Single work permit

Single work permit

The law dated 9 May 2018 now has a new procedure i.e. combing the work permit and residence permit in a single application and a single permit.This law is a transposition – admittedly late – of the 2011/98/EU Directive of the European Parliament and Council dated 13 December 2011 on the single application procedure for a single permit for third-country nationals to reside and work in an EU Member State.

This new single application process will apply to all applications for work permits for over 90 days. Exemptions allowing the applicant to work for over 90 days will be included in the single permit.

The single permit is both a work permit and a residence permit. Hence, they are inextricably linked. Consequently, the validity of one affects the validity of the other.

Important: this new law on the single permit will not regularise the stay of persons who are in an illegal situation in the country and thus does not concern them. It only applies to persons authorised to stay in the country for over or under three months.

It is a simplified administrative procedure for obtaining a previously authorised work/residency permit.

Therefore, the conditions for obtaining a previously valid work permit still apply (see below).

Below is a summary of the steps for this new procedure that came into force on 3 January 2019.

This procedure applies when the foreign national is already in Belgium and is authorised to stay for over or under three months.

If the worker is abroad, his/her employer must submit the single permit application to the relevant Region in Belgium. If granted, the Office des Etrangers will send its decision (appendices 46 and 47) to the relevant diplomatic or consular representation, which will issue the D visa after checking the applicant’s passport is valid, and taking the latter’s digital fingerprints and a digital photograph.

If the worker is in Belgium illegally, he/she must return to his/her country of origin in order to allow his/her employer to submit an application for an occupation permit to the relevant region in Belgium. If granted, the Office des Etrangers will send its decision (appendices 46 and 47) to the relevant diplomatic or consular representation which will issue the D visa after checking the applicant’s passport is valid, and taking the latter’s digital fingerprints and a digital photograph.

To learn more about the work permit and single permit:

A – The procedure for obtaining a single permit, issuing and appeals

B – Categories of workers concerned by the single permit and exemptions:

  1. Exemptions
  2. Workers required to obtain a work permit

A – The procedure for obtaining a single permit

1st step: submitting the application for the single permit.

The application for a single permit must be made on behalf of the foreign worker by his/her employer to the relevant Region i.e. the place where the worker actually works. The application must include all the documents and proofs required for the work permit and residence permit.

The application should be made prior to the start of the occupation. If it concerns a modification or a renewal of an existing permit, it must be submitted at least two months before the expiry of the previous permit.

In the case of an application for an unlimited work permit (i.e. work permit A or C), the worker is responsible for submitting his/her application to the relevant region i.e. that of his/her place of residence.

Once issued, the local authorities in the worker’s place of residence will renew the residence permit.

2nd step: admissibility of the application

The regional authorities will check whether the application is complete and admissible. If this is not the case, the applicant will be informed and will have 15 days in which to submit the missing documents/information. If the applicant is unable to provide this information, the application will, in principle, be declared inadmissible.

3rd step: sending the application to the Office des Etrangers

The region will then send a copy of the application to the Office des Etrangers in the 15 days following confirmation of its admissibility.

The Office des Etrangers will examine the application and the Region will examine whether the conditions for issuing the work permit have been met. If necessary, additional documents may be requested.

The Office des Etrangers then has four months, commencing when it receives confirmation of the completeness/admissibility of the application by the Region, in which to take a decision on the “residence” aspect of the application.

If no decision is taken during this period, the permits for residency and work are considered to be granted.

4th step: the decision

At this stage, several outcomes are possible:

i) Ordinary procedure

  • The Office des Etrangers will authorise the stay on the condition that the work permit is granted. If the regional authorities take a positive decision on the “work” aspect then this will be sent directly to the Office des Etrangers.
  • If both decisions are positive (i.e. work and residency), the Office des Etrangers will directly notify the foreign worker and his/her employer via the document included appendix 46.

