Start-up visas: Countries draw top talent

A growing number of countries determined to attract entrepreneurs to their soil are handing “start-up visas” to the best and brightest of them.

A start-up visa enables entrepreneurs to live and start businesses in countries where they are not citizens or permanent residents, for a defined period of time.

According to global entrepreneur network Startup Nations, at least a dozen countries now have start-up visa programmes. These include Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada and Chile. Startup Nations’ network continues to grow, and is expected to add the likes of Argentina, Poland, Norway, the Dominican Republic and Estonia, which plans to implement a start-up visa programme in January.

SA does not have a visa programme for entrepreneurs, but the local start-up community hopes to change this.

“We are engaging with government to improve visa restrictions for foreign high-impact investors and entrepreneurs, and change the perception that allowing them to start their businesses in SA will take jobs away from locals rather than create jobs,” says Matsi Modise, MD of Simodisa.

Simodisa is an organisation that aims to catalyse entrepreneurship in SA by nurturing a start-up ecosystem. Its engagement with government, which includes the departments of trade & industry and science & technology, is linked to a broader engagement with the SA Reserve Bank regarding intellectual property exchange controls, says Modise.

Any intellectual property created in SA needs to go through exchange controls before it becomes the property of its creator, explains Alex Fraser, vice-chair of nonprofit tech entrepreneurship organisation, the Silicon Cape Initiative.