Immigration Categories

A brief description of corporate immigration categories by assignment type follows. The appropriate immigration category or status for your employees will depend on their specific details and on your company. The most common category for corporate transfers in our experience is a Work Permit Type B for Highly Qualified Professionals. For details on non-typical categories not listed below (investors, special programs), please contact your representative.

  • Work Permit Type A: Unlimited work permit
  • Work Permit Type B: Corporate transfers, non EU nationals
  • Work Permit Type C: A special permit enabling work in Belgium for any employer, generally granted for special categories of residents such as students and co-habitants under certain conditions
  • Professional Card: A special permit enabling non-Europeans to work in a professional capacity as an independent or freelancer
  • EU registration: All EU nationals
  • Spouse of Belgian or EU national

Typical Process Overview

The following process overview is applicable to the Work Permit Type B process. Approximate overall processing time from the time the first step is submitted to the time the employee is legal to work in Belgium is four (4) to six (6) weeks. However, note that lead time for document gathering at the start of the process should be factored in, as should processing time for completion of post arrival formalities. In Belgium, the document gathering stage of the process is particularly labor intensive, as many documents must be legalized and translated. Additionally, police clearances are required from every country in which the assignee has lived for the last five (5) years. See the “Application Materials” section below for further details. Average processing time for each individual step is noted below.

Pre-Application: Document Procurement & Legalization
Processing Time:
Approximately four (4) to six (6) weeks

Police clearances covering the last five (5) years plus birth and marriage certificates less than six (6) months old and medical certificates less than three (3) months old for assignee and dependents must be obtained, legalized and translated (where applicable) in preparation for Steps One and Two. This process should be started immediately, in order to avoid any delays.

Step One: Work Permit Type B Application
Processing Time:
Four (4) to six (6) weeks

The Work Permit Type B application and supporting documents are filed with the regional employment office for their approval.

Step Two: Visa Type D Application
Processing Time: Dependent on consulate – within two (2) weeks for assignee, but note that dependent applications can take several weeks or even months if submitted separately.

Once the work permit has been approved, the assignee and any dependents must submit a visa application at the Belgian consulate or Embassy in their country of residence or nationality.

Step Three: Town Hall Registration (within 8 days of moving into permanent accommodation) and Residence Permit Application
Processing Time: Up to six (6) months

Once the assignee and family have arrived in Belgium with the appropriate visas, we can register them at the town hall in the area where they live and apply for residence permits. This step can only be completed once the assignee and family have moved into permanent/long term accommodation.  The town hall registration cannot be started on the basis of temporary accommodation.

Step Four: Re-Entry Permit (if required)
Processing Time: Two (2) to three (3) weeks

In certain instances, a visa national may need to travel before their final Belgian ID card has been issued and they do not hold a multiple entry visa D. It may be possible to obtain a re-entry permit but this will be issued at the discretion of the Belgian authorities to allow one (1) single entry and only in the case of an emergency.

Typical Documents Obtained

Following the Work Permit Type B process described above will result in the obtention of the following immigration documents. Typical validity is noted next to each document name. For details on the renewal process, please see the next section, “Renewal.”

  • Work Permit Type B: Validity maximum one (1) year
  • Visa Type D: Validity one (1) year, replaced by residence permit post arrival
  • Residence Permit: Validity one (1) year for non-EU Nationals [and linked to the validity of the work permit, with normally thirty (30) days difference], five (5) years for EU Nationals

Renewal

Renewal is possible. Renewal processes take three (3) to six (6) weeks’ time for the work permit; please allow two (2) to four (4) weeks’ lead time for document gathering and additional time for residence permit renewal.

Deregistration

To ensure that assignees leave Belgium after the expiration of their permission to stay and to keep tabs on the number of foreign workers in the country, the government of Belgium requires all applicants to complete the following deregistration process upon departing the country.

Applicants and dependents are required to deregister and return their original Belgian permits and residence cards upon leaving the country. All work permits and residence cards issued by the Belgian authorities are the property of the Belgian State. As such, all permits and cards must be returned in a timely manner. Returned cards are destroyed by the government to prevent unauthorized use.

If the card’s holder fails to return his/her card and work permit at the end of his/her assignment, he/she remains liable for Belgium Commune Taxes. If the deregistration is not done in due time, an annual commune tax (per person) will be incurred and will have to be paid. If this commune tax is not paid, debt collection fees will be incurred.

