The Kingdom of Belgium is a beautiful northwestern European country, 18 times smaller than one of its neighbours, France. Its population in 2022 was over 11.765 million, and it hosts the European Union (EU) headquarters and NATO. It also shares borders with the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany and has a coastline on the North Sea.

Belgium, as with all nations, protects its borders and documentation is required to enter, whether for holidays, family visits or work purposes. EU and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens and the Swiss come under the freedom of movement agreement and do not require work permits or visas. However, they need a valid passport or National ID for their stay. Some 90 other nations’ citizens can travel visa-exempt for tourism and business purposes for 90 days in 180 days. However, from 2023, they require a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) visa waiver. Around 150 countries’ nationals need to apply for a Schengen visa.

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals (a.k.a. Third Country Nationals – TCNs) who are living outside Belgium require a job offer with an employment contract, a Work Permit or Single Permit (combined residence permit) and an entry visa (D Visa). This can be a complicated process for the uninitiated, and companies expanding into the region find Visas and work permits for Belgium to be a significant issue, especially as there are three legislative regions – Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels-Capital region – that have their legislatures.

Organising documentation, moving staff worldwide, or recruiting within the new territory, would require an in-house specialist team. Many companies do not have these resources or the time; this is where Bradford Jacobs can help. As a Professional Employer Organisation (PEO) with Employer of Record (EOR) platforms and specialists, we have resources and the time. We are your specialists in hiring staff and ensuring employees meet Belgian work visa and permit requirements with the correct paperwork. As well as having a comprehensive knowledge of work documentation procedures, we keep abreast of changes to the systems and laws, which can be costly if contravened.

The different types of Visas and Work Permits for Belgium

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. However, they must hold a passport or national ID card valid for their stay and if they are required to register for longer than three months. They can also apply for a foreigner’s ID card. Generally, citizens whose countries do not have a ‘visa-free’ travel agreement or are not part of the Schengen area require a visa to enter Belgium.

Main Visa Categories:

Schengen Visa or Short Stay C Visa: 90-day visa in any 180 days. To visit family, for tourism, business or transit plus others.

Work Visa D Category: To enter Belgium for more than 90 days (including work) applied for through local embassies, consulates and some authorised Visa Centers abroad.

To Work in Belgium

This depends on specific criteria, e.g., nationality, residence, duration of stay or whether an employee or self-employed.

Note: Work permits may be needed even if the employment is for less than 90 days.

Documentation required to work in Belgium

An Entry Visa (D Visa) PLUS one of the following:

  1. Work Permit (Type B) for short-term employment.
  2. The Single Permit (combined work and residence permit).
  3. The EU Blue Card for highly qualified employees.
  4. Intra-company Transfer – employees coming from abroad to work for affiliates in Belgium.

Eligible categories of workers who can apply:

  • Highly skilled or highly qualified
  • Managers
  • Those with occupations on the shortage list
  • Specialists/technicians/executives

Workers need a Work Visa D Category to enter Belgium and obtain it through the Belgian embassy or consulate in their country of residence. This is attached or stamped in the passport with the purpose of the visit, length of stay and whether it is a single or multi-entry visa. To apply for this visa, a worker needs a work permit, which requires an employment contract. The employer applies for the Work Permit.

Work Permits:

Three different legislative regions within Belgium have their own rules and regulations regarding work documentation, Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. Foreigners wanting to work in Belgium should check with the Belgian embassies in their home country.

There are two categories of employment:

  1. Short-term. 90 days in 180 days. This may or may not require a permit. For example:
  • Transferring as a seconded or posted worker to a Belgian branch of their company abroad.
  • When providing services to customers or individuals in Belgium.

Note: Part-time or temporary workers must make a Limosa-1 Declaration when not coming under the Belgian social security system.

  1. Long Term. For longer than 90 days, which do need Work and Residence Permits, include:
  • Working for a Belgian-registered company with an employment contract.
  • Long-term transfer to the Belgian branch of the company abroad.
  • Highly skilled workers on assignment.
  • Providing long-term services to customers.

Four different types of Work Permits

  • Single Permit for foreign employees, having a job and employment contract with a Belgian-registered company. A long-term work permit and residence permit combined for highly skilled workers and executives, allowing them to live and work in the country for more than 90 days. The process takes up to four months. It can be:
  1. Unlimited Duration. For those employees who have already been working in Belgium and have had a residency for ten years on a Limited Single Permit or a Work Permit.
  2. Limited Duration for a specific position and employer who applies for the permit. They are issued for up to three years. 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.

Note: Since June 2021, all three regions have simplified the process for the Single Permit application online at the one-stop shop. All documents with the application form are dispatched to the region where the foreigner is employed.

