What is the change? A single work-and-residence permit system will be introduced in all three regions of Belgium on Jan. 1. The system will be in line with the EU single-permit directive that unifies work and residence permit procedures for non-EU/EEA workers across the EU.

What does the change mean? Employers should anticipate changes in the application process, such as a requirement that all application documents be completed at the initial stage when applications are submitted to regional authorities. In addition, each region will have authority to impose their own criteria and conditions based on the regional labor market and employers may need to comply with different eligibility rules, depending on where the employees will be located.

  • Implementation time frame: After the system is introduced Jan. 1, those holding existing work permits under the current system will have a one-year transition period ending Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Visas/permits affected: Single work-and-residence permits. The current work-permit system for non-EU/EEA nationals who intend to stay in Belgium for 90 days or less will not be affected.
  • Business impact: The application procedures will change and there may be regional variations to eligibility criteria. The introduction of an online application system should help streamline procedures in the long term.

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

The EU single permit directive intends to simplify the work and residence permit process for non-EU/EEA nationals into a single application system and create 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 should anticipate changes to application procedures in January and possible delays during the transition to the new system as well as the potential for added complexities for companies that employ non-EU nationals in different regions of the country. 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.