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Unsponsored immigration

Highly skilled individuals

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for highly skilled foreign nationals to seek employment in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

National legislation provides for the concept of highly qualified workers; professional experience is not recognised.

In principle, highly qualified workers are eligible for sponsored immigration routes only. Exceptions are not derived from the concept of highly qualified workers, but rather through routes that are available to them as well (ie, if they are first admitted for purposes other than work).

Entrepreneurs

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Entrepreneurs seeking to establish a company in Belgium must refer to the national legislation regulating such matters. With regard to the right of entry, stay and settlement, entrepreneurs are bound by the same rules as other third-country nationals.

Investors

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for foreign investors seeking to invest in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Investment alone is not a ground to gain the right to work and stay in Belgium.

Ancestry

Are any immigration routes open to foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

Yes. Immigration routes are open on the grounds of descent and, in certain cases, ancestry.

Other routes

Are there any other unsponsored immigration routes?

Yes. Other unsponsored immigration routes are available, including self-employment and long stay for private reasons.

Extensions, permanent residence and citizenship

Extensions and status changes

Can short-term visa or work permit holders switch to long-term visas? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Short-stay visas (C visas) cannot be converted to long-stay visas (D visas). However, certain categories of third-country nationals may switch from short stay to long stay.

Under what conditions can long-term visas be extended?

Long-stay visas cannot be extended.

Permanent residence

Can long-term visa holders apply for permanent residence? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Long-stay visas must be converted to local residence permits.

The main criteria that third-country nationals must satisfy in order to apply for permanent residence are:

  • a lawful and uninterrupted stay for a period of five years immediately preceding the application;  
  • a stable, regular and sufficient means of subsistence to meet their own needs and those of any dependants to avoid becoming a burden on the public welfare system; and
  • health insurance valid in Belgium.

Posted workers are not eligible for permanent residency.

Citizenship

Can long-term visa holders or permanent residents apply for citizenship? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Long-stay visas confer no further related rights. Residence permits issued to third-country nationals holding long-stay visas are considered in the context of applications for citizenship.

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