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Red tape cut for foreign business owners

Recent revisions to the Commercial Code no longer require many foreign representatives in Slovak firms to hold 'green cards'. The relaxed rules affect nationals from countries which belong to the European Union or the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Business people and lawyers say the changes will improve the image of the Slovak investment environment and attract more businesses, especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to the country.
Many SMEs are hesitant to invest in Slovakia because they must delay the launch of their operations until the drawn-out and complicated process of getting a residency permit is complete.

Recent revisions to the Commercial Code no longer require many foreign representatives in Slovak firms to hold 'green cards'. The relaxed rules affect nationals from countries which belong to the European Union or the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Business people and lawyers say the changes will improve the image of the Slovak investment environment and attract more businesses, especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to the country.

Many SMEs are hesitant to invest in Slovakia because they must delay the launch of their operations until the drawn-out and complicated process of getting a residency permit is complete.

Martin Magál, of the Allen & Overy law firm in Bratislava, said: "This is absolutely one of the most important changes from the point of view of the foreign business community over the last five years. Foreigners will no longer have to hold off with launching their businesses until they get the residency documents issued."

After the change takes effect at the end of October, foreign statutory representatives will not need to wait the estimated six months needed for getting a green card. Instead, they will be allowed to launch their operations simply by registering at a commercial court, a process which takes about 30 days.

Foreigners at the moment have to wait to get their green cards before being officially allowed to carry out their duties as members of company boards or other statutory structures. The only way around this so far has been for foreigners to find a Slovak to represent them while they wait for the card.

Following the amendment, statutory representatives who are not permanently based here or who do not receive the main part of their income from Slovakia, but who periodically visit the country to check up on their operations, will no longer be required to hold a residency permit. Before the amendment they were obliged to obtain the permit to become legal company representatives.

Lucia Žitňanská, one of the amendment's authors, said: "This is all quite inconvenient, and has always been criticised from abroad. Now such a barrier will no longer exist.

"We had to adopt this kind of change in the Code because it was one of the requirements the European Union makes of future members."

Pieter Jägers, the head of Dutch water cooler business Dolphin Slovakia, said the breakthrough in the Code would make business easier.

"Investors like me will only need to have a green card if they are here on a regular basis; they will not be stressed out from perceiving it as necessary condition for launching their business," he said.

"I met a Hungarian man who could not start a factory with 10 employees here because he needed a green card. At one point he was ready to leave the country because of such a trivial issue as the card. He managed to solve the problem, but only after six or seven months."

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