While awaiting the physical issuing of the single permit:

  • if there is a positive decision regarding the work aspect but a negative decision regarding the residency aspect: the Office des Etrangers will inform the regional authorities and the employer but the full reasons for the refusal will only be sent to the foreign worker (appendix 48) in order to respect the latter’s privacy.
  • If a negative decision is taken regarding the work aspect, the regional authorities will inform the employer after informing the Office des Etrangers.

If a decision is taken to withdraw the single permit, the Office des Etrangers will inform the employer but not the foreign worker.

ii) Fast track decision for the “work” aspect

  • If a negative decision is taken on the work aspect in 15 days, the regional authorities will inform the Office des Etrangers, and then the employer and the foreign worker.
  • If a positive decision is taken on the work and residency aspect in 15 days, the Office des Etrangers will directly notify the employer and the foreign worker. Both decisions (work + residency) will be included in the same legal document (appendix 46).

The Office des Etrangers will send a copy of appendix 46 to the local authorities in the place of residence of the foreign worker (if he/she legally resides in Belgium) or the diplomatic or consular representation in the applicant’s country of origin.

  • If there is a positive decision regarding the work aspect but a negative decision regarding the residency aspect: the Office des Etrangers will inform the regional authorities and the employer but the full reasons for the refusal will only be sent to the foreign worker via Appendix 48 in order respect the latter’s privacy.

If a negative decision is taken by the regional authorities or the Office des Etrangers, these bodies will inform each other beforehand in order to prevent the applicant from being notified of two refusals. The full reasons for the decisions will be sent in writing.

These decisions may be appealed against.

iii) No decision after four months (possibly extended)

If no decision has been taken by the regional authorities or the Office des Etrangers in four months (possibly extended), the residence and work permits will be considered as being granted.

The Office des Etrangers will inform the foreign national (and his/her employer) via the document shown in appendix 47.

The Office des Etrangers will also send a copy of appendix 47 to the local authorities in the place of residence of the foreign worker (if he/she legally resides in Belgium) or to the diplomatic or consular representation in the applicant’s country of origin.

Issuing the single permit

If the single permit issued, the foreign national authorises, who is then authorised to stay for more or less than three months in the country:

  • will be registered on the registre des étrangers (register of aliens);
  • will be able to start working as soon as he/she receives the temporary document issued pending the permit.

If the single permit is granted to a worker residing abroad, the Office des Etrangers will send its decision (appendices 46 and 47) to the relevant diplomatic or consular representation, which will issue the D visa after checking the applicant’s passport is valid, and taking the latter’s digital fingerprints and a digital photograph.

The national mention B34 (Permis unique/Gecombineerde vergunning) will be added to the visa.

A third-country national exempted from a visa for a stay of up to 90 days is not required to apply for a D visa. He/she can travel to Belgium and visit the local authorities in his/her place of residence within 8 days of arrival in order to collect the single permit. To receive the permit, he/she must present his/her passport, appendices 46 and 47, as well as the two documents sent by the Office des Etrangers with the appendix (decision on the authorisation to work, or work certificate, and decision of authorisation of residence or residence certificate). 

Pending the residency checks and the issuing of the single permit, the foreign national will immediately be issued with Appendix 49, which temporarily authorises his/her stay for 45 days; this may be extended twice for a single duration (2 X 45 days).

If the residency checks are positive, the local authorities will issue a single document authorising the third-country national to work and stay for more than 90 days in Belgium (i.e. the single permit). This document is issued in the form of a card (temporary stay) with an indication mentioning that access to the labour market is permitted.

Workers in possession of a valid work permit may work for the same employer anywhere in Belgium provided that the conditions of the occupation permit are the same (role, salary, etc.).

The worker who is granted an unlimited duration work permit or an exemption for an unlimited period within a region, may work throughout Belgium on the basis of this authorisation. This principle may be limited if an overriding reason of public interest justifies it (e.g. serious disruption of the employment market).

The single work permit, as set out in the Directive, enables Member States to indicate whether the foreign national is allowed to work or not. Similarly, the single permit specifies whether this authorisation is unlimited or limited to one employer and/or a specific region in Belgium.

