How to start an export business in Sri Lanka as a foreigner?

How to start an export business in Sri Lanka as a foreigner

It is told that any form of business needs to be started with a lot of investment. Well, I must it is just a myth of theory. For those who have proper research in what business they want to do and how to start and function a business will understand that there is not need to invest any large amount of money in business, especially for a startup business.

Sri Lanka is a country which is the most happening business where foreigners would love to come and start export business in Sri Lanka;

Reasons, why foreigners would like to start an export business in Sri Lanka, are as follows;

Sri Lanka is a country which apricates foreigners to start business in the country. Although there are some restrictions for foreigners to start business in Sri Lanka. The liberty to start a business for foreigners is comparatively lesser than the locals in the country. However, it is considered as the best South-Asian countries to start business.

Some of the factors to keep in mind for foreigners to start an export business in Sri Lanka;

Businesses which cannot be done by a foreigner in Sri Lanka:

There are businesses where foreigners have the right to have 100% and 40% to have the ownership of the company. But there are few companies which they cannot own or work. Some of the businesses where foreigners cannot work or own are as follows;

Businesses where foreigners have only 40% of the ownership rights:

Businesses where foreigner ownership depends on the percentage given by the line ministry:

Businesses where foreigners have 100% ownership rights:

Apart from the above 3 categories mentioned above, a foreigner as the right to have 100% ownership in their business. Some of the businesses which they can fully own are as follows;

Company secretary for the export business in Sri Lanka:

It is recommended for foreigners to have a local professional Company Secretary (CS) since it will be easy for them to coordinate with the country’s rules and regulations in order to start a company. It is best that from the beginning you need to be ready with a CS so that they can help you with the company registration and help in setting up the company. The CS needs to be professional, knowledgeable and also a person who you can trust in.

Related article for foreign investors: Can a foreigner open a bank account in Sri Lanka? Yes! The answer is here.

Board of Investment (BOI):

BOI is a registration recommended for every foreigner to register in order to do business in the country. The cost is quite huge but it is recommended since it has other benefits. The minimum cost to invest in a company in order to be eligible to do the registration of BOI is around USD $250,000.

The following are the benefits through BOI;

Facts of Sri Lankan export business:

Top 10 exports in Sri Lanka

Below are the top exporters’ list in Sri Lanka;

Knit and crochet US$ 2.9 billion 25.8%
Clothing and accessories excluding nit and crochet US$ 2.2 billion 19.4%
Coffee, tea and spices US$ 1 billion 9.3%
Rubber and rubber products US$ 926.9 million 8.3%
Ships and boats US$ 542.6 million 4.9%
Gems and metals US$ 408.3 million 3.7%
Machinery US$ 309 million 2.8%
Electrical machinery and equipment US$ 308.6 million 2.8%
Fish US$ 264.9 million 2.4%
Chemical goods US$ 124.5 million 1.1%

Sri Lanka has numerous export business opportunities. As a foreigner you need to have good research on the restricted fields and it is recommended to go to sectors where you can have a 100% ownership. For example, when you want to start a small-scale business then there will be restrictions depending on the type of sector chosen whereas when you have a restaurant business in Sri Lanka there will no restrictions and you are free to do your business. You need to get a company secretary in Sri Lanka.


Is it mandatory to do the BOI registration?

Yes, it is mandatory to do the BOI registration for the company.

How much does it cost to register a company in Sri Lanka?

It cost around 120,000 in which 50% should be pay in advance

How long does it take to complete the registration process?

Minimum 3 months and maximum 1 year

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