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Relocating your employees to Belgium
Belgium is well-known for their delicious beers, chocolate and picturesque cities and towns. But there is more that makes Belgium a popular destination for foreigners. Because of Belgium’s central location and high living standards, excellent healthcare and education, the country is a popular destination for expats. What helps even more is that the capital of Belgium, Brussel, is also the capital of the EU. Many political instances are located in Brussel, together with for example the NATO, European Defence Agency, the European Environmental Bureau and the World Customs Organisation. In fact, almost a tenth of the total population consists of expats. Planning to relocate your employees to a Belgium subsidiary, affiliate or branch? We help you make a start with this article.
Work and residence permits
Since Belgium is mainly interesting for EU instances and European companies, the majority of the current expats in Belgium are from another EU country. Citizens of EEA and Switzerland can work and live in Belgium without an additional visa or permit. Their EU citizenship is enough to work and live freely through the entire European Union. Citizens from all other countries must apply for a visa or permit. Citizens from the United States, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Israel can already visit Belgium and start the permit procedure from Belgium. All other citizens must apply for a work visa beforehand. There are three main types of visas:
- Work permit B – for short stays in Belgium, for instance meetings, conferences, etc.
- Single permit – for long stays. This is a combined work and residence permit. The Belgium employer need to initiate the process and apply for the permit. The permit is valid for three years maximum but is renewable. An employer can only apply for an employee from abroad if no Belgium candidate could be found.
- A professional card – for self-employed people seeking to start or broad their business in Belgium.
The most common is the European Blue Card: a combined work and residence permit that allows highly skilled workers from outside the EU to live and work in Belgium. There is a minimum salary that must be paid and the employment contract must already been signed.
For companies outside the EEA desiring to send their own employees to Belgium to work for a subsidiary, affiliate or branch, the intra-company transfer visa is the best option. This visa is suitable for managers, specialists or trainees. The employee must have worked for the company outside Belgium for three months (six months for managers and specialist in the Brussel area). Also, the ICT card gives the employee the right to work in other EU countries (where the company is also active) on the same visa. The maximum period is one to three years, but can be renewed.
What about the family of the employee?
Dependents (spouse and children) can join the employee in Belgium on the same permit. Even more, dependents of holders of the ICT permit can work in Belgium once they receive their residence permit. A separate work permit is not necessary.
The housing market in Belgium has had some problems the latest years. Due to population growth (both foreigners and the increase of expats) have led to a high demand to houses and apartments. Most expats live close to the bigger cities where the company is located. Brussel is a very busy city. Some expats therefore choose to live in the nearby city of Leuven, which is more attractive to families. Renting is most common among expats. However, Belgium rules describe that rental contract are for 3, 7 or 9 years. If a contract is ended another time, a penalty will be given. It is therefore advisable to indicate in the rental agreement with the landlord when the end date will be, in order to avoid these penalties.
In some cases, due to the high demand on rental homes and the rules that come with this, buying a house is easier. There are no strict rules for foreigners buying a house. Find a professional in Belgium housing market to decide what is the best option in your specific situation.
Belgium has an amazing high standard to education. Their universities have high rankings and Belgium has a high ratio of high educated people. Children of expats can choose to attend public or private schools. Especially around the city center of Brussel, many private international schools are located.
There is a wide network of public and private healthcare facilities available. For expats, it is not uncommon that the employer pays for healthcare insurance. If not, the expat must arrange a healthcare insurance by themselves.
Other points of attention
Belgium has three national languages. The north of the country speaks Dutch. The south of the country speaks French. There is also a small part in the East of the country that speaks German. The area of Brussel is divided in a Dutch and French part, but citizens of Brussel are mostly bilingual. In fact, most of the locals speak both languages and also expect others to do so. Therefore, it does not make sense in most cases to learn just one language. It is better to speak English to avoid mistakes. English in Belgium business communication is common and Belgium locals have a high proficiency in English.
The costs of relocating to Belgium
Since most of the foreigners that are being relocated to Belgium are from another EU country, this will not cost any money. No permits are needed. People from outside the EU must apply for a type of visa or permit. It really depends on the situation what costs will apply. Authorities will ask for a fee. Moreover, in complex situations a lawyer or immigration expert will be necessary. This will drive up the costs for the company.
Belgium has a very good location within Europe, being connected to the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, the harbor of Antwerpen has been one of the biggest in the world for a long time. All moves and relocations from another country within Europe come by road. Due to the easiness of free travel within the Schengen area, costs on custom clearance could be spared. Moves from another continent are mostly done by sea. The price really depends on the distance and the amount of household goods and effects that is being moved. Using container space with groupage will save lots of money.
Belgium has one of the highest taxes in the world. Income taxes vary between 25 to 50 percent. Also, high contributions to social security must be done by both employers and employees. This has, of course, positive effects on the public services (such as education, healthcare and insurances).
Costs of living in Belgium
The costs of living are quite comparable to other Western countries. Rents are relatively high, but food and daily life is relatively cheap. Brussel is not featured in the world’s top 50 most expensive cities. In most cases, expatriates will experience that Belgium is cheaper than their home country.
Find a professional relocator in Belgium
Relocation to Belgium is common and rules have made it easy for EU companies to relocate their employees and accompanying families. However, for citizens from other continents or in more complex situations (for example long terms of working in Belgium) rules are stricter. Also, EU rules change very often. Therefore, we advise to hire a professional relocator to ease the process. A relocator can also help the employee with their first steps in their new country: from house searching to accompany visits to national instances. Voerman International has a broad experience with relocation from and to Belgium with move management and relocation management.Back to overview