Work permit in Belgium

visa application
Updated 2023-10-06 14:54

When moving to Belgium, you'll probably need to work to maintain a decent lifestyle. Suppose you're lucky enough to come from Switzerland or a country in the European Union or the European Economic Area. In that case, thanks to freedom of movement, you won't need to apply for a work permit. All you'll have to do is move, apply for a job, and start working.

If you don't come from Switzerland or any country that's part of the EU or EEA, then you'll need to apply for a work permit to live and work in Belgium. Employees, foreign students, interns, and au pair workers need work permits.

The different types of work permits you can find in Belgium

Belgium has three types of work permits:

  • work permit A, which applies to all categories of employees. This “permanent work permit” is available for an unlimited time with any employer;
  • work permit B, which allows you to work for only one employer. Its validity is one year;
  • work permit C is available for all wage-based occupations and with any employer, but only for a year. It's renewable.

Regardless of which permit applies to you, you'll need to apply for one of them if you want to work in Belgium.

Conditions to obtain a work permit in Belgium

There will be specific requirements to obtain these particular work permits. Look at each work permit in detail to see what's required for you to work legally in Belgium.

Work permit A

Even though you can get a type A work permit for an unlimited time, it's given only to employees who can prove that they've worked in Belgium for four years under a type B work permit. Not only that, but you'll also need to have stayed in Belgium for ten years without interruption. So basically, you'll need to have worked in the country under a type B work permit before considering applying for a type A work permit.

Do note that there's an exception to the four-year rule. If you're from one of the countries below, then you'll only need three years to qualify for a type A work permit:

  • Algeria;
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Kosovo;
  • Macedonia;
  • Montenegro;
  • Morocco;
  • Serbia;
  • Tunisia;
  • Turkey.

Even better news is regardless of which category you're in, you can cut down the years by one if you have others living with you in Belgium. More specifically, if you have a spouse, registered partner, or dependent children, you can qualify for a work permit A in two or three years.

However, not everyone can apply for a type A work permit. Those who are restricted are:

  • Au pairs;
  • Highly skilled workers;
  • Researchers and guest professors;
  • Specialized technicians;
  • Trainees.

Also, if your family member has a type B work permit, is self-employed, or doesn't need a work permit to be employed in Belgium, you aren't eligible for a work permit A either.

Work permit B

This permit is issued only if the employer is authorized to recruit a foreign worker for the available vacancy. They usually have to prove they couldn't find a suitable candidate within Belgium through a labor market test. The exception is if you're filling a shortage occupation. Essentially, your employer sponsors you to come to work for them.

Your employer must offer you a salary above the set wages for highly qualified Belgian employees and executive workers. They can calculate this by considering the gross salary, end-year bonuses (taxable), and other allowances and benefits (also taxable).

Also, you need to be outside of Belgium at the time of the work permit B application. You can't just move to Belgium, look for a job, and then apply for a work permit B. This permit is intended to move outside talent into Belgium, not hire existing talent there. So if the Belgian government discovers you're already in the country and apply for this work permit, you'll be denied.

Work permit C

This permit is issued to foreign citizens legally staying in Belgium for a limited period or those in situations of fragility. Work permit C is mainly reserved for students, interns, asylum seekers, and migrant agricultural domestic workers. If you're the spouse/registered partner or child of someone already working in Belgium, you might have to apply for a work permit C.

How to ask for a work permit in Belgium

In general, the employment services in the regional administrations of Wallonia, Brussels- Capital, Flanders, and the German-speaking community take care of work permit applications. Application forms can be collected on-site or directly at the administration's site, which the seeker depends on.

Other conditions might prevail in some cases, such as people holding a precarious right to stay in Belgium or citizens from countries with international agreements with Belgium. Don't forget to ask for more details from the regional administration you depend on when applying for your work permit.

Work permit A

Employees have to apply for a work permit A. The application form, which is available online or at the appropriate administration, must contain the following documents:

  • information sheet countersigned by the burgomaster of your home address;
  • a double-sided copy of your current residence permit;
  • a copy of the individual account that justifies the aforesaid working years (three or four, depending on your nationality; it may be two or three if you meet the requirements);
  • copies of all the work permits obtained before the application for a work permit A;
  • copies of your previous payslips.

You must apply for a work permit A at your local immigration office. Your municipality will notify you when your work permit has been approved so you can collect it.

Otherwise, you'll be notified by mail if you've been rejected. Don't be disheartened, as you can always appeal by reapplying. Make sure you do this within one month with a registered letter.

