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What is a professional card and who needs it where

You require a professional card if you, as a foreign national, want to work as a self-employed professional in the Flemish Region.

Refugees from Ukraine with temporary protection status are exempted from the professional card

As of 20 August 2022, refugees from Ukraine with temporary protection status are exempted from the professional card to work as self-employed persons in Belgium. This is done on the basis of the Royal Decree of 30 July 2022 (in Dutch) (in Dutch)(opens in new window) as published in the Belgian Official Gazette of 10 August 2022.

For the registration to be able to start as a self-employed person in Flanders (including applying for an enterprise number, joining a social insurance fund, etc.) we would like to refer to one of the accredited business counters(opens in new window).

For which nationalities

The professional card is mandatory if you do not hold Belgian nationality and operate in the Flemish Region as a self-employed professional, regardless of the duration of your professional activity in Belgium.

You do not require a professional card if you are a national of:

  • a country of the European Economic Area (EEA): the countries of the European Union + Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein
  • Switzerland.

In addition, there are other exemptions for the professional card.

Self-employed professional activity

A self-employed professional activity is any activity that cannot be considered as the employment of a worker (work performed under authority, either within or outside an employment contract). It is irrelevant whether this is a:

  • company without legal personality, such as a professional partnership or a natural person who works as a self-employed person within a one-man business
  • company with legal personality, such as a private limited company or a non-profit organisation
  • new or existing company and/or branch
  • temporary or long-term activity.

Self-employed persons active with a company abroad must set up at least a Belgian branch or sub-branch office in order to obtain the professional card.

In the Flemish Region

The professional card is mandatory if the self-employed professional activity takes place on the territory of the Flemish Region. Professional cards are a regional competence; the Flemish Region decides about your professional card, if:

  • the address of the establishment unit (operating address) of your self-employed professional activity is in the Flemish Region
  • and is registered (or will be registered) as such in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (CBE).

You should therefore first choose where you want to establish your self-employed professional activity. Your choice determines whether your application will be handled by the Flemish, the Walloon or the Brussels Capital region or the German-speaking Community.

If your company has several branches in different regions and/or the German-speaking Community, your application will be assessed by the region or the German-speaking Community in which the registered office of the company is situated.

If you received a professional card for the Flemish Region, then the principle of ‘mutual recognition’ applies and you may provide your services in the Walloon Region, the Brussels Capital Region and the German-speaking Community, without having to apply for an additional professional card. This principle also applies vice-versa.

Applying for a professional card

The person who wishes to perform a self-employed professional activity in the Flemish Region, or his mandatary, must apply for the professional card.

You are not allowed to start the self-employed professional activity before you have a professional card in your possession. You should be aware that the procedure takes some time; you should expect the whole application procedure to take at least two months.

Renewing, changing or replacing your professional card

You must apply in advance and in good time. Which procedure to follow, depends on the date on which you applied for your current professional card.

Does the change regard only a change of address for your company? Then you must submit an application for a modification of your professional card, together with proof of the registration of the new address in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (CBE).