Expanding your horizons? A guide for professional migration to Belgium

Located in the heart of Europe and home to many institutions and multinational corporations, Belgium is an irresistible magnet for talented professionals expanding their horizons. While Belgium has many opportunities, they are sometimes hard to find unassisted, hidden behind red tape, and administratively complex. To navigate this complexity, our specialists outline the general features of the Belgian professional migration system in this general explanatory note.

Belgium, a small country divided in regions

First, Belgium is divided into three regions (Brussels, Flanders, and Wallonia) that share their responsibilities with the federal government. More precisely, the regions are competent for work permits, while the federal government is responsible for residence permits. Consequentially, the applicable legislation partially depends on the region where one will live and work.

However, for a couple of years now, Belgium has the so-called “single permit” system: a visa granting both the right to reside and to work.  This permit streamlines the process for third-country nationals (non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens) wishing to live and work in Belgium. Instead of obtaining separate permits for residence and work, applicants can apply for this “single permit”, which covers both aspects in one.  

Single permit

To obtain a single permit, one needs a job offer from a Belgian employer (or an established branch of certain foreign employers). Importantly: the employer will initiate the visa request by submitting an application on behalf of the employee.  We assist the employer and the employee during this process, which requires quite some administrative steps and paperwork.  

The procedure usually takes about 3 to 4 months from the time the file is submitted to the delivery of the work permit. Afterwards, there will be approximately a one-month period for the residence permit.

However, not every professional activity translates automatically into a work permit. On the contrary, every region distinguishes several categories of workers, each with its specific requirements.  The most frequent categories are: high-skilled workers, management positions,  shortage occupations, artists and specialised technicians.  

Which category are you?

1. High-skilled worker

For highly skilled workers, two criteria deserve particular mention: the salary requirements and education prerequisites. First, one must have an equivalent degree in higher or university education, which is at least of a bachelor or master level that lasts at least three years or leads to educational qualification level 5.

Second, a minimum gross salary requirement applies, depending on age and type of employment contract (basically between 2.600 and 3.900 EUR monthly depending on the case).

Last, one will receive a valid single permit for the same duration as the employment contract if the latter does not exceed three years. If the contract is signed for an indefinite period, the first permit will only be valid for three years and will have to be renewed yearly afterwards. If the contract is signed for a shorter period than three years, the permit will also be delivered only for that same period, with a possibility of yearly renewal afterwards.

2. Manager - Executive position

Managers or executives are people who manage a company (day-to-day), supervise the work of others and are allowed to represent and commit the employer.

Second, the employer can apply for an authorisation to work for the manager if the latter's annual gross salary is at least 160% of Belgium's average yearly gross salary (for 2024: 74.611 EUR).

The validity of the single permit is the same as explained before (high-skilled workers). 

3. ‘Shortage occupations’ or ‘Bottleneck professions’

Shortage occupations are professions for which there is a recognised lack of suitable employees in the job market. The government lists these occupations in a Ministerial Decree.

Consequentially, these positions are open to economic migration without the employer having to query the local labour market to see if there’s a shortage of such workers.

4. Others

When one does not fall under an established category, the employer must prove that he or she cannot find a domestic worker for the same job. This fruitless search needs to be attested through all kinds of factual evidence.

One will receive a combined permit that is valid for one year. If one stays in Belgium under these provisions for at least five years, one can apply for a long-term resident visa without further working requirements. Workers from the Philippines or similar countries often choose or prefer this option.

5. Specialised technicians

Foreign specialised technicians can be authorised to work in Belgium under certain conditions. Applications for an authorisation to work for a specialised technician are processed quickly and with priority.

One can work in Belgium as a foreign specialised technician if the employee comes to assemble an installation manufactured or supplied by the employer. This involves the initial start-up and any maintenance and repair work. The worker is eligible not only as a specialised employee of the foreign company but also as a specialised employee of any (foreign) entrepreneur who may be responsible for the supply.

The specialised technician can stay for a maximum of 6 months for the same project.

6. Special categories

Some other specific categories with particular requirements, are: professional athletes, artists, postdoctoral researchers, trainees, journalists, ministers of a recognised religious denomination,au-pairs, frontier workers and intra-corporate transferees.

Services and fees

Vanbelle assists both employer and employee in the whole process of visa application preparation (documents, information, general outlines), visa filing and follow-up.  We charge a competitive flat fee, depending on the type of application, making things fully transparent and financially manageable for the employer and the worker.  

Together with our partners, we also provide related expat services that a new resident may require, such as: renting a house, buying a car, managing school, cultural or social subscriptions, insurances, domestic services, etc


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