Long-term transfers

Categories

What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?

Qualified staff can be transferred (seconded) under the EU intra-corporate transfer (ICT) scheme or a parallel national scheme. Seconding employees to work at client sites is permitted under the national scheme. In Flanders, employees can work at other client sites (instead of their original site or at the same time).

Procedures

What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?

The process involves a single application but not a single procedure.

The procedure is initiated by an employer on behalf of their employee. Documents to support the application must be lodged with the competent regional authority.

The regional authority will first ascertain whether the application is receivable (ie, all of the required documents have been submitted).

Applications are processed subsequently or in parallel by the regional labour authority and the Immigration Office.

Period of stay

What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?

Under the EU ICT scheme, the minimum period is three months (with the exception of intra-EU mobility cases). The maximum period is three years for managers and specialists and one year for trainees.

In view of determining the maximum period, any social security agreement entered into by Belgium and the posting country must be considered.

Under the national parallel scheme, social security agreements (if relevant) and the temporary nature of the posting must be considered. Belgium’s transposition of the amended EU Posting of Workers Directive, which must take place by the end of July 2020, will bring more clarity in this regard.  

Processing time

How long does it typically take to process the main categories?

Single permits issued to employees who are hired locally or seconded to Belgium under national schemes are issued within 120 days of the day on which the application is declared receivable by the competent authority.  

In regard to EU ICT and research permits, the respective maximum delays set out by EU directives must be considered.

Staff benefits

Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?

Authorisations of employment can be obtained if the duration of work carried out does not exceed three months or the employee does not reside in Belgium. In such situations, a place of residence is not a prerequisite to obtaining an authorisation of employment.

Residence permits bestowing a right of stay for work purposes are issued only if proof of residence is provided.

Third-country nationals employed in Belgium and their family members are subject to the local social security system and are therefore entitled to local public health insurance.

Third-country nationals seconded to Belgium must have health insurance to cover their health needs and repatriation in case of an emergency. Where the posting country has entered into a bilateral agreement with Belgium in regard to health insurance – or a social security agreement covers health insurance – third-country nationals and family members are, for the entire posting period, entitled to healthcare in Belgium at the expense of the posting country.

Assessment criteria

Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?

Regional legislations give the labour authorities a certain level of discretion with regard to the admission to work (particularly in the Walloon region).

Such an admission may be subordinated to certain conditions not provided for by regional legislation. Further, in view of ascertaining whether the remuneration granted to a third-country national during the entirety of their ICT is no less favourable than the remuneration granted to nationals (where the work is carried out in a comparable position in accordance with the applicable laws or collective agreements or practices), the labour authority may consider – in addition to the means of evidence provided by the applicant – “information obtained elsewhere”. Where certain categories of employee are not bound by collective agreements, the concept of practice (provided for by EU law) and the wording ‘information elsewhere obtained’ in the regional legislation seem to leave room for a certain level of discretion.

Finally, the immigration authorities can exercise discretion when applying objective assessment criteria.

High net worth individuals and investors

Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?

Investment per se is not a ground to gain the right to work in Belgium.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) – concluded between EU member states and Canada – provides for such an immigration category. Pursuant to CETA, ‘investors’ are natural persons who:

  • establish, develop or administer the operation of an investment in a supervisory or executive capacity; and
  • commit or are in the process of committing (or whose employer commits or is in the process of committing) a substantial amount of capital.

The temporary employment of investors is permitted for one year, with possible extensions.

Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?

Under certain conditions, high-net-worth individuals may gain the right to reside in Belgium, regardless of any investment. However, it is impossible to gain citizenship solely through investment.

Highly skilled individuals

Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?

Immigration law recognises qualifications rather than skills. The main exemption is for managerial positions, provided that the minimum wage threshold set out by the relevant regional legislation is complied with.

Flanders’ regional legislation provides for the concept of (high) qualification proven by means of experience or training. The regional minister of labour has competence to make such a derogation.

Among other things, highly qualified individuals can:

  • be employed locally in Belgium;
  • be seconded to Belgium under an intra-corporate transfer; or
  • be seconded to work at customer premises.
Ancestry and descent

Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

Yes.

Minimum salary

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?

Yes. Further details can be found in the regional legislation (with regard to not only thresholds, but also other binding conditions).

Resident labour market test

Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?

There is no quota system. There is a labour market test provided for by the regional legislations.

Shortage occupations

Is there a special route for shortage occupations?

Yes.

Other eligibility requirements

Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?

Eligibility requirements apply for each category of work authorisation.

Third-party contractors

What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?

Third-party contractors are bound by regional legislation as it concerns self-employed individuals. In the context of individuals who are locally employed or seconded to work in Belgium, the concept of third-party contractors is irrelevant.

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?

Regional legislation provides no specific equivalency assessment or recognition procedure which sets out the conditions of admission to work in the capacity of an employed individual.

Regional legislation provides a qualification threshold for each relevant category.