How to Start a Business in St. Maarten

Discover the essential steps to kickstart your business venture on the picturesque island of St. Maarten.

St. Maarten is one of the most sought-after Caribbean islands for investment. Many foreign business owners and entrepreneurs are keen to start a business in St. Maarten. With a stable economy and bustling tourism, St. Maarten is a prime destination if you are starting your business in the Caribbean.

In case you’ve been tempted by the white beaches and crystal blue water and make St. Maarten your home, starting a business is a good first step towards obtaining legal residency on the island too.

Below is helpful information about BrightPath Caribbean and how our team of professionals can provide valuable assistance for those starting a business on the Caribbean island.

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How to start a new business in St. Maarten

BrightPath Caribbean for over 10 years, has remained the most trusted and recognized corporate and immigration services provider for St. Maarten and the English Caribbean.  Our team of professionals can support you in answering key questions that will factor into your decision to start a new business in Sint Maarten and assist you with a turnkey suite of services to deploy your business and support it throughout its operating phase.

Registered Office Services and Commercial Real Estate

When considering starting a business in Sint Maarten, you must first determine if you will need to rent or purchase commercial real estate.  Businesses that require an operational license, in addition to a business and managing director license, will need to lease or purchase a commercial property in the name of the business before incorporation.  This makes the efficiency of an integrated team such as that of BrightPath Caribbean and affiliate BrightFuture Realty, impactful to your budget and timeframe to coordinate both the real estate and the incorporation simultaneously and seamlessly.

If you would like to incorporate your business while remaining abroad, BrightPath can facilitate that service too, offering you registered address services on an annual basis.  This means that for an annual fee, all business correspondence and registrations can be received and handled by our dedicated office team.  This will save you unnecessary rental fees and is particularly useful for businesses that offer professional services, such as accountants, consultants, artists, and designers, that understandably prefer to keep their residential address separate from their business address.

Tax Advisory, Accounting, and Bookkeeping

For many years, BrightPath Caribbean has relied on our referral partners at Haven SXM for their expertise in tax advisory services.  They in turn rely on the leadership of Erik van Engelen, who holds a postgraduate degree in Business Economics and obtained his Post Master’s as a Certified Auditor, in addition to many years of senior management experience in the same field.  Erik and his team are essential to the integral component of any business decision for any prospect or actual business owner requiring professional tax advisory services.  Under the guidance of HaVen SXM, the Team at BrightPath Caribbean can establish your business in Sint Maarten, Private Fund Foundation, or legal business entity in a tax-compliant manner to fit your current and future financial plans.

Once your business or private fund foundation has been established and registered at the local authorities, our team remains in close collaboration with HaVen SXM for you to receive the necessary monthly and annual administrative and tax services to ensure your business’s compliance with the local tax reporting requirements.

Deciding on your Company Structure

Depending on the type of business you are planning on incorporating it is very important that you know from the beginning your options and consult with an expert to decide on the best corporate structure.

In St. Maarten, when it comes to business entities you have a  few options that can go from an incorporated business entity to a private fund foundation.  For standard business operating purposes, the two most popular options are a Besloten Vennootschap (“B.V.”), or Naamloze Vennootschap (“N.V.”), As an initial requirement, BrightPath ensures all legal entities must be registered with The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) and at the local tax authorities are done so in a manner that is correct and compliant with local authorities.

If you are a foreign national incorporating a company in Sint Maarten, most likely you will be doing it with a B.V. or an N.V.  which are the equivalents of a Public Limited Liability Company (“PLC”) and Private Limited Liability Company (“LLC”), and they tend to be quite similar. Tax law and tariff apply in the same way, and which entity you choose is not relevant to the core business. Company calling times for shareholder’s meetings are slightly different, as well as audit compliance and voting rights.

Do I need a B.V. or an N.V.?

Key Characteristics 

  •  There is NO fiscal difference between an LLC (NV) and PLC (B.V.), The choice of entity for your core business objectives is not significant, as both entities are subject to the same tax laws and tariffs.
  • The only difference is that the LLC (NV..) can have bearer shares and the B.V. not. It is important to know that our local banks do not cooperate with companies having bearer shares.
  • The period of calling up the shareholders for a meeting is 10 days for an LLC (N.V.), and 5 days for a PLC (BV), and a distinction can be made on voting rights in an LLC (N.V.), that is NOT possible with a PLC (B.V.).
  • There may be more stringent publication and audit requirements to adhere to for a large LLC (N.V.), being an entity with at least twenty (20) employees employed, the value of the assets being more than five (5) million NAF, and the net turnover is at least ten (10) million guilders.

sint maarten business structure NV and BV


Why work with BrightPath Caribbean

Having BrightPath by your side when starting a business in Sint Maarten is like having a trusted navigator guiding you through uncharted waters. While the process of obtaining a business license may appear straightforward, the nuances and intricacies can vary greatly depending on the nature of your business. BrightPath will not only provide valuable insights into different business structures, requirements, renewals, and tax considerations but will also offer a clear and comprehensive overview of your project, laying a strong foundation for your entrepreneurial journey.

