Do EU citizens need a visa to work in Belgium?

As with every country, there are many different options of visa in Belgium. But, depending on where you’re from will define what you do or don’t need to live, work or study here.

If you’re a citizen of an EU or EFTA country, then you won’t need a visa at all. With the agreements which are in place within these groups, you can work, travel, live and study freely in Belgium. However, you might need to report your arrival to the municipality at the local town hall within ten days of arrival.

When you plan to stay longer than 90 days, you’ll need a residence card, called an eID card. To get this, you will need to register with the Immigration Office. This can be quite a lengthy process, so we recommend doing this sooner, rather than later.

What type of visa do you need?

For those who are not an EU or EFTA citizen, there are two main types of visas in Belgium, the short stay and long stay.

Short stay visas are for visits of under 90-days, and are called Visa Type C. These can be used for vacation, work, study or hospital visits. You can pick these up from your local Belgian Embassy or Consulate and take a minimum of 15 days to arrange. We say minimum as they often take much longer, especially during the summer, so applying as early as you can is highly recommended.

Note that not every country needs one of these visas for vacations. UK, US, Canadian and Australian citizens don’t need them, for example. If you’re not sure, we recommend checking out the latest advice from the immigration office.

If you plan to stay longer than 90-days, then you’ll need a long stay visa. Called a Type D, these visas cover the whole range of reasons for staying in Belgium beyond three months, including work, study or visiting family.

Getting to work in Belgium

Working within Belgium is relatively simple if you’re from within the EU. However, if you’re from a third country and plan to work for more than 90-days, then you will need a work permit to be employed here.

There are several options depending on your contract term and planned status.

For Entrepreneurs, you’ll need a professional card in addition to the Type D visa to work in Belgium. These are issued by regional authorities, and you’ll need one in place before you start to trade here. It is necessary to have this card for any trade or to complete any business activities in Belgium.

Expats moving to Belgium for long-term work will need to have a fixed-term, single permit which will be completed by your employer. Again, this is in addition to the Type D visa. These permits can take many months to arrange, so it’s important that your employer starts the process well ahead of your proposed start date.

If you’re coming to Belgium to work periodically on a Schengen visa, then it’s possible to get a 90/180 work permit. With this, you can work for up to 90 days out of 180 in Belgium. Your employer will need to arrange this for you and, when you have it, you can use it to arrange a Type C short stay visa from your local embassy or consulate.

Visas for spouses and family

The Type D long stay visa is the one needed if you plan to join your spouse who is coming to work and live in Belgium in the long term.

Note that you will need to be able to prove your relationship and that you have sufficient funds to support your family and expenses to be successful with this application.

Studying in Belgium

Moving to Belgium to study will mean that you need a Type D visa. To receive this, you will need to be able to prove that you have been accepted to study at a recognised Belgian University or educational institutional. You will also need to be able to prove that you can sustain yourself financially whilst in the country.

Crucially, the visa will also enable you to work up to 20-hours per week during the academic period and longer during holidays.

Navigating the process

Arranging and completing your visa application in the shortest time possible can be a complicated and daunting proposition. That’s where our members come in.

If you’re planning to move to Belgium, we’d recommend you have a conversation with a relocation agent as soon as you can. They can support you through the visa application process and keep on top of it for you. They can also support you with the logistics of the move, finding a home, schools and settling into the country too.

You can find a full list of our approved relocation agents right here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A simple, three steps to success?

The application process to work in Belgium consists of a work authorisation, residence permit and then the visa.

The permit processes must be completed one after the other, and where you need to apply will vary depending on where you specifically plan to work. The three main Belgian regions of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels all have their own distinct systems for completing these steps.

Once you have completed and received a positive result for the work authorisation and residence permit, you may then approach the local Belgian embassy to apply for your visa to come.

This sounds fairly simply and, aside from some form filling and documentation, it is… on paper.

The realities of the process

The biggest challenge facing people who wish to come to Belgium to work is wait times.

For over 2 years, the process of permits and visas has been so long winded and uncertain, that applicants are terminating their contract before ever starting work.

The wait time for a work permit is somewhere between 7 and 11 weeks from application. If that is successful, then the residency permit suffers similar delays, with, again, 7 to 11 weeks being standard. If you wait those out and are successful, you then need to visit your local Belgian embassy… maybe.

Many embassies have outsourced their visa application processes to external organisations to handle the volume. In some countries this can take 3 months to get an appointment. In others, Turkey for example, the outsourced company has stopped taking applications all together.

All in all, this means you are likely looking at somewhere around 4 to 6 months before you’re likely to be ready to start your new role.

What can you do to improve your process?

This all sounds pretty dire and depressing. When you’ve just landed that dream job in another country, the last thing you want to do is wait and wait based on bureaucracy.

So, what can you do to improve the experience?

First, unfortunately, we’d recommend that you prepare yourself for the wait. There is going to be a noticeable time to wait before you can move, so we suggest that you plan for the longer wait and hope for a quicker turn around.

Second, get things right first time, and respond quickly. With such a duration to wait, the last thing you need is to be rejected or have questions asked because you missed a document or incorrectly answered a question.

Third, make sure you know what you can and cannot apply for. For example, if you plan to bring family with you including children over 18, they can’t join your application as a dependent.

Our final suggestion, which will certainly help with the last two points, is to speak to one of our members and get their professional help with your application. Having someone who understands the system, understands the nuances of the process, and knows what to look out for will be invaluable to a speedy and successful application. They will also be able to proactively follow up and move on your application, ensuring that any delay which can be removed is removed.

Is it worth it?

The reality is that Belgium has need of a great number of workers across a huge number of careers in our country. The work is here for those who want it and can wait on the long-winded process to get their visa.

As a country, Belgium offers some uniquely diverse and beautiful places to live in the midst of a vibrant and exciting country. Call us biased, but we think it’s worth the wait.

That said, we do agree that the wait times are currently unreasonable and actually miss the Government’s stated objective timelines. That’s why ABRA continues to advocate for a more streamlined, efficient and effective solution to the visa delay issue for both our members, and people like you.

 

 

 

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The Power of Empathy

Last year, ABRA keynote speaker Bart De Leeuw of The Oval Office introduced us to the Empathy Value Index. The first of its kind, their evidence-based research tool proved a direct link between empathy and key performance indicators for brands. To put it simply, brands need to mean what they say, understand their customers needs, ensure the customers feel they are empathic to these needs, and follow through on promises made.

When brands get this heady mix right, good things happen. The higher a brand scores on the Empathy Value Index, or EVI, the more likely consumers are to identify with it. Four times more likely in fact. This positive identification in turn is reflected in how likely consumers are to consider the brand (x2.7), buy it (x2.8) and become loyal (x3.4) to the brand. And with 81% of brands easily replaced in customers’ hearts and minds, the race is on to join the 19% of meaningful businesses. So does the same hold true for employer-employee relations?

Empathy as Foundational Value

It most certainly does. Businessolver’s 2022 State of the Workplace Empathy Study reports that including empathy as a foundational value is fast becoming of vital importance in the post-COVID world. Not only do 72% of employees believe that empathy drives employee motivation, 84% of CEOs believe that empathy drives better business outcomes. From investing in mental wellbeing to embracing diversity, leading with empathy pays.

The Oval Office’s 2022 Empathy Value Index Employer Edition echoes these findings. Expectations have changed and no longer do we work to survive (as our grandparents did), or to guarantee a certain standard of living (like our parents); instead we work to ensure our quality of life. And it’s not just a Gen Z thing either: Gartner reports the pandemic has caused nearly seven in 10 employees to rethink the role of work in their lives so time to sit up and take note.

Empathy has an undeniable impact on the recruitment, retention, and motivation of your employees, also in the event of changes.

Opportunity for Leadership

Employees that work for an empathic employer experience 3.1 times more overall job satisfaction and are 2.6 times more receptive to change according to The Oval Office. What’s more, employees who see their employer as empathic are 1.6 times more likely to stay with the company and are 4.4 times more prepared to recommend their employer to others.

Opportunities for growth (+350%), additional training (+300%) and a supportive work environment (+270%), are all key drivers for job satisfaction. In today’s ongoing war for talent, these numbers create serious food for thought for employers and their HR departments. So what makes for an empathic employer?

5 Pillars of Empathy

Expectations are high when it comes to empathy in the workplace. The fact that we all want to feel heard, understood, and valued is a given. We all have a unique personality, our own way of working and private lives that come with challenges, and we value an employer who understands this and genuinely cares about our wellbeing. In other words, they GET ME.

Whether it’s equal career opportunities and remuneration, or gender, religion, sexual orientation, colour, or any other human parameter, we want our employers to be FAIR TO ME. No less than 53% of people with a different ethnic background reported having left a previous employer because they felt not everyone was given the same opportunities.

Of course, communication is a two-way street, but an employer who COMMUNICATES WITH ME creates loyalty and commitment. Employees who feel ‘part of the family’ are prepared to go to greater lengths to achieve great things for the team, so fostering openness and transparency really does matter.

Additionally, being able to be our authentic self goes a long way towards creating an environment where colleagues form a genuine team. A healthy and inspiring work environment is a place where no one takes a job well done for granted. Appreciation is employees’ number one priority, and a good employer SHOWS ME they really do care.

Finally, an empathic employer EMPOWERS ME. I feel valued and appreciated and am trusted to determine my own work-life balance. Similarly, I’m stimulated to continue developing professionally. Almost 1 in 4 employees state developing skills is one of their top 5 most important requirements.

Empathy in Mobility

As mobility professionals, we’re well-versed with the trials and tribulations of our expats and their employers. Empathy is high when it comes to adapting to cultural change and the massive emotional and practical impact of an international move. But do we afford our own teams the same level of empathy? Are we managing to attract and retain the talent we need? Just like any other industry, we’re feeling the pressure, so it’s high time to be honest with ourselves.

From the 85% of people who worry about losing their jobs and paying the bills to the 57% who experience racism and prejudice, we all need a little more love and understanding. The good news is 40% of global consumers will go out of their way to help others and 28% say they want to be even more compassionate the coming months. And for 46% of European teens, being a good person is on the top of their list when they think about the future.

EuRA Conference speaker Ken E. Nwadike Jr. would be proud.

 

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Increase in Flat Rate Reimbursement

As costs related to homework are relatively small and difficult to prove, the social security authorities (RSZ/ONSS) and the tax authorities accept to estimate these costs on a lump sum basis. The office allowance is intended to cover, among other things, costs for heating, electricity, water, insurances, office supplies and refreshments.

The social security authorities have indicated in their intermediary administrative guidelines that the office allowance is indexed again. The maximum amount of 140.15 EUR, which applied from 01.06.2022 until 31.08.2022, has been increased to 142.95 EUR per month as of 01.09.2022.

The tax authorities had already indicated in their circular letter of 26.02.2021 that they would follow the amount of the office indemnity as determined by the social security authorities, as well as the evolution of this amount. The amount of 142.95 EUR is therefore exempt from social security contributions and taxes.

The amount of 142.95 EUR is a maximum amount. It is therefore not mandatory to grant this maximum amount, but you are free to increase the amount to 142.95 EUR per month as of 01.09.2022.

We would also like to remind you that a written agreement must be drawn up for teleworkers, in principle at the latest when the employee starts teleworking. In this agreement, specific mandatory provisions must be included such as the place where the telework will be performed, how the costs will be reimbursed, etc.

Other Indemnities for Working from Home

In addition to the office allowance, the employer can also reimburse the following costs on a lump sum basis:

  • 20 EUR per month if the employee uses his/her own internet connection for professional purposes.
  • 20 EUR per month if the employee uses his/her own computer for professional purposes.

