Work Permits and Professional Cards

Read about different routes to work authorisation in Belgium

EU News - Pangea Worldwide Belgium

Belgium Work Permits and Professional Card

Belgium is a high-functioning, high-impact nation. It has very high standards of living, quality of life, healthcare, and education. There are many advantages to working there. The following is a description of the process for a person in another country to work in Belgium.

Citizens from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland can work freely in Belgium without the need for a Belgian work permit. So, a Belgian work permit is required for any non-EU/EEA/Swiss national coming to work in Belgium.

There are 3 main work permits available – permits A, B, and C.

Belgian work permit A

A work permit A is valid for all employers and paid occupations in Belgium and is valid indefinitely – that is, you can work for any employer in Belgium for any amount of time – but conditions are more strict. Typically, employees must apply themselves.

To get a type A Belgian work permit, you must prove you have worked for four years on a type B Belgian work permit within a 10-year, uninterrupted legal stay in Belgium. ‘Uninterrupted’ is defined as not being outside of Belgium for longer than one year between your Belgian residency periods.

It takes three years to qualify if you’re a national of Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Morocco, Serbia, Tunisia and Turkey. These periods of three and four years can be reduced by one year if your spouse, registered partner or dependent children are living with you in Belgium.

Some types of workers can’t apply for a type A Belgian work permit. These include:

  • highly skilled workers
  • au pairs
  • trainees
  • workers on temporary assignment
  • researchers and guest professors
  • specialised technicians
  • family members of people who hold type B permits, are self-employed, or who don’t need work permits.

When you apply for this Belgian work permit, you will need to complete the form Application for obtaining a work permit A (Aanvraag tot het bekomen van een arbeidskaart Aan) and provide copies of your type B work permit, pay slips and residence permit. You will need to apply at the immigration office in your area, who can also provide more detail about how to get a work permit in Belgium.

If your request is rejected, you will be notified via mail; you can appeal by replying with a registered letter outlining your argument within one month. If your Belgian work permit is approved, you will be notified via the appropriate municipality department to collect your permit A.

Belgian work permit B

A Belgian work permit B is issued for a specific job for a specific employer for a maximum period of up to 12 months. This is unrelated to the length of the employment contract. However, this permit can be renewed multiple times as long as you still meet the requirements.

The Belgian work permit B requires employer sponsorship. Your employer has to apply for your work permit to employ you. This work permit is valid for employment with the sponsoring company only, and for the position indicated in the application. In principle, a foreign worker is only allowed to work in Belgium when a labour market test indicates that no suitable candidate could be found on the Belgian or EEA labour market within a reasonable term.

However, various categories of workers can obtain a work permit without the need of a labour market test.  Researchers, highly qualified workers or technical experts are examples. Employers can also employ long-term residents from other EU states on the type B work permit if the job is listed as what are known as shortage occupations.

To qualify for a Belgian work visa, employers must offer above a set wage for highly qualified workers (those possessing at least a Bachelor’s degree) and executive employees in order to qualify, alongside certain other jobs. Salary levels are reviewed yearly. In 2017, the annual minimum salary levels were EUR 40,124 for highly qualified workers and EUR 66,942 for executives and managers.

To calculate a minimum salary, the following elements are considered:

  • gross salary (taxable salary)
  • taxable year-end bonuses
  • any other taxable allowances and benefits for work done that is included under the employment contract.

What is generally not included, however, are so-called COLA’s (Cost Of Living Allowances) or other allowances typically granted to compensate for costs incurred by foreigners working abroad, as well as bonuses based on performance or achievements.

If this is your first employment in Belgium, you must also supply a medical certificate that is less than three months old. For certain sectors, such as manual workers and clerical staff, the employer and employee must also sign a prescribed contract of employment stating mandatory provisions (see the list of forms at the bottom here, and see an explanation of the required application documents here). The immigration authority aims to make decisions within 10 days on applications for work visas in Belgium.

A strict requirement of the Belgian work permit B is that the employee must still be abroad. If it is discovered that an applicant came to Belgium with the intention to work before holding a permit, Belgian immigration reserves the right to refuse an application. This measure is designed to stop foreigners from simply entering Belgium to find work. An appeal against such a decision will not typically be granted.

If a type-B Belgian work visa is issued, contact the Belgian embassy in your home country and apply for a residence visa to come and work in Belgium for that employer.

If you change employers, you will need a new work permit and a new residence visa. To renew this work permit, your employer must make an application no later than one month before your work permit expiration date. The process and documents required are similar to the first application. If rejected, an appeal can be made within one month.

Belgian work permit C

Belgian work permit C is for certain foreign nationals who are staying in Belgium only temporarily, such as students or family members of consular officials, or whose right to stay is not confirmed, such as asylum seekers. It allows holders to take on paid employment in any field and for any job contract type for the validity of their residence permit, providing similar rights of employment as Belgian citizens. The permit is issued for up to one year and can be renewed under certain circumstances.

Professional Card for Self-Employed in Belgium

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who want to work in self-employment or start a business in Belgium must apply for a professional card, which acts as a permit and authorises you to undertake your professional activity in Belgium. You can apply for this card when organising a Belgian visa, by contacting the Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country before you arrive.

Exceptions to the permit requirement are available, depending on the nature of activities or residence status of the foreigner. For example, scientific researchers or those holding permanent residence permits entitling them to an indefinite stay in Belgium are exempt from requiring a Belgian work permit.

When you are ready to go to Belgium, here’s what you need to do:

Before leaving

Before leaving for Belgium, you should go through certain formalities. Depending on your country of origin, some may not be necessary.

  1. You must have a valid passport issued by your country of origin (for citizens of some countries, an identity card will suffice).
  2. You must have a visaif you need one to enter Belgium. You can get one from the Belgian embassy or consulate responsible for your place of residence.
  3. In some cases, you must also have the permits required for working in Belgium. You will need different permits (info depending on whether you wish to acquire self-employed status or employee status.

These formalities are not always mandatory. It depends on where you come from.

For more information on visas, please consult the website of the Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation FPS.

For more information on work permits, please consult the website of the Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue FPS (in French or Dutch).

Formalities for residence in Belgium

You will find all the necessary information about residence formalities in Belgium (French or Dutch) on the Immigration Office’s website.

If you plan to stay in Belgium you must go to the municipal authorities responsible for your place of residence.

Here are links to see the list of Belgian municipalities (in French or Dutch).

If you have any other questions, the Work page of belgium.be has you covered.

Should you require assistance with any of the above for your self or your employees, please contact us on enquiries@pangeaworldwide.be 

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