With BrightPath on board, you can rest assured that every aspect of setting up your business will be handled with expertise and precision.

How to proceed to incorporate a business in St Maarten with BrightPath

We highly recommend requesting a preliminary consultation with a dedicated business incorporation consultant at BrightPath.  Learn more about our team of experts here and read a summary of the skillset and qualifications of each member of our organization.  Frequently visited topics during the free 30-minute consultations are matters regarding the timeframe to incorporate, required documents to start a business, associated service charges, one-time and recurring government costs, as well as matters specific to the business you would like to start in St. Maarten.  Because the initial consultation is free of charge and we generate a detailed cost estimate with all costs directly associated with the start of your business, along with required documentation, within one business day from the moment of consultation, BrightPath is regarded by many as the most efficient and transparent service provider to incorporate your business in St Maarten.

Work permits and immigration for Managing Directors

When setting up your business in Sint Maarten, it is important to consider where you will source your key personnel.  Sint Maarten has an experienced labor pool, especially in the field of hospitality and tourism, including food and beverage professionals.  BrightPath’s immigration services team has substantial experience in the topic of work permits and the intricacies involved in successfully applying and securing the relevant approvals at both the Labor Department and Immigration Department.  Work permits can only be applied for by the employer, this means that a person, independent of the company that offered them employment, cannot initiate the process on their own.  Except for Dutch and United States citizens, the decision for a work and residency permit cannot be awaited while on the island.  This is important to consider because timeframes to process the application and ensure receipt of the required documents.

Set up your Consultation and Get Started

BrightPath Caribbean is the leading business consultant and immigration service in St. Maarten. We have helped numerous clients acquire work permits, residency permits, and start a business in the Caribbean. If you’re looking forward to living in Sint Maarten, reach out to us for a free Consultation.


  • What are the key steps and requirements for starting a business in St. Maarten? To start a business in St. Maarten, you need to determine if you’ll need commercial real estate, obtain necessary licenses, decide on a company structure (e.g., B.V. or N.V.), and ensure tax compliance. Additionally, working with professional services like BrightPath Caribbean can streamline the process.

  • What are the differences between a Besloten Vennootschap (B.V.) and a Naamloze Vennootschap (N.V.) in St. Maarten, and how do they impact business operations? Both B.V. and N.V. are common business entities in St. Maarten, but they differ in shareholder meeting notification periods, voting rights, and bearer share options. While tax laws apply similarly to both, understanding these distinctions is crucial for foreign nationals looking to incorporate a company in St. Maarten.

  • How can BrightPath Caribbean assist with immigration and work permits for managing directors in St. Maarten? BrightPath Caribbean’s immigration services team has experience navigating the intricacies of securing work permits and residency approvals for key personnel, particularly in fields like hospitality, tourism and management. We can assist employers through the application process, ensuring compliance with local regulations and timely receipt of necessary documents.

Do you have additional questions?

Contact us today for a free consultation!


Moving to Sint Maarten: A Guide for Canadian Citizens

If there is one thing that all Canadian Citizens have in common when they consider moving to the Caribbean, is the joy of warm, breezy, and sunny weather all year long. For this and many other reasons, more Canadians are considering moving to Sint Maarten every year. This guide provides valuable information on immigration programs, important factors to consider, and tips for a smooth transition.

Understanding Sint Maarten’s Immigration Programs

Moving to the Caribbean as a Canadian citizen involves understanding the different immigration programs available. For Canadian Nationals, Sint Maarten’s Immigration programs go from starting your own company, to work permits or real estate investment programs such as the retiree program. It’s important to research and understand the requirements, application process, and any restrictions or limitations involved in each program. Consulting with BrightPath Caribbean before you make the move will always be our first recommendation.

The application requirements for residency in Sint Maarten are quite straightforward, similar to those of any other country. The necessary documents range from a birth certificate and police record to health insurance and proof of savings. Now, let’s explore some of the residency programs available.

