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Visas, Work Permits and Migration

Expanding into a country or hiring a workforce abroad can lead your business to great profits, but unfamiliar laws and regulations can counteract your company’s goals and plans. At Bradford Jacobs, we want to eliminate this complicated part. By using our PEO-service, we can arrange all needed visas and permits including the entire application process without your physical presence. Belgian visa, residency and permit regulations require expert guidance as they vary according to the country foreign nationals live in – the European Union, the European Economic Area and other foreign nationals are all affected by these complex regulations. Our team is trained to research the latest information on Belgian visas and work permits – therefore, we created a guide to introduce you to the rules and requirements. By reading this guide you will get familiar with all the requirements so you or your employees can start working in Belgium in no time.

What types of Work Visas and Permits for Belgium are there?

Firstly, citizens of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), or Swiss nationals do not require work permits or visas to enter, stay or work in Belgium for tourist, business purposes or to work in Belgium. However, citizens from new EU members should check in case of restrictions. Also, they must hold a passport or national ID card valid for the duration. EU or EEA nationals who plan to live in Belgium for an unlimited period must register with the local authorities upon arrival for a maximum stay of three months. For longer stays they will need to register for a foreigner’s ID card. Many other nationalities do require some documentation, so it is always important to check. Generally, citizens whose countries do not have a ‘visa-free’ travel agreement or are not part of the Schengen area will require a visa to enter Belgium.

Main Visa Categories:

  • Schengen Visa or Short Stay C Visa: 90-day visa in any 180-day period for roaming throughout the Schengen area to visit family or for tourism
  • Work Visa D Category: to enter Belgium for more than 90 days (including work)
  • Airport Transit Visa: For Third Country Nationals when passing through Belgium (i.e., not EU, EEA, or Swiss nationals)
  • Business Visa: Required for Third Country Nationals to carry out unpaid business such as meetings, training, contract signing and networking
  • Others: Study, Tourist, Visitors, Medical visas etc.

Workers will need a Work Visa D Category to enter Belgium and should obtain it through the Belgian Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence. This will be attached or stamped in the passport with purpose of visit, length of stay and whether it is a single or multi-entry visa. In order to apply for this visa, the applicant needs a work permit, which in turn, requires an employment contract.

Work Permits:

Generally, most employers need to apply for work permits on behalf of their employees. Types of work permits are:

  • Type-A: This allows work for certain employees in Belgium for an unlimited period. To qualify:
  • The employee must have lived and worked in Belgium for an uninterrupted period of four years during a 10-year stay on a Type-B permit
  • These are only available for a particular category of foreign national and are valid indefinitely
  • Type-B: This is the standard work permit for most foreign workers
  • They are valid for one year for one employer and one designated position
  • They can be renewed by the employer
  • This permit is required before applying for the work visa to enter the country, so the employer needs to apply for this permit in advance
  • If the employee changes his job with this employer, the process must start again. The employer must apply for a new Type-B permit, which may involve the worker returning to their home country to re-apply for a work visa before they can re-enter Belgium for their employment
  • Contracts under a Type-B permit must have a minimum salary
  • Employers must also prove they have permission to employ a foreign worker and that the job cannot be filled by a Belgian or EU national
  • Type-C: This is valid for one year for multiple employers and is usually issued to migrant agricultural or domestic workers
  • Blue Card Scheme: Established to attract highly qualified and educated individuals from outside the European Union to work in the EU, excluding Denmark, Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. The Blue Card entitles holders to:
  • The same pay and working conditions as EU citizens although there is a minimum salary to qualify, as set by the Belgian government
  • -The right to bring close family members to live with them
  • The prospect of permanent EU residency
  • Professional Card: Individuals who are self-employed or plan to start a business in Belgium must apply for a Professional Card, which functions as their work permit. The card can be applied for at the same time as their visa from an Embassy in their home country.
  • Single Permit: In 2019, Belgium introduced the EU Single Permit Directive for non-EU citizens wanting to work for more than 90 days. The Single Permit merges the work and residence permits into one document issued through a single application procedure. To qualify for a single permit, you must have:
  • A job offer from a registered Belgian company
  • Three years’ education to university degree level or executive level position
  • Be on a Belgian payroll
  • Meet the minimum salary conditions

The application process can take between two and four months.

