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Belgium announces immigration policy reforms in foreign workers, effective on May 1

On May 1, 2024, the Flanders Region in Belgium will implement substantial reforms to its immigration policies, notably with foreign workers.

Written by Thelearnvine

On May 1, 2024, the Flanders Region in Belgium will implement substantial reforms to its immigration policies, notably with foreign workers. According to these adjustments, Belgian and European personnel will be given precedence, with foreign nationals joining the workforce only after thorough evaluation of local and regional labor markets.

The updated policies seek to maintain the government's concentric model of labor movement. Significant changes include increased work permit exemptions, constraints on the Shortage Occupation and Labor Market assessment procedures, and lowered educational qualification criteria for EU Blue Card holders and intra-company transferees.

One significant component of the revisions is the expansion of work permit exemptions. This will enable for a variety of commercial activities, including conference participation, business agreement negotiation, and tourism-related activities, to be carried out under business visitor status without the requirement for a work visa. Employers must, however, monitor the duration of their workers' stay in Belgium to ensure compliance with the requirement of not exceeding 90 days within any 180-day period.

The government will allow the activities under a business visitors status, which now need a work visa:

  • Participation in conferences, seminars, business meetings, trade shows, and exhibitions
  • Negotiating business agreements
  • Participate in sales, marketing, internal, and customer audits.
  • Exploration of Business Opportunities
  • Attending or conducting training courses
  • Activities connected to tourism
  • Translation & Interpretation Services

Skilled shortage professions

Employers seeking to hire persons for medium-skilled shortage positions must now show proof of the applicants' abilities, experience, and credentials, which will be reviewed by the Regional Employment Ministry. This extra need is likely to extend the internal administrative procedure.

The labor market testing procedure will also have stronger requirements, with job openings being needed to be advertised for at least nine weeks in the four months before the application. Job advertisements must be displayed on both the EURES and VDAB websites. The government will only accept labor market test applications for jobs designated as shortage occupations by the VDAB, thereby restricting job chances for foreign workers.


Techies waiting for an EU Blue Card.

In the IT industry, EU Blue Card candidates in management or specialist posts can replace academic qualifications with at least three years of relevant professional experience earned within the previous seven years. This modification intends to solve Belgium's IT labor deficit.

EU Blue Card holders will also find it easier to move jobs, as notice to the Regional Employment Ministry is sufficient during the first 12 months. Following this period, transferring jobs becomes considerably easier, with no immigration paperwork necessary as long as the minimum wage standards are satisfied.

The salary criterion for acquiring an EU Blue Card has been increased to 130% of the average income, resulting in an annual taxable wage of EUR 60,621 in 2024.

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