Finding jobs in Brussels
Looking for jobs in Brussels? These tips will get your job search started to help you find your ideal job in Belgium's international capital.
If you're looking for jobs in Brussels, you'll find an international workplace, a multilingual environment and plenty of jobs for multi-skilled workers. There are many places to search for jobs in Brussels, such as online job sites in Brussels, recruitment agencies and local newspapers. Whichever method you choose to search for a job in Brussels, work can always be found with the right dose of experience and perseverance.
Belgium’s multinational workforce is highly skilled and language is key to landing a job in Brussels. Unemployment is relatively low compared to other European countries at 8.3 percent in June 2016 (ec.europa.eu). With many EU institutions, NATO and other major international organisations and multi-national companies based in Brussels, there are many job opportunities for foreigners in Belgium. But keep in mind it is not easy to make it through the tough Belgian laws, and you will need the required documentation, which may include a Belgian work permit (explained below).
Besides reading our guide to finding jobs in Belgium, here you can find more information on the job market in Brussels, Belgian work permits and where to look to find jobs in Brussels.
Jobs in Brussels
Brussels, being the seat of the European Parliament, can be a big pull-factor for many expats looking to work abroad. If you would like to work in the European Parliament, to apply for jobs in these institutions you will need to pass a series of examinations. The procedure takes about a year, and at the end, a job is not necessarily certain. If working in the European Parliament is not for you, there are many other ways to find jobs in Brussels.
Most job vacancies in Brussels are for highly skilled workers in the services sector such as finance, international businesses, estate agencies, education, public health and social services. There is demand for engineers, technicians, architects, accountants, nurses and midwives, IT staff, sales, teachers, administration, mechanics, and building trades.
Due to good connections, many expats live in surrounding areas and commute to Brussels – the hub for foreign workers. Belgium has good transport links, and Brussels council reports that commuters who live elsewhere hold more than half of all jobs in Brussels.
To compete for jobs in Brussels, you will likely need an excellent command of French or Dutch, or sometimes both. A third language such as English is either a bonus or a job requirement for jobs in Brussels. In the international arena you are certainly going to need English with French or Dutch as a working language. Any additional language is another advantage.
Finding a job in Brussels
For English speakers, Expatica jobs portal and news providers The European Voice and The Bulletin advertise international positions typically in managerial and consultancy roles, although a large range exists. You’ll also find several recruitment agencies in Brussels focused on expatriates, offering jobs at various levels. If you can communicate comfortably in French or Dutch, then the weekend or online editions of national newspapers are excellent places to start, such as Le Soir, La Libre, Het Laatste Nieuws and De Standaard, which regularly advertise jobs in Brussels.
Each region of Belgium also has its own public employment office where you can browse job vacancies, upload a CV, search for training courses, or get advice on your job search from a consultant online or at a local office. Actiris (www.actiris.be) covers the Brussels-Capital region, VDAB (www.vdab.be) for Flanders, Le Forem (www.leforem.be) for Wallonia, and ADG (www.adg.be) for the German community. (Note: These websites are in Flemish, French and/or German only.)
The EU employs over 40,000 people in various institutions, and many of these jobs are in Brussels. You do have to be a member of an EU country and usually fluent in two or more languages. For EU jobs, see the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO), or EuroBrussels, which shows jobs in EU organisations based in Brussels. EU citizens can also take advantage of the EU job portal, EURES (ec.europa.eu/eures).
Headhunting agencies are reasonably common in Belgium, but tend to specialise in executive positions.
Online jobs in Brussels
The internet is a good place to look for jobs in Belgium and throughout Europe (especially in your language). There many websites specifically for job hunters, just upload your CV and start your search. You can begin by using Expatica jobs for Belgium or visit other websites such as:
You can find more sites in our guide to finding a job in Belgium.
Recruitment agencies in Brussels
Recruitment agencies can be quite helpful and are popular in Europe, especially if you don't know the local language as you can find recruitment agencies dedicated to certain areas, for example, English-speaking jobs. Even if language is not an issue, a recruitment agency can still be helpful in guiding you through the paperwork and contracts. Expatica's A–Z listings of recruitment agencies in Belgium.
Jobs posted in Belgian newspapers
Keep current with the news in Brussels, as well as national and EU news. It is also worth checking the employment sections in local news publications.
Here are some newspapers in Brussels:
- De Financieel Economische Tijd – Belgian national newspaper, in Dutch.
- De Morgen – Belgian national newspaper, in Dutch.
- De Standaard – Belgian national newspaper, in Dutch.
- Het Laatste Nieuws – Belgian national newspaper, in Dutch.
- Het Nieuwsblad – Belgian national newspaper, in Dutch.
