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Can foreigners start a business in Bolivia all the norms and details

Can You Start a Business in Bolivia? Every Detail & Step to Know

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If you’re trying to start your own business in Bolivia, invest or conduct similar activities, the first thing you need to do is create a firm or a company in the country with all the nedeed legal means. In order to do this, you’re in good luck, because in Bolivia any foreigner can start a company or a business. But to manage it you’ll need to meet additional requirements.

Any foreigner is allowed to start a business in Bolivia. Tourists with a tourist visa can only own companies, but people with other types of visas, like the work, student or multiple visa, can also run their company in the country. Tourists can act through a legal representative to manage their business.

In this note, we’ll be talking about whether you are allowed or not to start a business in Bolivia, in which conditions and restrictions according to your residency status. We’ll also show you that a legal representative is key in order to run this business in Bolivia, and finally, the general requirements to start this business in the country.

Can you start a business in Bolivia as a foreigner?

Yes, it’s possible for you to start a business in Bolivia, and indeed this is an easy process, you don’t need a minimal investment or something special to start a business o company here, but there is one key critical requirement you need to meet in order for your business to work in Bolivia:

  • Your Bolivian company needs to have a “legal representative” that must be either:
    • A Bolivian citizen.
    • A foreigner with a valid visa.
    • A foreigner with a temporary or permanent residence.
    • A naturalized citizen.
    • A company (legal person).

If you are just “a tourist”, then you can figure in the constitution statutes of your Bolivian company as the owner, but you won’t be allowed to operate or manage it unless it has a proper “legal representative”. This representative can be either yourself (if you meet the above residency statuses) or another person or entity.

Then, according to your residency status (being either a tourist, resident, naturalized citizen, company, etcetera) you have several ways to start a business in Bolivia.

1) As tourist (not directly possible)

Although Bolivian laws allow any tourist or citizen from another country to constitute and own a company in Bolivia, to be functional, this created company needs to be represented by an individual who has at least a valid migratory status in Bolivia.

This means that you, as a tourist, are allowed to constitute a company in Bolivia, but it won’t be allowed to operate it unless it has a legal representative who is either:

  • A Bolivian citizen
  • A foreigner with a valid migratory status (he or she needs to have a valid visa and also a foreigner’s ID card).

Then of course, if you are in Bolivia as a tourist, you can go to a public notary here and constitute your company in the country, (you’ll only need to present your passport, do the paperwork and the company will belong to you by all legal means).

But this new company, owned by you, won’t be able to operate in any way, unless it has a valid legal representative who needs to meet the above conditions, nevertheless you as a tourist don’t meet these conditions, so you can’t be the legal representative of your created company.

As a result of this, the only way that you, as a tourist, can operate a company in Bolivia is with the help of another person who will act as a legal representative of the company. We’ll clarify this point in the next section.

2) With a legal representative (the easier one, but risky)

As we just said, yes, by only being a tourist you can own a company in Bolivia, but this firm will need to have a legal representative other than a tourist, with the right migratory status, to be allowed to operate within the country.

So, in order to achieve this, you need to find someone who can represent your desires and decisions in your company in Bolivia, this individual can to be either:

  • A Bolivian citizen.
  • A foreigner with a valid residence status (other than a tourist, e.g. someone with working visa, a multiple visa, a “specific purpose” visa, among other types of visas, but also a temporary or permanent resident).
  • An established company (a legal individual or legal entity).

The types of individuals mentioned above can become the “legal representative” of your company, with the help of a power of attorney (duly apostilled) that you’ll need to give to this person or company in order for him to represent you and your desires as the owner of the Bolivian company.

But doing this is pretty risky in Bolivia. As you may know, the country has many legal issues and some people, acting as legal representatives, may try to take advantage of your situation as a foreigner. You need to really find a good person or company that could represent you in your company in the country.

If you can avoid this option, we recommend you to do so, as the representative here can mislead or even scam you in many ways. You really need to find a reliable, ethical and honest individual to represent you in the country, which is quite difficult, even for Bolivians, and many troubles of all sorts suddenly appear.

Instead, you should try to both own and represent your Bolivian company by yourself, we’ll explain how to achieve this in the next section.

3) With the help of a Bolivian valid visa (good option)

In the right scenario, you should own the company and also be its legal representative. To do so, you’ll need to get a legal residency status.

By getting one of the following Bolivian visas, you’ll also be able to get a legal residency status and a foreigner’s ID card. This identification document will allow you to also represent your company inside the country, by yourself, without the need of another person to act as the legal representative. These visas are:

  • The working visa
  • The student visa
  • The health visa
  • The family visa
  • The “specific purpose” or “determined object” visa
  • A diplomatic ID, consulate ID or similar, provided by an embassy or consulate.