If the reason for coming to Belgium is other than to work and a residence permit is issued, there will be a specific indication regarding access to the employment market.

Permits A, B and C will remain, in principle, subject to the conditions for obtaining the authorisation to work but will no longer be issued physically. Everything will be contained in the single permit.

There are three possible indications on the single permit:

  • “Employment Market: limited”; (permit B)
  • “Employment Market: unlimited”; (exempt, permit A or permit C))
  • “Employment Market: no”.

Addition of a transition period at the end of the year of employment

To prevent legal foreign nationals from falling into an irregular situation at the end of their year of employment on a single permit, the new legislation provides for the stay to lapse automatically after a period of ninety days following the expiry of the work authorisation.

This 90-day period allows the foreign national to find another job and submit a new application for a single permit without losing his/her automatic right to stay in the country.

Appeals

If the outcome of the application is negative, the applicant has the right to appeal the decision.

As there are two separate authorities (one responsible for the stay and one for the work), separate appeals have to filed with each authority. Therefore,

  • concerning the “work” aspect: the appeal must be filed with the relevant regional Ministry in charge of labour matters.
  • concerning the “stay” aspect: the appeal must be filed with the Conseil du Contentieux des Etrangers en Belgique (NB: the council for asylum and immigration proceedings in Belgium)

B – Categories of workers concerned by the single permit

1° Exempt workers

The royal decree dated 2 September, 2018 implementing the law dated 9 May, 2018 relating to the occupation of foreign nationals in a particular residence situation sets out a number of situations in which a foreign worker can work without having to obtain prior authorisation.

It concerns the following workers:

