Starting a business as an international student

Starting a business as an international student

Professional card and visa

If you are a foreign national student who wants to work in Belgium as a self-employed person or entrepreneur, you will need a professional card. This allows you to perform a self-employed activity. Certain categories of foreign nationals are exempt from that obligation, such as nationals of an EU Member State, or Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. 

Through this simulator, you can check whether you need a professional card to start your self-employed activity in Belgium. Depending on the type of business you want to start, you may need to demonstrate certain means of existence and/or start-up capital when you need a professional card.

Third-country nationals wishing to work as a self-employed person in Belgium for over 90 days must also be authorized to stay for more than 90 days. As a general rule, they need to apply for a D visa (long-term stay visa) at the Belgian embassy or consulate general responsible for their residence and present the required documents.

Conditions for practising a profession

In Flanders, you don't have to be able to demonstrate specific knowledge or present a certain diploma to start as a self-employed person. However, there are certain professions for which you need to have an accreditation, such as for liberal (e.g. doctor) as well as intellectual professions (e.g. accountant).

How to start a business

As a student, you have to go through the same steps to start a business as any other self-employed person. This includes applying for an enterprise number, activating your VAT number and joining a social insurance fund.

As a student entrepreneur, you fall into a separate category for social security, which means you have to pay less social security contributions conform a certain income. You can contact a social insurance fund to check whether you meet these conditions and for more details on this status.

Need help?

You can get support at specific support centers in student cities or your own educational institution. Or you can contact VLAIO at or on 0800 20 555. 

More information is available on our Dutch website.

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