Foreign nationals who come to work in Flanders must first receive permission to work. This obligation applies to everyone apart from a few well-defined categories of foreign workers.
If your future employee does not belong to one of these well-defined categories of foreign workers, they will require a work permit. They will immediately qualify if their profession is included on the on the list of shortage occupations are if their situation is covered by the list of specific categories. A foreign employee who does not meet these demands will need to meet the requirements of one of the items on the ‘Other’ category to qualify for a work permit.
Proving a labour shortage
Can you prove that in this particular situation it is impossible to find a suitable employee on the local labour market within a reasonable period of time? If this is the case, you can apply for a so-called single permit.
Read below about how to prove the shortage and see which other conditions apply.
- As a Belgian employer, you’re offering a Belgian appointment secondment is not a possibility.
- The employee is not on Belgium territory (unless they are a long-term resident of the EU).
- You cannot find any employees on the labour market. This is the ‘concentric model’ of the entire labour market applicable in the Flemish region: Flanders > Belgium > European Economic Area. It makes no difference whether your future employee might have to follow further (individual) vocational training—but this is recommended if not required.
- Use factual evidence to prove your search across the entire labour market has been unsuccessful.
- As an employer in Flanders, you’re in the position to publish a job vacancy (in Dutch)(opens in new window) with the VDAB and to tick the option ‘I want the VDAB to help me to find a suitable candidate’ (= shared management), or to pass your job vacancy across to the VDAB (in Dutch)(opens in new window).
- Important elements of such a VDAB job vacancy are:
- The job vacancy must be published for at least six weeks before your application to publish on the VDAB website (three weeks in advance for seasonal labour).
- The vacancy is still online during your application.
Read all conditions in the Government of Flanders Order (in Dutch)(opens in new window).
Only Belgian employers
As described above, you can only apply for a so-called single permit for your employee if you’re a Belgian employer. If one of the following situations applies, your employee is not eligible to apply for a work permit:
- Your employee has an appointment in a shortage occupation in Belgium via secondment.
- Your employee has an appointment in Belgium with a foreign company – even if it has a Belgian company number.
In this category, as an employer, you are obliged to prove that there are special economic and/or social reasons why you need to hire this employee. If there is no proof, your application is inadmissible and will not be processed.
If the occupation is included on the list of shortage occupations, there is likely to be a shortage on the local labour market. In this case, you do not have to substantiate your application with social or economic reasons.
Which work permit is required?
As an employer, you apply for permission for your future employee to work. The procedure and the documents that you need will differ depending on the duration of their appointment. Are you applying for permission for the first time? Or are you renewing a permit? This makes a difference too.