British nationals and British entrepreneurs established in the United Kingdom can, since 1 January 2021, no longer enjoy the free movement of workers or the free movement of services. This means that access to the Flemish labour market for that target group is subject to prior admission to work, in the form of:
- a work permit and an employment permit (for short periods of employment or for frontier workers),
- a combined permit (for residence and employment of more than 90 days)
- a professional card (for self-employed activities).
The general rules, conditions and procedures for economic migrants apply. These apply to both foreign employees and foreign self-employed persons. This means that the existing exemptions also apply.
A number of exemptions from the work permit for short-term work apply to foreign employees.
Exemptions from work permit, subject to valid Limosa notification
- Commercial representatives with principal residence abroad, who visit their customers in Belgium, on behalf of companies established abroad without a branch in Belgium, provided that their stay in Belgium does not exceed three consecutive months.
- Persons who come to Belgium on behalf of a company established abroad in order to take receipt of goods supplied by Belgian industry, on condition that their stay in Belgium does not exceed three consecutive months.
- The journalists residing abroad who are associated with newspapers published abroad or press agencies or radio or television stations established abroad, who come to Belgium for the performance of their assignment, provided that their stay in Belgium does not exceed three consecutive months.
- Employees who are employed in a foreign company, who come to Belgium to pursue training at the Belgian headquarters of the group of companies to which their company belongs, within the framework of a training agreement between the offices of the group of companies, on condition that their stay in Belgium does not last longer than three consecutive months.
- The IT manager, IT specialist or IT trainee employee who exercises his right to short-term mobility.
- The third-country national exercising his right to short-term mobility in the context of research.
Exemptions from work permit + exemption from Limosa notification
- The employees who are employed in the sector of the international transport of persons or goods, unless these employees perform cabotage activities on Belgian territory.
- Those employees who are seconded to Belgium for the initial assembly and/or the initial installation of goods, which form an integral part of a contract for the supply of goods and which is necessary for the commissioning of the goods supplied and which is carried out by qualified and/or specialised employees of the supplying company, when the duration of the intended work does not exceed eight days. However, this divergence does not apply to activities in the construction industry.
- Those employees who are employed as specialist technicians by an employer established abroad and come to Belgium to carry out urgent maintenance or repair work on machines or equipment supplied by their employer to the company established in Belgium in which the repairs or maintenance take place, provided that their stay necessary for the activities does not exceed 5 days per calendar month.
- Employees who come to Belgium to attend scientific conferences.
- Employees who come to Belgium to attend meetings in a limited circle, provided that their attendance at these meetings does not exceed 60 days per calendar year, with a maximum of 20 consecutive calendar days per meeting.
- Employees who are employed by a government department.
- Employees who are employed by an international institution of public law established in Belgium and whose status is regulated by a treaty that has entered into force.
- Members of a diplomatic or consular mission.
- Employees who reside abroad, are employed there by an employer established abroad and who come to Belgium to participate in international sports competitions, as well as the referees, supervisors, official representatives, staff members and all other persons accredited and/or recognised by international or national sports federations, insofar as their residence in the country, necessary for these activities, does not exceed the duration of the sports test and does not exceed 3 months per calendar year.
- Artists of international renown as well as the accompanying persons whose presence is required for the show, provided that their stay in Belgium, necessary for these activities, does not exceed 21 days per quarter.
- Researchers and members of a scientific team who reside abroad and are employed by a university or a scientific institution located abroad, who participate in a scientific programme in a host university or a scientific institution in Belgium, provided that their stay necessary for these activities does not exceed 3 months per calendar year.
Work permit exemption for short-term recruitment in Belgium
- Researchers or international lecturers affiliated with a Belgian accredited research institution.
Foreign self-employed persons
A number of exemptions from a professional card for short-term services apply to foreign self-employed persons. The most important exemptions are shown below.
- Foreigners who undertake business trips in Belgium, insofar as the duration of the stay required for such business trips does not exceed three consecutive months. ‘Business trips’ should be taken to mean: journeys made in Belgium by foreign nationals, on their own behalf or on behalf of their company and who have no principal residence here with the aim of visiting professional partners, researching and developing professional contacts, negotiating and concluding contracts, participating in salons, trade fairs and exhibitions to present and sell their products, or to participate in the boards of directors or general meetings of companies.
- Foreigners who have no principal residence in Belgium and who give conferences here, provided that the duration of the stay required for these conferences does not exceed three consecutive months;
- Foreign journalists, who do not have their principal residence in Belgium and who perform services there as part of their profession, provided that the duration of the stay required for these activities does not exceed three consecutive months.