OR

10 EUR per month (5 EUR per item) for the professional use of a personal second computer screen and printer/scanner (and this for a maximum of 3 years). Attention, this allowance cannot be combined with the lump sum of 20 EUR per month for the use of the own PC.

These indemnities have not been increased: the maximum amounts remain the same.

The lump sum amounts can of course only be granted if the office and internet costs are not yet reimbursed to the employee in another way.

Action point

Inform your Payroll Business Partner if you wish to increase the current lump-sum office allowance.

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On the one hand we have the employer who feels they lost a certain amount of control of their team during lockdown, because what precisely were staff up to when they were at home? And on the other we have the employees who quite enjoy having the flexibility to walk the dog mid-afternoon or run a quick load of laundry during working hours. Understandably companies are keen to keep their employees in the workplace as it helps them feel more in control. And, of course, social cohesion remains essential to a strongly aligned team. But as long as targets, deadlines, and KPIs are being met, is there a problem? And how can you create a safe, respectful and balanced working environment for all?

ROI vs. ROT

“People need structure, and work-from-home has blurred boundaries,” says Willemijn. “Before Covid you’d get into your car, drive to work, do your eight hours and then return home again. Things were clear. WFH means the kids asking for a snack, a delivery that needs signing for, screens freezing mid-meeting and questions needing to be repeated… The symbolic mask that we wear for work – at work you are in function, at home you can be your authentic self – has cracked now our professional and private lives have become so entwined. Calling a colleague at 4pm is perfectly reasonable, but experience tells us they might already have poured themselves a glass of wine after a full working day.”

“We’ve always been told that, in order to be successful, we must work hard. But what precisely does that mean? Is it working from nine to five, is it being busy-busy-busy whenever someone asks how you are? What precisely is the measure of success? Companies tend to think in return-on-investment: what they get in return for the employee’s remuneration. But perhaps we should start talking about return-on-time – or ROT – instead of ROI: if you are better able to focus on that report when the house is quiet, then surely that represents better value for the company. However, if your boss rings while you’re showering at 10am because you were working late, they might think you are slacking, even though the opposite is true. It’s hugely important to understand that perspectives differ and a lot of misunderstandings are due to perception.”

Cave Syndrome

Going from the relative peace and quiet (and safety) of your home office to an open plan space with lots of people can be quite stressful. Even more so now that Omicron has made its entry. And you aren’t alone if you’re feeling hesitant about returning to life ‘as before’: a recent study by the American Psychological Association reported that 49 percent of surveyed adults anticipated being uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions when the pandemic ends. It found that 48 percent of those who have received a COVID vaccine said they felt the same way. This sense of anxiety is known as the ‘cave syndrome’ and the back-and-forth between the loosening and tightening of restrictions doesn’t exactly help.

“People are understandably nervous about working in a shared environment,” confirms Willemijn. “Because what is company policy? Vaccination is still a personal choice and (in theory) employers cannot force you to have one. Picture yourself sharing a meeting room with eight people, of whom four are wearing a mask. How does that make you feel? Are they unvaccinated or just anxious? People are becoming increasingly distrustful and judgemental of one another. Are you ‘woke’ or a ‘follower’? Which side of the fence are you on? And how do you address this as a team leader? Can you even address it?”

State Your Policy

“The right to privacy means you aren’t allowed to ask about someone’s vaccination status or beliefs. So what do you do? Are you going to discuss this openly with the team or respect individuals’ right to privacy? There is a case to be made for this because you are legally obliged to provide employees with a safe working environment. The two principles are diametrically opposed, so how can you reassure your team? A lot of organisations are struggling to work out how to deal with this. Because simply following government restrictions (or the lifting of them), isn’t a company policy you can build on. The national advisory group GEMS advises one thing and the politicians decide something else altogether. Understandably, faith in the powers that be is at an all-time low and you need your own company policy to reassure your team.”

In fact, a number of organisations have already openly stated their stance on the matter and you can argue it either way. ZNA announced vaccination to be a prerequisite for all new hires and Leaseplan made vaccination mandatory for its entire staff unless they want to work from home ‘forever’, as have Google and Facebook, to name but a few. This show of strength – get the jab or lose the job – although understandable, isn’t exactly respectful towards the individual and doesn’t make for a fully aligned team. So where do you go from here?

Shades of Grey

“We need to recognise how vulnerable we are all feeling, both as employers and as employees. Everyone is deliberating, trying to work out what is ‘right’ moving forward, but the truth is nobody knows. There is no black or white; only shades of grey. We need to find a way for employers to be both respectful and vulnerable towards their employees and I think HR has a vital role to play. People need to be able to voice what makes them feel (un)safe without fear of being judged. Last year proved how much we missed the cohesion that comes from spending time together – literally ‘teambuilding’ – now it is time to create balance and openness through conversation.”

“The good thing is that we’re seeing a lot of organisations invest in connection and mental wellbeing. And the amount of subsidies available in Belgium mean that you can invest without incurring any cost below the line. In fact, done right, you could even even ‘profit’ on the cost of remuneration – as well as profiting from stronger human capital – making it a win-win situation for all. Everyone knows about the KMO Portefeuille, but lesser known initiatives like ‘werkbaarheidcheques’ and ‘Vlaams opleidingsverlof’ are equally interesting.”

Moral Obligation

“It’s a shame that it’s so difficult to find your way around the red tape, but I feel employer and employee share the responsibility of finding out what is out there. Take the time to look around, really see what you need, what your people need; be it time management training or a workshop on diet and sleep. So much is available, as an employer, you’re almost morally obliged to take advantage of the opportunities. There really is no excuse to not invest in your people; every single sector is crying out for talent, so why risk losing your most valuable assets? If you’re not preventatively investing in your mental capital, you’re not doing enough to keep them on board.”

www.pinkrebelrevolution.com

 

 

 

 

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“Any period of transition is impactful, but the past two years have been a real-time experiment in mental resilience. Unsurprisingly, stress and burnout are on the rise. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review they became ‘rampant’ in 2020. And right when our energy levels are low, we’re being asked to experiment with hybrid workplaces. When we do go back to the workplace again, that is. Thankfully, employers are becoming more aware and are placing a lot of focus on the employee. If there is one good thing to come from the pandemic, it has to be this new level of understanding of the human factor,” says Elke.

Preparing for Transition

“Evolving into a hybrid workplace is a period of transition. And as with any transition, preparation is key. You need to organise inclusive sessions that explain what the rules and expectations are going to be, and what hybrid working means to your company. Additionally, you want to invite experts who can inspire people and bolster mental resilience; who can talk about how to stay focussed, even when working from home. Change management is a combination of good internal communication, and informing people on the goals and the road to them.”

“It’s important to remember to differentiate between how you work from home and how you work in the workplace. In the office we have regular breaks that allow our brains to recuperate. The proverbial coffee breaks and water cooler chats, sharing lunch at the same table, commuting to and from work; they all give our brains some much-needed time to rest and reset. When you’re working from home, the tendency is to just keep going until whatever you’re working on is finished. But these breaks provide you with the energy to keep going. A lot of what we do is about inspiring people to recognise when they are in a healthy, positive flow or just powering on through by willpower.”

Recognising Signals

“We’re all responsible for recognising each other’s alarm signals. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – both mentally and cognitively – from not being able to concentrate properly, or memory loss, to being short tempered. The things that wouldn’t bother us normally become magnified when our brains don’t get the chance to take a little ‘breather’ every once in a while. Equally, physical signs like palpitations, sweating, headaches and neck pains, or trouble sleeping at night are all signs that your resilience is low.”

“If anything, the pandemic has created the momentum to embrace the best of both worlds: seeing each other in person to foster personal connection and working from home to enhance focus when needed most. At the end of the day (or working week), a good balance between these two means you should be feeling more energetic and are enjoying work more. Of course, just as each individual is different, so are their jobs. People who need to work in full focus will benefit more from being away from the busy office floor than someone who has a coordinating role. When preparing your hybrid workplace policy, it’s important to take these difference into account.”

Connection Matters

Meeting a few times a week as a team ensures you don’t end up with a situation where who is in the office on which days mushrooms into something wholly uncontrolled. You have to create structure and touch base in person on a regular basis. Additionally, you need to communicate clearly. You’ll often see people are a lot more business-minded during online meetings, whereas meetings in real life allow for the all-important ‘how was your weekend’s’ that help give your brain a break. Allow for time wasted: it’s a lot more valuable than you might think. Chitchat helps foster that human connection, no matter how much people have come to appreciate the efficiency of online meetings. So make sure you integrate them in the digital workplace.”

“Our work persona is just one of our many faces, and the pandemic has taught us that showing more of our authentic persona helps establish better personal connections. We have all changed or grown in different ways these past years. We’ve had time to reflect on what we are doing and where we want to go from here. For myself, the pandemic has shown me the importance of spending quality time with my two young children and I’m now actively choosing to free up more time for them. I suspect a lot of people have gained new insights about their personal and professional lives and how they wish to live them post-COVID. The choice to do something with these insights and change long-standing habits is the Mental Reset we should all make if we want to live happier and more energetic lives.”

For your copy of The Mental Reset visit https://bettermindsatwork.com/en/boeken/

 

6 Steps Towards Stronger Resilience

  1. Preparation is key: be clear about what the new workplace is going to look like, what the expectations are, and bring in the experts that will inspire and enthuse your team.
  2. Learn to recognise the difference between a healthy creative flow and powering through on sheer willpower. Give your brain regular breaks.
  3. Learn to recognise when your brain is in distress, and don’t be afraid to talk to others when you see them struggling.
  4. Embrace the best of both worlds and be open to the fact that no two jobs are the same, just as no two people are the same.
  5. Create structure, but allow for time wasted: build in time to share those personal moments that give your brain a break and re-energise you.
  6. Take the time to reflect on what you’ve learned about yourself, your priorities, and where you want to go from here.

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Currently there is a draft program law pending in parliament which will provide this “update” by means of a new tax regime which will apply to “inbound taxpayers and inbound researchers”. As the law still needs to be voted, some changes may still be brought to the draft law during the debates in Parliament.

Employers who employ expats benefiting from the current special tax regime (or who are planning new expatriate hires) should monitor the changes and their impact very closely.

The draft program law uses following abbreviations for the new tax regime(s):

  • For inbound tax payers: BBIB/ RSII, in Dutch: Bijzonder Belastingstelsel voor Ingekomen Belastingplichtigen, in French: Régime Spécial d’Imposition pour les Impatriés;
  • For inbound researchers: BBIO/RSICI, in Dutch: Bijzonder Belastingstelsel voor Ingekomen Onderzoekers, in French: Régime Spécial d’Imposition pour les Chercheurs Impatriés.

As the scope of this article does not allow us to go into all (technical) details of the new regime, we will only highlight the most important changes comparing them to the current special tax regime.

The current special tax regime for foreign executives, known as the “expat status”, has following (well known) characteristics and interesting tax benefits:

  • Belgian nationals are not eligible for the expat status (even if they have double nationality or even when they have lived abroad for a (very) long time);
  • Not-for-profit organisations (VZW/ASBL) are excluded from the regime;
  • Expats who have obtained the special status (and their family) are deemed to be non-residents, even if they live in Belgium; that resulted in the non-application of double tax treaties if the expat was no longer considered a tax resident in his home country;
  • No time limit on the expat status as long as the conditions are continuously fulfilled;
  • A change of employer in Belgium resulted in the loss of the expat tax status (except in special situations of intra-group switches);
  • There are no requirements in terms of salary minimum or diploma as long as it concerned an “executive” function, the decision was based on an analysis of each case at hand;
  • Eligible to the regime are key functions/executives and researchers;
  • The expat is entitled to three major tax benefits:
    • As a non-resident, he is only taxable on Belgian source income;
    • Tax free allowances as reimbursement of costs proper to the employer (up to €11.250 or €29.750 for certain types of costs; unlimited reimbursement for certain types of special costs);
    • Exclusion from the taxable base of that part of the remuneration that corresponds to professional workdays outside of Belgium.

