The extension of stay in Belgium in order to find a job or create a company is now official.
These rules apply for those who have obtained a degree in our country.
At Halabi & Associates, our daily business is to help you in the process of extending your stay after your studies and obtaining a single permit or professional card. We explain to you what has changed in 2021.
In Belgium, the law of July 11, 2021, implements the European Directive 2016/801 to the conditions of entry and residency of third-country nationals for the purpose of:
- Volunteer work
- Student exchange programs
- Educational projects
- Au pair work
“Since August 15, 2021, a foreigner with a residence permit as a non-European student who, at the end of the academic year 2020/2021, has obtained at least a graduation diploma, bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, can apply for a residence permit valid for 12 months to seek employment or to engage in self-employment. A foreigner who obtained this degree abroad, but also studied for a period in Belgium as part of a mobility program, can also apply.”
Previously, an application for an extension after studies was only possible in the context of an application for humanitarian regularization. This was then left to the discretion of the Immigration Office. The novelty of this year is that article 61/1/9 of the law of December 15, 1990, provides for conditions of renewal of stay for foreign students (outside the EU) who have completed their studies in Belgium (and have thus obtained a diploma) with a view to finding a job or setting up a business in the country.
Extension of stay in Belgium for 12 months
The stay will then be extended for a new period of 12 months allowing unlimited access to the labor market. The person concerned will have to use this year of extension of stay to find a job or create a company.
This request for an extension of stay must be submitted to the local administration. The deadline is a maximum of 15 days before the expiration of the student residence permit. In the case of Erasmus, the application must be submitted 3 months after graduation. In practice, some municipalities accept the renewal of the student residence permit electronically (notably by email). Others require an appointment to be made on site. It is important to prepare your application on time.
What documents should I provide when applying for an extension of my stay in Belgium?
The legal provision stipulates that the student will have to produce the following documents to support his application:
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof of sufficient means of subsistence (which is normally the same as for a student stay)
- But also, the proof of having obtained a level 5 diploma
- And for students who have spent time abroad, proof of their stay in Belgium
He/she will not have to pay a fee, contrary to the other procedures of change of status.
What to do if the diploma is late?
In practice, students often actually receive their diplomas after a relatively long period. Sometimes it is after the expiration of their residence permit. Article 61/1/11 states that the application may be declared inadmissible if it is submitted after the deadline. The same applies if it is incomplete. However, article 61/1/10 provides that the Immigration Office may inform in writing that certain documents are missing. In this case, an additional 15 days can be granted.
3 months processing time
The decision of the Office must be made within 3 months after the application for a residence permit has been submitted. If the residence permit expires, the person concerned receives an Annex 15 covering the stay.
If the application does not meet the requirements of article 61/1/9, the Immigration Office may refuse it. Similarly, if the foreigner is considered a threat to public order, national security, or public health.
If the extension of stay is granted, this stay will be limited to a single period of 12 months, not renewable.
When is the Annex 15 required?
If a foreigner has submitted his application at least 15 days before the expiry of his residence permit and the validity of his residence permit expires during the examination of his application by the Immigration Office, the municipal administration will issue him an Annex 15. This annex allows him to look for work and to apply for a single permit. He can also apply as a self-employed person on a principal basis (with a professional card giving him the right of residence).
Be careful! The period during which a foreigner can start looking for work under the cover of an Annex 15 will however be deducted from the period of validity of the A permit.
During the year granted to look for a job or start a business, the foreigner will not be able to fall under the responsibility of the Belgian authorities.
An additional period granted to the student to work
The purpose of this directive is only to grant the student extra time to allow him to start the steps to be able to work as an employee or as an independent at the end of his studies.
12 months to become employed or self-employed
During this year, the international student will:
- Actively search for a job that will allow her/him to apply for a single permit as an employee.
- Or take all the necessary legal steps to become self-employed, either as a natural person or as a legal entity and apply for a professional card.
It should also be noted that applications for a single permit and a professional card must meet certain conditions. Their examination can take several months (4 months maximum for the single permit and on average 6 months or even one year for a professional card). In concrete terms, the person is authorized to reside after having obtained his or her diploma in Belgium and should ensure that he or she starts these steps at the latest 7 months after having been authorized to reside, which leaves a relatively limited period.
Unlimited access to the labor market
During the year granted to look for a job or start a business, a foreigner has unlimited access to the labor market. She/He can therefore work legally during this period while waiting to receive the authorization to exercise a salaried or independent activity.
The Immigration Office is still able to carry out checks via the local administration. The latter can ask the person concerned to prove his or her real chances of finding a job or setting up a business, and this 3 months after obtaining the new residence permit. A residence permit can therefore be withdrawn even if it was obtained previously. It can also be withdrawn if the person concerned no longer meets the conditions for residency (particularly in terms of sufficient resources).
The law states that the residence permit can be withdrawn in case of:
- Threat to public order
- National security
- Public health
A Royal Decree will be issued to complete the practical details of this law. It is already possible to ask for an extension of stay after having completed your studies in Belgium.
In conclusion, it is possible to look for a job or to create a company after your studies in Belgium.
We accompany you in your steps
The members of our firm would be delighted to assist you in your application for a post-study extension of stay and/or a single permit or professional card!
Anne-Sophie PALSTERMAN and Emmanuelle HALABI