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Belgian Single Work Permits: Finally Some Good News?

Feb.20.2020

Since January 1, 2019, and following the implementation of the EU Single Permit Directive, employers wishing to hire or post a national from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) in or to Belgium have needed to file a single permit application. 

Although the EU legislator’s aim was to simplify and shorten the work and residency permit procedure, in practice the opposite happened. In Belgium it takes now 3 to 4 months to obtain a single permit compared to 4 to 6 weeks preciously. What is more, because of local specificities in visa D application procedures in the Belgian embassies in some countries, it sometimes takes even longer for an employee to be able to start work.  

And when a single permit needs to be renewed, this can be even more problematic from a timing perspective. Employers have to file a renewal application between three and two months before the expiry of the existing permit and applications filed earlier than this are not taken into consideration. However, it can take more than three months to obtain a decision. As a result, employment sometimes has to be suspended, with employees even on occasion having to return temporarily to their home country in the meantime.

On February 20, 2019, the Belgian Asylum and Immigration Minister announced measures aimed at reducing these waiting times:

  • From 2021 there will be a digital service desk allowing for single permit applications online (applications are currently made in hard copy) and for digital communication with the Belgian authorities. (It should be noted, however, that an online desk was already promised for this year).
  • The Foreign Affairs Service is to hire 20 additional officials. This will allow it to tackle the backlog in single permit applications.
  • Although we have no concrete details as yet, it seems that non-EEA employees will be allowed to continue working in Belgium following a simple approval from the administration should they need to work longer than initially expected, or change employer or statute. This should solve the problem of temporary returns to the home country.

Our Brussels Labor & Employment team will closely monitor these envisaged changes and keep you posted.

In the meantime, we recommend employers to continue to plan non-EEA hiring in Belgium and postings to Belgium well in advance (five or even six months prior to the envisaged starting date). 

For more information, please contact the professional(s) listed below, or your regular Crowell & Moring contact.

Emmanuel Plasschaert
Partner – Brussels
Phone: +32.2.282.4084
Email: eplasschaert@crowell.com
Evelien Jamaels
Counsel – Brussels
Phone: +32.2.214.2814
Email: ejamaels@crowell.com
Stefanie Tack
Counsel – Brussels
Phone: +32.2.282.1848
Email: stack@crowell.com