Expanding your business in Europe

How do you go about expanding your business into Europe?

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While starting a business in Europe can be tricky, with the right knowledge and expertise, you can successfully incorporate your business and operate it in one of Europe’s 48 countries.

Foreign investors looking to do business in Europe have four common entities to choose from:

Corporation subsidiaries

Forming your business into a corporation so you can expand into Europe makes sense for larger, well-established companies. You’ll find a lot of variations in European law when it comes to corporations, so make sure to consider the specifics of the country you want to expand into.

Representative office

Representative offices in Europe can be ideal for spreading the word about your company. But a representative office can’t carry out any sort of business transaction on behalf of its parent company

Branch office

Setting up a European branch office is relatively inexpensive – plus, you can still make money (unlike a representative office) while maintaining branch independence. Your branch can be registered in whatever country it operates in but must follow the local laws of its parent company.

Marketing Managed Service company

A managed service marketing agency provide a complete on-demand resource to compliment your own sales and marketing team, they can act as a satellite team to your head office providing knowledge and expertise with minimal outlay to your business. An agency can also support and advise you on the important local customs, provide language support and give you real time return on investment information.


To start a business in Europe, there are some documents that you will generally need to produce:

  • Description of the business and reason for expanding
  • Business license
  • Lease contracts of country address
  • Certificates of incorporation
  • Bank references
  • Resume, Passports and photos of relevant staff

The exact documentation you need may vary based on the country you’ve chosen and the official you speak to. You will also need to file information with the Chamber of Commerce in the specific country you’re interested in.

Other considerations

Every European country specifies different requirements for you and your business to meet before incorporating so ensure you are clear on what these are for each of the countries you plan to work in.

Permits and licenses. You’ll need specific permits and licences from the federal, provincial or municipal governments, depending on your location, as well as the industry sector and specific activities that you plan to conduct business in.

Available resources. Certain European countries require that you provide proof that you have enough money to fund your business.

In country hires. It’s not required by every European government, but some countries require that your business create jobs for locals.

Registering with the governing organisations. Some European countries expect foreign business owners to register with the governing business organisation — like a Chamber of Commerce — to incorporate their business.

International payments Your business may require you to make and receive international payments, which means you’ll make transactions between currencies and across borders.

Stating your business purpose. You’ll need to draft and execute a public deed of incorporation that documents your business’s bylaws and includes your company name and address.

Corporate name. Many European countries won’t allow two companies with the same name to operate simultaneously. This may mean you have to change the company name or amend it for the European market you are entering.  It is also worth noting that you may also need special permissions to use certain words in your company name such as “International”

Anna Fletcher