What is the change? As of Jan. 1, all three regions of Belgium have introduced a single work-and-residence permit system under the European Union directive that unifies work and residence permit procedures for non-EU/EEA workers across the EU.

What does the change mean? Each region will have its own rules regulating the issuance of work and residence permits, and employers should prepare to follow different processes, eligibility criteria, documentary requirements, validity periods, quotas or other rules for each region. Employers will initially be required to submit a single application for both work authorization and residence to the applicable region, and thereafter both the regional and federal immigration authorities will process the application.

  • Implementation time frame: The single permit was introduced Jan. 1. A one-year transition period for those holding existing work permits under the current system will end Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Visas/permits affected: Single work-and-residence permits for non-EEA foreign nationals intending to work and live in Belgium for more than 90 days. Non-EEA nationals who intend to stay in Belgium for up to 90 days are not affected.
  • Business impact: Businesses should prepare for regional variations in the work-and-residence permit process. The introduction of an online application system should help streamline procedures in the long term.
  • Impact on processing: Permits must be processed within four months. It is expected that processing times will be similar to the current time frame of six to eight weeks, but during the first few months of implementation, processing times are expected to lengthen to around three to four months.

Background: Under the new process, employers will need to submit a completed application with all supporting documentation to regional authorities, who will issue a conditional work authorization. The file is then transferred to federal immigration authorities to determine entry eligibility and approve issuance of a visa by the appropriate Belgian consulate. The single permit is then issued by the commune to authorize both work and residence and will be valid for up to three years, depending onthe employment contract or assignment letter.

The 2011 EU single permit directive aimed to simplify the work and residence permit process for non-EU/EEA nationals by unifying it into a single application system with common rules across the EU. Belgium did not meet the Dec. 25, 2013 deadline for member states to implement the directive into national law.

Analysis & Comments: Employers may experience delays as Belgian regional and federal authorities transition to the single-permit system, and companies should also prepare to comply with the varying rules in each region. Employers are also reminded that the directive requires that non-EU workers be afforded the same rights and working conditions as nationals of the host country.

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.