What are the requirements of starting a business or becoming a freelancer in Belgium?

Just arrived in Belgium and eager to start up your own business? Or perhaps you've been here for a while and want to become a freelancer? Find out what the requirements are for starting a business in Belgium.

The information in this article comes from official sources and our own experience. Nonetheless, things change, agencies get new names and rules are rewritten. If you spot an error, please let us know via email.

The first question you will ask yourself is what are the requirements and conditions for setting up as a freelancer in Belgium? When we speak about freelancers, we mean sole-traders/self-employed/independent (indépendant/zelfstandige).

Most of the links in the article lead to websites of organisations in Brussels, as most freelancers are based there, but we also include terms in Dutch and French to make it easier for you to find a local contact point.

Becoming a freelancer as a foreign national in Belgium

If you have Belgian nationality, or you are from one of the Member States of the European Economic Area (European Union, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) or Switzerland, you are eligible to set up a business in Belgium.

If you are from outside this area you additionally need a residence permit and a professional card (see below).

Other requirements:

  • You need to be entitled to your civil rights, meaning if you are convicted of breaking the law you are not allowed to start a business during your sentence.
  • You may not trade if you are seen as not capable and have been forbidden to exercise your profession.
  • You need to be at least 18 years old.

Business Management Skills courses

Some adult education schools have courses to help you prepare for starting a business, called "bedrijfsbeheer/connaissances en gestion". Courses are offered in groups or online of various lengths and at different times of the day.

It used to be obligatory to show proof of business management skills, but this rule was abolished in 2018.

Professional card

People without Belgian nationality or people who do not come from one of the Member States of the European Economic Area (European Union, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) or Switzerland will most likely need to have a professional card (which also acts as a work permit) to start a business in Belgium.

You can apply for the professional card (beroepskaart/carte professionnelle) via your consulate if you still live abroad.

If you are in Belgium you can apply for the professional card at an official "business counter" (ondernemingsloket/guichet d'entreprises). Look for the closest one to you via this website in Dutch and French.

You need to have either a valid "certificate of registration model A" (attest van immatriculatie model A/attestation d'immatriculation modèle A) or proof that you are registered in the foreigners' register (= electronic residence card type A).

Special professions

Certain professions and types of business require additional permits or certificates. In Belgium, certain professional acitivities are regulated at the national level, while some others have requirements at the regional level.

Have a look at the list of activities regulated in Belgium and Brussels: in English, French and Dutch. Note that in Flanders, since 1 January 2018 several of these regulated professions no longer require proof of professional competence.

Disclaimer: the information on this page is based on the information found on official government and local websites, and on the experience of the authors. While we have done our best to make sure it is accurate, rules and regulations change and each individual situation might be different, so it is always a good idea to check with appropriate authorities for the latest information. Consequently, the authors do not assume any responsibility or liability for any issues or damages stemming from the use of the information on this website.
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