BELGIUM – Single Permit Implemented 1 January 2019
The Single Permit Directive (2011/98/EU) has finally been implemented in Belgium, effective 1 January 2019.
Meanwhile, the Flanders region has prepared its own work permit legislation, mostly effective 1 January 2019.
The EU intra-company transfer (ICT) directive (2014/66/EU) is not expected to be implemented in Belgium until May 2019.
The single permit is a residence permit with confirmation of the right to work, applicable to non-EU nationals seeking to work and reside in Belgium for longer than 90 days.
For short-term work of up to 90 days, and for frontier workers among other special cases, the work permit type B remains in effect.
In many cases which were previously exempt from the work permit requirement, a single permit will now be required if the stay is above 90 days. However, a single permit is not required in Vander Elst cases.
Note that each region can define its own regulations and conditions for work authorisation, such as the required documents, validity or quota. Also note that some of the supporting documents for residence authorisation may take a long time to obtain, especially police clearance certificates.
The employer must submit a single application form to the competent region (Brussels, Flanders, Wallonia), with documents supporting both work and residence authorisation. Once the region has declared the application admissible, the file will be shared with the federal Immigration Office within 15 days. The application will then be processed in parallel by the two authorities, which will inform each other when they have made a decision. The maximum processing time is four months from the notification of admissibility. The decision to approve both work and stay will be notified by the Immigration Office to the employer, the employee and the relevant Belgian embassy. The employee must then apply to the embassy for a visa (if required). Once in Belgium, the employee needs to start the registration within 8 days and will receive a model 49 form allowing them to stay in Belgium (the registration step remains unchanged).
The main changes introduced by the new work permit legislation in Flanders are as follows;
The maximum duration of certain work permits (for highly-skilled employees, executives and researchers among others) is extended from one year to three years. The salary threshold for highly-skilled employees is 100% of the average annual gross salary, which for 2019 will be EUR 41,868. For highly-skilled employees under 30 years and for nurses, the threshold is 80% of this average annual gross salary, or EUR 33,494.40. For executives, the salary threshold is 160% of the average annual gross salary, or EUR 66,989. Highly-skilled employees can be eligible for a single permit for an indefinite term after four years of employment in the last five years. Assigned employees can obtain a single permit for project work at different client sites, provided the sites are listed in the assignment letter/service agreement. There will be a dynamic list of labour shortage professions.
Employers who may be affected by the recent changes to the work and residence permit rules and procedures in Belgium are encouraged to contact their immigration specialist for case-specific advice.