In order to exercise a self-employed activity, you must meet certain prerequisites.
Conditions regarding the individual
Before setting anything up, certain legal requirements must be met:
- you must have the legal majority of 18 years of age;
- you must not be declared legally incompetent or placed under judicial supervision;
- you must enjoy civil and political rights;
- you must not have been banned from performing acts relating to a self-employed professional activity.
Conditions regarding nationality
If you do not have Belgian nationality, the nationality of one of the Member States of the European Economic Area or Swiss nationality, you must be in possession of a professional card to be able to exercise a self-employed activity in Belgium (unless you are exempt).
The Member States of the European Economic Area are:
- the countries of the European Union;
You have to apply for a professional card:
- at the approved enterprise counter of your choice - if you are already resident in Belgium, have a valid "model A registration certificate" or "certificate of registration in the foreign nationals register" and wish to carry out your business activity in the Walloon Region or the Brussels-Capital Region;;
- via a dedicated online app (https://www.vlaanderen.be/beroepskaart-voor-buitenlandse-ondernemers/ee…) if you are already legally resident in Belgium and wish to carry out your activity in the Flemish Region;
- at the Belgian diplomatic or consular post in your country of residence - if you live abroad.
These cards are issued by the regions.
Recognition of professional qualifications
If you are a professional from an EU Member State, the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you do not need a professional card to exercise your activity in Belgium. However, given that certain professions are regulated, you will, first, need to check whether your professional qualifications are recognised in those professions.
For more information, contact "Be Assist", the Belgian support centre for the recognition of professional qualifications.
National coordination of the directive on the recognition of professional qualifications
The FPS Economy has been entrusted with the national coordination of the directive on the recognition of professional qualifications.
Conditions relating to the activity
In addition to the conditions which are incumbent on all entrepreneurs, there are specific formalities to be fulfilled by certain categories of self-employed persons. These formalities relate:
- to the entrepreneurial capacities to be proven (basic management knowledge and possibly professional skills);
- to the conditions to be met for working as or using the title of a liberal profession or intellectual professional providing services;
- to obtaining specific licences and authorisations.
Regions are responsible for access to professions, for certain independent professions.
In the Flemish Region, the requirements for professional skills have been abolished for all professions since 1 January 2019. The access conditions for certain professions may, therefore, vary from one region to another.
The enterprise counters are available to provide information about the legislation in force.
Liberal and intellectual professions
The term "liberal professions" generally covers self-employed activities consisting of the provision of intellectual services or the supply of specific goods.
The conditions to be fulfilled for the exercise and/or use of the title vary according to the liberal or intellectual profession considered. The FPS Economy is responsible for the regulatory framework of the following professions.
Table explaining the delays related to the registration of trainees and holders of these professions (PDF, 195.76 KB).
- Estate agents
- Certified surveyors
- Chartered accountants and chartered tax accountants
- Automotive experts
There are other liberal and intellectual professions, particularly of a legal, medical and paramedical nature, for which regulation falls within the competence of the FPS Justice and Public Health.
Using professional titles
In Belgium, some professions are regulated and using certain professional titles is protected. It means that only people who meet the conditions can use the title.
More information on using professional titles.
Specific licenses and authorisations
Certain activities require specific licences or authorisations:
- Marriage brokerage
- The sale of timeshares
- Credit brokerage
- The registration of company service providers
The public services put various websites at your disposal in order to help you clarify your project and provide information about the administrative procedures, funding possibilities, available aid, possible risks, etc.
The federal portal belgium.be has a devoted page on setting up a business.
You can obtain additional and region-specific information by consulting the various portals of the regional institutions:
You can also contact various professional bodies, in the private or public sector, for information and specialist advice. In particular, inter-professional and professional organisations of the self-employed and SMEs offer services to assist in setting up a business.
The enterprise counters are also the preferred contacts for prospective entrepreneurs: they are your single point of entry to find answers to the various questions you may have and to carry out the administrative formalities related to launching your business.