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In what circumstances is a visa required for business visitors?
A visa is required for business visitors not holding a passport issued by one of the countries referred to in Article 1(2) of Council Regulation 539/2001.
What restrictions are imposed on business visitors in terms of the work that they may undertake and their period of stay in your jurisdiction?
The following rules and legislation apply to activities that are permitted under the business visitor status:
- Under the existing legislation, business visitors may attend conferences, specialised seminars and business meetings.
- Annex 10D of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) outlines permitted business visitor activities.
- The proposal for a new EU Blue Card Directive (replacing EU Directive 2009/50/EC) provides for an autonomous definition of ‘business activity’.
With regard to the permitted period of stay under the business visitor status, the following rules concerning length of stay apply:
- A business visitor may stay for 20 consecutive calendar days and a maximum of 60 days per calendar year to carry out genuine business activity. This time must be distinguished between the short stay visa validity and the right to stay for business purposes.
- CETA provides for more favourable conditions (ie, 90 days in any six-month period) and a new category of ‘business visitors for investment purposes’ (which allows for a maximum period of stay of 90 days in any six-month period).
The proposal for a new EU Blue Card Directive provides for the concept of short-term intra-EU mobility (ie, enter and stay to carry out a business activity in one or several EU member states for up to 90 days in any 180-day period).
Application and entry
How are business visitor visas obtained and what is the typical turnaround time?
The application must be lodged at the Belgium diplomatic mission (or mission having jurisdiction to receive such applications) in the country of residence or the country of nationality. The typical turnaround time is 15 days from the date of application.
Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?
Belgium is bound by the EU common visa policy for:
- transit through the country;
- intended stays of a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period; and
- transit through international transit areas via Belgian airports.
The list of visa waiver countries is set out in Council Regulation 539/2001 as amended.
Visa facilitation agreements concluded by the European Union are binding in Belgium.
Fast-track and free-of-charge visas are issued to third-country nationals who are family members accompanying EU nationals.
Belgium has concluded bilateral visa waiver agreements, preceding the Schengen Agreement. Such bilateral agreements can be enforced under certain conditions.
On September 21 2017 CETA provisionally entered into force, pending the completion of the necessary ratification procedures. The provisional applications exclusively concern those parts within the competence of the European Union.
However, provisional implementation and further ratification by the EU member states is pending, awaiting the European Court of Justice ruling on a request referred by Belgium.
What rules and procedures apply for visitors seeking to undertake short-term training in your jurisdiction?
Business visitors are not authorised to undertake training in Belgium.
The Royal Decree of June 9 1999 provides the different training categories, some of which are work permit exempt.
In what circumstances is a transit visa required to pass through your jurisdiction? How is it obtained?
Nationals of the third countries listed in Annex IV of EU Regulation 810/2009 must hold an airport transit visa when passing through the international transit areas of airports situated on Belgian territory.
The categories of persons exempt from this requirement are provided in Article 3.5 of the regulation.
Airport transit visas are issued pursuant to Article 26 of the regulation.
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