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Global employment briefing: Belgium, October 2018

  • Belgium
  • Employment law


Single immigration permits for non-EU citizens expected as from November 2018

EU Directive 2011/98/EU

Directive 2011/98/EU has laid down a single application procedure for issuing a single permit for third-country nationals to reside for the purpose of work in the territory of a member state of the European Union, in order to simplify the procedures for their admission and to facilitate the control of their status. The deadline for transposing such provisions into national law was set at 23 December 2013. However, as the competence for residence and work permits in Belgium lays respectively with the federal government and the regional governments, Belgium was not able to meet the deadline.

Administrative simplification

Currently work permits and residence permits are granted via separate procedures. Firstly the employer must file a request for a work permit for the future employee, after which the employee applies for a visa. Upon arrival in Belgium, the employee can commence working and launch the procedure to obtain a residence permit. This process is now combined into one application and one permit document which will result in less administration for both the company and its potential employees, making working in Belgium more attractive and easier for non-EU citizens.

The single permit will only apply to economic immigrants, i.e. non-EU citizens who want to work in Belgium for a period exceeding 90 days. If the employment would last less than 90 days, the current process continues to apply.

Future process

In order to obtain a single permit, the future employer must file a request with the regional migration service, which will transfer a copy of the application to the Immigration Service. These services will have a maximum period of 4 months to assess the application. If both bodies approve the application, the single permit will be issued to the employee.

This law does not apply to applications for residence permits or work permits submitted before its entry into force. These applications remain governed by the legal provisions in force before that date. In that case, an application for a single permit must only be filed two months before the expiration of the permit.


The regional governments are currently drafting their implementing decisions and are finalizing the set-up of an electronic platform. Single permit applications are therefore expected as from November 2018.