- L' Echo – Belgian national newspaper, in French.
- La Derniere Heure – Belgian national newspaper, in French.
- La Libre Belgique – Belgian national newspaper, in French.
- Le Soir – Belgian national newspaper, in French.
You can find a lot of advertisements hanging on the doors of restaurants, bars, shops in the busy shopping areas. Exploring your area on foot is another great way to find out what positions are available.
Getting a Belgian work permit
It’s no surprise that a foreign national who wants to take up employment in Belgium must obtain a work permit. There are three types of work permits available that vary from a limited or unlimited access to Belgium’s labour market: Type A, Type B and Type C. Read more in guide on work permits in Belgium.
The most common type of work permit for highly qualified third-country nationals is a Type B work permit, which is linked to a specific employer and has a limited validity period.
EU, EEA and Swiss nationals do not need a work visa. If you have a permanent residence permit for an unlimited period of time, you also will not need to obtain a work permit.
For non-EU nationals
> Type A: This visa is valid for all employers and types of paid occupations, valid indefinitely. To apply you must have resided legally in Belgium for a continuous period of five years, or have worked in Belgium for at least four years under a Type B permit within a 10-year residency, or be the spouse of someone who has. For certain conditions and nationalities, there is a chance to apply after two or three years.
> Type B: This type is the more usual work permit and is valid for a single, specified employer for up to 12 months. It is renewable but a decision to renew will be based on the state of the local labour market. If you change jobs your permit is invalidated. To obtain this type of work permit your potential employer must apply for authorisation from the regional employment office. Once this is issued you are automatically eligible to apply for the Type B permit.
The work permit application is submitted by the employer or its representative to their Belgium regional employment authority. The employment authority issues a decision about two to four weeks after filing the application. If the employer receives a work authorisation, then a work permit is issued to the employee, who can use the permit to support his/her residence permit or visa. Type B is usually valid for one year and renewed annually. Residence permits are valid for the same duration as the work permit (plus one month), and may be renewed along with the work permit.
Generally, in order for a Type B work permit to be approved, the area of work has to have a skills shortage or be in a special category – the government has a list. It may also be required to show that the role cannot be filled with an EU national, and that the intended employee has the necessary qualifications. An exemption from this exists for highly qualified third country nationals and executive staff. Highly qualified personnel is defined as individuals who have completed higher education of at least a bachelor level and who are employed in that capacity with a minimum gross annual salary of EUR 39,824 (2016), while executive staff is defined as staff holding a managerial position and who have a minimum gross annual salary of EUR 66,442 (2016).
> Type C: This temporary work permit is valid for up to 12 months, is renewable, and covers temporary residents and those waiting for a decision on their residency, such as spouses of EEA nationals or diplomatic workers, students, asylum seekers and so on. It is dependent on the person retaining their residence permit.
EU Blue Card
In addition to the Type B work permit, highly qualified third country nationals, also referred to as 'highly skilled migrants can also make use of the Blue Card scheme. The EU Blue Card is available to highly qualified third country nationals who are subject to Belgian social security, have at least a bachelor degree and a minimum annual gross salary of EUR 51,494 (f2016).
A Blue Card holder may reside and work in Belgium, and the card is valid for an initial 13 months and is renewable. The advantage of the EU Blue Card compared to the Type B work permit is that a card holder has free access to the labour market after two years of employment on the Blue Card. In addition, the EU Blue Card holder can easily change employers without needing to apply for a new permit.
Self-employed professional card
Foreign nationals who wish to be self-employed in Belgium require a professional card. The employment authorities assess eligibility for a professional card on a case by case basis, and take into account the economic importance of the project for Belgium.
The only fixed conditions relate to the applicant’s legal right to stay in Belgium, the applicant’s compliance with regulatory requirements (particularly those related to the anticipated activities), and the interest of the project for Belgium (in terms of job creation, facilitation of import/export activities, innovative nature of the envisaged activities, etc.). Standard processing time for the professional card application is about three months.
The application procedure in Belgium
- One successful ways to find work in Belgium is through speculative applications.
- Mind the language differences in Belgium. Except in the bilingual capital, most Flemings do not appreciate being addressed in French; likewise Walloons won't like to reply to an inquiry formulated in Dutch.
- A Belgian employer will pay most attention to experience, motivation and social skills.
- Prepare a Belgian-style CV and interview techniques; read how in our guide to applying for a job in Belgium.
Find jobs in Brussels using Expatica's job search.
Need advice? Post your question on Expatica's free Ask the Expert service to see if we can help.
Updated 2016 / Part of this text was updated by immigration specialists Fragomen Worldwide.
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