Under the new special tax regime for inbound tax payers and inbound researchers, which will now have a legal basis, the most important features are:

  • Nationality does not have an influence anymore on the eligibility under the new regime, though, a number of conditions are inserted to be eligible:
    • During 60 months (5 years) prior to application for the new expat regime
      • one should not have been considered a Belgian tax resident;
      • one should not have lived within 150km from the Belgian border;
      • one should not have been subject to Belgian non-resident tax in respect of Belgian source professional income;
    • Not-for-profit organisations (VZW/ASBL) are no longer excluded from the regime;
    • Expats who have obtained the expat status (and their family) will be subject to the normal rules on tax residency. An expat who lives in Belgium with his family will therefore normally be treated as tax resident. I the home state continues to consider the expat (and his family) as tax resident, Belgium will treat them as tax non-resident upon the condition of providing an annual tax residency attestation; this means that double tax treaties will have full application under the new regime;
    • There is a time limit on the new expat status: there is an initial period of 5 years, with a possibility for an extension with 3 years (maximum of 8 years);
    • A change of employer in Belgium will no longer automatically result in the loss of the expat status; the new employer will have the possibility to also make an application for the expat status, but there will be no new 5-year term (as the eligibility starts as from the first employment date in Belgium, even with a change of employer, this date remains the anchor point);
    • Eligible to the regime are still key functions/executives and researchers, though the new regime provides for some minimum salary requirements and diploma conditions:
      • As mentioned above the new regime is a system with two sub-regimes: “inbound taxpayers” and “inbound researchers”:
        • BBIB/ RSII – for inbound taxpayers (employees or company directors):
          • the expat must be (i) recruited directly from outside Belgium by a

Belgian company, by the Belgian branch of a foreign company or a not-for-profit organisation, or  (ii) seconded by a foreign company which is part of a multinational group to a Belgian company or Belgian branch of a company within that group, or to a non-for-profit organization;

  • a minimum of €75.000 gross compensation on yearly basis (excl. of the 30% cost allowance – see further);
  • BBIO/RSICI – for researchers (only accessible for employees):
    • the expat must be recruited directly from outside Belgium or seconded to Belgium (see above);
    • no minimum salary level;
    • the expat needs to qualify as researcher:
      • alone or in group, at least 80% of working time is research time (as defined in the law);
      • qualifying diploma or at least 10 years equivalent experience (diploma= doctor or master-level defined science domains).

 

  • The expat is entitled to following tax benefits under the new expat status:
    • Tax free allowances as reimbursement of costs proper to the employer up to 30% of the gross salary (capped at €90.000, possibly indexed as from 2024) paid on top of the contractual salary; the employer’s engagement to use the new 30% system to reimburse costs can thus not be used to reach the €75.000 threshold;
    • A system of additional reimbursement for special costs remains: it concerns costs of moving, cost of decoration and organisation of one’s home and school fees (subject to conditions and with certain limitations). Also these reimbursements are not taken into consideration to reach the salary threshold.

It very important to highlight also the new procedure to obtain the new special expat tax regime and the envisaged date of entry into force.

  • Under the new regime the application will need to be filed electronically within three months after the start of the qualifying employment (today: 6 months) and the tax authorities will need to make a decision within 3 months (in practice often up to 12 months currently).
  • The draft program law has an entry into force date on January 1st, 2022! This is real soon! Eligible employees, directors and researchers starting employment as from that date will fall under the scope of application of the new law if they meet the conditions.

For expats enjoying the tax benefits of the current expat status a complex set of transitional measures will be available. On the basis of “opt-in” or “opt-out” possibilities, the files of the expats enjoying the current special tax regime should be analysed and decisions will need to be made:

  • If on January 1st, 2022 one is benefiting from the current expat status for a period of maximum 5 years and one meets the criteria for the new regime (in a retroactive consideration), an application for the new regime can be filed and such will need to be done ultimately on July 31st, 2022. The new regime can then be applied – as from January 1st, 2022 – for the “remaining period” of 5 (or 8) years. If however upon such a request the answer is negative, the new regime is not acquired, but a transitional measure will allow for the old regime to remain applicable for 2 more years.
  • If on January 1st, 2022 one is benefiting from the current expat status and does not meet the criteria for the new regime, there will be a transition period of 2 years. After these 2 years, the old regime ceases to be applied (whilst also the new regime is not acquired).

Foreign executives currently benefiting from the special tax regime for expatriates and their employers will need to closely monitor on a case-by-case basis the consequences of all the changes brought to the Belgian special tax regime for expats.

At the moment this article was written it was still unclear how the tax-free allowances for costs proper to the employment will be treated for social security purposes. This topic is not inserted in the draft program law and will need separate legislative work if an exemption for social security is to be added to the new tax regime for expats.

 

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Although there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, there are still many organisations who find themselves in difficulties due to the ongoing crisis. Those in crisis can still count on the Replacement Income, but under different conditions. Liantis social security fund (sociaal verzekeringsfonds/caisse d’assurances sociales) offers a clear overview of the updated support measures. They also offer a free online tool that will show you what, if any, financial support you are entitled to in 2021 with a few simple clicks.

3 Pillars of Replacement Income

Since January 2021, the Replacement Income (overbruggingsrecht / droit passerelle) comprises three pillars. These apply until June 2021.

Double Replacement Income if Compulsorily Closed or Dependent on a Compulsorily Closed Sector
Is your business compulsorily closed for at least one day in a particular month, or does it depend on a sector that is compulsorily closed? Then you qualify for a double replacement income for that month.
Application: For the months of January, February and March 2021: submit your application via My Liantis if you are a Liantis client, or contact your own social security fund.

Payment: On Fridays Liantis pays the benefits that were applied for the week before. Your benefit will be in your account within three working days. Benefits for the month of March 2021 are paid as of 2 April 2021.

Read more about the replacement income for those who are compulsorily closed or dependent on a compulsorily closed sector

Crisis Replacement Income in case of Substantial Decrease in Turnover
Are you still exercising your self-employed activity, but has your turnover fallen by at least 40%? In that case, apply for the crisis transitional right in the event of a substantial decrease in turnover. The sector in which you are active plays no role in this benefit.

Application: For the months of January, February and March 2021: You can submit your application via My Liantis if you are a Liantis client, or contact your own social security fund.

Payment: Benefits will be paid as of 2 April 2021.

Read more about the crisis replacement income in the event of a substantial fall in turnover

Crisis Replacement Income in case of Quarantine or Child Care
Do you have to interrupt your activities completely for at least seven consecutive calendar days because you have to go into quarantine? Or can you not work for at least seven days because your child cannot attend the day-care centre or school due to corona measures? In that case, you are entitled to crisis replacement income.

Application: For the months of January, February, March and April 2021: apply via My Liantis or via your own social security fund.

Payment: The first payment for the month of April 2021 will be made on 1 May 2021 at the earliest.

Read more about the crisis replacement income in the event of quarantine or taking care of a child

Did you know…
∞ You can combine replacement incomes with another professional activity as an employee or civil servant almost without restrictions?
∞ If you enjoy the replacement income, you may continue to receive your salary as a business manager, director or working partner?

Applying for Replacement Income
The easiest way to submit your application and have it processed is via the customer portal My Liantis (section ‘my social status’). If you don’t have access to My Liantis yet, you can register at liantis.be/myliantis using your eID or itsme app. A username will be created automatically based on your e-mail address. Is this not possible? Then you can always go to the Liantis support page with your questions.

They will inform you of their decision on the Friday following the week of your request. Still have questions? Then contact your personal customer advisor.

Application Deadlines
∞ For the months January to March 2021: at the latest 30 September 2021.
∞ For the months of April to June 2021: no later than 31 December 2021.

Still want to apply for Replacement Income for 2020? This is still possible for the second semester of 2020.

∞ For the months of July through September 2020: at the latest on 31 March 2021.
∞ For the months of October through December 2020: at the latest on 30 June 2021.

Crisis Replacement Income before January 2021
In 2020, there were two forms of crisis Replacement Income, with an equally high benefit amount:

1. The Crisis Replacement Income to support self-employed persons who were forced to close their business or who were mainly dependent on compulsory closed sectors.

∞ If you were compulsorily closed directly during the months of October, November or December 2020 and did not carry out any self-employed activity other than click & collect or take-away: double benefit.

∞ If you were compulsorily closed in October, November or December 2020 and exercised other self-employed activities besides click & collect or take-away: no entitlement to the double benefit, but possibly the single Relance Benefit.

∞ Were you dependent on a compulsory closed sector in October, November or December 2020 and did you decide to completely interrupt your activities: a double benefit.

∞ Were you dependent on a compulsory closed sector in October, November or December 2020, but you continued to work (e.g. to serve private clients): a single crisis Replacement Income.

Take a look at their page about the double Replacement Income for more information.

2. If your business was not closed by force and you were not dependent on a compulsory closed sector, you could count on the Relance Benefit to support your restart until December 2020. This form of Replacement Income was granted to self-employed persons who were closed on 3 May 2020 or on whom the measures had the same impact. There’s a separate webpage with more information on the relance benefit. Since January 2021, this form of replacement income has been replaced by the Crisis Replacement Income due to a Drop in Turnover.

As well as the federal support measures there are a number of regional measures, which we have bundled in a handy overview that answers the following questions:

■ You belong to a direct compulsory closed sector and you do not carry out any other independent activities besides click&collect or take-away.

■ You are under a direct obligation to close and you engage in other self-employed activities besides click & collect or take-away.

■ You are dependent on compulsory closed sectors without complete interruption.

■ Crisis bridging right because of compulsory closure or because you are dependent on a compulsory closed sector: for which self-employed persons?

Republished with permission by Liantis social security fund.

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Deferral of Payment and Guarantees

The banks and the government are very much aware of the difficult situation in which both companies and individuals now find themselves. They want to support and financially support them as much as possible. In this way, they have every opportunity to get through this turbulent period as well as possible and to quickly find a stable financial situation as soon as the corona crisis has subsided.

Together with the Minister of Finance, and with the support of the National Bank of Belgium, the sector has worked out an agreement for viable companies, based on two pillars:

■ The financial sector is committed to viable businesses and the self-employed as well as mortgage borrowers who are at risk of payment problems by postponing the corona crisis until 30 September 2020, and this without charging any costs.

■ The federal government will activate a guarantee scheme for all new loans and credit lines with a maximum term of 12 months, granted by banks to viable non-financial businesses and the self-employed.
These support measures are intended to provide financial flexibility in order to to enable taxpayers to overcome temporary financial difficulties.

Quick Overview

a. Which companies?
Natural or legal persons with an enterprise number (ECB/KBO):
∞ regardless of their sector of activity
∞ who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the spread of the coronavirus and can demonstrate this (e.g., a decrease in the number of business, a significant drop in orders and/or reservations, chain reaction effects with partner companies, etc.). Support measures may not be granted to undertakings which, regardless of coronavirus, experience structural payment problems.

b. What debts?
∞ Withholding tax (bedrijfsvoorheffing / précompte professionel)
∞ VAT (payment deadlines are extended interest free)
∞ Personal income tax
∞ Corporate income tax
∞ Taxation of legal persons

c. What is the timeframe?
∞ Application to be submitted no later than 30 June 2020

d. What measures?
∞ Payment plan
∞ Exemption from interest on arrears
∞ Remission of fines for non-payment

e. What conditions?
∞ Compliance with the conditions for filing declarations
∞ debts must not result from fraud

Support measures will be withdrawn in the event of:
∞ failure to comply with the payment plan granted, unless the debtor takes
timely contact with the administration
∞ occurrence of collective insolvency proceedings (bankruptcy, judicial reorganisation, …)

f. What steps?
Contact your bookkeeper for further details and the links to the correct documents for your region.

