Q&A: Carefree recruiting outside Europe

Borderless recruiting opens up a world of possibilities for your company. You can attract talent from all over the world and find the best candidates for the vacancies within your company. For those who still weren't quite sure whether to take the plunge, Link2Europe held a webinar on Feb. 9: "How to recruit worry-free outside Europe." Experts Massimo Maesen and Igor Van Assche zoomed in on how to attract higher-educated profiles from all over the world as a company. In this blog, we recap all the questions with their answers that Massimo and Igor received at the end of the webinar.

Q. There is a shortage of talent, but I am curious to know if Belgium is also planning additional initiatives. The processing times for a combined license are too long and compared to neighboring countries, Belgium could do better.

Massimo: The federation of HR providers in Belgium (Federgon) always lobbies the Ministry of Labor for faster and simpler procedures. The federation was also involved in the implementation of the single permit software for online applications. We all hope that the procedure will be faster and smoother in the future. There is certainly an awareness among ministries and governments that we need to do more to attract people from abroad. But as usual in Belgium, this is a difficult discussion and involves many parties, so it will take time.
For "normal" procedures and complete files, we see that the timing is between 3 and 5 months. The goal should be to complete the entire process in no more than 3 months (or less, of course).

Here's what Flemish Work Minister Jo Brouns has to say about it:
The number of applications has been increasing since May 2021 (postcorona), and are much higher than in previous years. The increase in the number of applications is explained by the general tightness in the Flemish labor market, both for highly and moderately skilled profiles. Since corona, the number of applications for unskilled labor (e.g., seasonal workers) has also increased significantly.
Moreover, recent fraud cases have demonstrated the need for additional controls. Several applications are additionally screened in advance (e.g., financial-economic situation of the applicant, does the application fit into existing activities, partnerships in case of chain of subcontracting, etc.) These additional screenings have an impact on processing time, but are necessary to prevent improper migration.

Short processing times are an absolute priority, but not at the expense of potential abuse and risks of illegal migration or social dumping. We are transparent about current processing times, so applications should be submitted in a timely manner.

Q. Can the period of 1 year posting be counted for 4 years of unlimited Single Permit application?

Massimo: You must meet the following cumulative conditions:


  • You are legally residing in Belgium;
  • Have worked for at least 4 years in the 5 years prior to your application.


  • You are legally residing in Belgium;
  • You have worked for at least 4 years in the 10 years preceding your application. These 4 years can be reduced to 3 years or 2 years if you meet one or all of the following conditions:
    • You are a national of a country that has an international agreement with Belgium (Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Morocco, Montenegro, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey).
    • Your spouse, your registered partner or your children are legally residing with you.


  • You are legally residing in Belgium;
  • You have worked for at least 4 years in the 10 years prior to your application. These 4 years can be reduced to 3 years or 2 years if you meet one or all of the following conditions:
    • You are a national of a country that has an international agreement with Belgium (Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Morocco, Montenegro, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey).
    • Your spouse, your registered partner or your children live with you legally.

General note: Periods with work permit exemptions are not taken into account, so you must have worked under work permits and/or single permits. Moreover, only local work is taken into account.

Q. How long does the candidate hang on to their single permit, before they can look for other work in Belgium without applying for a single permit. And thus can move freely in Belgium?

Igor: The single permit is issued for a specific time and for a specific company linked to a position. You can apply for a single permit from a fixed-term contract of at least 90 days. However, we advise our clients to apply for at least one year of employment. You should consider this employment as a fixed-term contract, which is not terminable (unless by mutual agreement). However, a trial period can be built back in.

A person can only look for other work when their contract is terminated or at the end of their agreement. A single permit must then be reapplied for, the processing time for which can be another 3 months.

Massimo: You can also obtain permanent right of residence after 5 years of continuous residence in Belgium. Then you are exempt from work permits. For people with an EU Blue Card, this is after two years of employment.

