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Brexit: Immigration in Belgium

Brexit: Immigration in Belgium

Below is an update on the Belgian immigration status of UK nationals who have been performing economic activities in Belgium prior to 31 December 2020. We also provide information on the situation of UK nationals who will only start their economic activities in Belgium as from 1 January 2021.

While the information below reflects the current status, the – yet uncertain - outcome of the ongoing negotiations between the UK and the EU might result in further changes impacting immigration formalities.

Why this matters

For both existing as well as new cases of UK nationals working in Belgium, individuals and companies need to be aware of the new immigration context following the end of free movement as of 31 December 2020.  

To maintain optimal business continuity within this new reality, understanding the practical implications, effect on population, budgetary impact, compliance process timelines and related risks is critical. To successfully navigate the people impact of Brexit in your organization, companies will also need to ensure timely and accurate communication to all stakeholders impacted.

British citizens already residing and/or working in Belgium are not expected to experience any major changes after 1 January 2021. However, certain action points need to be taken before 31 December 2020 to ensure their right to stay and work in Belgium. 

UK nationals already performing economic activities in Belgium before 31 December 2020

Those residing in Belgium prior to 31 December 2020

British citizens and their family members who are already residing and working in Belgium before 31 December 2020 will be able to continue to do so.

Should they not yet have obtained their Belgian residence permit, action to ensure compliance should be taken prior to 31 December 2020.1

Their current residence cards will be exchanged for an M-card by 31 December 2021. They will not need to initiate this themselves, they will receive an invitation to obtain their M-card at their commune of residence.2

Holders of an M-card will be authorized to reside and work in Belgium as an employee or self-employed. An M-card will, however, not entail free access to the labor market of other EU Member States.

Frontier workers with a Belgian employer

UK nationals working in Belgium but residing in the UK and returning at least once a week to the UK will qualify as frontier workers.

British frontier workers currently employed by a Belgian employer, working in Belgium but residing in the UK, will have to apply for an N-card in order to safeguard their right to work in Belgium. The N-card will have to be obtained at the Belgian commune of the place of employment.3

Further details on the process and conditions to obtain an N-card still need to be communicated by the Belgian authorities.

Frontier workers with a non-Belgian employer

Whether British frontier workers with a non-Belgian employer will also be able to obtain an N-card is not yet officially confirmed. Their rights are partially impacted by the right of free movement of services within the EU, which is not covered under the Withdrawal Agreement concluded between the EU and the UK.4

Should these individuals not qualify to obtain an N-card, a Belgian work permit as frontier worker will have to be obtained in order to allow continued legal employment in Belgium as from 1 January 2021.

Business travelers

For British business travelers already traveling for business to Belgium prior to 1 January 2021, the authorities have not (yet) foreseen a preferential treatment.

Depending on the type of activities business travelers will perform in Belgium and the duration of their presence in Belgium, they might need to obtain a work permit B allowing them to work and reside in Belgium for a maximum of 90 days within a total period of 180 days. This work permit needs to be obtained prior to travelling to Belgium for business purposes.

UK nationals performing economic activities in Belgium as from 1 January 2021 only

Following the end of their free movement into the EU, British nationals are considered third country nationals from a Belgian immigration perspective as from 1 January 2021.

Those taking up longer term residence in Belgium

UK nationals coming to Belgium to work and reside for a period exceeding 3 months will need to obtain the appropriate work and residence authorizations prior to moving to Belgium.5

For employees working in Belgium for either a Belgian or foreign employer, a Single Permit will have to be obtained.

In general, self-employed workers will have to obtain a professional card prior to moving to Belgium.

Frontier workers

The same principle also applies to British citizens that will be working in Belgium in the capacity of frontier workers as from 1 January 2021, irrespective of where their employer is located.6

A work permit B for frontier workers valid for maximum 1 year (renewable) and an Annex 15 should be obtained prior to the start of their activities in Belgium.

Business travelers

British business travelers that will start travelling to Belgium as from 1 January 2021 will, in principle, be treated as third-country nationals for which a work authorization might be required.

Depending on the type of activities business travelers will perform in Belgium and the duration of their presence in Belgium, they might need to obtain a work permit B allowing them to work and reside in Belgium for a maximum of 90 days within a total period of 180 days. This work permit needs to be obtained prior to travelling to Belgium for business purposes.7

Visa requirement for British citizens entering Belgium

On the basis of European Regulation 2019/592 regarding a visa requirement8 a visa waiver has been foreseen for British citizens provided that there is reciprocity.

KPMG Note

We recommend filing, in a timely manner, for a Work Permit B / Single Permit application for the employees subject to such a work authorization requirement as from 1 January 2021. Upon request, KPMG Belgium can assist you with this.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the status of British citizens working in Belgium please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Footnotes

1 Brussels Regional Public service website, http://werk-economie-emploi.brussels/en/permit-british-workers

2 Brussels Regional Public service website, http://werk-economie-emploi.brussels/en/permit-british-workers

3 Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, 2019/C 384 I/01, OJ C 384I, 12 November 2019, p. 1-177.

4 Brussels Regional Public service website, http://werk-economie-emploi.brussels/en/permit-british-workers

5 Regulation (EU) 2019/592 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 April 2019 amending Regulation (EU)2018/1806 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement, as regards the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union. 

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