Work permits: non-EU nationals
Non-EU nationals cannot work or enter the country to seek employment without obtaining visa (the temporary residence permit) in advance, issued upon the presentation of a work permit.
Because of the requirements and high unemployment, it is difficult for non-EU nationals to obtain work permits.
Types of work permits in Belgium
Two main types of work permit currently exist: Type A and B.
Type A permits cover all kinds of salaried employment, are valid for an unlimited period and for any employer, leaving its holder free to change jobs at will. However, only a limited number of people qualify for this kind of permit: those in possession of a Type B permit who have been living and working in Belgium legally for four years or more (three years for certain nationals, depending on bilateral accords, reduced by one year when the family has already settled).
Someone eligible for a Type A permit must apply for it in person; forms are available from regional employment offices:
The municipality delivers the permit. The issuing of these permits is extremely rare and has virtually ceased.
How can I apply for a type B work permit?
Type B permits limit holders to one employer and must be renewed annually by the employer. Applications must be made by Belgian-based employers on a standard form and include a health certificate, three passport photos and a copy of the employment contract on an approved form. Also, if the worker lives in Belgium, an information sheet authenticated by the mayor of his/her municipality must be submitted.
Belgian legislation requires employers to prove that there is no source of labour, expertise or skills available on the local labour market to fill the job in question within a reasonable time-frame (except in some specific situations such as interns, au pairs, researchers etc).
The procedure can take several months but foreign companies investing in Belgium can avail of an accelerated procedure for essential start-up personnel. These applications go through the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Employment in Brussels or through the regional offices mentioned above.
What is a type C work permit?
A Type C permit is similar to a Type A but is only valid for a renewable term of one year. It is delivered to specific categories on a temporary stay status, such as spouses and children of diplomatic agents, embassy personnel, students and other holders of a special residence permit.
Exceptions for non-EU nationals
There are other exceptions and special arrangements to the rule on work permits for non-EU nationals. These concern the non-EU spouses of Belgian nationals and EU nationals living and working legally in Belgium. Others include non-Belgian/non-EU experts seconded to Belgium on special missions and non-Belgian/non-EU trainees coming to Belgium on training courses. For more information, inquire at the Belgian Consulate in your country of origin.