Anyway, any single permit holder can seek and find a new employer. A change of employer will then have to be applied for. The person can start working for the new employer as soon as the region has issued the work permit. The person will receive a new residence card (linked to the work permit) once the Immigration Department (DVZ) has issued the approval.

Q. Suppose the employee is going to look for a job on his/her own, is this possible? Or should he/she have already found a new job to have the single permit resubmitted by the new employer?

Igor: See the answer to the previous question. On the one hand, there must already be a new single permit and, on the other hand, the "old" single permit must have been closed or the contract terminated.

Q. What do we need to know about investigators? Do they have a faster/simpler procedure?

Massimo: The Federal Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Nicole de Moor, indicated that attracting researchers from outside the European Union would become easier. Through the digital counter "Working in Belgium," the application would be a lot more transparent, simpler and shorter. There should be a decision within four weeks. Researchers would also be allowed to stay for a "search year" after their research to look for work or start a business.

  • Researchers on guest agreement enjoy an exemption from admission to work until now. With the canting in of the combined procedure (on March 1, 2023), scientific institutions will have to submit an application for combined authorization for their foreign researchers on hosting agreements.
  • Procedurally, this means a change, substantively, flexible access to work for researchers is still guaranteed, thanks to BELSPO recognition. The recognized scientific institutions remain privileged partners: the federal recognition of scientific institutions by BELSPO is maintained. The institution guarantees the researcher's degree, and the conduct of scientific research. The authorization to work can be smoothly and quickly issued by the region, as the recognized scientific institution guarantees the respect of the conditions of authorization to work and residence.
  • The scientific institution submits the application combined permit and should collect the necessary documents. For the assessment of the work section, only the hosting agreement should be added.
  • The overturning of the researchers on host agreement in the combined procedure is already provided for in the cooperation agreement of December 6, 2018. Chapter 4 of Title II of this cooperation agreement enters into force on March 1, 2023. Flemish regulations provide that the old federal host agreement will be replaced by a Flemish host agreement (art. 30, §2 BVR of 6/12/2018). The Flemish criteria for admission to work are somewhat more flexible than the old federal criteria, allowing e.g. secondment of researchers to a recognized scientific institution. The salary threshold for researchers is the GMMMI (which is a deviation from the general salary scale of 100% from the average annual salary applicable to highly educated people).
  • The Working in Belgium single window is mandatory for any combined permit application since October 2021. The general legal processing time for a combined permit is 120 days. For researchers, this maximum period is set at 60 days. Other existing categories such as seasonal workers and intracorporate transferees are also subject to a reduced processing period. All these time limits are determined at the European level. The Flemish Department of Economic Migration will process applications for researchers under host agreements as a matter of priority in the highly skilled workers category. This involves about a thousand admissions per year in the Flemish region.

Personally, we have found that it is even faster than 4 weeks to get approval. These are files that end up "on top of the pile.

Q. So when can my candidate start?

Massimo: In principle, as soon as the appendix 49 is issued by the municipality. However, we find that sometimes it can take a while for the municipality to issue it (varies by municipality). We therefore advise that as soon as we can show that the annex 49 has been requested, but it is clear that there is a delay with the municipality, that the person can start working.

Q. What is the minimum time recommended to submit a single permit application?

Igor: Officially, this is possible from 90 days of employment. However, you have to take into account that if you want to keep the person longer after that period, you already have to file an extension when the candidate arrives in Belgium, taking into account the processing time of an extension for the single permit. Therefore, we recommend applying for the single permit with a fixed-term contract for at least 1 year and preferably using it for long-term employment or permanent employment after some time.

Q. What type of files are the most difficult?

Massimo: Difficult question to answer. I find them all equally difficult. If I really have to choose, some files in the "other" category, where we have to prove that no one can be found suitable in Belgium.

Has your job opening been open for months? Then, armed with the answers to these questions, you can now add global recruitment as part of your recruitment strategy. Via temporary employment for long-term vacancies with permanent option or as immediate permanent employment of higher profiles, Link2Europe links you to the right foreign talents.

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