Social Security Contributions

Option 1. Postponement of Payment

Entrepreneurs in main occupation and assisting spouses may apply for deferral of payment of 1 year if they experience difficulties due to the coronavirus. You do not pay any surcharges or interest (in case of timely payment in 2021) and your rights will continue to accrue.

Which Quarters:
∞ 1st quarter 2020: payment date postponed from 31 March 2020 to 31 March 2021
∞ 2nd quarter 2020: payment date postponed from 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021

Deadline Request:
Applications before 15/06/2020 for quarter 1
Applications before 15/06/2020 for quarter 2

How to apply:
Send your bookkeeper an e-mail with the following details and request a postponement:
– Surname and first name
– Place of residence
– Name and seat of your company
– Company number
– Professional activity in which you are active

Please note: direct debit customers must notify the bank themselves. If they fail to do so, social security contributions will still be credited in the event of postponement of payment.

The measure concerning the postponement by one year of the payment of social security contributions for the first two quarters of 2020, as well as the regularisation contributions due on 31 March 2020, is extended to ALL categories of self-employed workers (i.e. not only applicable to self-employed workers in their main profession and assisting spouses). In view of the economic impact of the emergency measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, the application for deferral of the first quarter 2020 contributions may be submitted until 15 June 2020.

Option 2: Reduction of Social Security Contribution

You can have your social contribution reduced to the legal thresholds when your income is reduced. Overview Thresholds: https://www.xerius.be/nl-be/zelfstandigen/sociale-zekerheid/drempelbedragen

Option 3: Temporary Financial Difficulties Exemption

You can request an exemption due to ‘temporary financial difficulties’ for the social security contributions of the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2020. If you want to apply for a waiver of your fees for these two quarters, we recommend that you do so before you receive the statement for the second quarter. An application for future quarters is not possible. This is only available to the full time self-employed and their and assisting spouses in the maxi statute.

If you receive a positive advice, you will not build up any pension rights for these two quarters (this is provisional and can be adjusted due to coronavirus), although your social security (health care) status will not be affected. Also keep in mind that you will have to have been active in this statute for at least 4 quarters. This too may be relaxed, but this is not yet clear.

For the time being, there are no simplified application forms and you have two options: submit directly to the government or as a customer of Xerius via this form. If you have a different social secretariat, please check their website for the relevant paperwork.

However, we are in favour of applying for a postponement of payment first. You can always apply for the exemption later (before the end of 2020).

Replacement Income
(overbruggingsrecht or droit passerelle)

For whom?
YES: ALL self-employed persons in main profession and assisting spouses in maxi statute.
NOT: Self-employed as a secondary profession, pensioners, student self-employed and self-employed persons with equal secondary profession.

Please note: this is considered as a replacement income and cannot be combined with any other benefit (during this break you may also NOT start working as an employee).
Starting date of the entrepreneur does not matter and it is also available to sole proprietors and company managers. The sector in which they are active does not matter either.

The Replacement Income can be combined with the Flemish Nuisance Allowance. If you want to take advantage of this, you must apply for it yourself. Replacement Income is paid out by your social insurance fund (Xerius, Acerta, Liantis, …).

Amount of Payment:
∞ Active in the hospitality industry (even if you do not close your business completely and still offer takeaway meals and close your business for at least one day).

∞ Other sectors (where you are obliged to close your business completely or partially due to the corona virus) and interrupt your activities for at least 7 consecutive days.

∞ Other sectors that close down as a precaution, or because they have too few customers.

They receive a benefit of 1,291.69 euros (or 1,614.10 euros in case of dependants) for either March or April, depending on which month you interrupt your activities for at least 7 consecutive days. Are your activities interrupted for at least 7 consecutive days in both months? Then you can get a replacement income in both March and April.

How to apply and when can you expect your payment?
Option 1: Send an e-mail to your social insurance fund and mention the following in the e-mail:
o Apply for a replacement income because of corona virus,
o your name, first name and place of residence,
o your customer number, which you will find on your statement or on the back of your identity card (your national registration number is also your customer number).
o your company number and the name and registered office of your company,
o the sector in which you are active and briefly outline the reason(s) why you had to interrupt the activities as a result of the coronavirus.
o the period of interruption: the date that you stop your activities and possibly the date that you resume your activities (the latter date is currently not yet estimable for most people, so it is not necessary to indicate this).
o the bank account number to which the payment may be made.

Also answer the following questions in your e-mail:
o Do you have at least one dependant (wife, cohabitant, parent, grandparent, child,…)?
o Do you exercise a professional activity during the cessation or interruption of your self-employed activity? Or are you still a mandatary or working partner in another company?
o Do you receive a replacement income during the period of interruption?

Option 2: Fill in the simplified application form for ‘coronavirus’ replacement income, sign and send it to your social insurance fund.

Please note: Application in both options must be done by yourself. Your accountant of course will assist you if you have any questions about this.

Hindrance Premium
(hinderpremie or prime unique)

The Hindrance Premium is determined on the basis of the establishment unit of the entrepreneur and applies to forced closures of physical locations (excl. pick-up). There is only a premium of 4,000 euros. The premium of 2,000 euros has been abolished in Flanders. Brussels and Wallonia apply different rules (for the time being) – see further down.

FLANDERS
– 1 establishment:
o 4,000 euros per forced closure and only for physical locations (excl. collection) – proof by declaration on honour
o Pay at least as main professional or 1 FTE as salary

– Multiple locations:
o You receive the Hindrance Premium for a maximum of 5 locations.
o Paying at least as a main professional or 1 FTE as an employee.

The Flemish Hindrance Premium can be applied for up to and including May 5, so you certainly have plenty of time to submit your application.

Download the various documents from the ABRA website.
Apply for the Flemish Hindrance Allowance with this link.

What do you need to have at hand?
∞ Your e-ID and your e-ID pin code (or your smartphone if you log on via itsme).
∞ An active Belgian account number of your company on which the premium can be paid (in IBAN format, i.e. consisting of 16 characters starting with BE,
followed by 2 digits and then the 12 digits of your account number)
∞ Check your normal opening days, as they were before the coronavirus measures
∞ Main or secondary profession
∞ In case of a secondary occupation: do you pay social security contributions like a main occupation? Only auxiliary professionals who pay the minimum contributions of a main professional are eligible.
∞ The website address (url) of your company if you have one
∞ Do you have multiple branches? Be sure to select the right branch for which you are applying for the premium.

Tips:
∞ This premium is tax exempt.
∞ The further promotion of webshops has NO influence on the granting of the premium when a physical location is present.
∞ The Belfius card reader and probably also at other banks can be used as an E-ID reader.
∞ If you do not have an active branch in the KBO or if the position(s) is (are) not correct, you cannot apply for a nuisance bonus (this can possibly still be rectified via the Ondernemingsloket).

WALLONIA
a. Tax freeze in Wallonia
For its part, the Walloon government has frozen all regional taxes related to the number of days that the businesses are closed, prorated to the number of days they are closed.

b. Closure Compensation
Compensation of 5,000 euros per closed company in Wallonia The Walloon Government grants a lump-sum compensation of 5,000 euros for each business that has closed or ceased operations during the period of containment. The sectors concerned are horeca, accommodation, travel agencies and reservation services, retail, as well as travel and provision of services (e.g. beauticians). An indemnity of 2,500 euros is also provided for companies with the activity is restricted, including hairdressers.

■ The information number 1890 remains available for entrepreneurs and Walloon independents.

BRUSSELS
The Brussels government, for its part, has decided to support the treasury of the companies affected through the granting of public guarantees on bank loans for a total of EUR 20 million. It also intends to strengthen support for companies in difficulty via the Centre for Enterprises in Difficulty (CED). Simplification and administrative benevolence towards the companies and businesses affected as well as the anticipation of the treatment and liquidation of economic aid to priority destination for the Horeca, cultural, hotel and event sectors are also applicable.

■ The information number 1819 centralizes all information for companies and entrepreneurs in Brussels.

Compensation Premium Entrepreneurs

As of last week, the Flemish government is providing an additional support measure for entrepreneurs who are not obliged to close down (and therefore cannot apply in conjunction with the Nuisance Premium), but who are still experiencing a large loss of turnover due to the Corona crisis. This is the Compensation Premium. They are still working on the application and correct modalities, for now you can find the latest information on the VLAIO website.

This new premium is aimed at companies and their suppliers who are allowed to continue working or shops that remain open but have a large loss of sales due to the restrictive measures, which can show that they have a loss of sales of -60% in the period between 15 March 2020 and 30 April compared to the same period last year.

For start-ups, a decrease in turnover of -60% compared to the financial plan laid down will be taken into account. NPOs are also eligible, provided that at least one person is employed full time.

Examples: companies in the events sector that also employ many freelancers; (para-) medical professions such as physiotherapists, dentists, psychologists or speech therapists who are only allowed to carry out urgent interventions; companies that provide essential food services such as praline shops or liquor traders, but still suffer a heavy loss of turnover due to lack of passage or tourists; painters or plumbers who are only allowed to carry out urgent repair work; farmers who work specifically for hotel and catering customers, etc….

Amount of Aid
∞ The aid includes a one-off compensation premium of €3,000;
∞ There is a maximum of 5 premiums per company if there are more than one operating seat per company.
∞ Self-employed persons in a secondary occupation, who pay social security contributions as a self-employed person in their main occupation due to the level of income, can also receive the compensation premium of € 3,000;
∞ Self-employed persons in secondary occupation who have an income between € 6,996.89 and € 13,993.78 can claim a compensation premium of € 1,500. This premium also applies to self-employed persons in a secondary occupation who are obliged to close, but does not apply to self-employed persons in a secondary occupation who combine this with a job as an employee of 80% or more.

More information is not yet available at time of publication and so we advise you to refer to the VLAIO website where the application will shortly be made available.

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Temporary Unemployment

Under certain conditions, you can apply for temporary unemployment for the employees you can no longer employ full or part time due to the Corona crisis. By introducing this temporary unemployment benefit, you temporarily suspend the employee’s employment contract. The Belgian government has introduced a simplified procedure, which originally ran until 6 April but has since been extended until 31 May 2020. Please note that this is only one measure taken by the Belgian government and that there are still measures to which you may have recourse. Furthermore, we cannot stress enough that the Belgian government regularly adapts these measures.

Procedure

Not every employer can claim this temporary unemployment. Only those employers who are directly affected by Covid-19, as a result of which the employees can no longer perform their duties at all or only partially, can make use of this specific procedure. Examples are: a shop has been closed, sales representatives can no longer visit customers and do not have enough tasks to perform at home, orders are no longer coming in,…

Not all employment contracts should be suspended. Only those employees who cannot work more or less because of their position are eligible for this. If, as an employer, you wish to apply for temporary unemployment, you can do so via a simplified procedure until 31 May 2020. This means that you let your Payroll Business Partner know which days the employees will work and which days they will be unemployed. Pro-Pay takes care of the necessary electronic declaration of these days of unemployment so that the NEO knows to which benefit the employee is entitled.

It is possible to suspend the employment contracts either completely (the employee no longer works) or partially (the employee still works one or more days per week). If partial unemployment is chosen, the employer determines how many days the employee can still work. The employees do not have to agree to this. Of course, they do have to be informed about the days they still have to work and which days they will be unemployed. This notification to the employees can take any form, an e-mail may be sufficient in some cases.

