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 reached the legal majority of 18 years of age;
- You must not have been declared legally incompetent or placed under judicial supervision;
- You must possess 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 European Economic Area Menber State or Swiss nationality, you must be in possession of a professional card to be able to exercise a self-employed activity in Belgium (unless qualify for an exemption).
The European Economic Area are comprises:
- European Union member countries;
To obtain a professional card:
- If you are already a resident in Belgium, have a valid "model A registration certificate" or "certificate of registration in the foreign nationals register" and intend to carry out your business activity in the Walloon Region or the Brussels-Capital Region, you should apply at your chosen accredited enterprise counter;
- If you are a legal resident in Belgium and plan to operate your business in the Flemish Region, you can apply through a dedicated online application (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;
- If you reside abroad, you should apply for the professional card at the Belgian diplomatic or consular mission in your country of residence.
These cards are issued by the respective 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 assess whether your professional qualifications are recognised within these fields.
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);
- The conditions to be met for working as or using the title of a liberal profession or intellectual professional providing services;
- Obtaining specific licences and authorisations.
Regions are responsible for regulating access to specific independent professions.
In the Flemish Region, the requirements regarding knowledge of basic management and professional skills have been dropped.
Consequently, the conditions for entering certain professions may differ from one region to another.
The business counters are available to provide information about the legislation in force.
Liberal and Intellectual Professions
The term "liberal professions" generally covers self-employed activities involving 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 differ depending on the liberal or intellectual profession considered. The FPS Economy is responsible for governing the regulatory framework of the following professions.
- Real Estate agents
- Certified surveyors
- Chartered accountants and tax accountants
- Automotive experts
Other liberal and intellectual professions, especially those in the legal, medical, and paramedical fields, are subject to regulation overseen by the FPS Justice and Public Health.
Using Professional Titles
In Belgium, some professions are regulated and the use of specific professional titles is protected. It means that only people who meet the conditions can use these titles.
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.