What is the change? The Belgian government has simplified procedures for foreigners to renew their residence permits. Renewals will now be filed directly with the Federal Foreigners’ Office and be valid for a longer period of time.

What does the change mean? The changes are likely to reduce processing time for residence permit renewals.

  • Implementation timeframe: Although not officially announced, the new procedures are being implemented now.
  • Visas/permits affected: Residence permit renewals.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals residing and working in Belgium.
  • Impact on processing times: The change is expected to decrease processing times.
  • Business impact: This should make it easier to extend an employee’s stay in Belgium. Given the longer validity period, businesses will not have to renew residence permits as frequently.
  • Next steps: File upcoming residence permit renewals directly with the Federal Foreigners’ Office.

Background: In November, Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Maggie De Block announced a new simplified process for residence permit renewals in her speech to Parliament. The Federal Foreigners’ Office has begun applying the new process, despite lack of an official public announcement.

This change represents a streamlining of the residence permit renewal process. Previously, applicants had to file at the local town hall, which forwarded the application to the Federal Foreigners’ Office. It is still permissible to file at the town hall, but this will take longer to process. The new, direct filing process is expected to decrease processing time, but it is not known yet by how much. Third parties are allowed to apply on behalf of employees. No matter where the application is submitted, it is predicted that the applicant will be required to appear in person at the local town hall to collect his or her residence permit, although this step has not been explicitly clarified.

The new procedure also extends the validity of some residence permits to a maximum period of three months beyond the date of expiry of the work permit. Previously, all residence permits were valid for only one month beyond work permit expiration. Foreign workers seeking to renew their residence permits must submit their applications at least three months before expiration of the original residence permit.

BAL Analysis: Employers should benefit from these changes which will reduce processing times and necessitate residence permit renewals less often.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Belgium. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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