The Benefit

Workers who are temporarily unemployed must contact either their trade union (if they are affiliated to it) or the “Unemployment benefits fund” in order to open a file and obtain unemployment benefits. You can open a file at the “Unemployment benefits fund” online. The union or the help fund will then pay the unemployment benefits into the worker’s bank account on a monthly basis. Unemployment benefits amount to 70% of the gross monthly salary. However, the gross wage is limited to EUR 2,754.76. In addition, the unemployment office pays EUR 5.63 per day of unemployment. On both amounts 26.75% withholding tax is withheld.

In some sectors, there is an additional obligation to pay a supplement on top of this unemployment benefit. In addition, it is possible to pay a supplement voluntarily. This supplement can be granted free of social security contributions on condition that the total of the unemployment benefit + the supplement(s) does not exceed the taxable salary that the employee would have earned if he had worked.

If the employees are partially unemployed, they receive their normal salary for the days they work. Temporary unemployment days will be assimilated for pension purposes. Currently, there is no equivalence for the accrual of holidays and holiday pay, but according to various press releases, there would be a legislative initiative to put this on an equal footing.

With regard to the assimilation of end-of-year bonuses and other benefits granted at sectoral level, it will be necessary to examine what has been agreed within the Joint Committee. It cannot be ruled out that agreements will still be concluded in the sectors to assimilate this exceptional period to effective performance if this was not already the case.

Attention: if the employees only work at home and previously received an expense allowance because they had a mobile function, this expense allowance can no longer be granted. Instead, the government has increased the monthly reimbursement for office expenses (see further down).

Withholding Tax

The authorities grant a two-month deferment of payment of the withholding tax on earned income.
• Payment period withholding tax on earnings February 2020 extended to May 13, 2020
• Payment period withholding tax on earnings March 2020 extended to June 15, 2020
• Payment period withholding tax on earnings April 2020 extended to July 15, 2020
• Payment period withholding tax on earnings 1st quarter 2020 extended to June 15, 2020

In addition to this deferral, you can also apply to receive an exemption from default interest or remission of fines, or request a repayment plan. Such an application must be submitted before June 30, 2020. Note: this does not happen automatically! Contact your Payroll Business Partner for assistance.

Social Security

As far as the employer’s contributions for social security are concerned, different support measures apply. Companies that are closed on government order can benefit from an automatic deferment of payment of social security contributions until December 15, 2020.

Companies that are not obliged to close but that suffer from the Corona crisis economically can apply for a deferment of payment of social security contributions until December 15, 2020 provided they submit a motivated application file with the social security authorities. Apart from the deferment of payment, an amicable payment plan is another option offered by the NSSO to companies in difficulties.

Office Costs and NSSO

Employees who work from home on a structural and regular basis can receive compensation from their employer for this. Since the costs related to working from home are relatively small and difficult to prove, the NSSO accepts that these costs are estimated on a flat-rate basis. For a number of costs, including the compensation for homeworking, the NSSO itself has fixed lump sums, as well as the conditions that apply to the granting of these lump sums.

The fixed compensation that the NSSO uses for office costs covers the costs of heating, electricity, small office equipment, insurances,… The allowance may be granted to employees who do not have a workplace with the employer or – if they do have a workplace with the employer – when their position shows that they work from home on a regular basis.

Employees who previously did not work from home, but are now forced to do so by the Covid-19 measures, can also be granted this compensation without the employer having to conclude a formal teleworking agreement with the employee. This is also possible if the employee works partly from home and is temporarily unemployed.

In addition to this maximum amount of €129.48, the employer can also compensate the following matters on a lump-sum basis:
∞ €20 per month if the employee uses his/her own PC for professional purposes;
∞ €20 per month if the employee uses his/her private internet connection for professional purposes.

Of course, these lump sums can only be granted if the office and internet costs are not reimbursed to the employee in any other way. Please note that the NSSO also uses other fixed amounts for forms of teleworking and homeworking besides the fixed amount for office costs, which are not discussed in this newsletter.

The Tax Authorities

The reimbursement of €129.48 for office expenses can be granted free of social security contributions if the conditions for granting the allowance have been met. The tax authorities do not have a similar official position regarding a fixed amount for office costs, but often follow the position of the NSSO on this matter.

However, if you want certainty from a tax point of view about the application of a fixed amount for the reimbursement of office costs, a ruling must be requested from the tax administration. The ruling service of the tax authorities has provided a simplified procedure specifically for obtaining a ruling for the reimbursement of telework during the corona crisis.

www.propay.be/en

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Fragomen has devised a #COVID19 Impact Statement for each country in the Benelux, relating to right to Travel, Work and Reside. These will be housed on the Fragomen website, and will be regularly updated to take account of emerging government guidance and the changing landscape. They take a risk based approach where policy is not fully developed, and address the business impact of government closures and delays.

The Impact Statement answers all type of questions employers have as they look to protect their workforce and ensure compliance with immigration regulations. It includes travel restrictions, current application processing, delays to start dates, working from home policies, unpaid leave or temporary unemployment, changes to the employment contract and salary, work and residence permit renewals and many other items you need to consider from an immigration perspective.

Please consult Fragomen if you would like access to these documents. In the meantime, please find below a broad description of the current situation in Belgium.

General Situation in Belgium

• Travel ban: until 19 April (extension possible) with limited exceptions such as for those whose travel to Belgium is deemed essential (such as frontier workers) and nationals normally residing in Belgium, holding a Belgian residence permit and returning home.

• Regional Employment Offices & Foreigners Office: still processing all application types, processing times may experience some delays.

• In-country appointments: Town Halls are continuing to provide essential services. We recommend consulting the website of the Town Hall or contacting them via phone or email prior to visiting to confirm whether an appointment should be made or whether it is possible to arrange via email.

Leniency Measures

Given the current situation, the Belgian authorities have instated some “leniency” measures:

• There seems to be flexibility with respect to single permit supporting documents that are difficult to obtain due to COVID-19 such as medical certificates and police clearance documents (these remain mandatory but can be provided at a later stage).

• If an assignee cannot return home and risks becoming illegal in Belgium, they can exceptionally apply for an extended stay and work due to reasons of force majeur.

• Work or single permits allow working from home without a negative effect on the validity of the authorization, provided the working from home measures are temporary and due to the current situation surrounding COVID-19.

As you can see, the situation is highly complex but Belgium remains open for immigration processing, albeit on a limited basis.

Fragomen also wants to confirm that for individual cases, solutions are available and they are happy to help determine what can be done for each individual impacted by this situation. Fragomen can also assist with looking at your broader European workforce, both for urgent solutions now and preparing to remobilise, while equally addressing posted worker and social security compliance, as well as cost saving strategies.

Finally, Fragomen has invested thousands of hours and manpower in creating a unique microsite on the immigration impacts of COVID-19, for which there is no charge to access. This site is updated on a daily basis by the Fragomen Knowledge Team in conjunction with Fragomen legal experts around the world and includes a daily updated tracker including more than 135 countries’ specific COVID-19 policies.

If you have not had a chance to visit the site lately, please access our free microsite at https://www.fragomen.com/about/news/immigration-update-coronavirus

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“As a child, I was always the odd one out. I couldn’t settle at school or at home and always felt uncomfortable. I often felt like I was missing something, or that I was doing something that didn’t suit my character. My parents lived structured lives and weren’t open to trying new things. Sometimes I was asked by friends to go snowboarding or skiing, but I was never allowed to join them. As a family we went on holiday to Greece and just lay on the beach, with nothing to do. I’d decided on a career as a gymnastics teacher after high school and enrolled for a Bachelor degree. Sadly, my father became very ill during and passed away. As a result, I stopped studying and eventually dropped out.

After my father’s death, my mom encouraged me to resume my studies. When I obtained my diploma, I started working at Sport Vlaanderen, at the time still known as BLOSO. I went to sports camps and started doing seasonal work during summer. This brought me in contact with water sports and reminded me how crazy I had always been about water. My interest in water sports continued to grow and that first winter I left for a surf camp abroad. From then on a whole new world opened up for me and I would spend my summers working for an interim agency in Belgium, so that I could go on surf and sports camps with tour operators during the winter. The interim jobs were very diverse. One year I worked as a teacher, the other year I worked in a factory. I got to know a lot of people, gained a different perspective on life, and for the first time ever I knew that what I was doing was meant for me.

I enjoy teaching children and young people but I don’t want to be part of the Belgian education system. Working day in, day out and returning home, following a lot of rules and bumping into a huge number of procedures doesn’t suit my character. I need to be outside and experience freedom. I find inner peace abroad, but not in Belgium. Africa, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, Indonesia,… you name it; I have lived and stayed everywhere and nowhere for a while.

In between and during these travels I had a few relationships, but it was only when I got to know Irina that the picture felt right for the first time. She also worked in education but was open to my lifestyle and suggested doing a winter season together. I had no clue where we would end up, but in Val Thorens I learned that I could have started working the snow seasons much sooner. I’ve never regretted starting seasonal work at such a late age, but I have wondered why it never occurred to me before. I think it’s because of my upbringing; we didn’t know this life existed. My first year on the slopes was really tough. I had horrible working hours, a difficult supervisor and little time to spend on my snowboard, while Irina had the time of her life. The following year the roles were reversed. Irina felt fed up with seasonal work and quit.

Nowadays she only comes to visit occasionally. We’ve had a lot of arguments about this and it’s not easy, because I can see myself building a life here. I dreamed of starting a company together, in the mountains or on the beach, but her future is back in Belgium. I don’t know what that means for our future as partners. Fortunately I have a girlfriend who has been on a winter season and knows what it means to me. I’m sure we’ll work it out together in the end.”

**COVID-19 UPDATE:

After being forced to leave their house and job within 48 hours I called up some saisonniers to see how they were doing. Most of them fled the village immediately, although a small core decided to sit out a quarantine of at least two weeks. These anciens in particular were not prepared to leave their winter life all of a sudden, with some not even having anywhere to go. These last days have been spent getting groceries from the last open store  and preparing for an eventual outbreak of the virus. Infected people are in a strict quarantine or taken away to a village lower down. However, since the slopes are abandoned and there is barely any police control, some tourists see this as a perfect opportunity to build their own snow jump and freeride those mountains. Even though this is strictly forbidden, the unclear communication of the village itself causes people to ignore the rules and troop together for house parties or outside on the slopes. Today’s Val Thorens looks nothing like it usually would during March, and although saisonniers tend to be flexible when it comes to leaving their jobs and homes: this abruptly ended season of 2020 will never be forgotten.

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“I’m originally from West Flanders but ended up moving to Ghent for my studies. In the end, I stayed there for ten years; quite a long time. I studied the former D-cursus to teach kids, lived together with my partner, and had a good job in education. But the picture shown to the outside world wasn’t real. I was in a toxic relationship where there was no room to fulfil my dreams. After a lot of fights, I gave up. I quit my job, left my ex in the house that I loved, registered my address back with my mom, traded in my permanent home for a backpack and left for Cambodia. With the money I had saved from working extra hours in the coffee bar, I could finally leave. Making a long journey on my own had always been a dream of mine, but I didn’t want to abandon my relationship. I also didn’t want to leave my house because I was the one who found it and absolutely loved it.

In retrospect, that house turned out to be the obstacle that prevented me from experiencing the true freedom I had always pictured in my head. I was so afraid of taking a step back from the social perspective that I put my own dreams aside. No one, not even me, knew how long I would stay in Cambodia. I had the time of my life there, but I missed my family. After ten months I returned for one of my godchildren’s birthdays. I arranged my return in secret and suddenly I was on the doorstep of my mother’s house, ringing the bell. My sister in law opened the door and when my mum heard my voice in the background she almost collapsed of a heart attack when she saw me with my suitcase. At first I found it very difficult to live with my mother again. It felt like a big step back and I was afraid that I’d have to give up much of my freedom out of respect for her. However, it finally gave me the chance to grow closer to her and now my mom knows me better than anyone.

