What is the change? The regional government of Flanders has drafted legislation that introduces its own work permit system for non-EEA nationals.

What does the change mean? The change breaks with previous practice in which Belgium’s three leading economic regions—Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia—adhered to uniform requirements on employing non-EEA workers.

Key provisions of the proposed regional Flemish work permits:

  • Work permits for certain categories of non-EEA workers would be issued for three years instead of the current one year.
  • A three-month extended work permit exemption would apply in specific cases.
  • The EU directive that requires a single application for both work permit and residence permit would be implemented.
  • The EU directive on posted workers that mandates equal pay for equal work in the same place would also be implemented.
  • The single salary threshold would be abolished and replaced with a reference list produced by the Flemish government on remuneration based on job functions.
  • Jobs for which local labor is in short supply would be subject to reduced work permit requirements. The Flemish government would produce a list of shortage occupations every two years.

Background: Regional authorities have in recent years sought to expand their authority over work permits for non-EEA workers to align immigration policies with their regional economic needs. A 2013 law shifted authority from the federal government to local regions to manage non-EEA nationals’ access to their regional labor markets and introduce their own work permit procedures.

Analysis & Comments: The proposal is undergoing review by the regional council and, if it is approved, employers can anticipate the Flemish work permit system taking effect as early as November. The introduction of a regional system with its own criteria and rules may complicate procedures for companies that assign non-EEA workers across the country’s various regions. The move toward a single work-and-residence permit and a longer three-year duration of work permits are welcome changes for companies in Flanders.

Source: Deloitte LLP. Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.