Belgium generally requires you to have a work permit before you can apply for a long-stay visa.
There are three types of work permit in Belgium:
- A C permit is valid for all professions and all employers. It is valid for a limited time, and must be renewed each year.
- A B permit is valid for one employer and runs for one year, after which it can be renewed (by the same employer, usually for the same job or job classification). If you change employers, your new employer must apply for a new B permit. You may find that you have to return to your home country and re-apply for a residence visa before you can start your new job! Once you’ve renewed a B permit four or more times, i.e. have lived and worked in Belgium for four years on the same permit, you can receive an unlimited A permit.
- An A permit allows you to work for any employer in Belgium for an unlimited period of time. These permits are issued only to any foreigner who has lived and worked in Belgium for four years on a B permit and those with ten years’ uninterrupted (legal) residency in Belgium.
The B permit is the standard form of work permit for most foreigners. Applying for a B permit is the responsibility of the employer wishing to hire a non-EU foreigner. You must give your potential employer a certificate of health and three passport-size photos, which he then submits along with a copy of the proposed employment contract to the Ministry of Labour.
Before issuing the work permit, the Ministry of Labour must determine that there’s no Belgian or other EU national who can fill the position and they may send the employer candidates for the job from their lists of Belgians drawing unemployment benefit (in the case of managerial positions, the permit is usually granted with little or no question). It can take up to 12 weeks for a B permit to be granted.
Self-employed professionals from outside the EU must apply for a professional card (carte professionale/beroepskaart) in order to work in Belgium. A professional card can be issued for a period of five years. You’ll need a passport, medical certificate and proof of your qualifications in your profession. Be sure to check with a Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country, as some professions require specific proof that you’re already established in your field. For example, to qualify for a professional card as a journalist, you must produce press credentials and be eligible for a Belgian national press card; to qualify as a freelance writer, you’ll need to submit copies of published works and evidence of your income from freelancing over the past few years.
Some categories of foreign employees and self-employed (EU citizens, too) must declare their activities in Belgium before starting to work in Belgium (LIMOSA Declaration).
This article is an extract from Living and Working in in Holland, Belgium & Luxembourg. from Survival Books.