Work permit

Work permit for employed foreign workers from outside the European Union

Foreign nationals must obtain a work permit in order to accept paid work in Belgium. Their employer must also be authorised to employ them (in the event of a type-B work permit).

There are three types of work permits:

  • Type-A work permit
  • Type-B work permit
  • Type-C work permit

 

For Types A and C, the formalities must be carried out by the persons involved.

For Type-B, the employer must submit the application.

There are a few exemptions.

When to request a work permit

Persons wanting to come and work in Belgium must first of all check that they meet the work permit exemption conditions. If they do, they do not need to apply for a work permit and can immediately start working in Belgium.

Likewise, employers must ensure in advance that foreign workers meet the exemption conditions. They may employ foreign workers immediately if this is the case.

These exemptions are either:

  • general: they automatically apply to any position (e.g. citizens from the European Economic Area, workers authorised to stay indefinitely in Belgium and recognised refugees). In these cases, the relevant authority does not need to be informed of the occupation and does not issue a declaration.
  • specific: these involve only a certain category of the public or a specific profession (e.g. artists and athletes subject to certain conditions). In these cases, the relevant authority does not need to be informed of the occupation and does not issue a declaration;
  • specific with the obligation to notify the relevant region before the workers take up their position (postdoctoral students, certain foreign nationals seconded to Belgium as part of their training and certain people working in management positions). In these cases, work may start as soon as the Administration has been informed. In return, the Administration sends a declaration to the employers in question.

A work permit and employment authorisation are required in all other cases.

The different types of work permits

An application must be made to obtain a work permit and/or employment authorisation for all non-exempt cases.

The Wallonia Public Service is competent to examine:

  • applications for authorisation to employ a foreign worker in a business whose headquarters or establishment unit is located within the Walloon Region (with the exception of the nine German-speaking municipalities);
  • type-A and type-C work permit applications submitted by foreign nationals resident within the Walloon Region (with the exception of the nine German-speaking municipalities).

There are three types of work permits:

Type-C work permit

A type-C work permit may be requested by persons already authorised to stay in Belgium, for example (non-exhaustive list) certain asylum seekers, certain students and certain persons authorised to reside in Belgium as part of a family reunification.

Type-C work permit

  • is of limited duration. It is valid for a maximum of 12 months and can be renewed;
  • is valid for any employer in Belgium. Employers do not need to obtain employment authorisation to employ workers with a type-C work permit;
  • is no longer valid if the holder losers their right or authorisation to stay in Belgium.

The competent authority for issuing this work permit is the Region in which the worker is resident.

Immigration Office ► Asylum-seeker► Type-C work permit

 

Type-B work permit

A type-B work permit is linked to economic immigration.

A type-B work permit is of limited duration.

Under the terms of a type-B work permit, employers can hire foreign workers if they cannot find an employee on the local labour market, including by offering a job-seeker a maximum of six months' training. A study of the labour market must be carried out in advance to determine whether the employers' needs can be met locally.

Employers must obtain employment authorisation and workers then automatically receive a type-B work permit. This permit allows them to carry out the requested job for the authorised employer. Employers must submit their employment authorisation application before the foreign worker arrives in Belgium.

This permit is valid only for countries with which an international agreement has been signed (exhaustive list: Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia). For other nationalities, employment authorisation can only be granted in individual cases that are of interest for economic or social reasons.

The employment contract must be for a limited period (maximum of 12 months), in accordance with the modalities set out in the work permit legislation.

A study of the labour market is not necessary for certain special categories of worker. In this case, they do not need to be nationals of countries with which an international agreement has been signed. These workers may be present on the territory with a view to finding a job. This provision covers:

  • highly-qualified personnel or management positions;
  • researchers and visiting professors;
  • specialised technicians;
  • professional athletes and trainers;
  • young au pairs;
  • performance artists;
  • long-term residents engaging in professions where there is a shortage of skills.

Finally, highly-qualified workers who meet certain specific conditions may be employed under the European blue card scheme. This card is issued on the basis of three criteria: the worker's qualification level, the salary and the duration of the employment contract.

However, the blue card is not valid for certain categories of person who are nationals of third countries and are highly qualified (e.g. seconded workers, long-term residents, researchers, persons under temporary protection and asylum-seekers).

-A type-B work permit allows holders to obtain the right to stay.

