For most foreigners, to work in Belgium you need a work permit. It is best to come to Belgium already with a work permit as you may have to go to your country of residence to apply for the permit anyway. It is also necessary for the employer to show that no Belgian or European Union worker is able to do the same job.
People exempt from a work permit in Belgium are:
- Nationals of the European Union.
- Spouse of a Belgian and their under-21 dependents.
- Holders of a residence permit.
- Foreigners admitted into Belgium for an unlimited period.
- Acknowledged refugees.
- Students with a holiday working pass.
- Students on training courses necessary to their course-work.
- Apprentices hired under contract that qualifies for exemption.
This visa usually takes 4-6 weeks to issue. There are 3 types of work permit, C, B and A work permits.
- Permit C is valid for one year for multiple employers and is usually not renewable. Typically, it is issued for domestic and migrant workers.
- Permit B is valid for 1 year and allows you to work for one employer doing the same job. A change of circumstances (employer, position) may require the need to reapply for the visa. This visa is renewable and after 5 years you may request an A permit.
- Permit A allows you to work for any employer for an unlimited time in Belgium. These are issued to spouses of A permit holders, non-European Union spouses of Belgian/European Union nationals and foreign residents in Belgium legally for five years.
Self-employed professionals wishing to move to Belgium are required to obtain a Professional Card (carte professionale/beroepskaart). These can take up to a year to be issued and may have to be renewed every one to five years and are limited to a specific area of practice. People seeking this card may have to prove they are established in their field. Requirements are almost the same as those outlined below and renewal of these cards is usually quite routine.
- Travel document/Passport valid for at least 12 months, with space for a visa.
- Two completed visa applications http://www.diplomatie.be/en/pdf/visa.pdf, signed and with two recent passport sized photos.
- Original work permit (permis de travail B/arbeidskaart B) that your employer in Belgium must request*.
- Judicial record no older than 6 months covering the last 5 years of your life showing any criminal records etc. This can be obtained from the relevant authorities, eg, in the United States it must be obtained from FBI records.
- A medical certificate http://www.diplomatie.be/en/pdf/medischattesten.pdf filled out by a doctor approved by the embassy or consulate no older than six months (only in case you did not apply for a work permit). A medical certificate is not required if you have already submitted this at the time of application for a work permit.
Additional documentation may be requested by the embassy once the application is being reviewed. Documents issued outside Belgium must be legalized or be accompanied by an apostille depending on which country you are coming from unless there is a treaty exempting this process. This information can be obtained by asking the embassy/consulate handling your case. All documents not in Dutch, French, German or English must also be translated by a sworn translator.
*Your employer in Belgium must request an employer permit (autorisation d’occupation/arbeidsvergunning) and a work permit (permis de travail/arbeidskaart) from the relevant sub-regional employment service depending on where the company’s head office is established (VDAB, FOREM or ORBEM/BGDA–See contact details below). Apart from certain exceptions (e.g. highly qualified staff, researchers, trainees or au pairs), employer permits are only issued if there are no workers or not enough workers on the Belgian labour market for the sector in question due to its specific characteristics and if there is an international agreement.
More information on this can be requested from one of the following:
Ministere de la Region Bruxelles Capitale
Administratie Economie et Emploi
Rue du Progress 80
Tel: +32 (0) 2 204 2111
Ministere vand de Vlaamse Gemeenschap
Tel: +32 (0) 2 507 4367
Ministere de la Region Wallone
Direction generale de l’Economie et de l’Emploi
Place de la Wallonie 1
Tel: +32 (0) 81 33 3700
European Union citizens do not need work permits, with the exception of new member states where a transition period exists. More information on this can be found at http://www.meta.fgov.be/