People coming together to form a heart

A people-first approach to the expat experience

A people-first approach to the expat experience

A people-first approach to the expat experience

Nele Godefroid | Director,

Do you work in an international office? How many of your colleagues are non-Belgians who have travelled from overseas to join your team, bringing with them new perspectives and experiences? Have you ever considered what it might be like to do the same? What it would mean for your personal life as well as your career?

Moving country for work might be a lot more common now than in previous decades, but that doesn’t mean that it’s without its challenges. It’s more than just navigating a new city, language, culture, or figuring out the best way to perform in a new role or work environment. It’s also about the human side of things - the space in which we build strong, lasting relationships with others, which can be facilitated or hindered by the way in which the immigration and expat experience is managed.

As immigration advisers, we constantly strive to meet the wishes of the companies and employees we work for. Every day, we focus on numbers, deadlines, goals and go to the next level to ensure our clients’ needs are met. We are continuously trying to build new networks to enhance our existing relationships to detect new and exciting opportunities, while always thinking of the people at the heart of our work.

Putting people first means that we sometimes get to hear more of the stories of those we’re working with. Every once in a while, we’re lucky to hear of something special that reminds us of the real-life impact of the work we do, reaching out to people from all across the world and helping them find their way as they settle into new lives in Belgium.

One such story is that of Laura and Sarah, two expats who came from different corners of the globe to work in Belgium and found each other in the process.

In early 2019, Laura was offered a job as a designer for a multinational clothing company which is headquartered in Belgium. An Australian citizen, we were asked by her new employer to assist her with the immigration process, helping her to navigate the complexities of starting a new job and a new life in a new country. We immediately reached out to launch the start-up process, introducing ourselves, and explaining every step of the way, from applying for a Belgian Single Permit and obtaining the visa in the Belgian embassy to registering at her local commune in Antwerp. We met her for the first time in person during her initial onboarding meeting at her new workplace.

Our People Services team not only assisted Laura with the immigration process, but also helped her to demystify the special expatriate tax regime, as well as Belgian tax returns and payroll. As immigration and tax are strictly linked to someone’s personal situation, we continued to stay in touch with Laura to be able to advise her when she informed us of any changes in this respect. Last week, we received an email from Laura, sending us the happy news that she was getting married on February 14, 2020 to Sarah, another expat who had recently immigrated to Belgium.

Sarah had been working as an IT manager with the same multinational clothing company since 2015, but as she has UK nationality, she had always been able work in Belgium without having to apply for a work permit or visa, so had never previously needed assistance from our immigration team. However, with Brexit confirmed, Sarah was uncertain about what this would mean for her future in Belgium and how this might affect her employment.

In early 2020, we were contacted by the HR team of the clothing company and asked to assist them and provide them with advice about the potential consequences of Brexit for the employment of UK nationals in Belgium. We were able to offer reassurance that our advisors would assist with navigating this new scenario, giving both Sarah and her company a feeling that we are there to support them through uncertainty and ready to assist with any new questions or challenges that may arise. The HR team also confirmed the happy news of Sarah and Laura getting married, and we’re delighted to have been able to offer our support in helping them continue to build their lives and careers together here in Belgium.  

We wish them the very best for this exciting new chapter and couldn’t think of a more appropriate day to celebrate their story: Happy Valentine’s Day!