Thousands of International students come to Belgium every year for education. Ghent University alone recorded 12.5% of international students’ admissions in 2019–20. Naturally, with so many international students coming to the country each year, there would be an equal number of students graduating, some of whom would also be interested in working in Belgium.
Getting your work permit in Flanders: a recap
As a non-EU jobseeker, are you interested in working in Belgium, but don’t know where to start? Have hundreds of questions on documents you need and how to convert your student visa to a work permit? We addressed all these topics and more in our latest workshop in Ghent. Wait, what? You missed it? Luckily, we decided to bundle a few takeaways in this blogpost. Don’t forget to keep an eye on our social media so you don’t miss our next workshops and conversation groups !
In this workshop, we had an expert from the Office of the Migration Service of the City of Gent to answer queries about getting a work permit in Flanders and how to convert a student visa to a work permit. What documents are required? And what does a candidate need to do?
The workshop was primarily divided into three parts for obtaining a work permit — before, during and after.
Before applying for a permit
All non-EU candidates applying for the job market have to ensure that all their documents are in order before they apply for a work permit. This section of the workshop mainly focused on the documents one needs to have even before one can apply for a work permit.
Companies operating in Flanders in particular and in Belgium as a whole have to follow a protocol while employing: when looking to fill a position, they first need to look through the Government employment database (VDAB in Flanders, FOREM in Wallonia, Actiris in Brussels) to find a suitable candidate. Jobseekers residing in Belgium would be their first choice. However, there are some exceptions: some roles like managerial roles, highly-educated roles, and technical roles are in high demand and can easily allow a non-EU candidate to find a job in Flanders. There are a total of 22 such professions. The list is reviewed every 2 years and updated by the government. You can find the list of professions that are in high demand here. Unfortunately, the list is in Dutch — but why worry, when Google Translate, is your buddy?
When it comes to collecting all your documents, be sure to have your birth certificate, proof of good conduct from your home country, a valid passport and all your valid scorecards and degrees in order. Any doubts about a degree you have from your home country and its validity in Belgium? Well, you can get your qualification recognized for the Belgian job market: just follow the steps mentioned here.
During the workshop, we also answered a few specific questions from the attendees:
Can I apply for a work permit as an employee and, parallel to that, start the process of becoming self-independent?
Yes! If you are in the process of getting a residence card, you may also start a parallel process to become self-employed. But if both applications get approved, you will need to choose one status.
Can I work as a PhD student?
Yes! PhD is a student status. So, if you are a student, you can work up to 20 hours a week.
Can I apply for a work permit as an employee and simultaneously, start the process of becoming a consultant?
Yes! If you are in the process of getting a residence card, you can also start a parallel process to become self-employed. But if both applications get approved, you will need to choose one status.
While your case is being processed
Have you successfully found a job and got selected? Congratulations! What now? Do you need to apply for a work permit, or would the company do it for you? In most cases, you only need to send your documents to your company, sit back and wait while you get your work and residence permit. However, in some cases where the organization you are applying to is new or doesn’t have many non-EU employees and is not aware of the process, you can help speed up the process.
Once you have landed your dream role and signed the contract, the company will need a copy of your passport, a confirmation of your health insurance cover, and proof of good conduct (usually from your home country) before they can apply for your work permit. The whole process of getting a work visa is divided into 2 parts — one getting your work permit which the Flemish Government approves, and second, getting your residence permit that the Federal Government approves. Once you submit your documents to the company, the documents are first sent to the Flemish Government office, where they review your work-related documents and approve your work visa. Once they approve, the documents are then sent for residence permit approval to the Federal Government. It can take up to 2–4 months to get your work visa and residence permit approved.
Important questions addressed:
Can I stay in Belgium till a decision is taken on my work permit?
Yes. You can stay in Belgium while your case is pending.
What documents/proofs do I need if I apply for 1 year on a ‘Job-search’ visa?
You need proof that you have enough money to stay in Belgium for this 1 year. You can block the amount (730 Euros a month for individuals and 1900 Euros for a family) at your school/university. Alternatively, you can use Annexe 32 where some relative or friend guarantees your stay.
After you’re approved
Congratulations! You have finally made it through the process of getting your work and residence permit. Now what? Well, once you have got all your documents in place, you need to make sure you have registered yourself to the nearest commune where a file with your details is created and closely monitored for all the changes. You can find all the details about the process here if you are applying in Ghent. Find the details about the process here to apply in Wallonia and here to apply in Brussels.
During the workshop, we addressed some important questions, such as:
What happens to my residence permit if I’m fired?
If you have a single permit and your employer fires you or stops your contract, the employer has to warn the Government. The Government will send a letter to you and from that day you have 90 days to find another employer. If you are unable to find an employer in those 90 days, you would have to leave Belgium.
As a Non-EU citizen, do I get unemployment benefits?
You are eligible for unemployment benefits only on 2 conditions. First, if your home country has an agreement with the Belgian Government. Secondly, The National Employment Office or RVA looks at your age category and the number of days you have worked for. If you meet the required criteria, you are provided with unemployment benefits. You can find all the details here.
Didn’t find the answer to your question? Well! You can reach out to the migration office in Ghent, and they will be more than happy to help you with your problem. All the information on how you can contact them is listed here or email them at email@example.com. All the information for reaching out to officials in Brussels and in Wallonia is listed here and here.
Starting your job search in Flanders and don’t know where to begin? Well, wait no more. Read The Complete Job Search toolkit and start searching today.
Want to register yourself on VDAB? Read Decoding VDAB: a one-stop-shop for all your employment needs in Flanders and register today.
Website of the Flemish agency of integration(Unfortunately it is in Dutch, but you can always use Google Translate): it contains a lot of information about migration law, the right to work/stay in Belgium, volunteer work, working as an independent etc. More information about ‘who has the right to work as ‘labourmigrant’ and the procedures for groups who have a higher chance of getting a work permit like Highly scholared professionals in Flanders or Brussels, Postdoctoral researcher, Managerial Roles. They also have a juridical helpdesk.
Would you like to be the first to know about the next Co-Searching workshops? You can keep track of the upcoming workshops here.