Entrepreneurship between two shores

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The Mediterranean basin, two shores, 24 countries spread over three continents, and where being born on one shore or the other might mean having a different set of criteria for starting a self-employed activity in Spain.

Legally, being a national of a European Union country implies an EU residence permit and therefore, being allowed to work as an employee or to be self-employed by registering in the EU register.

However, being a national of a country outside the European Union: Albania, Algeria, Bosnia, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Macedonia, Morocco, Montenegro, Serbia, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey, implies applying for a residence and self-employed work authorisation.

In Spain, there are two mutually compatible ways to obtain residence and be able to develop an economic activity: the Law 14/2013, of 27 September, on support for entrepreneurs and their internationalisation or the Organic Law 4/2000, of 11 January, on the rights and freedoms of foreigners in Spain and their social integration.

The first is aimed at people who intend to develop an entrepreneurial or business activity of an innovative nature and which is of economic interest to Spain, with no minimum investment or job creation requirements. The body responsible for authorising the application is the Large Companies Unit.

The second route, through the general foreigners' regime, allows for projects related to commercial, professional, hotel and catering or import and export activities. This is the most common way in Spain to start a self-employed economic activity, and the application is made to the immigration office in the province where you wish to reside. The requirements and procedures are indicated in the information sheets. 

In the last five years, 20,500 authorisations for residence and self-employed work have been granted, 496 of which, in the first quarter of the year - 30% under the category of company directors and managers, 17% for technicians and scientific and intellectual professionals and 15% for shop assistants and equivalents. As for the country of origin, they come mainly from Morocco, Algeria, Iran, Syria and Lebanon and mostly opt for the registration of a Limited Company, a legal form that offers greater legal protection than that of an individual person. 52% of residences are granted to women and 48% to men.

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As for the documentation that must be provided in order to obtain residence and self-employment authorisation, the main one is the business plan, which must be specific and realistic. But that is not enough; it is necessary to provide documentary evidence of the most relevant aspects indicated in the business plan, such as the professional training and experience of the person presenting the plan, the number of potential clients, the economic sufficiency for the start-up of the project, the legal form, the potential hiring of workers, the contract for leasing premises if necessary and the corresponding licences.

When it comes to documenting these aspects, at Emprender Siendo Extranjero we work with the concept of documentary scalability to refer to the quality that each of these documents must have so that, as a whole, the file complies with the criteria established by the administrative authorities.

To accredit training and professional experience, the best documentation is the accreditation of official training, homologation of studies and justification of previous business in the country of origin. Potential clients are accredited by means of commercial contracts that include a clause stating that the contract will come into force when the person is authorised by the Large Companies or Foreigners Unit.

Once the documentation is available, it will be necessary to request a report assessing the projected activity. If the person opts for the Entrepreneur Act, the report is requested from the Directorate General for International Trade and Investment, a body under the Secretary of State for Trade. If the report is favourable, the Large Companies Unit will grant the entrepreneurial visa or entrepreneurial residence to the interested party.

If, on the other hand, the person chooses to apply for residence through the Foreigners' Act, the assessment report is requested from an organisation of self-employed workers -ATA, UPTA, UATAE- which will issue the report so that the Foreigners' Office can take it into consideration if it deems it appropriate.

It is therefore clear that being born on one shore or the other can involve a legal and administrative tangle that goes beyond the will of individuals to start a self-employed activity.

The time it takes to prepare the documentation, submit it to the authorities and the subsequent resolution means a temporary break for the person between the desire to start their business and the actual start-up of the business, given that, in both cases, the resolution time is not short. On the contrary, it is between three and seven months.