  • nationals of Member States of the European Economic Area, as well as the nationals of the Swiss Confederation (art. 4)
  • foreign nationals in possession of one of the documents stipulated by the royal decree dated 30 October 1991 with regard to the residence documents in Belgium of certain foreign nationals for assuming functions that give them the right to obtain these documents (art. 5)
  • the spouse and underage children of the nationals described in the article 5, if these are nationals of a country bound to Belgium by a reciprocal agreement, and in accordance with the stipulations of this reciprocal agreement. (art. 6)
  • foreign nationals taken on as an apprentice before the age of 18 bound by an internship contract or a work-linked training contract approved by the relevant authority (art. 7).
  • recognised refugees in Belgium (art. 8)
  • foreign nationals who, as a student, complete obligatory training in Belgium for the purposes of their studies in Belgium, in a Member State of the European Economic Area or Swiss Confederation (art. 9), and only in the framework of training.
  • foreign nationals holding a certificate of registration on the aliens register, temporary residence in accordance with the template in appendix 6 of the royal decree dated 8 October 1981 provided that this document is held by a person belonging to one of the following categories:
    • 1° apprentices bound by an apprenticeship contract or a work-linked training contract approved by the competent authority, only for labour in the framework of their apprenticeship or work-linked training;
    • 2° foreign students (authorised to allowed to stay on this basis only) are allowed to work during school holidays and/or outside school holidays provided that their occupation does not exceed twenty hours per week and is compatible with their studies;
    • 3° beneficiaries of an international “work vacation” agreement binding Belgium and subject to the limits of this agreement;
    • 4° persons whose residence is authorised pursuant to articles 9, 9bis, 9ter and 13 of the law dated 15 December 1980;
    • 5° persons who are granted subsidiary protection status during the period within which their residence is limited;
    • 6° persons authorised to reside as beneficiaries of the temporary protection referred to in article 57/29 of the law dated 15 December 1980 by the minister in charge of access to the territory, stay, establishment and return of the foreigners, or the minister’s delegate;
    • 7° unaccompanied foreign minors as referred to in article 61/14 of the law dated 15 December 1980 where the recognised sustainable solution is for them to reside in Belgium in accordance with article 61/20 of the same law;
    • 8° persons who have obtained a positive final decision about a right of residence on the basis of article 10 or 10bis of the aforementioned law dated 15 December 1980 except family members of a student;
    • 9° persons whose residence is authorised in the framework of measures to combat trafficking in human beings;
    • 10° the spouse and children of nationals holding one of the documents referred to in article 5 of this decree. (art. 10)
  • foreign nationals authorised or admitted for an unlimited stay (art. 11)
  • foreign nationals issued with an alien’s identity card (art.12)
  • foreign nationals issued with an alien’s “long-term resident” identity card (art. 13)
  • foreign nationals holding a “residence permit” (permanent or not) as an EU citizen’s family member (F or F + card) (art. 14 and art. 15)
  • foreign nationals invoking the right of residence on the basis of Article 40bis or 40ter of the law dated 15 December 1980, in possession, during the examination period of the application for recognition of the right of residence of an Annex 19ter (art. 16)
  • foreign nationals, spouses of Belgians or of nationals of a Member State of the European Economic Area, holding a document in accordance with the template in appendix 15 of the royal decree dated 8 October 1981 as a cross-border worker, provided that these persons possess, in the State where they reside, a right of residence or a residence permit for over three months. (art. 17)
  • foreign nationals holding a model A registration certificate, in accordance with appendix 4 of the royal decree dated 8 October 1981, provided that the person holding this document belongs to one of the following categories:
    • 1° people invoking the privilege of a right of residence on the basis of article 10 or 10bis of the law dated 15 December 1980, during the examination period for the recognition application with regard to the right of residence, with the exception of family members of a student;
    • 2° people who, within the framework of the fight against human trafficking, have received a residence permit for at least three months;
    • 3° people seeking international protection who, four months after having submitted their request for international protection, have not received a notification of the decision of the Commissariat général aux Réfugiés et aux Apatrides (NB: general commissioner for refugees and stateless persons) to reject the request, until the final decision (art. 18).
  • foreign nationals in possession of an Annex 35 in the context of an appeal before the Conseil du Contentieux des Etrangers (NB: the council for asylum and immigration proceedings, Belgium) and until a decision is notified by the latter and provided that he/she belongs to one of the following categories:
    • 1° people invoking the privilege of a right of residence on the basis of article 40bis or 40ter of the law dated 15 December 1980;
    • 2° people invoking the privilege of a right of residence on the basis of article 10 or 10bis of the law dated 15 December 1980, except for family members of a student;
    • 3° asylum seekers who, four months after having applied for asylum, received the authorisation to work, in application of the aforementioned article 18, 3°. (art. 19)
  • foreign nationals in possession of an Annex 15 pending the issuing of a residence permit concerned by one of the exemptions (art. 20).
  • foreign nationals whose work duration in the country is less than 3 months.

2) Workers required to obtain a work permit

Generally, the occupation permit is only granted if it is not possible to find a suitable candidate in the Belgian labour market and in a reasonable time frame even by offering adequate professional training.

Moreover, the foreign worker must be a national of a country with which Belgium is bound by international labour agreements except in the case of a worker belonging to a special category as set out in article 9 of the royal decree dated 9 June 1999 (see below). Otherwise, the work permit application may be rejected.

An occupation permit can be obtained in 4 situations.

Situation 1. Special categories

The occupation falls into one of the categories described in art. 9 of the royal decree dated 9 June 1999 i.e.

