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Immigration Policy for Highly Skilled Foreigners

Delloite

Did you know Flanders’ immigration schemes for highly skilled foreigners? What immigration formalities foreign nationals should fulfill before they are entitled to start working and residing in Belgium?

Before foreign nationals are entitled to start working and residing in Flanders, they need to fulfil certain immigration formalities. The number and the kind depend on the nationality and employment situation of the foreign national. The current regulations (in effect since July 1999) state that any employer in Flanders wishing to employ someone from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) in the country must first apply for and obtain a work permit for that employee.

There are different types of work permits available in Flanders:

  • Work permit A is issued for an indefinite period and is valid for all employers on Flanders territory. Provided that all required conditions are met, it is granted to foreign nationals who can prove four years of working under work permit B, during a maximum, uninterrupted residence period of ten years.
  • Work permit B is a temporary permit (valid for maximum 12 months but renewable) and is strictly limited to one employer.
  • Work permit C is issued to specific categories of foreigners, such as students and refugees.

The employer in Flanders is responsible for the work permit B application. If the employer is not established in the country, an agent in Flanders should be appointed to apply on the agent’s behalf.

In general, work permissions are only issued if it is absolutely impossible to find a suitable local employee on the labour market within a reasonable time. In addition, such permissions are only issued to nationals of countries that have signed international employment treaties.

However, these rules do not apply to those who can be considered as, for example, highly qualified employees. Special provisions and an easier process exist for this group, provided that their yearly gross salary exceeds €39,802 (indexed amount for 2015) and that they possess at least a bachelor’s degree. Work permits for highly qualified employees are issued for a period of one year and can be extended annually.

The work permit processing time depends on the region of the employment and is generally between two and three weeks.

Once in possession of a work permit, the foreign national must apply for a visa with the Belgian consular authorities in his or her country of residence. Even when foreign nationals don’t require a visa to travel to Flanders, we always recommend applying for one.

For a stay of less than 90 days in Flanders a visa type C is usually required. For a longer stay a visa type D should be applied for.

Once in Flanders, the foreign national must go to the town hall of the municipality where he or she will be living and report his place of residence to the city authorities of (principally within eight days after his arrival) in order to be inscribed in the register of foreigners of the commune and obtain a residence card (a so-called Belgian electronic ID card).

The residence card is in principle valid for a period of 12 months and can be renewed each year on the basis of an extended work permit.

Source: Deloitte Comparative Immigration study 2013-2014