Single Permit, your chance to find talented employees.

Global recruiting at your fingertips.

A effective economic immigration is already one of the strategies to be followed to deal with the structural labor shortage in Belgian business in the future. Not only from within the European Economic Area (EEA), where this is not an administrative problem due to the free movement of people. For acute shortages, we will also outside the borders of the EEA have to look. And that boundary starts in the United Kingdom these days!

In recent years, our government has made efforts to facilitate international recruitment procedures thanks to increased flexibility and administrative simplification. This makes Belgium more attractive to foreign applicants and makes it easier for employers worldwide to recruit so-called "third-country nationals" for a longer term on their Belgian payroll into permanent employment.

In 2019, the 'single permit' introduced. This single permit (combined permit) replaces the traditional labor card and residence permit for "third country nationals" who want to work here for more than 90 days. These decisions are made by the regional Economic Migration Department and the federal Immigration Department, respectively.

We give a brief overview in this article about the general guidelines in Flanders, because Belgium, as usual, has regional nuances. We also cover here only the typical company profiles that qualify for this for companies based in Belgium, and not the exceptions to the rule or other sectors.

Because around this single permit there appear to be quite a few misunderstandings. We will try to clarify them here using a few concrete and frequent examples.

The situation: you cannot get your vacancy filled by local recruitment of a Belgian employee. You can't find the right profile within the EEA either. For which third-country nationals is the single permit then an option?

To be clear, "third-country nationals" are citizens from outside the EEA and Switzerland. The European Economic Area includes the EU countries, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein

The basic questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is it about a recognized bottleneck profession?
  • Does the profession absolutely have to be on that bottleneck occupation list?
  • What is the employee's level of education?
  • Does the employee have managerial responsibilities?

Bottleneck Appeal

What is a 'bottleneck occupation' under the single permit? The list of bottleneck occupations provided by the VDAB published annually is namely NOT the same list of bottleneck occupations single permit. The latter list is quite shorter and is updated every two years by the Flemish government (last update April 1, 2021). Specifically, it concerns 22 middle-skilled occupations (which do not require higher education) in which Flemish employers are having a very difficult time filling their vacancies and for which the minister recognizes that there is a structural shortage. For example, a truck or crane driver, a maintenance mechanic, a plumbing installer, a chef, a butcher, a baker, or healthcare/caregiving personnel. These bottleneck occupations do not require prior labor market research.

Specifically: you need a maintenance technician and this occupation is on the recent bottleneck occupation list. Then you can do without labor market research worldwide recruit and initiate the single permit procedure as an employer.

What if the job is not on the list of bottleneck occupations?

So does this single permit only apply to these officially recognized bottleneck occupations? No. It is important to know that for a middle-skilled employee from outside the EEA who is not on Belgian territory (unless as a long-term EU resident) can apply for a single permit. As an employer, you must substantiate this with special economic reasons and furthermore demonstrate that after a labor market research (in cooperation with the VDAB) it appears that no suitable candidate was found within Belgium and the EEA within a reasonable period of time.

Specifically: you will not find a diamond cutter in Belgium, nor in other EEA countries. However, this profession is not explicitly on the bottleneck occupational list. If you can prove that you were unable to find such a profile within the EEA, under certain conditions you can apply for a single permit for a professional from Armenia or India, for example.

Highly educated people and executives

For highly skilled the requirements are simpler and less restricted. These profiles must NOT be on the bottleneck list and do NOT require prior labor market research. For high school graduates, the only requirements are: a recognized diploma and the salary.

Specifically: you need an engineer. You may recruit this highly skilled profile worldwide as long as the person has the appropriate degree (bachelor's or master's) and the gross annual salary is a minimum of €43,524 (amount set for 2021). Highly qualified people under 30 and nurses must earn only 80% of this amount.

For executives must show that the person is in charge of the day-to-day management of the enterprise and is authorized to represent and commit the employer. In addition, the person also manages the enterprise and supervises the work of subordinate employees. So here diploma does not play a role. However, the wage must be at least 160% of the average gross annual wage in Belgium. For 2021, this amount was set at €69,638 gross.

Duration of a single permit

Single permits for middle-skilled occupations are valid for 1 year and then must be renewed each time.
Single permits for highly skilled and managerial employees can be applied for immediately for a period of 3 years.
There are also single permits of indefinite duration but these must be applied for by the employee himself after having already worked here for a certain period of time. The person is then also free to work for any employer.

Latest developments in the proceedings

  • If the entire single permit application process used to take about four months, the Immigration Department is now aiming for a much shorter lead time. In practice, this is already bearing fruit. Processing times are effectively getting shorter. Often files are now completed within two months.
  • For extensions of a single permit, foreign workers have been allowed to continue their work here since March 1, removing previous uncertainties during this bridging period.
  • The government developed a 'Working in Belgium' digital counter so that the application is now done in a modern and transparent way. The development of this platform is at a final stage.

With these recent measures, Flanders and the federal government have taken an important step towards the internationalization of our labor market. In the global and very spirited "war for talent," this is certainly a boost for Belgian business, which can now confidently play the card of international recruitment. Closing the gap!

Have you already tried everything to find that one talent, without success?

Link2Europe, specialist in international recruitment, helps you extend this search to the rest of the world. We support your company, search for candidates and guide them to the Belgian labor market.

Wondering how we work for you? Take a look at www.link2Europe.be.

Source: Integration & Integration Agency

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