How to find work in Leuven

Leuven
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Updated on 10 October, 2023

Leuven is located within the Flanders region in Belgium. It's a Dutch-speaking city that offers opportunities for expatriates looking for a job.

About Leuven

Leuven is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant in Belgium and is located only a few miles away from Brussels, the capital city of Belgium. It's also the largest city in the province, which makes it a promising place to find work.

Leuven's history and culture attract many tourists and make the town unique. It's also home to the Katholieke Universiteit (KU Leuven), a Catholic university. It's the largest one in all of Belgium, and the Old University of Leuven made Leuven a student city in 1425 (this university closed down in 1797). Its presence gives Leuven youth and dynamism.

Lastly, Leuven is home to the famous brewer Stella Artois and is the headquarters for Anheuser-Busch InBev, making it the Belgian beer capital.

The local economy in Leuven

Thanks to its position as the capital city of the province of Flemish Brabant, Leuven benefits from an excellent economic position within Belgium. But it's also because Leuven is home to some dynamic poles that encourage employment. Job opportunities are attractive, and several companies are potentially hiring.

As mentioned above, Leuven is home to the KULeuven, a European institution for academic research and education. The Katholieke Universiteit is over 500 years old. It's a multidisciplinary university with an international reputation. Of course, it benefits the local economy and is considered Europe's most innovative university. This is thanks to the spin-offs of the academic research performed here.

Many firms specializing in modern information management and communication technologies and biotechnology are implemented in Leuven because of the KULeuven. There's also a research center called IMEC that focuses on digital tech and nano-electrics. Thanks to IMEC's presence, companies focused on robotics, biotech, additive manufacturing, and IT have flocked to Leuven, which makes it an up-and-coming place to be employed if you're looking for work in the biotech space. You'll find most of these companies concentrated in Haasrode Research Park and the Arenberg Science Park.

The city has also attracted many prestigious private providers in the legal and medical sectors. In addition, Leuven is home to the Universitair Ziekenhuis Leuven or UZ Leuven, an academic hospital that is one of the top research institutes around. It has five campuses: Sint-Pieter and Sint-Rafaël, Lubbeek, Gasthuisberg, and Pellenberg. The hospital has almost 2,000 beds and employs nearly 10,000 workers, which is great if you're seeking a career in the medical or research fields. It's also one of Europe's most prominent academic hospitals, which means it's well-respected and has many reputable private service providers involved.

With a surface of 56.63 square meters and the Malines Canal, Leuven became recognized as a provincial capital city. Many governmental institutions chose to take residence there because of its importance in Flemish Brabant. It's also the headquarters of De Lijn, a transport company in Belgium. Not only that, but Leuven's also attracted many international companies we're sure you've heard of, such as Siemens, JSR Corporation, Nitto Denko, Huawei, and CommScope.

As mentioned earlier, Leuven is home to Anheuser-Busch InBev's headquarters. This is the largest beer company in the entire world, so you can imagine just how significant it is to Leuven's economy. Because it's the largest beer company, it should be no surprise that it's also considered one of the largest fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies. You'll find the Stella Artois Brewery and its offices sprinkled across the northeastern part of Leuven, so if you accept a job at this company, this is where you'll be spending a lot of your time.

If you're interested in the financial sector, you'll be pleased to know that Leuven is also strong in this area. It's home to KBC Bank, one of the top financial institutions in Europe. It doesn't just offer banking services but also insurance. Also, KBC Bank isn't just located in Belgium; you'll also find this bank in Central Europe and Ireland. Needless to say, employment with this company will only mean great things.

If you're settling in Leuven or simply working there, the city not only offers professional opportunities, but it's also home to many cultural institutions, cafes, restaurants, and shopping areas. And most importantly, there are several bars, as this city is rich in beer culture. This is because it has a thriving tourism industry. Leuven is known as a Flanders Art City, with plenty of attractions to entice tourists. These businesses provide numerous job opportunities, so if you can't find employment elsewhere, there will be a restaurant, cafe, or shop hiring.

As for art, you'll find the Lemmens Institute in Leuven, which is one of Belgium's music and performing arts conservatories. You should look into working at this institute if you're interested in music therapy and word art-drama, as these are the two things the Lemmens Institute is known for. There's also Kunstencentrum STUK, which is located in the city center. This cultural center and venue is involved in several types of art, including dance, music, theater, and sound art. As for contemporary and historical art, you'll want to look at jobs at the M-Museum Leuven. It displays work from world-renowned artists like Roe Ethridge and Angus Fairhurst.