Worker ► Type-B work permit

Employer ► Employment authorisation

 

Type-A work permit

A type-A work permit is issued to employed workers who have already worked for several years with a type-B work permit.

To obtain a type-A work permit, workers must provide proof that they have been working for four years and also fulfil three conditions:

  • be employed;
  • hold a type-B work permit that allows this type of employment;
  • hold a legal residency permit.

These four years may be reduced by one year if the worker is a national of Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria or Tunisia. They may also be reduced by a further year if the family is legally resident in Belgium together with the worker.

Certain work permits cannot be considered when assessing the granting of a type-A work permit, particularly those issued to highly-qualified personnel, researchers and/or personnel seconded abroad.

Type-A work permits are indefinite and are valid with any employer for any profession. These employers do not need to obtain employment authorisation to employ workers with a type-A work permit.

Which employers can hire a person with a work permit?

Any public or private employer in Wallonia wanting to hire a worker of foreign nationality if this worker does not have a work permit or does not have a type-A or type-C work permit.

How to proceed?

The employer initiates the procedure, unless

  • the person has a type-A or type-C work permit;
  • the person is exempt from the obligation to obtain a work permit.

A complete work permit application is examined in under one month. The procedure may take several months if there is an appeal against an initial decision to refuse the work permit.

A duplicate may be requested if the work permit is lost.

Procedure for a type-A work permit

Workers must submit a type-A work permit application to the Regional Forem Department in their place of residence.

Other documents must be attached to the application together with the form:

  • an information sheet countersigned by the Mayor of the community in which the foreign applicant lives;
  • a two-sided copy of the applicant's current residency permit;
  • a copy of the individual account proving the stated years of work;
  • a copy of all the work permits obtained by the worker.

If the case file is complete, the Forem transfers the application to the work permits service of the Wallonia Public Service (SPW) (Directorate of Employment and Work Permits).

If the application meets the legal criteria, the work permit is sent to the municipal administration in the applicant's place of residence for collection.

In the event of refusal, on the other hand, applicants receive the decision and the justification by registered letter.

Type-A work permits are of limited validity and do not therefore need to be renewed.

Procedure for a type-B work permit

Employers must submit a request for authorisation to employ workers.

The completed and signed original form, together with its annexes, must be sent to the Directorate of Employment and Work Permits.

The administration sends employers an acknowledgement of receipt within eight days. The application is then examined. Employers are then asked to supply any missing documents so that the case file can be examined.

If the application meets the legal criteria, the employment authorisation is sent to the employer and the type-B work permit to the municipal administration in the place of work or to that of the workers if they live in French-speaking Wallonia.

If employers want to retain workers after their employment authorisation has expired, they must submit an application to renew this authorisation, at the latest one month before its expiry. The administration will check whether the regulations, employment conditions and terms of the employment contract have been respected during the previous period of employment.

Procedure for a type-C work permit

Workers must submit a type-C work permit application to the Regional Forem Department (Forem Regional Department) in their place of residence.

Other documents must be attached to the application in addition to the form:

  • an information sheet countersigned by the Mayor of the community in which the foreign applicant lives;
  • a two-sided copy of the applicant's current residency permit;
  • the documents specific to each category of foreign national entitled to obtain a type-C work permit.

The Forem transfers the application to the work permit service of the Wallonia Public Service (SPW) (Directorate of Employment and Work Permits).

If the application meets the legal criteria, the work permit is sent to the municipal administration in the applicant's place of residence for collection.

In the event of refusal, on the other hand, applicants are notified by registered letter. The possibilities for appeal are set out in the explanatory notice.

Workers must request the renewal of their type-C work permit one month before the expiry of the previous type-C work permit, so that the Administration can extend the work permit and avoid any interruptions. The temporary residency conditions required for the granting of the work permit are identical.

Appeals in the event of a refusal to issue a work permit

Employers and/or workers have a period of one month to submit an appeal application if the Wallonia Public Service refuses to issue a work permit and/or employment authorisation.

In the appeal application, employers or workers must provide proof to counter the different reasons for the refusal set out in the refusal decision, in compliance with the regulations.

The appeals procedure is identical for type-A, type-B and type-C work permits.

The legislation stipulates a limited number of reasons for the refusal of employment authorisations and type-B work permits only; the regional Minister for Employment may grant an exemption to these for duly justified economic or social reasons.