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There are many expats working in Belgium, particularly in the main cities – especially Brussels due to the extensive international business scene.
Industry in Belgium is concentrated mainly in the populous Flanders in the north, around Brussels and in the two biggest Walloon cities, Liège and Charleroi, along the sillon industriel. Belgium welcomes expats working in engineering, textile industry, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, base metals (particularly steel), textiles, glass, petroleum.
There are two main options for long term assignments in Belgium, one open to all nationals, and one, the Van der Elst visa, open only to those who currently hold a valid work and residence permit for another EU country:
Work Permit Type B – Foreign Executives & Highly Qualified Staff – for a foreign national employee in Belgium working for one employer for a limited duration
Van der Elst – for holders of a current, valid work permit for another EU member country in cases where the assignee will be providing services to the client in Belgium; i.e. will not be under the direction or control of the client. For stays over 90 days, assignees must apply for a Belgian residence permit.
The employer must intend for the assignee to return to the other EU state following the Belgian assignment in order to qualify.
As the work and residence permit application are processed by the local authorities where the assignee will be living, processes and requirements will vary accordingly.
The region of application (Flanders v. Wallonia), the type of work permit being applied for, the nationality of the applicant, the country of application and personal circumstances of the assignee and any family dependants will all affect processing times and requirements. We, therefore, recommend that you contact us for up-to-date information.
However, the general application process involves: Submitting a work permit application to the local authorities in Belgium then applying for an entry visa at their local Belgian diplomatic post before entering Belgium and starting work. Once in Belgium, the assignee must register their arrival with the local authorities and obtain a residence permit.
As applications are submitted to the regional authorities, requirements will vary according to type of work permit, country of application and relevant prefecture.
Applicants will be required to submit a variety of personal and corporate documents to support the application which include, but are not limited to: current passport plus a copy of all pages, any current/previous Belgian/ Schengen visas, CV, degree certificate, police clearance certificate, medical certificate , birth certificate, birth and marriage certificate of all dependents, proof of health insurance in Belgium, proof of accommodation in Belgium, Certificate of Coverage for Social Security, company support letters, employment contract, assignment agreement, job description, details of salary and allowances, payslips.
A number of personal documents will also need to be legalised prior to submission. Some documents will also need to be translated. Newland Chase can assist with this.
Processing times will vary according to visa type, nationality and country of application. However, an indication of processing times is as follows:
Work Permit Type B – The entire process, from assembling the relevant documents for submission to the collection of the residence permit in Belgium, will take typically 2-3 months depending on country of application and country of issuance of certain documents.
Van der Elst – The entire process, from assembling the relevant documents for submission to the collection of the residence permit in Belgium, will take typically 3-4 months depending on country of application and country of issuance of certain documents.
The residence permit application process is rather lengthy due to the various steps involved in the process which includes verification of residential address by the local police.
Work Permit Type B is valid for maximum initial duration of 1 year and may be extended
Van der Elst is valid for a maximum initial duration of 1 year and may be extended
Nationals from specified countries can enter Belgium without a visa for tourism and business purposes, for short trips and restricted activities. Check with Newland Chase before you travel to find out whether you need a work permit to undertake proposed activities.
It is strictly prohibited to carry out any work related activity on a Schengen visa or under the visa-waver agreement for non-EU nationals. Therefore, while there is nothing to stop you from looking for jobs, you would not be able to commence any form of employment until you have acquired the appropriate work authorisation.
Work Permit Type B – After five years’ uninterrupted living in Belgium, EU/EEA/Swiss nationals acquire permanent residence automatically, while non-EU/EEA citizens can apply for EU long-term residence. If you hold a Blue Card from another EU-member state and have lived elsewhere in the EU for a five-year period, this will also make you eligible for long-term residence in Belgium. You must be able to provide evidence of a regular livelihood or sufficient income, as well as adequate health insurance.
Van der Elst – N/A as this is temporary permission to work based on the understanding that the assignee will return to the sending EEA country
The Belgian work permit process is regional and complex, and requirements and procedures may change, so please consult with a Newland Chase immigration advisor for current and detailed information.
The requirements for the entry visa vary greatly depending on the consulate of application and in some cases additional requirements may be requested.
The residence permit is very lengthy and if the assignee moves address before completion, the process will take longer, and may need to be restarted completely. As such, arranging long-term accommodation prior to arrival is strongly advised.
You would be advised to start the visa application process well in advance of the desired date of relocation.
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