Investment activity involves the allocation of capital into specific projects with the expectation of a return on investment. An investment licence is a legal document that grants its holder the authority to conduct investment-related activities within a specific jurisdiction. This licence is typically issued by the competent regulatory authority in the country where the application is filed.

It is essential to note that obtaining an investment licence can be a complex and time-consuming process, requiring thorough knowledge and understanding of the investment regulations in a given jurisdiction. Therefore, when selecting a country to apply for an investment licence, it is advisable to consult a specialist who has expertise in this field. This document outlines the primary legal considerations involved in the licencing process.

Types of investment licences

Under international law, investment licences generally fall into three categories, each permitting different types of financial activities.


Activities authorised

Eligibility requirements


Trading in securities

Dealing in futures contracts

Providing corporate finance consultancy

Managing investment funds or real estate investments

Offering securities financing or custodial services

Providing credit rating services

Applicable to corporate entities

Applicants must demonstrate substantial experience and credibility in the investment sector


Advising clients on investment products

Providing analytical research and reports on investment products

Promoting collective investment schemes in the market

Offering insurance contracts, including reinsurance contracts

At least three years of financial consulting experience

Employ a minimum of two representatives to provide financial advisory services


Asset management

Providing investment and corporate finance consultancy

Conducting securities transactions Foreign exchange trading

Competence of key personnel

Compliance with minimum capital requirements

Adherence to high-risk investment regulations

Robust risk management system

Internal and external annual audits

Professional indemnity insurance

Due to the complexity and risk associated with investment activities, it is strongly recommended that investors seek professional legal advice from consultants who specialise in this area. Legal guidance ensures compliance with all regulatory requirements and minimises the risk of legal complications.

Steps to obtain an investment licence

Establishing an investment project in countries with advanced economies, transparent regulation, and political stability can offer new business opportunities for investors. However, it is crucial to address the legal requirements involved in setting up an investment company abroad. Among these requirements is the need for an investment licence.

An investment licence grants legal authorisation to conduct investment-related activities within a specific jurisdiction. Most countries enforce stringent verification procedures for licence applications, requiring a comprehensive examination of the applicant's company, the range of services offered, and the backgrounds of key stakeholders.

Key phases of the investment licence application process

To help guide you through the process of obtaining an investment licence, here are the key phases you will need to navigate:

  1. Identify a suitable jurisdiction
    • Research and select a country that aligns with your business objectives and offers a stable legal environment. Consider factors such as the local investment climate, regulatory requirements, and economic stability.
  2. Register the investment company
    • Complete the formal registration of your investment company in the chosen jurisdiction. This involves selecting a company structure and fulfilling local business registration requirements.
  3. Prepare the application and supporting documents
    • Prepare a comprehensive application for the investment licence, along with the required supporting documents. This may include financial statements, business plans, and evidence of compliance with the jurisdiction's Economic Substance requirements.
  4. Open a corporate account
    • Establish a bank account in the name of your registered investment company. This step is crucial for conducting financial transactions and demonstrating your business's legitimacy.

Importance of legal assistance

It is highly recommended to engage an experienced lawyer with specialised knowledge of investment legislation to guide you through the process. A legal expert can help you assess the suitability of your business model for the chosen jurisdiction and advise on the most efficient path to obtaining an investment licence.

Additionally, specialised legal professionals are well-versed in the regulations and nuances of investment activities in various countries. They can provide constructive advice on compliance with current regulatory requirements and help you avoid potential pitfalls.

Compliance with evolving legislation

It is crucial to stay updated with ongoing changes to legislation in the jurisdiction where you are applying for an investment licence. Even minor errors in documentation can lead to a rejection of your application. A legal advisor can ensure that all paperwork is accurate and complete, reducing the risk of delays or denials.

Securing an investment licence requires careful planning, thorough preparation, and expert legal guidance. By involving specialised professionals and adhering to regulatory requirements, you can streamline the process and increase your chances of a successful application.