I had already gained some experience with seasonal work in Empuria Brava, and after being back home for a month the travel bug started to itch, so I left again. This time to Mimizan with Flowtrip, a tour operator that organises surf and sports camps for young people. I was appointed as a supervisor and soon realised that I really enjoy working with young people. I met a close team that worked together as a family. That family aspect attracted me so much; I needed more of that. I wanted to learn more life lessons like I had done a couple of years before.

At 23 I left for South America with two girlfriends. At a certain moment, my bank card no longer worked. A quick money transfer from Belgium wasn’t an option, as the bank was closed due to a public holiday. Because we had a fixed itinerary and my two friends couldn’t lend me any money, I ended up alone in Pas la Pas, near Santa Cruz. There I was, a young girl, without money or a cell phone. At first I was very angry, but soon I realised that my girlfriends were only responsible for their own actions and I was for mine. I didn’t have a mobile phone and calling from an internet cafe was not an option as when it was day in Belgium it was night in South America and vice versa. So at night I secretly used the computer at the reception of the hostel I was staying in and after trying out many ATMs I finally got some money from the wall. That situation changed everything for me. I learned at a young age that when I run into a problem, I can’t expect others to solve it for me. I met those two girlfriends later during the trip and eventually forgave them. Our friendship even survived them leaving me behind, which I am very glad about. My mum and sister were extremely mad at the girls when they found out that they had left me on my own. From their perspective travelling together means coming home together too. That trip taught me a lot. It helped me overcome my fear of being alone and made me realise that you are always dependent on yourself.

When I was working in Mimizan they indicated they were looking for someone to work in the mountains and I didn’t hesitate for a moment. And here I am. In my third season as a saisonnier in Val Thorens. This year I’m working in a hotel, but it changes every time. I keep coming back because I’ve come to know everyone. When you walk outside, everyone greets each other, which isn’t the case in Belgium. That warm feeling and meeting a friend in the snow remains special. When I’m in the mountains I have little contact with friends from Flanders. I’ve never had a large group of friends and I am a character initiator. I believe that your life consists of different phases, during which you surround yourself with different people. Every phase is of a temporary nature, so often contacts are too. You can’t keep in touch with everyone and that’s okay. It may sound harsh, but if I want to be in contact with everyone on a regular basis, I’d be stuck on my mobile 24/7.

My mum sometimes asks me when I’ll ever lead a stable life, but I can’t answer that question. I don’t know how long I will continue doing this; every time I leave for the season I ask myself the same thing. Sometimes I’m tired and think about what I am doing and wonder what’s happening in Belgium, what I’m missing out on. But working as a saisonnier can last for the rest of your life, even if you want to start a family. Nothing prevents you from combining the things that make you happy with the lifestyle you want to lead. My ultimate dream is to create my own project and live for it fully while travelling constantly.

I advise everyone to work as a saisonnier once in your life. It opens your eyes and forces you to think about what you really want in life. That doesn’t mean that everyone is suited to it. You have to be able to be away from home for a long time, master several languages and be an open person who wants to learn. Travelling has taught me that not everyone you meet is of good will, it certainly sharpens your knowledge of people. The fact that someone at home, in my case my mom and family, lets you go and supports you, gives a solid foundation and the necessary sense of security. Having someone who believes in you is a must if you are alone for a long time.

Sometimes I am firmly convinced that I want children, such as recently when I held a colleague’s baby in my arms, but I realise that these moments are snapshots and I actually don’t know for sure yet. And that’s just fine. So many people never consider what they really want out of life. 60% of 18-year-olds just choose an education after their secondary education because they feel they have to do something in society. The fear that they won’t achieve anything and their children won’t do what they expect is a motivation to do the same job day after day. When I was 21 I wanted to leave on Erasmus, but I didn’t because I had a sweetheart. During my second relationship I wanted to travel together, but it never happened. It’s taught me that everyone must decide for themselves what they want to do. You can’t place the responsibility for choices made with someone else; you are the only one who has to live with them. If you don’t want certain situations to come back in your life, you must dig deep and explore your behavioural patterns so that your events also change.”

Read The Saissonniers #5

**COVID-19 UPDATE:

After being forced to leave their house and job within 48 hours I called up some saisonniers to see how they were doing. Most of them fled the village immediately, although a small core decided to sit out a quarantine of at least two weeks. These anciens in particular were not prepared to leave their winter life all of a sudden, with some not even having anywhere to go. These last days have been spent getting groceries from the last open store  and preparing for an eventual outbreak of the virus. Infected people are in a strict quarantine or taken away to a village lower down. However, since the slopes are abandoned and there is barely any police control, some tourists see this as a perfect opportunity to build their own snow jump and freeride those mountains. Even though this is strictly forbidden, the unclear communication of the village itself causes people to ignore the rules and troop together for house parties or outside on the slopes. Today’s Val Thorens looks nothing like it usually would during March, and although saisonniers tend to be flexible when it comes to leaving their jobs and homes: this abruptly ended season of 2020 will never be forgotten.

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“As a ski man in Val Thorens I rent out equipment for skiing and snowboarding, repair and fix broken or damaged skies and sell equipment. I started here last year as a ski man but am interested in boot fitting and am trying to learn all about it.

Following my studies in Normandy, where I grew up in a small village, I was offered an internship in Paris. A whole new world opened up to me. For the first time in my life I was forced to get to know new people and challenge myself in all kinds of areas. As an introverted person, it was not easy to just start a new life in a big city where I knew few people. Yet it was my first step towards change.

I come from a family where everything can be discussed, however, I don’t have a particularly sentimental relationship with them. As a child I was very attached to my mother, although that bond has become less strong following my parents’ divorce. I don’t know why our relationship has changed, nowadays we call each other once a month. My mother finds me being so far away from home difficult, while my father fully supports it and encourages me to explore the world. Occasionally I miss my friends, but it’s of a temporary nature and usually doesn’t last long. Building or maintaining a relationship with a partner is almost impossible if you don’t have that same seasonal worker rhythm; you’re better off staying single.

I stayed on in Paris following my internship. I had a job in design, often working fifty hours a week, for five and a half years. I enjoyed my job, but eventually grew bored of the long hours and big city lifestyle.  I started thinking about leaving; work, Paris… I wanted to experience the world with my own eyes. Six months later I left everything and everyone behind. I spent two years travelling the world and for the first time in my life I truly got to know myself.

I fell in love with travelling because you quickly  get to know new cultures and people. Everything is possible and nothing is promised. I really had to learn to let go in terms of plans, because that used to be my life. I was always busy with myself and thought that the plan in my head should always be executed exactly the same. When you travel, things often pan out differently than you have in mind and you learn to let the present follow its own path. When you travel, you book results every day that are immediately visible. For me, travel is the answer to everything.

I got to know Marcal while I was diving the Perhentian Islands during my trip to Malaysia. He told me about his life in the mountains and what it’s like working the winter season. Intrigued by his stories, I took my chance. This is my second season in Val Thorens. As a team we all have the same goal and mindset: providing customers with the best possible skiing experience. I wouldn’t have been as keen to come back if my colleagues hadn’t been this great.  I also have opportunities to grow within the boot-fitting segment, something that interests me immensely. I don’t think you can do this job for the rest of your life; you should invest your money in a business. This work is much too tiring to have to work for someone else for the rest of your life. You’re better off becoming your own boss here, success guaranteed!”

Read The Saisonniers #4

**COVID-19 UPDATE:

After being forced to leave their house and job within 48 hours I called up some saisonniers to see how they were doing. Most of them fled the village immediately, although a small core decided to sit out a quarantine of at least two weeks. These anciens in particular were not prepared to leave their winter life all of a sudden, with some not even having anywhere to go. These last days have been spent getting groceries from the last open store  and preparing for an eventual outbreak of the virus. Infected people are in a strict quarantine or taken away to a village lower down. However, since the slopes are abandoned and there is barely any police control, some tourists see this as a perfect opportunity to build their own snow jump and freeride those mountains. Even though this is strictly forbidden, the unclear communication of the village itself causes people to ignore the rules and troop together for house parties or outside on the slopes. Today’s Val Thorens looks nothing like it usually would during March, and although saisonniers tend to be flexible when it comes to leaving their jobs and homes: this abruptly ended season of 2020 will never be forgotten.

 

 

 

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“Ten years ago was my first time as a saissonier in La Plagne, another ski resort located 50 km from Val Thorens. I had been there a week earlier on vacation with my ex-girlfriend. On impulse, I decided to go back for the season. Life in the Alps appealed to me, and as I was used to living everywhere and nowhere, I thought it would be ideal to come and work here for a few months. I worked in La Plagne for five seasons and then left for America. Following that adventure I returned to Europe and have now  been in Val Thorens for three seasons.

As a child I bored easily. I stopped going to school full-time aged 15 as I wanted to know what work did to someone. I chose to take part-time lessons and work a lot. The first two weeks were spent working in a restaurant, but I quickly discovered it wasn’t for me. I also discovered working with horses does and kept that up for 1,5 years. When I turned 17, I realised that I had to change things if I wanted to make something of myself. And so I went back to school and got my high school diploma in electricity. Because I am technically strong and wanted to nurture my creative spirit, I decided to go for a Bachelor in film, video and television at university.

When we graduated, one of my best friends – now known as one of Belgium’s finest pop artists – asked me if I wanted to join him on a tour of the USA. He needed a second cameraman. After those three months I returned for another season in La Plagne, as previously agreed, but then my friend asked me back for a longer tour. His executive producer had cancelled on him, so it was a huge opportunity for me. That was the start of my career in America, something I always dreamed of. I thought that if you could make it in America you would have really proven yourself. Belgium is such a small country, but if you mean something in America you have succeeded in life.

I was quickly relieved of that particular illusion. I toured around the world with him until the end of 2015, when he decided to take a break from his music. In the meantime, I had fallen in love  and wanted to stay in America, but had to be able to present a valid visa. The easiest way is to go back to study, and so I did. But the hectic life in USA, the high pressure and not being able to trust a lot of people, brought about my first panic attack. Everything in America is about prestige and status. The fear that you could go from somebody to nobody in an hour caught me by the throat. On top of that my girlfriend was raped and I had to watch helplessly how our relationship, despite many sessions of therapy, went under.

I have always seen my parents struggle to make ends meet as self-employed people. They gave my sister and I everything they could afford, as well as the little free time they had. I thank that life for that. Working as a slave to society in order to survive on a tiny pension later on is inhumane. Unfortunately, that’s the system in Belgium. A capitalist state that takes away from its citizens what it can and abandons you if you can’t get it done financially, psychologically or physically.

My mom is currently suffering from cancer. Last summer I returned to Brussels to look after her and the rest of the family. My father no longer drives and my sister doesn’t have a driver’s license so if my mother has to go somewhere while I’m away, they’re dependent on others. Knowing this, leaving for the season is difficult for me. Yet I choose to work in Val Thorens because the urge for that freedom and good energy is too great. When I stay at home I am confronted with a sister who is dependent on her husband and too scared to get her driver’s license. It’s so far removed from my world, which revolves around total independence; it would make me miserable being there all the time.

All these experiences have taught me I don’t want to live that kind of life. It’s true what they say: seasonal work is fleeing from reality but I’m perfectly okay with that. When I think about leading an average life in Belgium, with a house, garden and child, I feel like I’m locked up. A golden cage is still a cage. I know myself through and through and spend a lot of time alone, so I know what I want and especially what I don’t want. I grew up in a family where there was not much talk about deep emotions and I never felt the need to, even though I can talk very openly about what I feel.