Individuals who would like to obtain a new Belgium work permit and residence card for subsequent assignments in Belgium must first pay all fees incurred in the course of noncompliance on previous assignments. Moreover, previously noncompliant individuals may face some difficulties in obtaining new work permits and residence permit cards in the future.

Dependents

Dependent immigration status approval depends on the immigration status of the principal applicant. Where the principal applicant is in Belgium under the immigration category Work Permit Type B, the following rules apply for dependents:

  • Minimum age (spouses): Not Applicable
  • Maximum age (children): Eighteen (18)
  • Unmarried partners: Recognized
  • Same sex partners: Recognized
  • Non-traditional dependents (e.g. parents): Not recognized
  • Work authorization granted? Dependents of Work Permit holders are only permitted to work with their own Work Permit, although the application requirements are more relaxed for dependents.

Application Materials

Application materials vary depending on the immigration category being applied for and on the specifics of the case. We can advise you in detail regarding your specific case; however, general application materials for the work Permit Type B are noted below.

  • A variety of personal and corporate documents will be needed to support the application.
  • Such documents include: copy of diploma(s), current resume (C.V.), legalized birth and marriage certificates, medical certificate, FBI or Police report and employment contract.
  • All documentation must be submitted in English, French or Flemish/Dutch and, birth and marriage certificates and non-EU police clearance certificates must be legalized with Apostille. Emigra Worldwide can assist with the legalization requirements.

Business Visitors

  • Name of visa granted: Schengen type C
  • Duration of stay: Up to ninety (90) days out of every one hundred eighty (180) day period. However, within Belgium there is a further rule in place that limits business activities to twenty (20) consecutive calendar days.  Should the employee wish to conduct business in Belgium for more than twenty (20) consecutive calendar days, he/she must plan to break up his/her trip i.e. travel to a neighboring Schengen country for a few days in between.
  • General activities permitted: Orientation, home-finding, and other preparation for employment can be conducted under business visitor status. Technically, most business functions will necessitate work permits. The place of compensation is not relevant.

Change of Status

In general, applicants from non-EU countries coming to Belgium to work will need to obtain Type D visas prior to entry. However, under special circumstances for urgent arrivals and other situations where it would be impossible for the applicant to return home, visa exempt nationals can utilize a special procedure to enter Belgium and begin the residence permit process. However, this comes with added limitations.  Please ask your Emigra consultant for more advice in this regard.

Salary and Payroll

Salary and payroll requirements vary depending on the immigration category and on the specifics of the case. In Belgium, there are minimum salary requirements in place. Additionally, payroll location will affect the immigration process. Please see your representative for more details for your specific situation.

Qualifications

Qualification requirements will vary from case to case and will depend on the immigration category under which the application is made. However, in general, the immigration authorities do expect to see university level degree qualifications. In some situations, a strong case may be made for applicants without a degree provided their level of experience and industry specific qualification is high. Please contact your representative for more details.

Red Flags

In our experience, the following points are important to note at the start of the process. If any of the below situations apply to you, contact your representative immediately for further detailed advice.

  • Absence of degree
  • Absence of relevant experience
  • Failure to meet minimum salary level

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The government of Belgium takes immigration non-compliance very seriously. Penalties for non-compliance may include fines, deportation, and imprisonment.

Employee Penalties:

If the card’s holder fails to return his/her card and work permit at the end of his/her assignment, he/she remains liable for Belgium Commune Taxes. If the deregistration is not done in due time, an annual commune tax (per person) will be incurred and will have to be paid. If this commune tax is not paid, debt collection fees will be incurred. Moreover, previously noncompliant individuals may face some difficulties in obtaining new work permits and residence permit cards in the future.

Employer Penalties:

If the company fails to have a valid work permit for their employees, a fine of up to 1000 Euros can be imposed. The employer is also liable to pay costs for eventual deportation of the employee. It is very likely the employer will lose future rights to work permit application for other employees. It is also possible in some situations for the employer to face imprisonment. It is important to know convictions can be made five (5) years after the event has happened.

For more details, please contact your representative.

Bilateral Agreements

  • European Union: Belgium is part of the European Union (EU). EU, European Economic Area (EEA), and Swiss nationals may live and work in Belgium without the need to apply for work permits. Note that residence permits are still required for all.
  • Schengen: Belgium is a member of the Schengen agreement. Short term (type C) visas and residence permits for Belgium will allow travel in the rest of the Schengen zone.