- Foreign sportsmen and, where applicable, their foreign self-employed assistants, who do not have their main residence in Belgium and who perform services here as part of their respective profession, insofar as the duration of the stay, necessary for these activities, does not exceed three consecutive months.
- Foreign artists and, where applicable, their foreign self-employed assistants, who do not have their main residence in Belgium and who perform services here as part of their respective profession, insofar as the duration of the stay, necessary for these activities, does not exceed three consecutive months.
- Foreign students who complete a work placement in Belgium, as part of their studies, for the duration of their work placement.
- Foreign nationals who perform a work placement in Belgium that has been approved by the competent authority in the context of development cooperation or exchange programmes based on reciprocity, for the duration of their work placement.
- (Trainee) Lawyers who are registered with the Bar Association.
Natural persons residing in the United Kingdom qualify for status as a frontier worker in Belgium if they perform work on Flemish territory and return to the United Kingdom on a daily or at least weekly basis.
Their employment is subject to a work permit (hired as an employee in Belgium, or as a posted worker). They also receive a special residence document as a frontier worker.
The Trade Agreement provides for a number of specific exemptions from the work permit that can usually be traced back to the existing exemptions for short periods (see above), but in certain cases deviate slightly from this.
SERVIN 4.2 Business visitors for establishment purposes: are covered by the existing exemption for trade representatives.
SERVIN 4.3 Short term business visitors
The exemption from the work permit is always limited to a maximum of 90 days within a period of 180 days. If the existing Limosa exemption sets stricter requirements for duration (e.g. meetings in a limited circle or initial assembly and/or the first installation of goods), the exemption from work permit is valid for 90 days, but a Limosa notification is required once the Limosa exemption expires.
An exemption from the work permit applies to the following short-term activities:
- meetings and consultations: natural persons who participate in meetings or conferences, or are involved in consultations with business partners.
- research and development: technical, scientific and statistical researchers who conduct independent research or research for a legal person of the Party of which the short-stay business visitor is a natural person.
- marketing research: market researchers and analysts who conduct research or analysis for a legal entity of the Party of which the short-stay business visitor is a natural person.
- training seminars: staff members of a company entering the territory visited by the business visitor for a short stay to receive training in techniques and work practices used by companies or organisations in the territory that the business visitor is visiting for a short stay, provided the training received is limited to observation, familiarisation and classroom instruction.
- Trade fairs and exhibitions: personnel who advertise their company or the products or services of that company at a fair.
- sales: representatives of a supplier of services or goods who take orders or negotiate the sale of goods or services or conclude agreements for the sale of services or goods for that supplier, without themselves supplying goods or services. Short-stay business visitors do not sell directly to the public.
- procurement: buyers who purchase goods or services for an enterprise, or managerial and supervisory personnel, involved in a commercial transaction taking place in the territory of the Party of which the short-stay business visitor is a natural person.
- after-sales or lease service: installers, repair and maintenance personnel, and supervisors with specialist knowledge essential to a seller’s contractual obligation, who provide services or train employees to provide services under a warranty or other service contract in connection with the sale or rental of commercial or industrial equipment and machinery, including computer software, purchased or rented from a legal entity of the Party of which the short-stay business visitor is a natural person, during the term of the warranty or service contract.
- commercial transactions: management, supervisory and financial services personnel (including insurers, bankers and investment brokers) involved in a commercial transaction for a legal entity of the Party of which the short-stay business visitor is a natural person.
- tourism personnel: representatives of hotels or travel agents, guides or travel organisations, who attend or participate in a conference or fair or accompany a tour that has begun in the territory of the Party of which the short-stay business visitor is a natural person.
- translation and interpretation: translators or interpreters who provide services as employees of a legal person of the Party of which the short-stay business visitor is a natural person.
A more advantageous regime applies to British people and their family members who were already present on Belgian territory on 31 December 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement guarantees the continuation of their right of residence and automatic admission to work.
UK nationals and their family members already residing here must apply to exchange their respective E/E + / F/F + card. They will be given a new document in its place, the so-called Brexit card - electronic M card. This gives a right of residence for an indefinite period and an automatic admission to work - they are exempt from a work permit or professional card on the basis of their specific residence card.
UK nationals working as frontier workers must apply to exchange their Annex 15. They will receive a new document in its place: electronic N card.
Please note: only nationals of the United Kingdom who already work as a frontier worker in Belgium with a Belgian employment contract will be able to apply for an N card at the municipality. Those who are seconded are not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement: they always require an admission to work with a work permit for a frontier worker (national of the United Kingdom is a third-country national).
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Departement Werk en Sociale Economie
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