Back to overview
17.05.2024

Employment of foreign workers in Belgium – what’s changing?

The increasing labor shortage is a major challenge for many employers, especially when they cannot adequately address this shortage with workers from the EEA*.  

Seeking qualified workers outside the EEA is often a solution, as these workers frequently bring valuable skills, knowledge, and experience.  

Allowing non-EEA nationals access to the labor market requires robust immigration regulations to ensure migrants can be employed legally and in an organized manner, while also safeguarding their rights and preventing exploitation and abuse. 

On March 8, 2024, the Flemish government approved an adapted economic immigration policy. This policy includes a number of relaxations and restrictions. Below is an overview of the main points. The new policy took effect on May 1, 2024. 

1. Relaxations

Bottleneck professions list 

Bottleneck professions are mid-level positions for which there is a structural shortage in the job market. Every two years, the minister compiles a list of these professions. Please note that this list should not be confused with the bottleneck professions list published by the Flemish Employment and Vocational Training Office (VDAB). 

Under the new policy, this will become a dynamic list that will be updated more quickly to better respond to sudden changes in the job market. The next revision is scheduled for Q2.2024. 

Highly skilled workers 

To qualify as a highly skilled worker, one must have a higher education or university degree and receive a minimum average gross annual salary (2024 : €46,632). For workers under 30 years of age and for nurses, this gross annual wage is lower (2024 : €37,305.60). As of 1 May 2024, this lower amount also applies to teachers.   

Flexi-job 

Workers with a single permit and 80% employment with the first employer for at least three quarters will be able to take up a flexi-job with a second employer without needing an additional permit. Note: this does not apply if the employee has a short-term work permit.   

2. Restrictions 

Restricting the residual category “other” 

If the position of the future employee is neither a highly skilled position nor listed among the bottleneck professions, one should fall back on the (residual) “other” category to apply for a permit. For this category, there is no presumption of labor shortage in the local labor market, and a labor market test is required. 

From now on, positions will be linked to the VDAB bottleneck professions list. You can no longer apply for permits for functions that are not on this list. In addition, a minimum education level (Flemish Qualification Structure VKS 2 – (special) secondary education) is required. Vacancies must also be published with the VDAB and EURES for a continuous period of nine weeks in the four-month period immediately preceding the permit application. The employer must request active mediation by the VDAB to fill the vacancy. 

In this category, there will also be stricter checks to ensure the employee has the right profile and necessary skills. To this end, you will have to submit more supporting documents. 

Minimum employment 80% 

To obtain a permit for the “bottleneck professions” and “other” categories, the foreign worker must be employed for at least 80% of the regular working hours. 

Expansion of refusal and revocation grounds 

Employers will also be screened more strictly. The grounds for refusal and revocation of permits have been expanded (e.g., insufficient creditworthiness, previous bankruptcy, insufficient activities, etc.).   

3. Implementation of European regulations 

European Blue Card 

With a European Blue Card, highly qualified foreigners can work and reside in Flanders for at least six months under certain conditions. The following changes will be implemented: 

  • The educational level will be raised to level 6: university or college bachelor’s degree. 
  • The average gross annual salary is increased to €60,621.60 (2024). 
  • Employees can change employers under a current Blue Card without the new employer needing to apply for a new Blue Card, as long as the employment with the new employer also meets the conditions of an EU Blue Card. The new employer only needs to report this to the competent region. If the change of employer occurs within the first 12 months, the new employer must also submit a copy of the employment contract to the competent region, which can oppose the change.   

Intra Company Transfers 

‘Intra company transferees’ are third-country employees temporarily posted by a non-EU company to an EU-based entity of the same company or corporate group for professional or training purposes. 

The qualification levels required for executives or specialists under ‘intra-company transfers’ are being relaxed. 

Our specialists are available to further guide you through the rules on the employment of third-country nationals. Don’t hesitate to contact us. 

 

*The EEA includes the member states of the European Union, as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Non-EEA nationals are persons who are not citizens of these countries. 

© Van Havermaet International 2024

We use cookies or similar technologies (e.g. pixels or social media plug-ins) to optimise your user experience on our website, among other things. In addition, we wish to use analytical and marketing cookies to personalise your visit to our website, to send targeted advertisements to you, and to give us more insight into your use of our website.

Do you consent to our use of cookies for an optimal website experience, so that we can improve our website and surprise you with advertisements? Then confirm with ‘OK’.

Conversely, would you like to set specific preferences for different types of cookies? This can be done via our Cookie Policy. Would you like more information about our use of cookies or how to delete cookies? Please read our Cookie Policy.