  • Work Permit (Type B) is for short-term employment (less than 90 days) and is for a specific employer and job. The employer applies, which can take two to six weeks to process. It is not renewable, but the employer can apply for a Single Permit.
  • EU Blue Card Scheme: To attract highly qualified and educated Third Country Nationals (TCNs) to work in the EU, including Belgium. The Blue Card entitles holders to:
  1. The same pay and working conditions as Belgian workers, although there is a minimum qualifying salary, which for 2022 was €57,019 (US$57,882) but may differ depending on the region.
  2. Highly qualified workers have no requirement for a Labour Market Test.
  3. Valid for between one and three years, depending on the employment contract.
  4. Have the required qualifications for the EU Card, e.g., degree, diploma.
  • Intra-Company Transfer Permit: Created to make it easier for company managers, specialists and trainees from Non-EU countries to work within the EU when transferring to a branch, subsidiary or affiliate in Belgium from a parent company abroad. Operating in the EU since 2020, implemented in Belgium since December 2021 to facilitate ‘intra-company mobility’.

How to apply for Visas and Work Permits for Belgium?

Citizens of EU/EEA countries and Switzerland do not require work visas or permits but must register their stay in Belgium after three months and receive a Belgian ID Card, which is the E-Card.

For Third Country Nationals (TCNs) wanting to work in Belgium, their employers apply for a Work/Residence permit. Employees apply for the D Visa to enter Belgium after receiving permit approval. Short-term employment (less than 90 days) may also require a permit (Type B Work Permit), but there are exceptions, in which case a Limosa Declaration has to be made.

Work Permits for Long-Term Employment

  1. Single Permit – a combined work and residence permit. These are applied for at a one-stop-shop online, and documentation is sent to whichever region, e.g., Flanders, Wallonia or Brussels-Capital, the employee will be working. A Labour Market Test is required to ensure no Belgian or EU worker can fill the position.
  2. EU Blue Card – a combined work and residence permit, applied through the Single Permit Process, although there is no Labour Market Test.
  3. ICT Transfer came into force at the end of 2021 for companies transferring staff between entities in the same corporate group, from companies outside the EU to branches inside the EU. This is also through the Single Permit Process.

How it works:

  1. The employer applies for the Permit.
  2. Upon approval, the employee applies for the D Visa at a local Belgian embassy or consulate.
  3. Eight days after arrival, register your address.
  4. After a successful residence survey, you receive a foreigner ID Card.

Before applying, check if the documents to be submitted with the application need the following:

  • Translating
  • Notarising or legalising, e.g., qualifications or work experience.
  • Signed electronically or by hand.
  • Should be supplied within a time period/time sensitive.
  • Originals or copies.

General documents during the Single Permit process

  • Application form completed and signed. In some cases, the employee may also have to sign this. The employer needs to be legally resident in Belgium.
  • Passport with 12 months validity with two facing pages for visas.
  • Qualifications from an accredited educational institution.
  • Curriculum Vitae with work experience.
  • Police report no older than six months from applying.
  • Medical report no older than six months from applying
  • Proof of financial stability, e.g., the employment contract with minimum salary required.
  • Proof of residence or accommodation.
  • Health insurance for employees and families (if relevant) generally covers costs of EUR 30,000 (USD 39,454).
  • Marriage and/or birth certificate of family members (if applicable).

From Employer

  • Proof of payment of the Single Permit.
  • Any documentation regarding employment, e.g., a complete description of the position, may be related to occupations on the shortage list. Any Labour Market Test that has been conducted.
  • Company documents such as company registration or employer’s ID and VAT number.
  • Employment contract signed and dated giving details of salary which must comply with legal minimums for foreigners.
  • Supply the National Registration Number of the employee.

Once the employer has submitted the application and documentation online to the One-Stop-Shop, they are checked regarding the employee’s and employer’s eligibility and passed to the Immigration office, which approves or rejects the Residence application and to the relevant Regional offices that grants the work permit. When both are approved, the Single Permit is also given, and the consulate or embassy abroad is notified so the employee can apply for the D Visa to enter Belgium.

Note: To sponsor a Work Permit for a Third national country, the company must be incorporated in Belgium. If not, then you need the expertise of an Employer of Record, such as Bradford Jacobs, who can hire workers and sponsor work permits in Belgium.

Documentation Required for D Visa to enter Belgium:

Photographs and biometrics can be taken at the consulate or embassy (or authorised Visa Centre).

  • Application form for the long-stay D Visa.
  • Two recent passport-style photos.
  • Passport and travel ID documents with copies of all previous visas and data pages.
  • Approvals from Immigration and regional offices, plus granting Single Permit (B34)/EU Blue Card (B29), should have been sent to the appropriate consulate.
  • A medical certificate (no older than three months) gives a clean health bill.
  • Accommodation address
  • A police report of good conduct.
  • Proof of payment of fees for visa.

When entering Belgium after receiving the D Visa with the stamp indicating which Single Permit has been approved, foreigners may also be asked at Border control for proof of funds for stay, accommodation address, return ticket, travel or health insurance, and cover letter from employer.

The EU Intra-Company Transfer was fully implemented in Belgium in December 2021 and followed the same procedure as the Single Permit, although there is no Labour Market Test. Both regional approvals for the work permit and immigration approval for the residence permit are required.


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