Investment activity licensing: requirements and documentation

When considering the registration of an investment company in a foreign jurisdiction, it is crucial to understand that each country has its own set of licensing requirements and documentation obligations. These requirements are established by the respective regulatory authorities and determine the scope of the licensing process. Generally, the key conditions for obtaining an investment licence include:

  • Transparent ownership structure: the ownership structure of the company must be clear and easily traceable to avoid any ambiguity or potential illicit activities.
  • Impeccable business reputation: the company and its key stakeholders must have a clean record, free from any history of fraudulent activities or unethical practices.
  • Satisfactory financial condition: the financial health of the company must be stable, demonstrating the capacity to operate and grow.
  • Compliance by owners, managers, and staff: all individuals involved in the company's operations must meet the regulatory standards set by the licensing authority.

Typical documentation requirements

The standard set of documents required to obtain an investment licence generally includes:

  • Application form: a completed form provided by the regulatory authority, detailing basic information about the company and its intended activities.
  • Company information: details about the company's operations, physical address, and the identity of the appointed executive body.
  • Identification documents: copies of passports for the beneficiaries and directors, along with proof of no criminal record for these individuals.
  • Qualifications and addresses: documentation demonstrating the relevant qualifications of key personnel and confirmation of their residential addresses.

Licensing process and timeline

Upon submission of the complete application package, the licensing authority conducts a thorough review. If no inconsistencies or issues are found, the licence is typically issued within 45 days from the submission date. The licence for investment activities may be renewed upon request, provided the licensee meets the ongoing compliance requirements.

Grounds for licensing denial

  • Licensing authorities reserve the right to deny a licence under certain circumstances, including:
  • False or incomplete information: if the submitted documents contain inaccurate or incomplete information, the application is subject to rejection.
  • Non-compliance with licensing terms: failure to adhere to the terms and conditions set by the regulatory authority can lead to denial or revocation of the licence.
  • Non-conformity with regulatory requirements: if the documents do not meet the standards established by the regulatory body, the licence may be refused.

It is crucial to ensure that all documentation is accurate and complete, and that the company adheres to the conditions outlined by the licensing authority. Engaging legal experts with experience in investment licensing can help navigate this complex process and improve the chances of a successful application.

Licensing requirements for investment companies in different countries

If you are considering obtaining an investment licence to operate in a foreign jurisdiction, it is important to understand that licensing conditions vary from country to country. Below are some of the key jurisdictions that are known for issuing investment licences, along with a brief overview of their licensing processes and regulatory authorities:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • UK
  • Malta
  • UAE
  • US
  • Switzerland
  • Luxembourg
  • Liechtenstein
  • Ireland
  • Estonia
  • Cyprus
  • Vanuatu (for offshore licences)
  • Singapore
  • South Africa

Each jurisdiction has specific requirements for obtaining an investment licence, including variations in document packages, application processes, and regulatory oversight. Below is an outline of the licensing features in some of these countries.


Regulatory authority

Licence Requirements

Activities Covered

United Kingdom


Transparent ownership structure

Impeccable business reputation

Compliance with FSCS regulations

Oversees firms under the FSMA and EU regulations



Detailed application

Demonstrated experience

Financial stability




Insurance services



Categories 1a to 4

Complies with specific conditions based on licence type

Investment advice

Control of client assets

Multilateral trading platforms




CMS: 5 years' experience

FA: 3 years' experience

FM: audits and insurance

Capital market operations

Financial advisory

Fund management


Obtaining an investment licence to operate in foreign jurisdictions requires a clear understanding of regulatory frameworks, comprehensive documentation, and stringent compliance with country-specific requirements. Each jurisdiction has its own regulatory authority responsible for issuing and monitoring investment licences. These authorities have established processes to ensure that applicants meet rigorous standards of business integrity, financial stability, and professional experience.

Key jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Malta, and Singapore offer a range of investment licences to suit different business activities. These licences cover a variety of financial operations, from basic investment advice to full-scale asset management. Here is an overview of the licensing landscape in each jurisdiction.

This jurisdiction is known for its strict adherence to legislative standards.

In all jurisdictions, careful preparation is essential. Licensing authorities thoroughly evaluate applications, and even minor errors can lead to delays or rejections. Given the complexity and rigour of the licensing process, engaging legal experts with specific experience in investment licensing is highly recommended. The likelihood of a successful application is increased by legal specialists who can guide you through the application process.

In summary, securing an investment licence is a detailed process that requires expert knowledge and careful attention to regulatory requirements. By partnering with experienced legal professionals, you can navigate this process effectively and ensure that your application meets the necessary standards in your chosen jurisdiction.