In the spirit of good conversation and encouragement of informative dialogue, let me toss out some info I have pulled together - perhaps it can help others in the same boat as me... and hopefully others can add to it...
I've reviewed information on the Chamber Of Commerce website, the Aruba Economic Affairs website, and a Dutch Carribean Law Firm website...
All have good info regarding various business entities and the licenses and permits required - however, best understood if read 3-4 times in comparison to one another to get a good handle on overall general requirements in relation to your personal circumstances.
Still, after careful review you have to somehow piece together how the various components are supposed to come together as it applies to you - it appears Mark68 is correct in stating that "different government agencies ... have different requirements and don't work hand and hand".
So I get it that:
A. To incorporate a business in Aruba a business license is required.
B. To establish a business a director's license is required for each managing director.
C. To work in Aruba as a foreign national a work permit is required (providing it can't be filled by a local).
D. There is no requirement as to the nationality of the founders and/or stakeholders of an Aruban-established business.
However it isn't clear whether a foreign national can hold a business license, director's license, residence permit, and a work permit simultaneously to reside, own, and operate their own small business in Aruba.
It also isn't clear if NV director's licenses can be issued to foreign nationals to own and operate an Aruban business without an Aruban partner, or is an Aruban partner with majority ownership required under all circumstances, or if this is dependent on a new start-up or existing business transfer to new ownership.
Also, I haven't found anything on permit and license requirements for purchasing an existing business registered and in operation and transferring ownership vs starting up a new business.
All food for thought in the hopes of getting some feedback...
This is some info that we know of, it is hard to find an existing business to buy, without any debt to it. Also it depends on the type of business. We were told it is "cheaper" to buy an existing business that isn't in use. Not sure if that's really true or not. We never did so we did our own NV with our Aruban partner. In order to get the work permit we have to get residency, which is right now at the High Minister getting approval. That can take up to 12 weeks for that to happen. Once we get the ok for residency we can than apply for our work permits.
We also understand that after 3 years (I believe) we will own our own corporation and do not need our Aruban partner any more.
Another thing we were told and Mark let me know if you have heard this... that your residency/work permits are good for 3 years they will at that point give you one more year on it and than after that you have to leave the Island!!! We've asked around to see if others have heard that and our feed back is "don't worry about it, we can deal with that when the time comes". One of those, it's who you know not what you know kind of thing.
So that's some of what I know about starting a business up in Aruba... I'll be curious to see if its the same as what others have gone through.
Luvsun your residency permit you can renew yearly and after ten years you will become permanent resident (ex. retired residency permit) The work permits are different and yes after 3 years or so the do not have to renew the permit and the job position has to be advertised and remember if a qualified local wants this position they have first choice. The director of the company will have to explain to the labor department why anyone was refused for the position and they will either accept reason or reject it. You can still be a shareholder in the business but not be able to hold a payable position for pension and other benefits. Also it does take time to be a majority shareholder of the business but not as long as you stated as the transfer of shares can be done before the 3 year mark. But for you the best thing I would recommend is to apply for the resident and then work permits as soon as possible. Then contact your notary who is handling the business venture with your aruban partner and have a minutes of a meeting typed up between you and partner in which you agree to purchase all of the shares from you partner and director and ask notary how soon this could be done and when will this be legal. If they give you a long time frame still have the minutes made up with Aruban partner and have him sign it with witness with no date. Keep in safe place and as soon as possible apply to be director of the company. The directors permit is the most important permit in the company and this job does not have to be advertised and you will secure your position in the company for years and years. You will have to have majority of shares, an active residence permit and active work permit before you can think of applying for this permit. This permit will take at least 3 months before approval but it is important if you plan on being a working partner making income. Also make sure that you are listed in the Chamber of Commerce on the company and proxy under the current director as this is important for bank accounts and other stuff. Listen there is alot to this but not as difficult as you think and can be done. Just if anyone out there is buying a business with a Aruban or Aruban Resident partner protect yourself and make sure you are listed on the shareholders agreement and make sure you see the original and know where the original is being kept. Second insist your name is registered with the chamber of commerce but this can not be done until you have a resident permit and register at census. At census you will need a original birth certificate with apostle and if married your marriage certificate with apostle. Once registered you will receive a temp. certificate formed stating you are living in aruba and registered. It will take 2 wks to get the original for stating you are registered and will cost 5florins each time you need one. They are dated and good for 30 days, make copies as this form is important and you will need copies for bank accounts, chamber of commerce, labor department, dimas, tax offices and etc... You will spend hours at Census and other government agencies and plan on spending a few weeks to get some of the paperwork filed. Like Liz and others stated every situation is different, but what is definate is you will need a resident permit, a work permit if you want a paying position which will be listed on your workforce plan filed yearly with labor department and official registration of Census once yor officially move to the island. One other side not to anyone shipping and moving items duty free to the island, you can apply and have your approved permit which will take months before you officialy move to your home in the island but remember this if you want to ship a car or furniture duty free do not register with census until the vehicle or other used stuff was yours for at least 6 months and then register with census as they will use this date and not when you applied for residency as long as it is still within the first year of permit. example you have your 1st year permit being approved but just purchased a vehilce in the states and want to send it, you need 6 months ownership to be duty free, as long as you car is registered and insured six months you can then ship the vehicle to aruba and have shipping company apply for duty free. At this point and as long as it is past the six month point you register that you are now officially moving to the island with your belongings at Census which will give you the temp. registration with this date. I hope this is not confusing but a few minor mistakes with dates etc can cost you thousands , and like Liz and San Nick and other stated even when you speak to attorneys, Notary, government officials, customs agents I received different answers and only speak from experience.
