sectors, most of which have to do with manufacturing. For instance, some major areas of manufacturing in the Belgian economy include chemicals and chemical products, food products, beverages, and tobacco products, and basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations. We can break this down into four major areas: chemical, food and beverages, pharmaceutical, and basic/fabricated metals.

Here are some key sectors in more detail:

Textile industry: Textiles have an important history in the country and offers lots of possibilities to foreign entrepreneurs. Textile products made in Belgium always use materials coming from Europe and the country makes sure its products are of high quality. Belgium cares about innovation and having sophisticated products. Around 70% of the production of Belgian textile goes to foreign countries.

Innovation and design: Brussels, the capital city, is one of the best in creative design. This phenomenon uses dynamism and savoir-faire, and impacts all sectors. It embodies renewal and innovation that benefits areas like city planning, the textile industry, or even interior design.

Pharmaceutical and chemistry industry: This is a major sector for the economy that concerns both research and sales. Nearly 200 firms within the pharmaceutical industry are implemented on Belgian soil and the nation is the third-largest exporter of medicines in Europe, following only Switzerland and Ireland.

Belgium has an important role among international leaders within the chemistry sector. Its expertise in chemistry is recognized worldwide, especially on ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, toluene, and xylene.

Finally, the end of industrial and environmental biotechnology has led to Belgium counting famous names among its chemistry industries: Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, UCB, BASF, Bayer, Borealis, Chevron, BP, and Monsanto.

The agri-food industry: Professionals in this industry are interested in Belgian's various vegetables, potatoes, wheat, and beetroot. The country's main foods manufactured are dairy, sugar, chocolate, and beverages. However, Belgium has to import lots of agricultural products because of the small size of the country.

How to start a business in Belgium

After learning about the various sectors in Belgium, you might be curious about how to start a business in this nation. Here are the key steps you need to take.

EU/EFTA vs Non-EU/EFTA Citizens

If you're an EU/EFTA citizen, then the good news is, you can just start a business without a permit. If you're a non-EU/EFTA citizen, but you already have a residence permit to live in Belgium, you won't have to apply for a business permit.

Otherwise, you'll have to apply for a Professional Card (carte professionale or beroepskaart), which gives you permission to not only move to Belgium, but to also start a business. You'll have to apply for this in your home country at a Belgian embassy or consulate.

Choosing a business name

Of course, you'll have to choose a business name after you determine what you want to do. What's great about opening a business in Belgium is you're free to choose any name, so long as no other business already has it. You can check on the FPS website to double-check if someone's taken your desired company name already.

Opening a professional bank account

This bank account is for the business only and can't be related to any personal and private bank account. This account number has to be on every commercial document produced by the company. The bank account must be opened under the company's name and the bank must be established in Belgium.

Registering with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises

This database has all the information for the businesses on Belgian soil. To register, you need to go to one of the 154 desks at one of the eight approved business counters in Belgium.

You'll then needs to get administrative authorizations in order to access some functions. This process verifies conditions when accessing regulatory positions in Belgium. You'll have to prove that you have sufficient knowledge in management, a diploma in the area of specialization, and professional experience. You can ask someone to testify for you.

After you've carried out registration with the Crossroads Bank of Enterprises, you'll receive a unique business number.

Registering for VAT

Once you have a business number, you'll need to register at the office that controls VAT. Each town has one and it's free of charge. You'll need to visit the one where your business was implemented.

Enrollment to Social Insurance and a Mutual Fund

It's mandatory to have/receive health insurance, family benefits, and a retirement pension. Without this enrollment, you're considered an illegal worker.

Because you're self-employed, you won't have an employer to take care of enrollment for you. You'll have to research and make arrangements for your social security, social insurance, and health insurance. Belgium is very strict when it comes to respecting the law and administrative fines can't be negotiated. So make sure you take care of these things as soon as you create a business.

What types of businesses can you create in Belgium?

Generally, you can form non-profit companies, limited companies, partnerships, and cooperatives.

Non-Profit companies

If you're interested in a non-profit company, it's formed of 3 people, minimum. Making money is not the aim of the company.

Limited companies

Public limited company: This company must be formed by at least two people and have at least three directors. The founders have to invest a fixed amount of capital for shares. A public limited company is usually best for large businesses.

Private limited company: This company is formed by people who invest money in it as shareholders. It's similar to a limited liability company. It can be formed by just one person, or two or more. Private limited companies are great for SMEs, as well as family businesses.

Individual company:

  • Easy to create
  • Only one physical person (the creator)
  • No distinct funds between the company and the creator's estate
  • The creator is responsible for any debts in the individual company
  • The creator's estate (as well as their partner) can be taken as a guaranty if the company has debts


Limited partnership: This company is composed of one or more associates who are responsible together and of one or more funding partners. This sort of company comes in handy when entrepreneurs don't have sufficient funds to start their businesses.

Formed partnership: This company is composed of people who are associates that are responsible and supportive of each other. It's for commercial or civil activities in the social area.

Joint control company: This company is formed by one or more associates. They're all responsible and supportive of one another. It can also be created by one or more associate sponsors who invest a determined capital.


Cooperative company with unlimited liability: This type of company must have at least three shareholders and can be managed by either one or more people. The amount of money they invest varies.

Cooperative company with limited liability: This type of company must also have at least three shareholders. However, the amount of money they invest is fixed. It's also run by one or more managers.

Other types of businesses

European Economic Interest Grouping: This is for existing companies. This grouping helps companies develop their economic activity. It's a new association and not a new company.

Unincorporated association: An unincorporated association is composed of one or two people who wish to work towards public interest. This type of company has no legal status and isn't entitled to any rights or obligations.

Useful links:

Business Belgium

Belgian Government - Department of Economy

Brussels Enterprises Commerce and Industry

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.