Penshonado Program

Congratulations! You have decided to enjoy your retirement in Sint Maarten. The pensioner program offers a wonderful opportunity that includes a real estate transaction. Once your temporary residency has been approved, you can live in Sint Maarten for the first year without the requirement to purchase property. This allows you ample time to explore different neighborhoods and find the perfect property that meets your dreams. However, for the residency renewal, you will need to show proof of a property purchase for a minimum amount of Naf 450,000 (equivalent to USD 253,000). The experienced team at BrightPath can assist you with your residency request, offer asset protection guidance, and connect you with qualified tax advice. Our affiliate, BrightFuture Realty, can also assist in navigating the real estate market in St. Maarten. With the retirement program offering benefits such as a lower tax bracket for those over 52, the ease of no annual property taxes, and the option to protect your assets with a Private Fund Foundation, it’s no surprise that this program is highly popular.

Managing Director Program

If you’ve always dreamed of setting up your own business on the friendly island of Sint Maarten, you should know that you can apply for temporary residency under the managing director program. After all, as a business owner, you’ll want to be closely involved in managing your business, right? The managing director program does involve several steps and documentation, but don’t worry – at BrightPath Caribbean, our corporate services team and immigration team will work together seamlessly to guide you through the process. We’ll assist you with the business incorporation and licensing process while also helping you with your residency request as a managing director. Just keep in mind that residency under this program requires renewals and keeping your business active and fully compliant.

Investor Program

For those interested in obtaining residency in Sint Maarten through the investor program, a minimum real estate purchase of Naf 900,000 (approximately USD 500,000) is required. This program is ideal for individuals looking to invest in real estate while also gaining legal residency on the island. It’s important to note that residents under this program are not permitted to work. However, one of the advantages of the investor program in Sint Maarten is that it allows for indefinite residency once the required number of residency permits has been obtained without any gaps. Investing in real estate in Sint Maarten is a smart move, especially considering the absence of annual property taxes, the thriving real estate market, and the opportunity to protect assets through tools like a Private Fund Foundation or a company.

Work Permit

If you have been offered a job opportunity in St. Maarten, you can apply for a temporary residency under the work permit program. However, obtaining a work permit and residency involves several steps that need to be completed by both the applicant and the employer. It is important to note that both the work permit and residency need to be renewed as required by the labor department and immigration authorities. Obtaining a work permit can be a complicated and time-consuming process, and it is important to ensure that all the steps are followed correctly. If you are an employer considering hiring a foreign employee, we recommend that you schedule a consultation with our experts to guide you through the process. It is also important to note that work permits in St. Maarten can only be requested by an employer who is looking to bring a non-resident into their staff, and not by individuals who are considering coming to Sint Maarten and finding a job.

Preparing for the Move: Documents and Paperwork

Before moving to the Caribbean, Canadian citizens need to know that depending on the chosen program, some documents and requirements are different. All programs require standard documentation such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, police record, proof of active health insurance that will cover you in Sint Maarten in case of emergency or an accepted Medevac plan, proof of sufficient means to support yourself, a valid passport and any specific document depending on the case.

The convenience of starting your residency process with BrightPath is how uncomplicated we can make things for you, starting with document ordering. With over 10 years of experience, we have secured partners in several countries that will allow us to obtain documents on your behalf, making the process smooth and streamlined.

Cost of Living and Financial Considerations

When moving to Sint Maarten, it’s crucial to consider the cost of living and financial implications. The cost of living can vary significantly between different Caribbean countries and even within different regions of the same country. Factors such as housing, transportation, healthcare, groceries, and utilities should be taken into account when estimating your budget.

In addition to the cost of living, it’s important to consider your financial situation and the availability of job opportunities or investment prospects in the Caribbean. Some individuals may choose to work remotely or start their own businesses, while others may seek employment or investment opportunities locally. Understanding the financial aspects and planning accordingly will help ensure a smooth transition and avoid any financial hardships.

The experienced professionals at BrightPath Caribbean are here to guide you in the right direction when it comes to tax consultancy advisory, ensuring yearly compliance for your business, and even providing real estate opportunities through our trusted affiliate, BrightFuture Realty. With our multidisciplinary team, you can rest assured that all your financial and real estate needs will be taken care of as you navigate your way through the immigration process in Sint Maarten.

