Want to start working in Belgium but don’t know where to begin? With the changing regulations and inconsistent information online, figuring out which Belgian work permit to apply for might get confusing. To help you navigate this complicated process, this guide we’ll cover:
Both a visa and a work permit are strict requirements for any non-EU national who wishes to legally work in Belgium. Whereas a Belgian work visa — also known as a long-stay or Type D visa — will let you enter Belgium, a Belgian work permit will allow you to live in Belgium and regulate which professional activities you can perform and under which conditions.
To work in Belgium as a non-European, you’ll first need to secure a job, get your prospective Belgian employer to apply for a work permit on your behalf, and then apply for a work visa to enter the country. If you want to work as a freelancer or start your own business in Belgium, you’ll need to apply for a professional card yourself.
Some of the exceptions to getting a work visa and permit include non-European scientific researchers, holders of permanent residence permits and, in most cases, family members of Belgian residency holders and EU citizens.
If you’re a citizen from a country with a visa-free Schengen agreement, you still must apply for a Belgium type D visa and work permit if you plan on living and working in Belgium.
As a European, EEA or Swiss citizen, you’ve got the freedom to live and work from Belgium without needing any visas or work permits. You’ll only need to register with your local city office and get a foreigner’s ID card to stay and work in Belgium.
Getting a Belgian work permit is dependent on finding employment in Belgium. Your prospective Belgian employer needs to request a work permit on your behalf from the local employment office where the company is established. So if you manage to find a job in Belgium, getting a work permit is easy.
Depending on how long you’ve to work in Belgium, you’ll either get a work permit or a single permit.
A work permit allows you to work for 1 specific employer for a maximum of 90 days and it needs to be requested by your employer. Although this permit can’t be renewed, you can apply for a Belgium single permit before it expires.
A single permit is more common and is issued when employment lasts longer than 90 days. A single permit counts as both a work and residence permit. It is valid as long as your employment contract and can be renewed. You’ll receive it upon your arrival and registration with the city hall in your place of residence in Belgium.
Below are the most common categories of work and single permits issued in Belgium to non-European workers:
Thanks to the lower minimum requirements, the most common way to get your Belgian work or single permit (A-card) is as a highly-skilled worker.
The permit is valid for the duration of your employment contract with a maximum of 3 years and is renewable. After living and working legally with a single permit for highly-qualifies workers for 5 years, you can apply for a single permit for an unlimited time (B-card) yourself.
Requirements for highly-skilled worker single permit:
The European Blue Card is another permit for highly-qualified workers who wish to work in employment in an EU a country. The EU Blue Card is valid for at least 1 year with a maximum of 4 years and can be renewed. Your employer submits the application for you.
If your Blue Card is still valid after working in Belgium for 2 years, you can change jobs or work for another company in Belgium without prior authorization from the authorities.
If you wish to work in a different EU country, you must apply for a new Blue Card. But you can only do so after working with your EU Blue Card for 18 months in Belgium.
To be eligible for The European Blue Card you must meet these requirements:
You can also get a Belgium single permit as an employed worker that doesn’t fall under the specified categories. On the Belgian government websites, this category is referred to as “Other.” In that case, your employer must prove unsuccessful attempts to hire a Belgian or EU national for this role.
Here’re the requirements you must meet to be eligible for a work permit as an employed worker:
*Note that if you decide to change your employer, you’ve to return to your home country and re-apply for the Belgian work permit and visa with the new employer.
Have you just graduated from a Belgian university? Then you can work in Belgium without a visa for 1 year with a ‘search year’ residence permit. During this time you should find a job that will sponsor your Belgium single permit.
To obtain the residence permit for a search year, you must submit your application at the city hall of your place of residence in Belgium at least 15 days before the expiration date of your student residence permit.
You must meet the following requirements:
If you wish to work as a self-employed professional in Belgium, you must apply for a professional card (carte professionale/beroepskaart). This card is valid for 5 years and can be renewed.
With this card, you’re able to work only in your field of practice as you need to prove that you’re established in this field and possess the necessary qualifications. Moreover, your activity must deliver value for the region. That can be in the form of job creation, economic benefits, useful investments, innovative character, social or cultural value, etc.
You can apply for the professional card together with your D visa in a Belgian embassy in your place of residence or, if you live in Belgium, at a recognised enterprise counter.
You’ll need to submit the following documents:
*Note that you’ll have to pay a fee of €90 per year of the validity of the professional card.
Other specified categories of workers include but are not limited to artists, specialised technicians, professional athletes, postdoctoral researchers and journalists. Check the website of the Belgian authorities of your region for more information:
Once you receive the decision that you’re granted a Belgium work or single permit, you need to go to the Belgian embassy in your place of residence and apply for a D-type visa.
Generally, you'll need these documents for your visa and work permit applications:
You already know what kinds of work permits are out there and how to apply for your long-stay visa. Let’s now see what the whole process looks like until you can work in Belgium legally:
*Note that the process might slightly differ per each type of permit.
It can take up to 4 months from the moment of application until your Belgian single permit is issued. But usually, you’ll be waiting for about 8-10 weeks.
It might prove difficult to find a job in Belgium if you don’t speak Flemish or French fluently. At the same time, as Europe’s capital city, Belgium hosts several international companies as well as major European governmental bodies that hire people with several language skills. If you need help, luckily several companies can help you with your job search:
We hope that we’ve answered all your questions about getting your Belgium work permit. Now go score that job offer and you're ready to start your relocation to Belgium!
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