Work permit B

As for a work permit B, the employer has to apply for it in cooperation with the future employee. The form needs to have the following appendix:

  • A copy of the letter from the Foreign Bureau stipulating that an application for a work permit B has to be made to regularise the employee's working situation;
  • A copy of the work contract (original), dated and signed by both parties (employer and employee);
  • A medical certificate that's under three months old;
  • A copy of the employer's ID card.

You can contact your country's Belgian embassy once you receive word that your work permit application has been approved. From there, you should apply for a residence visa.

Do note that if you switch employers, you must apply for a new work permit and a residence visa.

After the year's up, your employer will have to reapply for another work permit B. They must do this a month before it expires to ensure you always have a valid work permit. If you're ever rejected for any reason, you must appeal within a month if you decide to pursue this course of action.

Work permit C

If you need a work permit C, your employer must apply for it. The application form must contain the following documents:

  • Information sheet countersigned by the burgomaster of your home address;
  • a double-sided copy of your current residence permit.

As we've said before, this work permit is only for temporary residents and is valid for a year, which means you should only need the type C work permit once. However, some extenuating circumstances might mean you need to renew the work permit. In this case, your employer might be able to renew it for you. As with the other work permits, they must apply at least one month before the expiry date, and if you receive a rejection, you can appeal it, so long as it's within a month of the rejection date.

Professional cards in Belgium

It's becoming more common for people to be self-employed, so you might be wondering which work permit you need to get if you're going this route.

The fact is, you won't have to apply for any of the above permits. Instead, you can apply for a Professional Card ("carte professionelle" or "beroepskaart"). These cards are valid for five years, but you need to prove that your work will be financially beneficial to Belgium.

For a Professional Card, you need to provide the following:

  • Your passport;
  • A medical certificate;
  • A police certificate;
  • Two identity photos;
  • Your business plan (maximum of 20 pages);
  • Your qualifications;
  • Right of residence (if you don't already have this, you can apply for it with the Professional Card simultaneously).

To apply for this card, there are two ways to do so. First, if you're outside Belgium, you can go to the Belgian consular in your country. Otherwise, you can go to a recognized enterprise counter in Belgium.

Once you've applied for and received your Professional Card, you must go to an enterprise counter again. You'll register with the Enterprise Crossroads Bank and get your enterprise number here. You must also register for VAT and a social insurance fund for the self-employed.

For those working as agents for a company, you need to follow the steps in the following paragraph. However, if you're a partner or executive director, you only need to register with a social insurance fund.

After the five years are up, you can renew easily, so long as you've kept up with all your financial obligations, such as tax in Belgium. Ensure you apply at least three months before the expiry date to avoid having an expired Professional Card.

European Blue Card in Belgium

Another “work permit” of interest to you might be the European Blue Card. It's a combination of a work and residence permit. Those who are highly skilled employees who aren't from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland are eligible for this card. You're exempt if you're from the EU, EEA, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, United States, Azores, Canary Islands, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Madeira, Martinique, Réunion, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, Aruba, Ascension, Bonaire, British Antarctic territories, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Falkland Islands, French Antarctic & Australian territories, French Polynesia, Mayotte, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saba, Saint Helena, Saint Pierre & Miquelon Greenland, Saint Eustatius, Saint Martin, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, Tristan da Cunha, Turk & Caicos Islands, Wallis & Futuna.

To apply for the European Blue Card, you need:

  • A master's degree (or equivalent);
  • At least five years' experience in your field;
  • A work contract for highly qualified employment for one year, minimum;
  • Meet the minimum salary threshold.

Essentially, this card gives you and your family members freedom of movement within the EU, except for a few countries that have opted out of this scheme:

  • Denmark
  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Switzerland

Intra-corporate transfers in the EU

This is similar to the European Blue Card. The intra-corporate transfers (ICT) directive lets you work in various parts of the EU as either a third-national foreigner or non-EU citizen. However, as the name suggests, this is only available for corporations that span the EU and need you across these locations.

This type of transfer is available for managers, specialists, and trainees. However, do note that the directive only lasts one to three years. Also, the implementation of this directive has been delayed in Belgium, so it's not currently a route you can take, although it will be in the near future.


It's important to know that these lists aren't exhaustive. Depending on your situation, your residence permit in Belgium, your country of origin, and your status (student, asylum seeker, or foreign worker with a precarious position), additional documents might be required to complete your application. Don't forget to seek further information at the employment services in your home address concerning all the detailed documents required. It'll avoid back-and-forth situations and will make your application easier.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.