Adapting to Caribbean Culture and Lifestyle

When you make the decision to move to Sint Maarten as a Canadian citizen, you are embarking on an exciting journey of adapting to a new culture and lifestyle. Each Caribbean country has its own distinct traditions, customs, and way of life, and Sint Maarten is no exception. It is essential to approach this transition with an open mind, respect for the local culture, and a willingness to fully embrace the vibrant customs that make Sint Maarten unique.

If you are seriously considering relocating to Sint Maarten, chances are you have already experienced the allure of the island and its captivating atmosphere. The relaxed lifestyle, surrounded by nature, warm weather, vibrant colors, and the soothing embrace of salty waters, is truly unmatched. Sint Maarten offers an enriching experience of various cultures coming together and fostering human connections.

Cultural integration on the island is a fascinating and rewarding experience. Sint Maarten is a melting pot of European and Caribbean influences, creating a diverse and dynamic community. From the vibrant local festivals and events to the multitude of languages spoken, residents and visitors have countless opportunities to immerse themselves in this rich cultural tapestry. Engaging in community activities, joining local clubs or organizations, and making a genuine effort to connect with the locals will not only help you integrate seamlessly into Sint Maarten’s culture but also enhance your overall experience of this remarkable island.

So, if you are seeking a new chapter in life filled with relaxation, natural beauty, vibrant culture, and the warmth of human connections, Sint Maarten is the perfect destination for you. Embrace the unique way of life this island offers and let it transform your world.

Choosing the Right Neighborhood for Your Lifestyle

It’s crucial to choose the right neighborhood when moving to the Caribbean as a Canadian citizen. Having the expertise of a seasoned realtor, apart from professional immigration assistance, is one of the keys to a successful relocation. By researching different areas of the island and visiting them with your realtor, you’ll gain a better understanding of what neighborhoods have to offer. Choosing the right neighborhood to purchase or rent a house in is never easy as there are many variables to consider. Safety, distance to work and schools, real estate prices, and traffic in the area are just a few examples. Additionally, you’ll have your own personal criteria, such as whether you want a pool, a view of the ocean or hills, and a garage or curbside parking.

If you don’t mind living a little far from nightlife, supermarkets, and the bustle of the city, you could consider neighborhoods like Guana Bay, Rice Hills Gardens, Pointe Blanche, Belair, or Mary’s Fancy. In some cases, whether you are looking to purchase or rent, you might get more space, a private pool, and even a backyard compared to other neighborhoods. You’ll get to enjoy more greenery, beautiful views of the island, and the hills.

On the other hand, if you want to be close to most of the restaurants, nightlife, popular beaches, and supermarkets, areas like Cole Bay, Simpson Bay, Pelikan Key, Philipsburg, or Cupecoy can give you the best of both worlds.

While these are certainly valid criteria when house hunting, we at BrightPath, along with our real estate partners, can help you find the perfect Caribbean home that meets your standards.


  1. What are the key immigration programs available for Canadian citizens moving to Sint Maarten, and what are their respective eligibility criteria? Canadian citizens considering relocating to Sint Maarten can explore various immigration programs such as the Penshonado Program for retirees, the Managing Director Program for business owners, the Investor Program for real estate investors, and the Work Permit Program for employment opportunities. Each program has specific eligibility requirements, including minimum investment thresholds, business incorporation, or employment offers, tailored to different needs and circumstances.
  2. What documents and paperwork are necessary for Canadian citizens to prepare when applying for residency in Sint Maarten, and how can BrightPath Caribbean streamline this process? Canadian citizens moving to Sint Maarten need to gather standard documentation like birth certificates, marriage certificates, police records, and proof of active health insurance. Depending on the chosen immigration program, additional documents may be required. BrightPath Caribbean, leveraging over a decade of experience, offers streamlined services, including document ordering through established partnerships in multiple countries, simplifying the residency process for clients.
  3. What factors should Canadian citizens consider when selecting a neighborhood in Sint Maarten, and how can BrightPath Caribbean assist in this decision-making process? Choosing the right neighborhood in Sint Maarten involves considering factors such as safety, proximity to amenities, real estate prices, and personal preferences like views or accessibility. BrightPath Caribbean, in collaboration with its real estate partners, provides expertise in identifying suitable neighborhoods aligned with clients’ criteria and preferences. With guidance from seasoned professionals, Canadian citizens can make informed decisions when purchasing or renting property in Sint Maarten.

Do you have additional questions?

Contact us today for a free consultation and let us guide you throughout the process!


BrightPath Caribbean