When friends of mine in Val Thorens first asked me to come and work here, it was an easy choice. You might not know anyone at the start of your first season but by the end of season two or three you have become a close-knit family. Tourists think that we’re constantly partying here, but if you want to maintain this life for seven months, your body will soon enough tell you  it’s not possible. Of course we have the occasional party, but being a saissonier is mainly about performing many hours and earning little money.

Because you live together, work together and spend free time with your colleagues, you quickly get to know each other. A collegial relationship quickly develops into friendship. It sometimes makes it difficult to find balance. Everyone here brings their own story and when things are tough you have to rely on your colleagues to talk about it. And no, not everyone can be trusted here because ultimately everyone is here for their own reasons. Some colleagues will try to use your confidence to lift themselves up. Seasonal work is wonderful because you share a unique experience with each other and you get opportunities others might not, but there is a downside.”

Read The Saisonniers #3

**COVID-19 UPDATE:

After being forced to leave their house and job within 48 hours I called up some saisonniers to see how they were doing. Most of them fled the village immediately, although a small core decided to sit out a quarantine of at least two weeks. These anciens in particular were not prepared to leave their winter life all of a sudden, with some not even having anywhere to go. These last days have been spent getting groceries from the last open store  and preparing for an eventual outbreak of the virus. Infected people are in a strict quarantine or taken away to a village lower down. However, since the slopes are abandoned and there is barely any police control, some tourists see this as a perfect opportunity to build their own snow jump and freeride those mountains. Even though this is strictly forbidden, the unclear communication of the village itself causes people to ignore the rules and troop together for house parties or outside on the slopes. Today’s Val Thorens looks nothing like it usually would during March, and although saisonniers tend to be flexible when it comes to leaving their jobs and homes: this abruptly ended season of 2020 will never be forgotten.

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A day after arriving to the village in the middle of the night I meet Nina, a 18-year old girl who spent last year’s winter season in Val Thorens as a ski woman. A ski woman ensures that your skis get to you in perfect condition and takes care of the sale and maintenance of all kinds of equipment during the winter season.

“I first came to Val Thorens as a toddler. My mom and dad both worked here as saisonniers. They took their kids everywhere with them; I think my parents were seen as pretty open minded back then. They met when she was 14 and he was 24. The age difference didn’t bother them at all. My mom was a free-spirited woman and when she turned 17 she wanted to study abroad. When my mom decided she would relocate to study photography, my father gave up the shop he owned in Hossegor, where he sold skate & snowboard gear and followed my mom, who is originally from Biarritz, to Courchevel. He was scared that if he let her go, he would never see her again.”

“They both worked in Courchevel for three seasons, in between renovating a  house in Biarritz. They continued this lifestyle even following the birth of my sister and I. Winters in Courchevel flew by and while my sister started doing competitions, I was born. After a while my sister’s competitions started taking her beyond Courchevel. That’s how our family ended up coming to Val Thorens for the first time. We liked it a lot so we kept on coming back and my parents knew everyone who lived here.”

“Sadly enough the relationship between my parents didn’t last. My mum secretly met other guys, something the whole town gossiped about it. They fought a lot and haven’t seen each other since the day they broke up. I still don’t know how my sister really feels about it all, we’ve never spoken about it. I left school at 16 because I didn’t see the point in studying for a diploma. I believed, and still believe, you can become anything you want in life, providing you work hard for it. Two years ago I left for New Zealand and, inspired by my dad, I got my certificate as a lifeguard.”

“After coming back, I had no idea what to do with my life and so I applied for a job in Val Thorens during winter season. Since one of the shop owners’ is my dad’s best friend that wasn’t so hard. I stayed the whole season and loved every bit of it. The people of Val Thorens feel like family now and that’s why I came back this year just for a holiday, to spend time with the family I’ve built here. In 20 days I will leave to New Zealand and see what the future brings. Maybe I’ll return, maybe I won’t, but that non-settled life is the freedom I seek.”

Read The Saisonniers #2

**COVID-19 UPDATE:

After being forced by President Macron’s non-negotiable decision to to leave their house and job within 48 hours I called up some saisonniers to see how they were doing. Most of them fled the village immediately, although a small core decided to sit out a quarantine of at least two weeks. These anciens in particular were not prepared to leave their winter life all of a sudden, with some not even having anywhere to go. These last days have been spent getting groceries from the last open store  and preparing for an eventual outbreak of the virus. Infected people are in a strict quarantine or taken away to a village lower down. However, since the slopes are abandoned and there is barely any police control, some tourists see this as a perfect opportunity to build their own snow jump and freeride those mountains. Even though this is strictly forbidden, the unclear communication of the village itself causes people to ignore the rules and troop together for house parties or outside on the slopes. Today’s Val Thorens looks nothing like it usually would during March, and although saisonniers tend to be flexible when it comes to leaving their jobs and homes: this abruptly ended season of 2020 will never be forgotten.

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Up until then, Belgian employers did not have a tax withholding or reporting obligation for remuneration granted by a foreign parent or affiliated company, if the Belgian employer was not involved in granting that remuneration. The only exception to this rule was the obligation to report stock options meeting the conditions of the Stock Option Law of March 26, 1999. The employee, however, was obliged to report the foreign income in his personal tax return.

The current introduction of the withholding obligation with the taxes being paid at source through payroll is part of the battle against social and tax fraud. Where in the past, Belgian employers sometimes weren’t even aware of foreign remuneration (mostly equity) being granted to their employees by a foreign affiliated company, more communication between the Belgian employer and its foreign affiliated companies will be necessary in the future.

Withholding Obligations

Starting retroactively on March 1, 2019, all taxable remuneration paid by foreign parent companies and/or affiliates will need to be taxed through payroll as it becomes subject to withholding taxes. Withholding taxes are to be declared on a monthly basis and to be paid on a monthly or a quarterly basis. Given the fact that the Law has entered into force on March 1, 2019, there is no withholding obligation for the foreign remuneration granted in January and February 2019. Please note however, that the taxable benefits of these months will need to be reported in the 2019 tax forms that need to be submitted to the Belgian tax authorities before March 1, 2020.

Reporting Obligations

All remuneration paid by foreign parent companies and/or affiliates to Belgian employees will need to be reported by the Belgian employer to whom the foreign company is linked. The reporting will take place via the yearly tax form 281. This form includes the taxable earnings of employees/directors. The employer is obliged to provide the form to his staff, that should use the details mentioned on the form to file their tax returns.

Belgian Social Security on Foreign Remuneration

As a general principle in the Belgian legislation, social charges are due on salary. One of the conditions that needs to be fulfilled for a benefit to be considered as salary is the fact that the benefit needs to be chargeable to the employer. This condition is laid down in the Act of 1965 on the protection of salary. Up to the 3rd quarter of 2018, the Belgian social security authorities believed that benefits were not “chargeable to the employer”, if the employee could not claim the benefit from the Belgian employer in a financial or a legal way (e.g. because the right to the benefit was contractually agreed upon). In other words: if the advantage was granted to the employee by a foreign affiliated company without any intervention of the Belgian employer, no social charges were due.

However, according to the administrative instructions of the National Social Security Office (NSSO) issued in the 3rd quarter of 2018, social security contributions are now due on all benefits that relate to the work performed by the employee in the execution of his/her employment contract with the employer or that relate to the function of the employee carried out for the employer. This principle applies even without any intervention of the (Belgian) employer in the payment/grant of the benefit.

According to most of the Belgian authors specialized in the matter, this point of view of the NSSO is too much, as it interferes with the definition and notion of salary as laid down in the Act of 1965 on the protection of salary. However, as this new point of view has been published in its recent instructions, chances are that the NSSO will enforce its point of view and that we’ll have to wait for the first court cases before any changes might be introduced.

Next Steps

■ Belgian employers should inform their foreign headquarters or affiliated companies of the change in the Belgian regulations even if they are currently not aware of any remuneration granted or paid to their Belgian employees by a foreign affiliated company;
■ Employers should inform Pro‐Pay or their payroll office of the foreign remuneration that will be subject to withholding taxes. In case of doubt about the taxability of certain remuneration or the timing of taxation, employers should seek the advice of a specialized tax consultant;
■ Employers need to inform Pro‐Pay or their payroll office of the remuneration paid by a foreign linked company to the Belgian employees in January and February 2019, in order to ensure correct reporting on the tax form 281.

About Pro‐Pay
Pro‐Pay is an independent payroll provider in Belgium offering services to Belgian companies and international companies with employees in Belgium. Find out more at: www.propay.be/en/

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The most frequent questions immigration providers receive from clients are:
∞ What Brexit scenario should we prepare for?
∞ When should we start preparing?
∞ How should we prepare?

Answering these questions is difficult, but not impossible.

Preparing for a soft or a hard Brexit?

So what scenario should you prepare for? To answer this question, companies should look at what decision makers are currently doing. Both in the UK and in the EU (at EU and at national level) decision makers keep highlighting their commitment to finding a deal. However at the same time, everyone is also preparing for a no-deal scenario. For example, the French government published a draft law in November 2018 to create a no-deal legal framework. Other countries, such as Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Czech Republic have made public their no deal preparations as of the beginning of 2019. In addition, the European Commission published three communications last year – one in July, one in November and one in December – urging all stakeholders, from national administrations to citizens and economic operators, to prepare for a hard Brexit.

This is indeed the most cautious thing to do. On the one hand, possible disturbances caused by a hard Brexit could be very costly for companies. On the other hand, all the efforts put into preparing for a hard Brexit would not be wasted if, eventually, a soft Brexit occurs. Why? Because the hard Brexit and the soft Brexit scenarios are in the end not so different from each.
Three main aspects distinguish them. The first one is the two year transition period (30th of March 2019 – 1st of January 2021) which would be implemented only if the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified and enters into force by 30th of March 2019 (soft Brexit).

The second one is the level of protection to be granted to UK/EU nationals residing in the EU/UK prior to the Brexit day (less generous in case of a hard Brexit). And the third one is the nature of the future EU-UK relationship. In a hard Brexit scenario there would be no time to negotiate. So, from an immigration perspective, we would fall back immediately on already existing immigration schemes (GATS mode IV, EU permits, national permits) as of 30th of March 2019. This does not mean however that, in the future, this could not be re-negotiated and amended. In a soft Brexit scenario, there would certainly be talks about the future arrangements during the transition period, and some more ambitious schemes could be put in place.

Nevertheless, understanding what impact Brexit will have on current employees and future employees is crucial for all businesses. And some of this analysis will be the same in both scenarios. The major consequences will be felt only two years later if there is a soft Brexit. Yet, the sooner companies start preparing, the better chances they stand to avoid all possible disruptions and negative consequences on their employees.

When should companies start preparing?

Ideally, preparations should already be on-going. Although there is still a lot of uncertainty, companies and employees can already take steps to protect their rights and prepare for the future, irrespective of what the future will look like. All concerned people must make sure they are making use of all existing tools and schemes already in place and that they are ready for when new ones will be available for them.

How should companies prepare?

The first thing to do is classify the stakeholders within the company who will be impacted. Some of the stakeholders are easy to identify: EU nationals locally hired in the UK or UK nationals locally hired in an EU country. But Brexit might also have an impact on cross border workers, business travellers, employees temporarily assigned in the UK or an EU country, and even third country nationals in some situations. Moreover, Brexit will also impact future employees. Therefore, recruiters and HR departments must be aware of how their work will be influenced by Brexit.

Once the stakeholders are identified, it is crucial to put a communication strategy in place with tailored messages to all groups of stakeholders. Employers should reassure employees to make sure they retain them. In addition, they should train recruiters and HR specialists to help them understand the implications of a soft or a hard Brexit.

