If you see an immigrant founder trying to build a venture in the EU, offer as much support as you can because it is incredibly hard.

I’m not referring to fundraising, but the work permit, visa and minimum salary requirements.

Countries in the EU don’t allow immigrants to be Managing Directors of companies unless they have a Professional Card or a Permanent Residence Card (PR). In Belgium, you can apply for PR only after 5yrs of continuous work/stay.

You can apply for a Professional Card, but you have to show that you have the means to set up a business (large initial investment, business plan, signed projects, etc..), and getting this card can take 6 months or more. In many cases, you would receive a NO after 6+ months of wait.

To top all this, for immigrants without a PR, there is a min. salary req. for Work Permit. For highly qualified (tech co-founder), the minimum salary in Belgium is €44k/yr and for exec. position (MD, CEO..), it is €73k

Permission to stay in the country (visa) depends on the Work Permit

If you don’t get this salary every month, the company that sponsored the Workpermit (in this case your startup) can be penalised and the individual will have a limited time to find another job or return back to home country.

With these salary requirements, it is incredibly hard to start a venture as an immigrant or have co-founders who are immigrants – given the volatile nature of startups.

How do I know this? I went through this and it is nerve wrecking to be in a state where you don’t know when you would be asked to leave the country. If there’s no cash coming in, it is almost certain that the Work Permit doesn’t get renewed at the end of the year.

When I started my first venture, a friend of mine was the Managing Director and so, my minimum salary was €44k. After raising €10k debt from a family member, my immediate goal was to bring in atleast €4k/mth in revenue to meet this minimum salary goal

I was lucky to sign a deal in month 1!

A few months later, my friend had to step down as our MD and I had to take over – with a min salary of €73k. It was nerve wrecking that now I have a min revenue target of ~€6k+/mth just to pay myself – a salary that I did not need.

Again, I was lucky!

The feeling of uncertainty where you have to build a venture with limited means, get enough revenues to meet the minimum salary for yourself, and not knowing when you would be asked to leave the country is not something anyone should go through.

I was lucky, but many aren’t!

Read my tweet thread on this topic here:

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