General Principles

The following information, conditions and legislation were applicable for applies until December 31st, 2018 and thus is everything unusable from January 1st, 2019!
The new legislation, and the associated new conditions and documents, you can find it here: Naar werknemers buitenlandse nationaliteit (vanaf 2019)



In order, as a foreign worker in Belgium, to be able to work in gainful employment, you must obtain a work permit in advance.

There are three types of work permits:

  • Work permit A gives you the admission to any profession in paid employment with any employer and this for an unlimited period of time. The issue of a work permit A is subject to very strict conditions. It can only be granted to certain categories of foreign workers who have already for several years in Belgium with a work permit B.
  • The work permit B grants you permission to do one specific job with one specific employer who obtained an employment permit in advance. The employment permit and work permit B will in principle be granted for a maximum period of 12 months. They may be extended under certain conditions.
  • Work permit C gives you permission to pursue any profession in paid employment with any employer. In principle you can only obtain work permit C if you came to Belgium and are allowed to stay there, not because of work but for a different reason such as, for example, in relation to a family reunification, or with the status of student, or with subsidiary protection etc. Work permit C will also be granted for a maximum period of 12 months and may be renewed under certain conditions.

Who applies for the work permits?

  • You can apply for work permits A and C as a prospective employee yourself. You submit the application file to the Department of Economic Migration in the province.
  • The employment permit and work permit B are requested by an employer. The Department of Economic Migration issues the employment permit to the employer and the work permit to the employee.

As an employer, you must obtain an employment permit in advance in order to employ a foreign worker in Belgium.

The employment permit is the document by which the employer is granted eligibility to employ a particular foreign employee, in a particular capacity and for a particular period of time.

As an employer you will have to submit an application file to the Department of Economic Migration in your province.

You can obtain an employment permit for a period of no more than twelve months. This permit is in most cases renewable.

You can use the services of your employee only within the limits and under the conditions under which the permit was granted.

Your prospective employee may only come to Belgium once you have obtained the employment permit. However, if it transpires that your prospective employee was already present in Belgium at the time of your request, the application will be refused (Art.4, §2 of the law of 30 April 1999).

An example:

You submit an application for the employment of a Russian national as a building worker, or a seasonal worker in the fruit sector, or a welder in a metal company etc. The Russian concerned had come to Belgium in search of work.
Such a request will be refused since your prospective worker is already present in Belgium at the time you submit your application.
This is partly a result of the fact that as a general principle the 'migration stop' for foreign workers is still applicable.
Over the last few decades the legislature has permitted so many exceptions to this principle that in fact there is not much left of that 'migration stop':

  • In some cases the employee may come to Belgium before the employment permit was granted (see the special categories eligible for a work permit B).
  • In a number of cases the employer is exempt from obtaining the employment permit (see further work permit A, work permit C and exemptions) and the worker is exempt from obtaining a work permit (see further exemptions).

Employees of foreign nationality

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