In short, the procedure goes as follow. The employer submits the request for the single permit (stay and employment) at the competent Regional administration with all the necessary documents. The Region (Brussels, Flanders, Wallonia or the German Speaking Community), will control its competence, the completeness and the admissibility of the request. If the request is not complete, the employer has 15 days to send additional documents. If it is complete, it will send the file to the Federal Foreigners Office within 15 days after the decision on the admissibility. The first check by the Region can take up to 30 days (and more if the request is not complete). Next, the Foreigners Office will do a security check and the Region will examine the conditions for a work permit. The Region and Foreigners Office must take a decision within 4 months. If positive, the decision will be notified to the employee, the employer and to the diplomatic post (to extend a visa to the employee) or the community (to extend a temporary permit to stay in Belgium). After this, the employee can start working and he will receive the single permit when the authorities have controlled his residence. If the decision is negative, various administrative appeals are possible.
The single permit is not without controversy for several reasons. First, it is a very late implementation of EU Directive 2011/98/EU, which caused the European Court of Justice to condemn the Belgian State (C-564/17). Second, the procedure can take up to more than 4 months, while the standard term of the old procedure was between 4 and 6 weeks. The rumoured lack of personnel at the Foreigners Offices makes the experts wonder whether the administration is up to its new tasks. Third, there is a problem with the Brexit, as UK citizens are currently not allowed to apply for a single permit. Because EU citizens are exempted, a UK application will be simply dismissed. However, in case of a hard Brexit, UK citizens will suddenly be third country nationals and they will have to apply for a single permit in order to start or continue their stay and work in Belgium. As seen, this could take up to more than 4 months. Fourth and last, the fact that the regions are competent for work permits did not only make the implementation of the EU directive extremely complicated, but also allows the Regions to lay down their own conditions for work permits. Flanders has already done this in a Decision of 7 December 2018. The other Regions (Wallonia and Brussels) might follow soon and even the German speaking Community can stipulate its own rules in the future. Therefore, the single permit procedure is the perfect treat for lawyers who love legal mazes, but it might turn out to be a nightmare for employers and foreign employees.