A foreigner’s ID card, issued by the Bolivian government, allows any foreigner or person from overseas to make full use of his rights, including own real estate properties, operate businesses, open bank accounts, invest, etcetera. This is why this document is so important and it can’t be acquired with just a tourist visa, you need the other visas mentioned above to get this ID card.

Then, you can take advantage of the use of one of the many types of visas that are offered to foreigners for different purposes when staying in our country. Maybe you are here for working or health reasons, you’re studying, etcetera, so you can take advantage of this situation and also start a company inside the country.

The disadvantage of these visas is that they won’t allow you to leave the country while they are valid. Also many of these visas only last around 60 days, or from 30 to 180 days. Anyway, you can extend the visa, tramit your temporary residence in the country or find a good legal representative before they expire.

To get around these issues, you have a better visa available, the “Multiple Visa”, you should try to get it to do business or start a company in the country. As we show next.

4) By getting the Bolivian “Multiple Visa” (best approach)

Currently, Bolivia offers a more specific visa, oriented to businesses and investments, this is called the Multiple Visa. The main distinction of this visa is that it allows its owner to enter and leave Bolivia as many times as he wants (multiple times), without losing its foreigner’s ID card or its temporary residency status.

This visa is better designed for investors and businessmen, as it allows foreigners to enter and leave Bolivia according to their business or investment needs, this is contrary to what happens with the other visas, which require for the owner to stay in Bolivia while he has the visa (short leavings are allowed), along other similar restrictions.

But to get this visa, there is an important requirement that you’ll need to present, either:

  • The NIT number link of the Bolivian company that is inviting or hiring you to do business in the country. This is a tax number that will prove that the company exists in Bolivia.
  • Your country’s company’s constitution statutes, if you are going to represent this company and its business activities in Bolivia. This is going to ensure that you are coming to Bolivia for business reasons and on the behalf of this company.

So, the Multiple Visa is more difficult to get for the obligation to meet one of these 2 requirements mentioned above. But it will allow you to enter and leave Bolivia many times and for a long time without losing your residence and foreigner’s ID.

So, as you may have realized, the Bolivian government assumes that you are coming to Bolivia to either represent a foreign company or that you have been invited by a Bolivian company to do business here. This is the reason why the “Multiple Visa” has been created.

This is the best visa you have to start a business in Bolivia, because:

  • You can be the owner of your company in Bolivia.
  • But also you can be its legal representative.
  • Additionally, you can enter and leave Bolivia “multiple times“, any time and as lond as needed, without losing your valid residency status.

5) As a permanent resident or naturalized citizen (long term)

Whenever you get a Bolivian visa, you also get a transitory or permanent residency status (depending on the visa), which allows you to get your foreigner’s ID (except for the tourist visa) and this document allows you to be the legal representative of your Bolivian company, and not only be the owner.

But, if while using any one of these visas, you stay more than 3 years in Bolivia, then you are allowed to ask for a permanent residence, or by meeting some additional requirements, to ask to become a Bolivian citizen. 

These 2 residency statuses, being a permanent resident or a naturalized citizen, will also enable you to become the legal representative of your company.

Then if you are planning to be here for a long time, more than 3 years, you’ll also be able to run your company in Bolivia, and be its legal representative without any kind of troubles.

6) As a foreign company’s branch (difficult)

There is also another way to create a company in Bolivia, this is with the use of branches. If you own or represent a company outside Bolivia, then you can set up a branch of it inside the country.

Indeed, this is a separate type of company that can be constituted in Bolivia, it’s called:

  • “Branch of a company incorporated abroad” (Sucursal de sociedad constituida en el extranjero).

You’ll need to do some paperwork and meet some requirements in order to start a branch of your foreign company in Bolivia. You can see more details about the requirements in this detailed guide: How to start a business in Bolivia? Link.

Natives vs foreigners when starting a business in Bolivia

The difference between foreigners and Bolivians when starting a business in Bolivia almost doesn’t exist, as laws here treat people from other countries and Bolivians in the same way. But there are some important differences that you need to know before starting a business here in the country.

In Bolivia there is a difference between owning and running a company

You can own a company in Bolivia just by being a tourist, but you won’t be able to be the manager of it, or represent it in different matters, like celebrating contracts, buying or selling, providing goods and services, etcetera, with only a tourist status.

In Bolivia, a tourist can only own a company, but a foreigner that is more than just a tourist, with the right visa and residence status can also be the manager (or the legal representative) of his Bolivian company.

