EU citizens don’t need a visa in order to enter Belgium. If you are not a EU citizen, you best talk to your nearest Belgian Embassy to find out Special VISA Waiver programs for some countries outside of the EU. In any case you will need to address this embassy before moving to Belgium.
Non EU residents should always obtain a work permit before starting to work in Brussels or Belgium. For residents of new member states to the EU All non-EEA nationals and some “new” EU citizens who want to work in Brussels are legally obliged to obtain a permit. The transitory period for the “new” EU member states, Romania and Bulgaria expired on 31 December 2013, so they may now work freely in Belgium. Croatians, however, are still subject to transitory regulations and must, therefore, obtain a work permit. The following types of work permit are available:
- A Permit:This one is only aimed at foreigners already working in Belgium on a B Permit. It is exclusively granted to people who have been working in Belgium for a minimum of four out of ten years. The advantage of an A Permit is that its holders are no longer tied to a specific job and can change employers at will.
- B Permit:Your prospective employer needs to obtain this on your behalf before you start working in Belgium. It is valid for one year and commits you to the job for which it was originally granted. The employer must prove that the vacancy cannot be filled by anyone already working in Belgium.
- C Permit:People with a limited residency status, e.g. students or refugees, can apply for this permit if they want to take up temporary work. C Permits are not tied to a specific job or employer.
Obtaining a Work Permit
A B Permit will automatically be granted if your employer has received authorization to employ you. You need this work permit to apply for your visa. If you want to upgrade from a B Permit to an A Permit, you should contact the Brussels authority responsible for work permits: the Cellule permis de travail (Work Permit Unit) of the Ministère de la Région Bruxelles-Capitale (Ministry of the Brussels-Capital Region), Gare du Nord(Brussels North Station), Rue de Progrès 80, 1035 Brussels
There are three types of work permit in Belgium:
- A C permit is valid for only one year, allowing the holder to work for multiple employers. This is usually issued to migrant agricultural or domestic workers. C permits generally aren’t renewable.
- A B permit is valid for one employer and runs for one year, after which it can be renewed (by the same employer, usually for the same job or job classification). If you change employers, your new employer must apply for a new B permit. You may find that you have to return to your home country and re-apply for a residence visa before you can start your new job! Once you’ve renewed a B permit four or more times, i.e. have lived and worked in Belgium for five years on the same permit, you can receive an unlimited A permit.
- An A permit allows you to work for any employer in Belgium for an unlimited period of time. These permits are issued only to the following categories of applicant: the spouse of an A permit holder, the non-EU spouse of a Belgian national, the non-EU spouse of an EU national legally resident in Belgium, and any foreigner with five years’ uninterrupted (legal) residency in Belgium.
Professional Cards are suitable for the self-employed who want to work in Belgium. Cards are valid for 5 years and are limited to a precise field of practise.
Self-employed professionals from outside the EU must apply for a professional card (carte professionale/beroepskaart) in order to work in Belgium. A professional card can be issued for a period of five years. You’ll need a passport, medical certificate and a police certificate in addition to proof of your qualifications in your profession. Be sure to check with a Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country, as some professions require specific proof that you’re already established in your field.
The renewal of Professional Cards does not usually pose any problems.
Exemption from the work permit
The main categories of foreign nationals exempt from the work permit requirement are as follows:
- Nationals of a member state of the European Economic Area (EEA) and their spouses, their descendants aged under 21 years or who are still dependent on them, relatives in the ascending line who are dependent on them and their spouses.
- The spouse of a Belgian and their descendants aged under 21 or who are dependent on them, their dependent relatives in the ascending line and their spouses.
- Foreign nationals in possession of a residence permit.
- Foreign nationals authorised or admitted for an unlimited period of time.
- Acknowledge refugees in Belgium.
- Students staying legally in Belgium to work only during school holidays (the Christmas holidays, the Easter holidays and the summer holidays).
- Students on training courses that are mandatory for their studies in Belgium.
- Apprentices hired under the terms of an apprenticeship or sandwich course contract.