  • Trainees aged 18 to 30 who are undergoing a traineeship of a maximum duration of one year as a continuation of previous training attested by a diploma or certificate of study (art. 9.5).
  • Highly qualified persons or mangers whose social security contributions are paid in Belgium:
    • the highly qualified person (holding a higher education qualification as a minimum) must receive a remuneration higher than 41.739 Euros (amount applicable as of January 2019). A ‘B work permit’ can only be granted for a maximum of two four-year periods.
    • Employees in management positions must receive a gross monthly salary of at least €69,637 per year (amounts valid as of January 2019).
  • Visiting researchers and professors employed at a university, higher education institution, a recognised scientific institution or the research department of a company for a maximum period of four years.
  • Specialised technicians working for a company based abroad who come to Belgium to set up, commission or repair a piece of equipment manufactured or delivered by their employer abroad.
  • Workers posted to Belgium to receive professional training in the framework of a sales contract for a maximum period of 6 months.
  • Athletes and their trainers/coaches as long as their gross annual remuneration is greater than €81,600 (amount in effect since 1 July, 2018).
  • Persons holding a position of responsibility in a foreign airline or a tourism office of their country and whose social security contributions are paid in Belgium.
  • Posted employees holding a position of responsibility in a foreign airline or a tourism office of their country.
  • Au pairs who temporarily live with a family and receive board and lodging in return for small everyday family tasks with the aim of improving his/her language skills and increasing his/her general knowledge of the country.
  • Performing artists whose gross annual remuneration exceeds 34.179 Euros (amount valid for 2018).
  • The spouse, registered partner or children of a foreign worker (art. 9.16) having a B permit or self-employed status.
  • The spouse, registered partner and children of certain foreign workers are exempt from the single work permit (e.g. the spouse, registered partner and children of foreign nationals residing in Belgium with diplomatic status, etc.).

Workers coming to Belgium to follow a training course of over three calendar months at the headquarters of a Belgian or multinational group to which his/her company belongs and subject to a training contract drawn up by the headquarters of said group:

  • Non-nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA =, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and United Kingdom) and who are employed by a company based in a Member State of the European Economic Area;
  • Foreign nationals indicated in article 10: Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Morocco, Montenegro, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey, as well as new EU Member States (Croatia);
  • Foreign nationals from a Member State of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and in particular: Australia, Canada, Chile, South Korea, USA, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Turkey;
  • Workers coming to Belgium to follow a training course at the headquarters of a Belgian or multinational group to which his/her company belongs and subject to a training contract drawn up by the headquarters of said group:
    • Non-nationals of a Member State of the European Economic Area who work in a company established outside the European Economic Area;
    • Non-nationals of a Member State that signed the Convention on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on 14 December 1960;

When the worker falls into one of these categories and provided that there is an international agreement on occupation between Belgium and that the worker’s country of origin is not applicable.

2) Situation 2. Long-term residents of another EU Member State exercising a profession in short supply

Third-country nationals who are in possession of a “long-term EC resident” residence permit issued to them by another Member State may obtain a work permit if their profession is recognised as experiencing a labour shortage.

Important: the fact that a third-country national is living and/or working for a long period of time in another Member State and enjoys the right of residency and long-term/permanent work authorisation does not mean that that person also has the specific status of long-term resident.

It is necessary to obtain the specific residence permit in accordance with the 2003/109/EC Directive. Certain Member States do not apply this directive, notably the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark, and therefore these countries can not grant this status. 

After twelve months of occupation, the long-term EC resident will be exempt from the work permit B.

Situation 3. Applications for regularisation of residence submitted between 15/09/2009 and 15/12/2009 and for which the Office des Etrangers’ makes regularisation conditional on obtaining a work permit B. 

This concerns persons who have submitted applications for regularisation of residence submitted between 15/09/2009 and 15/12/2009 and for which the Office des Etrangers’ makes regularisation conditional on obtaining a work permit B.

Situation 4. Other cases: Short-supply jobs and domestics

Jobs and persons who do not fall into the aforementioned categories can only obtain an occupation permit and a work permit B if it is not possible to find a suitable worker in the labour market.

Therefore, the employer will find it difficult (even through appropriate training) to find an employee with the skills and qualifications required for the job profile. A list of short-supply jobs is published each years by the three Regions.

For the Brussels-Capital region: professions experiencing labour shortages

For Wallonia: labour shortages

In addition, these persons must be nationals of countries with which Belgium is bound by international labour agreements. However, the regional minister may waive these conditions for individual cases of interest for economic or social reasons.