Finding a job in Leuven

It's a good idea to start searching for jobs before you move to Leuven or Belgium in general since it can be stressful adjusting to living in a new place while worrying about how you'll pay rent if you're not employed. The good thing is that most employers list vacancies online, so it shouldn't be hard to browse openings and apply to them from out of the country. This is important because if you need a work permit, you can only get one type if you're recruited from out of the country (this is work permit B).

One platform worth looking into is LinkedIn. Headhunters will often use it to recruit talent, so it can make a huge difference if you have a polished profile. You can also take advantage of the site's interview and resume resources.

Once you're in Belgium, in addition to looking online, you can also browse local papers for job postings, such as De Morgen, Het Nieuwsblad, and De Standaard. There are also several employment agencies in Leuven, including Job Talent Leuven, AGO & Jobs & HR Leuven, Agilitas Leuven, Tempo-Team, Manpower Leuven, Stegmann Heverlee, and Forum Jobs Leuven. It might be beneficial to bring an updated resume to cut down on administrative work and speed up the job search process. After you've had an appointment to speak with their staff, the employment agencies will match you up with suitable vacancies. It'll be up to you to send applications and schedule interviews if you pass the vetting stage.

Work permits in Leuven

To work in Leuven (generally in Belgium), you must have legal status. The good news is that people from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland don't need to apply for a work permit to hold a job in Leuven legally. Their right to freedom of movement allows them to work in Belgium without additional paperwork and to move to and live there.

If you're originally from a country not listed above, you'll have to go through some additional paperwork to obtain a work permit. Belgium has three types of work permits: A, B, and C. Work permit B is only available to those recruited from outside the country, so keep this in mind.

Salaries in Leuven

In Belgium, the minimum wage is €1,593.81 per month. When you look at this wage on a broader scale, it's on the higher end compared with other European countries, but you should also be aware that income taxes are much higher here, with rates between 20 and 50%. The exact amount you pay will depend on your wages.

The minimum wage in Belgium might be a little more than €1,600 a month, but on average, workers earn much more than that. The average full-time employee takes in €3,832 per month and up to 47% for Master's degree holders; the average salary in Leuven is around €48,744 per year, or €4,062 per month. As you can see, the salary in Leuven is higher than the national average and even higher than for Master's degree holders. So if you find a job in Leuven, your lifestyle will improve. 

Taxes in Belgium

We've mentioned earlier that you'll pay anywhere between 20 and 50% for income tax rates. Not only does the rate depend on how much you earn, but it also depends on your residency status in Belgium.

For those only temporarily in Leuven and are still paying taxes back at home, you'll only have to pay the Belgian authorities income taxes on the money you've earned from Belgian clients. But if you're considered a legal Belgian resident, all your income will be taxed, regardless of where your clients are from and where you performed your work.

To pay your income taxes, you must wait for the tax authorities to contact you. They'll let you know if you owe anything. If that's the case for you, the deadline to pay is June 30.

To offset the burden of taxes, the Belgian government does offer expats some tax-free allowances. You'll have to investigate further to find out if you're eligible. If so, you can claim back €11,000 per year.

Commuting in Leuven

You can choose to drive to work, although we don't recommend doing so. There aren't many car parking lots, so it can be challenging to find parking in some areas. Also, many streets are blocked off for cars. Plus, road speeds capped at 30 km/h can make it challenging and even frustrating to be a car commuter in Leuven. If you still want to drive to and from work, you can take the European route E40 or the E314, which connects the city of Leuven with others in the south and with Aachen.

Leuven is also connected to the railway system for those commuting from afar. Leuven Station is connected with other cities through lines 35, 36, 36N, 53, and 139. These connect you with Aarschot, Hasselt, Liège, Schaerbeek, Schellebelle, Ottignies, and everything between these points. A little south of Leuven, you can also take the high-speed railway in Bierbeek, as this is the beginning of HSL 2, Belgium's high-speed rail network. It connects you with France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

In the city, getting around on foot or by bicycle is straightforward. Like many other Belgian cities, the infrastructure is great for cycling, so you might want to consider commuting by bike. Not only is it easy, but you can also get in shape. This is an excellent alternative to driving, especially since it can be hard to get around by car.

Another alternative is to take the bus. Most of them are run by De Lijn, a Flemish public transportation company providing Belgium with 2,240 buses and 399 trams. Not only can you travel within Leuven on these buses, but you can also be connected to other cities in the region. To travel within Leuven, take the Ringbus, which, as the name suggests, travels along the city's ring road. To get to Brussels Airport or anywhere between, take buses 616, 651, or 652.

Useful links:

Monster Job Search

Ku Leuven

Stepstone

Glassdoor

Indeed

Career Jet

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