Ultimate guide to internships in Brussels

Do you have your eye on an internship in Brussels but don’t know how to get it? Find out everything you need to know to land an internship as an international.


4 minute read
1 May 2023

The biggest reason to do an internship in Brussels is that the city is the country's economic centre and home to the headquarters of several international companies and organisations. It’s also one of the most international cities in the world. With almost half of its 1.2 million citizens being international, Brussels offers a vast array of English-speaking internships in the fields of politics, business, IT, electronics, and publishing.

But where do you look, and how can you stand out from your fiercely competitive peers? We break down everything you need to know about getting an internship in Brussels as an international.

Types of internships in Brussels

You can do 2 types of internships in Belgium: study internships and graduate internships.

A study internship is either part of your programme at the university or a way for you to gain work experience during your studies. The internship has to be related to your field of study and approved by your university.

A graduate internship is what you do after the end of your studies. It’s a great way to kick-start your career, as companies often make offers after the end term of your contract.

A summer internship in Brussels could be either a study or graduate internship. This is a great way for international students to gain work experience, as you can work full-time in the summer while on a student visa.

How to find an internship in Brussels?

Here’re some places to find an internship or traineeship in Brussels: 1. Job search websites like LinkedIn, Stepstone Belgium, English Jobs Belgium, GoAbroad, Graduateland, Jobs In Brussels, Euro Brussels, and Euractiv. 2. ErasmusIntern, Student.be, the university career centre or any student club websites for student internships. 3. Company career pages.

Depending on the field you want to intern in, you can look into specific companies and organisations that usually offer English-speaking internships.

Internships in public policy, law, and politics are popular as Brussels is home to various European organisations, such as the European Parliament and the European Commission. Look into the organisation’s websites or portals like Euro Brussels, Euractiv, and Jobs in Brussels for such internships.

Alternatively, you could do an internship at an NGO in Brussels, at places like Médecins Sans Frontières, UNICEF, and WWF.

International banks like Swift, Banksys, and Euroclear or consultancy companies, such as PwC or Deloitte, offer a wide range of roles. You can find paid internships in the departments of marketing, accounting, HR, software development, customer support, etc.

Students and graduates looking for internships in the fields of FMCG, clothing, and telecommunications can look into companies like Henkel, P&G, Google, Louis Vuitton, Kearney, or Politico.

Tips on how to get an internship in Brussels

  1. Start months ahead with your internship search. The selection process in Brussels takes a long time, especially for governmental internships.
  2. Tailor your CV and motivation letter to the position you’re applying for. HR receives hundreds of applications every day and they will only pick the most relevant applications.
  3. Leverage your personal connections for a recommendation. For example, if you want to work at an EU institution, a recommendation from a member of the European Parliament will put you in front of the competition
  4. Network with past or present company employees on LinkedIn or at a networking event and try to get a recommendation from them.
  5. List all the languages you speak. Knowing more than one of Belgium’s official languages increases your chances of getting an internship in Brussels’ competitive market.

The salary you’ll receive depends on the internship that you’re doing. Interns younger than 21 who are still enrolled at universities don’t receive a salary. According to Belgium law, companies aren’t allowed to pay them. But you might still get an allowance to cover your travel and lunch.

For interns older than 21, you should expect a salary of at least €751 and a contract detailing your role and the skills you’ll gain from the position. Yet, keep in mind that some companies or organisations might list your role as unpaid, so it’s important to ask how you’ll be compensated for your work.

Many organisations and companies also offer traineeships which are more difficult to get but come with better pay and career prospects.

Considering this, you should keep in mind the cost of living in Brussels. Living in Brussels is expensive. You should expect a monthly cost of living of around €1,772 to cover your rent, groceries, public transport and leisure activities. But if you look for accommodation in more affordable Brussels’ neighbourhoods, like Saint-Gilles, and prefer cycling over public transport, you can maintain a lower cost of living.

What documents do I need to intern in Brussels?

If you come from an EU/EEA country, you don’t need a visa or work permit to do an internship in Brussels. But if your internship is longer than 3 months, you’ll need a Belgian national number (Numéro de registre national/Rijksregisternummer), which you receive after registering at the municipality.

You need a work permit if you’re from outside the EU/EEA area. But if you’re doing your internship as part of your study at a Belgian university, you won’t need to exchange your student visa.

Doing an internship in Brussels for less than 90 days at a public institution or organisation that is part of an international treaty (e.g. a country’s embassy, the UN, NATO) exempts you from a mandatory work permit. You will need a long-stay visa to enter the country.

All interns who receive salary compensation have to open a Belgian bank account.

What’s the duration of my internship in Brussels?

There isn’t a fixed term for the duration of your internship as, in most cases, it will depend on the requirements of your university and the company you’ll be working for. Internships can last between 2 and 12 months, but most often are for 3 months during the summer.

Having read all there is to know about landing that dream internship in Brussels, you’re ready to apply and take the world over by storm!

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