Belgium

    Guidance

    1.1 Has any guidance already been issued in relation to Brexit, for example on residence or work permits in the event of a no-deal Brexit?

    Yes

    In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Brexit Act of 3 April 2019 provides for a number of measures relating to the residence of UK citizens and their family members on the Belgian territory post-Brexit during a transitional period up and to including 31 December 2020:

    • UK citizens and family members with an electronic E(+) card or F(+) card pre-Brexit retain their right to reside on Belgian territory and can have their residence document extended until 31 December 2020.
    • Applications for an electronic E(+) card or F(+) card from UK citizens and their family members that were submitted pre-Brexit will be processed according to the conditions that applied pre-Brexit.
    • Family members will be able to join UK citizens residing in Belgium in accordance with the conditions applicable pre-Brexit, even if the application is made after Brexit but before 31 December 2020.

    Royal Decrees are also in the pipeline. These Decrees will enable these individuals to continue to carry out their work without authorisation to work (salaried employee) or a professional card (self-employed individuals) during the transitional period.

    UK citizens who do not reside in Belgium or who have not applied to reside in Belgium on the date of Brexit will be considered as third-country nationals and require authorisation to work and reside unless an exemption applies.

    The regional authorities have also taken steps in the event of a no-deal Brexit, providing exemption from the requirement for a work permit or professional card until 31 December 2020, provided similar measures are adopted in the UK. This exemption is limited for UK citizens working in Flanders and Wallonia to a maximum of 90 days and for UK citizens working in Brussels to a maximum of 90 days per period of 180 days.

    Both the Brexit Act and the regional decrees (with the exception of Brussels) provide that the transitional period can be shortened or adapted or its scope can be amended by royal decree and decree respectively.

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    Business visas

    2.1 When UK employees become third-country nationals will they require a business visa?

    No, Regulation (EU) 2019/592 of 10 April 2019 exempts UK citizens from the requirement for a Schengen visa. It will apply from the day the UK is no longer subject to EU law. When it takes effect, UK citizens will be able to enter and stay in the Schengen area for a maximum of 90 days in any rolling 180-day period.

    The Schengen exemption will apply:

    • From Brexit date in the event of no deal;
    • from 1 January 2021 if the Withdrawal Agreement (‘WA’) is ratified (under the WA, UK nationals keep their EU free movement rights until 31 December 2020 ).

    However, even if allowed to enter and stay visa-free as third-country nationals, they might nonetheless need a work permit B. Third-country business visitors are only exempt from a work permit for meetings ‘in closed circle’ for a maximum of 20 subsequent calendar days per meeting and 60 days in total per year. Examples of meetings in ‘closed circle’ include negotiations with customers, evaluations with staff and company strategy meetings. 

    Third-country nationals coming to stay and work in Belgium as salaried employees for more than 90 days require a Single Permit. The Single Permit is obtained via a single application procedure encompassing both permission to work and to reside in Belgium for more than 90 days as a salaried employee. Third-country nationals coming to stay and work in Belgium in a self-employed capacity require a residence permit and a professional card.  

    2.2 What documentation will be required for business travel on arrival at the border once UK citizens are considered third-country nationals?

    A travel document (valid passport) with a validity of no more than ten years and that is valid for at least three months after departure from Belgium.

    Proof of duration and purpose of stay as border control may ask additional questions concerning duration and purpose of stay.

    Unless they stay in a hotel or guest house, UK business travellers will need to notify the appropriate communal administration of their presence within three working days from arrival and receive an Annex 3 form.

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    Permission to work

    3.1 When UK citizens become third-country nationals will they need permission to work?   

    Yes, unless they can rely on an exemption such as:

    • in Flanders and Wallonia in the event of a no-deal Brexit: for a maximum of 90 days until 31 December 2020;
    • in Brussels in the event of a no-deal Brexit: for a maximum of 90 days per period of 180 days until 31 December 2020;
    • business meetings in ‘closed circle’ (maximum 20 subsequent calendar days per meeting and 60 days per year in total);
    • family members of an EU national or a non-EU national who has authorisation to work (subject to conditions);
    • holders of a permanent Belgian residence permit (electronic Bcard, C-card or D-card);
    • ‘Van Der Elst exemption’ (subject to conditions);
    • Even if UK citizens would be exempt from the authorisation to work, employers will need to carry out documentation checks, and are subject to important criminal penalties (level 4 penalties) for non-compliance. 

    3.2 If permission to work is needed do any quotas apply for employing third-country nationals?

    No

    3.3 If permission to work is needed, as of when will it be needed?

    Current status (on 12 April 2019):

    From the date of Brexit in the event of a no-deal Brexit, transition measures will apply until 31 December 2020:

    • for UK citizens residing or having applied to reside in Belgium pre- Brexit (electronic E(+) card);
    • for family members joining UK citizens in the category described in the first bullet point
    • for UK citizens not residing in Belgium on Brexit date for maximum 90 days in Flanders and Wallonia and maximum 90 days per period of 180 days in Brussels.

    From 1 January 2021 (for new arrivals) if the Withdrawal Agreement (‘WA’) is ratified before Brexit date. UK citizens and their family members residing in Belgium on 31 December 2020 also keep their rights to reside and work in Belgium after Brexit under the WA.

    3.4 If permission to work is needed, what are the most common categories?

    For employees in Brussels and Wallonia (current status of the law):

    • highly skilled employees: Bachelor’s degree and annual remuneration of at least EUR 41,739 gross (2019);
    • management personnel: annual remuneration of EUR 69,637 gross (2019);
    • trainees (subject to conditions).

    For employees in Flanders:

    The Flemish Region has introduced a new economic migration model based on three separate profiles:

    • highly qualified (Bachelor’s degree and annual remuneration of EUR 41,868 gross) and special profiles (subject to conditions);
    • certain medium-skilled profiles (only for shortage professions listed in a dynamic shortage profession list);

    profiles that fall into a residual category subject to a labour market test and for whom ‘special economic and social reasons’ must be established.

    3.5 If permission to work or stay is needed, how long does the procedure take?

    Permission to work and stay in Belgium for less than 90 days:

    • employer needs to apply for a work permit B from the competent Region:  four to eight weeks;
    • depending on the circumstances of the case, the employee may need to apply for a residence permit.

    Permission to work and stay in Belgium for more than 90 days:

    • employer needs to apply for a Single Permit from the competent region: may take up to +/ 4.5 months;
    • evidence of the absence of a criminal record (with an Apostille or legalised) needs to be submitted at the start of the procedure. Sufficient preparation time should be factored into employment plans.
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    Permanent residence

    4.1 From when can third-country nationals obtain permanent residence?

    After five years of legal and uninterrupted stay in Belgium (subject to conditions).

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    Residence Status

    5.1 What steps could UK nationals still take to secure their residence status?

    Currently:

    • Applying for an EU residence card (E card or F card for non-EU family members) as soon as possible.
    • Applying for an EU permanent residence card (E+ card or F+ card for non-EU family members) if conditions are met.
    • Applying for Belgian/EEA or Swiss nationality if conditions are met, but individuals should consider consequences before doing so
    • Preparing documents for family reunification with an EU national if relevant.
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