Virginia, US

Jan 03 2019

Reminder - Single Permit Scheme and Flemish Immigration Policies Implemented

Belgium

The situation

Significant legislation has taken effect in Belgium that implements the Single Permit scheme for foreign nationals seeking to work in Belgium for over 90 days and new policies and diverging salary thresholds in the Flanders region.

Single Permit scheme

The Single Permit scheme for foreign nationals seeking to work in Belgium for over 90 days is now in effect. The Single Permit combines work and residence authorization in a single document, issued through a single application procedure.

  • Process changes. As a reminder, the Single Permit scheme includes the following key process changes:
    • Documents required at earlier stage. Residence documents are required at the application stage of the process. Previously, these documents were submitted at the consular post after obtaining initial work authorization.
    • Pickup location required at earlier stage. Applicants are required to select a permit pickup location when filing their application; previously, applicants did not have to provide this information until a later stage in the process.
    • Longer processing times. Single Permit applications are expected to be processed in 60-135 calendar days, up from the current 20-60 days. Transition to the new process, including the alignment required between the institutions involved, is expected to cause delays during the transitional period of a few months.
    • Impact.  All pending applications, including renewal applications, submitted before January 3, 2019 will be processed under the former rules; new applications submitted on or after January 3, 2019 will be processed under the new scheme.
  • Access to labor market. As previously announced, under the Single Permit scheme, certain categories of foreign nationals who have a resident status in Belgium that is not linked to employment, including dependents and students, are now automatically granted access to the labor market.
    • Impact. Eligible foreign nationals will not require additional work authorization in order to access the labor market.



Flanders introduced new policies for foreign workers

As previously announced, the Belgian region of Flanders introduced new policies and separate minimum annual salary levels to ease work authorization requirements for foreign highly-skilled workers, young workers and shortage occupations. The changes, which are currently in effect, include:

  • Work authorization validity. The maximum validity of work authorization for foreign highly-skilled workers has increased to three years, up from one year.
    • Impact. Foreign highly-skilled workers will find it less burdensome to work in Flanders as they no longer have to renew their contracts every year.
  • Work on client sites. Foreign posted workers do not require a new work authorization to work on different client sites in Flanders if the client sites are indicated on their initial assignment letter.
    • Impact. Foreign workers can be more easily transferred to different client sites.
  • Labour market test exemptions. Employees in shortage occupations (specifically mid-level technically-skilled staff) are exempt from local labor market testing. The list of shortage occupations has been published and will be reviewed biennially.
    • Impact. It will be easier for foreign nationals to obtain jobs in shortage occupations as they do not have to ensure that a Belgian national is not available for the position.
  • Salary thresholds introduced. Flanders has introduced its own minimum salary thresholds, which diverge from the Brussels and Walloons regions.
    • Highly-skilled workers: EUR 41,868 (EUR 41,739 for Brussels and Wallonia);
    • Executives: EUR 66,989 (EUR 69,637 for Brussels and Wallonia);
    • EU Blue Card applicants: EUR 50,242 (EUR 53,971 for Brussels and Wallonia); and
    • Young workers on local contracts: EUR 33,494 (no separate threshold for Brussels and Wallonia).
    • Impact. Flemish policy creates new opportunities to employ young talent and apply lower salary thresholds than in other regions of Belgium.



Background

The Single Permit offers a single application process for work and residence authorizations and creates a framework for Belgium to fully implement other EU directives such as the EU Students and Researchers Directive and the EU Intracompany Transferee (ICT) Directive, which introduce specific types of single permits for these categories.

In 2014, legislative authority related to economic migration in Belgium shifted from the federal to regional authorities. This resulted in the ability for each of Belgium’s regions to set its own individual salary thresholds, although only Flanders has chosen to do so.

Looking ahead

Although the introduction of the Single Permit and the single application process allows the implementation of the EU Student and Researcher Directive and the EU ICT Directive, further implementing legislation is required for both permit categories to become effective. The executive legislation is expected to enter into force in May 2019. Fragomen will monitor developments and provide updates when available.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to beneluxinfo@fragomen.com.