Thanks for you input and info - I've also heard similar from other sources outside this forum so its clear that there is no "cookie-cutter" method to getting things done - its a convoluted and drawn out process - I would think coordinating efforts between agencies is likely the most trying part of the process - the timing of events to import belongings duty-free is a great piece of info, too - so much to do... regardless, it is all likely well worth the effort...
For those of you who have the same Aruba living and business aspirations as I do, thought I would share a little info that may help in your quest for info...
I received a very informative response from a Chamber rep regarding some questions for non-Aruban business ownership... she was quite helpful in summarizing common questions that many people seem to have - exerpt below... the dream lives!!!!
"... a director’s license is required for managing directors not born in Aruba. We will elaborate more on the director’s license later in this email....
The legal procedure to start a new business is to first have a local notary establish the new legal entity by means of the deed of incorporation. The time needed to complete the Deed of Incorporation may vary. You can choose between two legal entities; the NV, which is an Aruban Corporation or the VBA which is a Limited Liability Corporation. Both entities require a business license before the commercial activities can start. Application for the business license is to be submitted at the Department of Economic Affairs; this procedure will take three months and it costs approximately 2000 florins (US$ 1150). One of the department’s requirements is that foreigners wishing to start a business on Aruba need to have a local partner, who owns 60% of the shares. A local partner is someone who was born on Aruba with the Dutch nationality or somebody who is considered as such.
Before starting the commercial activities, the business has to be registered at the Aruba Chamber of Commerce. The registration costs depend on the amount invested in the company. Rates are executed according to a sliding scale, starting at 96 Aruban florins (US$ 54). More information on these two entities and establishing a business in Aruba is available on our website, http://www.arubachamber.com/establishing.htm.
If the company director is not born on Aruba and does not have the Dutch nationality, he/she will need to apply for a director's license as well at the Department of Economic Affairs. This license costs 600 florins (US$ 345). In your case, the director’s license will be granted three years after the company has been established and this means you will need a local director for at least 3 years after the start of the company.
One option is to start without a local partner by purchasing an existing business. A local partner won’t be necessary as the business already has a business license. Important to take into account is that the business is an NV or VBA and that it has the same objective as you are planning to do.
If purchasing a residential property to convert in a business, keep in mind that the property should be build on property land. In case it is build on lease land, with its objective being residential, then you need to contact the Department of Infrastructure and Planning to find out if it is possible to change its objective to commercial, before applying for the license. For more information on both licenses, contact the Legislative Department at email@example.com. The Department of Infrastructure and Planning can be reached at www.dip.aw.
Furthermore, to answer you last question, foreign nationals are not restricted from specific niche markets.
For more information on residency & work permits, we recommend you to contact the Department of Immigration & Foreign Admission, DIMAS. Their website is www.dimasaruba.com or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It seems as if you are well on your way regarding a business/living in Aruba. Perhaps you have already lived on the island for an extended continuous period, more than 3 months. If not, I strongly encourage you to dwell in-country for many months at a time to familiarize yourself with the customs and business climate here. Take as much time as possible, at least several years, doing this so that you will enounter the various levels and types of bureaucrats.
It is one thing to be a visitor and quite another to be an operator. Frequently things are not as described, even if it is in writing. Interpretations vary WIDELY, especially when translating from Dutch to English and North American business concepts and Caribbean business concepts.
I wish you the best in pursuit of your dreams. Please be careful.
....It's true that interpretations vary to degrees beyond belief! .....we've found that in several situations including our Homeowners Association here in Aruba! We have been in the process for business permits for many months now....it is a slow process and you need to maintain a sense of humor, much resilency and patience. The business environment changes dramatically; marketing is not quite the same as the States....but if you like a challenge and established your threshold (for both how much $$ you can afford to lose and how much patience you have)....it can be done and it can be profitable. Make sure you take the time to enjoy this One Happy Island during the process!!! Suerte!!! (Good Luck!)