We said before, if you don’t have this possibility, you can always name a legal representative for your Bolivian company, so he will act according to your desires inside the country and on behalf of your company.

You can’t “run” a business without a foreigner’s ID card

As a result of this, when you are more than just a tourist, let’s say, a temporary resident, a permanent resident or a naturalized citizen with the right visa, you obtain a foreigner’s ID card.

This document is the analog to a ID card for Bolivians, but for foreigners, and allows you to run a business or company and be its legal representative, celebrate contracts, invest, open a bank account, buy real estate, work, etcetera. In Bolivia, foreigners with just a tourist visa can’t obtain a foreigner’s ID card.

The normative applies almost the same

The Bolivian Constitution and Bolivian laws stated that all Bolivians and foreigners are treated equally when they are in the country. They have the same rights and obligations to the community and its institutions.

But there are some nuances in this matter, tourists have many limitations when doing activities beyond that just tourism in Bolivia. As we said, they can’t open a bank account, buy properties, be managers of a business, invest or work in the country, unless they upgrade to a better residency status, with a better visa other than the tourist visa.

So if you want to have guaranteed your full rights in the country when you are doing other activities than just tourism here, you need to get a better visa. We have a complete guide about the different types of visas available in Bolivia, with all their details in the next direction: The Bolivian visas, all the details to know about. Link

How to start a business in Bolivia as a foreigner?

We have talked about the possibility of starting a business and owning a company in our country as a foreigner. But now let’s talk about the steps and requirements you need in order to start a firm here in Bolivia.

You’ll realize that the requirements are almost the same for both bolivians and people from overseas, in a very general way you’ll need go through the following steps:

  • Decide which kind of company you are going to start in Bolivia (it can be a corporation, a sole proprietorship, unlimited liability company, a branch, among other types)
  • Go to a Bolivian public notary in order to constitute your company in the country.
  • Name a legal representative for your company which will be in charge of all the legal matters and operations against the public Bolivian institutions in the country (you’ll need to name him in the public deed of the constitution of your company, in the public notary)
  • Register this new company in the SEPREC (the firms authority in Bolivia, Registro de Comercio)
  • Register this company in the SIN (Bolivian tax entity link, Sistema de Impuestos Nacionales).
  • Register this company in the local government where it is operating (for example: in the city of La Paz, in the La Paz’ government).
  • Register this company in a Bolivian pension fund, they are called AFPs.
  • Register your company in a medical insurance institution of Bolivia (in order for your employees to have access to medical services).
  • Register logos and other intellectual properties in regards to this company in the SENAPI and other related institutions .

To do all of this paperwork and meet all these requirements, you’ll need around $1,000 to $2,000, and the procedures will be finished in about 1 to 2 months.

But remember, these are just the general steps and requirements to start a company in Bolivia, there are many details, risks and precautions not covered here, as they’re beyond this note. We have another guide where you can find all the details you need to better know on how to start a firm here.

We have a complete guide about all the steps, requirements, costs, precautions, and other details to start a business in Bolivia as a foreigner, in the following direction: How to start a business in Bolivia? a definitive guide. Link

Conclusions:

In this guide about whether you can start or not a business in Bolivia, you’ve seen that it is totally possible for any person from overseas to start a business and a company here, but you’ve also realized that foreigners, by being just tourists, can only own businesses in the country and they’ll need a legal representative in order to run and manage this business.

You’ve known that, according to your residence status, you have 6 several ways to start a business in Bolivia. If you’re a tourist, you’ll need a legal representative to run this business. If you have other types of visas like a work, family, health, study, multiple or similar visa, you can also become the legal representative of your company in the country and run this business by yourself.

You’ve also seen that a company from overseas can start a branch in Bolivia without any trouble, by doing the right paperwork and meeting the needed requirements. Additionally, you realized important differences between owning and running a business in Bolivia, and that tourists can only own a business, while other foreigners can also run and manage their businesses in the country.

Finally, you learned that to start and company in the country, you’ll have to: choose type of company you will constitute, go to a public notary to sign up the statuses of the company, name a legal representative, register this company in the SEPREC, SIN, local government, AFP, medical insurance, SENAPI, along other requirements.

We hope this information has helped you, and if you want to know more about the best business opportunities that are currently available in Bolivia, among real estate, the Bolivian stock market, small businesses another types of activities, visit our dedicated guide in the following direction: The best business opportunities in Bolivia, A complete overview. Link

BolivianExperts.com, information about how to live, work, invest and travel in Bolivia.

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