How to obtain a Belgium Work Visa / Work Permit

First, citizens from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals do not require a Work Visa or Work Permit to live, visit or find employment in Belgium. However, there may be restrictions on new members to the EU. Generally Non-EU/EEA citizens (Third Country Nationals) require a Work Visa-D Category and Work Permit Type B which for those requiring a residence permit, is called the Single Permit.

The process for Non-EEA / EU nationals to work in Belgium:

  • A job offer followed by an employment contract is required.
  • A medical certificate (no older than three months) may be required, especially if this is the first time working in Belgium.
  • Then the employer will need to apply for the Work Permit and Authorization which will allow him to employ a Third Country National.
  • The job/position itself has to have been advertised to Belgian nationals and EU citizens (a labor market test*) as part of the work permit process.
  • The work permit approval will be sent to the employee in his home country.
  • The employee can now apply for a residence/work/entry visa at his local Belgian Embassy or Consulate.
  • Upon receipt of the visa, the employee can enter Belgium.
  • Employee registers his arrival and long-term stay (more than 90 days) with the City Office (Leuven Stadskantoor) where a national registration number (rijsregisternummer) is issued. This is needed for local government departments, the tax office, health insurance etc.

The process starts for the ID Card, and when this is collected, work can begin in Belgium.

* Some employees, such as the highly qualified, researchers or technical experts, where there is an occupation shortage, can obtain a work permit bypassing the labor market test.

How to apply for Work Visa / Work Permit in Belgium

Applications for Work (or Single) Permits Type B must be made using the forms available from regional employment agencies. The Single permit is both the Work Permit and the Residence Permit.  Once approved, this allows the employee to apply for a visa to enter Belgium. Applications should be made well in advance. Check the regional website for issuing timeframes. Here are the three regions where application forms and information are available:

  • Brussels-Capital Region Portal
  • Flanders Government Portal
  • Wallonia Region Portal

Documentation required from the employer with the application generally includes:

  • Signed and dated application form for Permit (for more than 90 days). In some cases, this may also have to be signed by the employee. Employer needs to be legally resident in Belgium
  • ‘Authorization for employment of a foreign employee’
  • Photocopy of the employer’s ID card
  • Signed and dated photocopy of the employment contract. Salary should meet the minimum for category of foreign worker
  • Registration with the Ministry of Labor as a sponsor
  • Proof the job was advertised to Belgian and EU Nationals, unless the position was on the occupation shortages list

Note: To be able to sponsor a Work Permit for a Third Country National, the company needs to be incorporated and registered in Belgium. If not, then you will need the expertise of an Employer of Record such as Bradford Jacobs who can hire workers and sponsor work permits.

Documentation required from the employee includes:

  • Passport, travel ID documents with copies of all pages
  • Medical Certificate (no older than three months) giving clean bill of health
  • Proof of accommodation, and financial stability for stay
  • Certified as having no criminal record by police

Generally, employers are notified by email and a copy should be sent to the employee so he can apply for his Visa to enter Belgium where he will then register for a national ID number and receive a foreigner’s ID card and residence card. Documents required for the Work/Residence Visa to enter Belgium should be presented to the Belgian Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence. Some nationals may need more and some less:

  • Signed, completed, and printed application form either in English, German, Dutch or French
  • Two recent identical passport photos (issued within three months)
  • Passport with at least three months’ validity before travel with blank pages for visa stamps
  • Photocopies of pages of passport
  • Cover letter re purpose of visit to Belgium
  • Return airline ticket
  • Travel insurance covering Belgium
  • Medical certificate of health
  • Accommodation booked for duration of stay
  • Proof of residency in country where application was made
  • Proof of funds available for duration of stay
  • Proof of Work Permit
  • Proof of payment of fees for visa