Work in Belgium: Guide to Belgian work permits
Moving to Belgium to work? Find out if you need a visa or permit to work in Belgium, and the procedures for applying for your Belgian work permit
Certain nationalities require a Belgian work permit to be able to legally work in Belgium, and depending on the length of stay in Belgium, a Belgian residence permit is also required. There are three different types of Belgian work permits, as well as exemptions, depending on your employment situation in Belgium.
The Belgian work permit is closely linked to your residence status in Belgium, and in most cases, a job will need to be arranged before you can apply for any permit to move to Belgium long term. Therefore, before starting the process of applying for a Belgian residence or work permit, you should consider finding a job in Belgium or setting up a business or as a self-employed worker in Belgium.
This guide answers some important questions:
- Latest immigration updates
- Do I need a Belgian work permit?
- Which Belgian work permit do I need?
- Do I qualify for a European Blue Card instead?
- Working as an au pair
- Working as a student
- Volunteering in Belgium
- Working holiday programs: Australia, Canada, New Zealand
- More information and help
- Restrictions on newer EU member Croatia have been lifted, and citizens no longer require a work permit for Belgium.
EU/EEA or Swiss nationals
Citizens from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland can work freely in Belgium without the need for a Belgian work permit.
In principle a work permit is required for any non-EU/EEA/Swiss national coming to work in Belgium. There are exceptions, however, depending on the nature of activities or residence status of the foreigner. For example, scientific researchers or those holding permanent residence permits entitling indefinite stay in Belgium are exempt from requiring a work permit.
There are three types of work permit in Belgium. Find out below which Belgian permit is suitable for your situation.
Type A work permit
A work permit A is valid for all employers and paid occupations in Belgium and is valid indefinitely – that is, you can work for any employer in Belgium for any amount of time.
To get a type A work permit, you must be able to prove that you have worked for four years on a type B permit within a 10 year uninterrupted legal stay in Belgium. It’s only three years if you’re a national of Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Morocco, Serbia, Tunisia and Turkey. These periods of three and four year can be reduced by one year if your spouse, registered partner or dependant children are living with you in Belgium.
Some types of workers can’t apply for a type A permit. These include:
- highly skilled workers
- au pairs
- workers on temporary assignment
- specialised technicians
- family members of people who hold type B permits, are self-employed, or who don’t need work permits.
When you apply for a permit, you have to complete an application form and show your type B work permit, payslips and residence permit.
Type B work permit
A work permit B is issued for a specific job for a specific employer for a period of up to 12 months. It may be renewed.
The Work permit B requires employer sponsorship; your employer has to apply for your work permit to employ you. This work permit is valid for employment with the sponsoring company only, and for the position indicated in the application. In principle, a foreign worker is only allowed to work in Belgium when a labour market test indicates that no suitable candidate could be found on the Belgian or EEA labour market within a reasonable term.
Various categories of workers can, however, obtain a work permit without the need of a labour market test, for example, researchers, highly qualified workers or technical experts. Employers can also employ long-term residents from other EU states on the type B work permit if the job is listed as one of these shortage occupations.
Once your type-B work permit has been issued, you can contact the Belgian embassy in your home country and apply for a visa to come and work in Belgium for that employer.
If you change employers you’ll need a new work permit and a new residence visa.
Type-C work permit
A Belgian work permit C is for certain foreign nationals who will be staying in Belgium only temporarily, such as students or family members of consular officials, or whose right to stay is not confirmed, like asylum seekers. It allows holders to take on paid employment in any field for the validity of their residence permit for up to one year, and the permit may be renewed.
Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who want to work in self-employment or start a business in Belgium must apply for a professional card, which acts as a permit and authorises you to undertake your professional activity in Belgium. You can apply for this card when organising a Belgian visa, by contacting the Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country before you arrive.
Otherwise, you can ask for more information at your local Belgian commune or a one-stop-shop or business counter (guichet d’entreprise/ondernemingsloket) set up for businesses. You can find the nearest office here on the FPS Economy portal. Read more about setting up a business or as a self-employed worker in Belgium.
The European Blue Card is a combined work and residence permit that allows highly skilled workers from outside the EU to live and work in Belgium for more than three months.
To be employed under the Blue Card Scheme, you must:
- possess a permanent, or minimum of a year-long, employment contract with a Belgian company;
- be paid a gross annual salary of at least EUR 51,494 (2016 figures);
- hold a recognised higher education qualification.
However well-qualified you are, you won’t be able to get a Blue Card if you’re a long-term resident, seasonal worker, researcher or have been posted to Belgium from overseas.
Your employer must get a temporary employment permit for you and at the same time, you can apply for the long-term visa for the Blue Card either at the Belgian embassy in your home country or, if you are already in Belgium, for the Blue Card via the foreign nationals department of the municipality in which you’re living. Find your local commune in Belgium to ask where you need to apply.
Once the temporary work permit has been issued, you have 90 days to apply for the Blue Card. Blue Cards are issued for 13 months initially, after which they, and the employer’s employment contract, can be renewed, as long as the same conditions are fulfilled.
After the second renewal, the card is valid for three years. After five years you may apply for long-term resident status, which gives you an electronic card as a ‘Long-term-foreign resident card – EC – former European Blue Card Holder'.
Once you have a Blue Card, your family members (spouse, registered partner, dependent children) can obtain a type B permit if the employer has an employment permit for them.
In addition to visa entry requirements, if you are aged between 18 and 26 and have not held a Belgian work permit before, you can come and work as an au pair in Belgium for a period of up to one year. However, before you can work, your employer must obtain work authorisation and a work permit for you, and you must fulfil certain conditions.
- have completed your education up to at least the age of 17 years, or hold certificates to show that you are eligible to move onto higher education;
- have at least a basic knowledge of the host family’s language;
- not take on any other work while you’re working in Belgium as an au pair;
- take a recognised course in the language of the region.
The host family also has to fulfil conditions, which include having at least one child under the age of 13 years, producing character references of all adults in the household, paying monthly ‘pocket money’ of at least EUR 450 and taking out health insurance for you.
For more information about conditions, contact the specific regional authorities.
If you’re a foreign student enrolled at a Belgian educational institution and have a valid residence permit, you can work during term time up to 20 hours a week, provided your work doesn't interfere with your studies. You will need to get a written fixed term contract from your employer, which is known as a student employment contract, and a type C work permit (see above). You can work during official university holidays, however, without the need for a permit.
For more information, see our guide to Belgian student permits.
You can come to Belgium to take on short-term voluntary work without the need for a work permit, although the visa/residence requirements will still apply. See Expatica’s guide to Belgian visas and permits.
Nationals from these countries, aged 18 to 30, can come to Belgium for a year’s holiday and can take on paid work without a work permit during this time. The requirements for this one-time only visa include:
- having sufficient finances for the trip (a minimum of EUR 2,500);
- a valid return ticket (or funds to buy one);
- health insurance;
- a certificate of good conduct from your local police.
- The Department for Work and Vocational Training – information in French on work and permits in Wallonia.
- www.werk.be – information on work and permits in Flanders.
- www.bruxelles.irisnet.be – the official website of the Ministry of the Brussels-Capital Region with information on all aspects of working in Brussels.
- Complete guide to Belgian visas and permits
- Studying in Belgium: Student visas and permits
- Moving to Belgium to join a relative or spouse
- Guide to Belgian citizenship and permanent residence
- EU/EEA and Swiss nationals moving to Belgium.
This information is for general guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country.
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