1. Requirements for Foreign Employees to Work
(i) EEA Nationals
European treaties provide for the free movement of persons within the European Economic Area (European Union and Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein – EEA). This means that employees who are citizens of one EEA Member State are, in principle, free to work in another Member State without a work permit.
(ii) Non-EEA Nationals
In principle, every non-EEA national working in Belgium must be in the possession of a work permit, although some categories of employees are exempt from this requirement or benefit from relaxation.
There are three types of work permits:
- Work permit A: valid for all kinds of employment, for all employers, professions and sectors and for an indefinite duration. Only a limited number of applicants qualify for this type of permit, e.g. foreign nationals who can prove 4 working years that are covered by a work permit type B, during a maximum and uninterrupted residence period of 10 years.
- Work permit B: valid for one specific position with one specific employer. This work permit is valid for a maximum of 1 year, but can be renewed.
- Work permit C: valid for all employers and for foreigners having a temporary right of residence in Belgium. This is usually issued to migrant agricultural or domestic workers. These permits are generally not renewable.
Prior to the foreign employee entering Belgian territory, the employer must obtain an employment authorization from the competent regional minister.
Both the work permit and the employment authorization documents have to be obtained prior to the commencement of any activities in Belgium. In practice, both applications are filed at the same time by the employer or his/her agent.
Depending on the foreign national’s country of origin, he may need a visa in order to have access to the Belgian territory. Moreover, at his/her arrival, the foreign employee must also apply for a Belgian residence permit (foreign identity card A).