The third step – not necessarily in a chronological order as some of these steps can be taken simultaneously – would be to collect data about the impacted employees. It is no longer sufficient to know who they are. Companies must also have information about their length of stay in the host country, nationality of their family members, type of employment, employment conditions, education, etc. All of this data is necessary to create preparedness strategies and contingency plans.

And lastly, get ready to implement these strategies and plans. Brexit is an ever changing landscape and is very difficult to keep up with. There are no exact deadlines, no exact timelines, no precise outcome. Companies must be flexible. They must make sure they have all the necessary resources and are ready to act at any time. With all the uncertainty around Brexit, only one thing is certain. As cliché as this may seem, companies should definitely hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

With thanks to Andreia Ghimis, Senior Consultant EU Government and Client Advisory at Fragomen

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ReLocate spoke with professor Greg Clark, urbanist and Senior Fellow at the Urban Land Institute Europe, to find out more. He is a widely published author on city development and investment issues and advises a wide array of international organisations. In May 2016 he presented a new report analysing the competitiveness of Brussels and Antwerp. Where most analyses of a city’s competitiveness rely on economic performance, The Urban Land Institute report looks at a much wider range of issues. Ranging from liveability to geopolitical risk and sustainability, these are the things that influence a city’s attractiveness to residents and companies alike.

Brussels and Antwerp are very different in nature: how did you approach the comparison?
“We put together two benchmarking groups, ran workshops, visited the cities and conducted a ton of interviews before running this comparative analysis in which we measured Brussels and Antwerp against groups of peer cities to arrive at an assessment of their competitiveness,” explains Greg Clark. “We didn’t just look at economic performance, but at other issues that impact a city’s attractiveness to residents too. Matters such as liveability, governance, geopolitical risk and sustainability are just as important in urban life. Brussels was tested against well established capitals such as London and Paris, cities that provide tough competition. Antwerp on the other hand was held up against peer cities that are reinventing themselves – some of them port cities – like Hamburg and Amsterdam, and other (former) industry greats such as Manchester and Liverpool.”

Antwerp has a huge opportunity to build a central role for itself as part of a regional system of cities.

What are their main selling points?
“Both cities have very good fundamentals, and their own, unique attractions. Antwerp is compelling for its extraordinary DNA. It has always been one of the world’s greatest trading cities and has invented many ideas about the connection between trade, innovation and discovery. Antwerp knows how to build a city around a port. Located within a north-western European economy of roughly 100 million people with a huge GDP, it’s well connected with Belgian, Dutch, Northern French and German cities on all sides. Antwerp has a huge opportunity to build a central role for itself as part of a regional system of cities.”

“The Antwerp port is embracing innovation in terms of how goods are managed, how energy is used and what technology is applied. They’re building an innovative port and energy complex, with a big focus on the circular economy, which is important and fascinating. Of course, the city of Antwerp is synonymous with the craft and design of high-quality goods. From the diamond industry to its fashion sector, Antwerpians know how to make items of high value work in the market place. This mercantilist attitude means it is truly open for business.”

left: Antwerp right: Brussels

“Boasting a young and vibrant population that is committed to taking the city forward, Antwerp is further boosted by a government with big ambitions. From building a canopy over the ring road to creating more public spaces and developing the left bank, the city is redesigning its urban fabric to make a future-proof city. Smart citizen initiatives activate people to act as the eyes and ears of the city, giving feedback on the quality of bicycle lanes or roads and public facilities that might need maintenance. These distinctive edges of Antwerp amount to things that are quite exciting considering its small size. Thinking about the business opportunities that arise from disruption runs deep within the Antwerp DNA.”

Brussels’ youthful population and great cosmopolitan mixity give rise to a highly scientific, entrepreneurial labour force that is willing to work in all sorts of industries.

“Brussels on the other hand is distinctive in a completely different way,” Greg continues. “It is a major capital city, and as home to the various European institutions and NATO it has an influential presence on the global stage, although it is yet to leverage it to its full potential. It’s interesting when you compare Brussels with cities like Washington DC or Singapore, which play an influential role by hosting global institutions, international summits and other gatherings that really work for the city.”

“It has a youthful population and great cosmopolitan mixity giving rise to a highly scientific, entrepreneurial labour force that is willing to work in all sorts of industries. The high calibre of educational institutes in Brussels is somewhat obscured by the presence of international institutions such as the EU and NATO, but the educational cluster has enormous potential thanks to leadership in fields such as IT, life sciences, or medicine. Most obviously it has enormous potential to be a global school of government, public policy and management.”

“When you look at productivity progress in Brussels a lot of it is to do with the dynamism of the labour market and its liquidity. People want to spend time in Brussels, partly because of its influence, but then find they want to stay and do other things too. It’s important to remember that government institutions feed and support a huge cluster of other kinds of decision making and communication activities. There are very big, positive spill-overs and multipliers that you can leverage into other industries. If you thought a government town can only ever be a government town, you’d be wrong.”

All attractive qualities indeed, surely there must be some drawbacks?
“They also both suffer from a number of challenges,” agrees Greg. “Part of this is that they are located in Belgium, and, great as Belgium may be, it is not a country that enjoys a clear institutional framework. Both Brussels and Antwerp struggle to build their identity and present themselves in a way that cities in less confusing countries do not. Brussels has far greater assets than say Vienna or Zurich, yet these cities have fewer difficulties presenting and promoting themselves on an international stage. Similarly, whilst Antwerp has greater or equivalent assets to Liverpool, Lyon, Genoa, and Turin, it has difficulty articulating what it is, where it is, and why.”

“They’re also rather late to the urbanisation agenda compared to other European cities. Citizens in Brussels and Antwerp are highly dependent on their cars and prefer the suburbs to the city centre. The Belgians tend to sub optimise the use of land and real estate, which translates into low levels of densification and very few mixed-use development projects. It also means there has been very little focus on transport and connectivity as a way of embracing and spurring on urbanism. The third thing that seems to be true for both of them – although each city has a slightly different version of this – is that they have had some difficulty creating the right geographical and institutional space through which to apply leadership to the city.”

“Brussels Capital Region struggles due to the way it is defined; geographically it’s too small for the – much larger – Brussels metropolitan area and then of course there is the fragmentation of having 19 separate municipalities, which rather effectively prevents an integrated governance model. You need a leadership platform for the whole area, otherwise you end up with different policies being pursued in different parts of the region, which is not particularly helpful. For Antwerp it was more of a question of leadership appetite in the past, although I think this is now being addressed. The current leadership has the appetite to succeed and a vision for moving the city forward. It’s just been slow getting there.”

“The public sector almost has a monopoly on leadership control in Belgium. Other sectors, such as business, cultural and higher education, have not played active civic leadership roles like they do in other cities of comparable sizes. There’s been too much waiting around for city government to put things right, rather than civic leadership working hand in hand with city governments to create forward momentum. I suppose you could say both cities have become somewhat institutionalised. This is now being addressed in Antwerp where civil and trade movements are working together with the city towards creating a more sustainable future for the city.”

Both cities need to build a strong brand and identity. Getting together with organisations that will back the city and help create a new global story will help put them on the map.

How can Brussels and Antwerp improve on their competitiveness?
“We focused on three main areas for our recommendations on addressing these weaknesses,” Greg tells us. “First, Brussels and Antwerp need to start embracing urbanisation. This means being proactive in extending and developing public transport as a way of reducing car dependence. By strengthening the urban mix, you create excitement and vibrancy. Creating exciting city centres and sub centres, together with a more active transport mix, helps attract and retain corporate investment and the dynamic workforce needed by these companies.”

“Secondly, the institutional frameworks have to be right. This creates room for city leadership that is continuously thinking about their city as somewhere people will want to live and work, rather than getting stuck in Belgian politics. Thinking about public and private partnerships on a city level is a big part of this, just look at how Antwerp is involving its citizens in the maintenance of its city.”

“This in turn leads into our third point: the promotion of Brussels and Antwerp. Both cities need to build a strong brand and identity. Getting together an alliance of organisations that will back the city and help create a new global story will help put them on the map. This is certainly happening in Antwerp, and I believe efforts are underfoot in Brussels now too.”

“Finally, both cities have really creative industries which are part of the impact of the cosmopolitan diversity of the city. You should be able to really use that cosmopolitan diversity as a driver of creative endeavour. The idea isthat diversity creates competitive advantage through interaction. To realise that, you’ve got to address the challenges of social exclusion and segregation. Brussels has two cosmopolitan populations: one is the elite that services the global institutions, the other is the population of migrants who have come from a poorer set of countries in search of a better life. Somehow, you’ve got to make those two kinds of populations work together.”

To read the full report, visit the Urban Land Institute website:

Brussels and Antwerp: Pathways to a Competitive Future

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The Forces Shaping the Future

“The pace of change is accelerating. Competition for the right talent is fierce. And ‘talent’ no longer means the same as ten years ago; many of the roles, skills and job titles of tomorrow are unknown to us today,” says Carol Stubbings, Global Leader People and Organisation, PwC, in her foreword. “How can organisations prepare for a future that few of us can define? How will your talent needs change? How can you attract, keep and motivate the people you need? And what does all this mean for HR? The ‘Four Worlds of Work’ for 2030 report aims to kickstart your thinking about the many possible scenarios that could develop, and how to best prepare for the future. Remember that your starting point matters as much as your destination; the best response may mean radical change, or perhaps just a few steps from where you are today.”

MEGATRENDS

The megatrends are the tremendous forces reshaping society and with it, the world of work: the economic shifts that are redistributing power, wealth, competition and opportunity around the globe; the disruptive innovations, radical thinking, new business models and resource scarcity that are impacting every sector. Businesses need a clear and meaningful purpose and mandate to attract and retain employees, customers and partners in the decade ahead. How humans respond to the challenges and opportunities which the megatrends bring will determine the worlds in which the future of work plays out.

∞ Technological Breakthroughs
Automation, robotics and AI are advancing quickly, dramatically changing the nature and number of jobs available. Technology has the power to improve our lives, raising productivity, living standards and average life span, and free people to focus on personal fulfilment.
∞ Demographic Shifts
With a few regional exceptions the world’s population is ageing, putting pressure on business, social institutions and economies. Our longer life span will affect business models, talent ambitions and pension costs.
∞ Rapid Urbanisation
By 2030, the UN projects that 4.9 billion people will be urban dwellers and, by 2050, the world’s urban population will have increased by some 72%. Already, many of the largest cities have GDPs larger than mid-size countries.
∞ Shifts in Global Economic Power
The rapidly developing nations, particularly those with a large working-age population, that embrace a business ethos, attract investment and improve their education system will gain the most. Emerging nations face the biggest challenge as technology increases the gulf with the developed world.
∞ Resource Scarcity and Climate Change
Demand for energy and water is forecast to increase by as much as 50% and 40% respectively by 2030. New types of jobs in alternative energy, new engineering processes, product design and waste management and re-use will need to be created to deal with these needs.

HOW WILL THESE MEGATRENDS SHAPE OUR WORLD?

■ The Red World: a perfect incubator for innovation with few rules
New products and business models develop at lightning speed, far more quickly than regulators can control. Big business is outflanked in a digital-enabled world that’s teeming with small entrepreneurial companies. Digital platforms match worker with employer, skills with demand, capital with innovator, and consumer with supplier. This allows serial entrepreneurs to reach far beyond their size in terms of influence and scale. Anxious to compete, larger employers fragment to create their own internal markets and networks to cut through old-style hierarchies. Specialism is highly prized in the Red World and a career, rather than being defined by an employer or institution, is built from individual blocks of skills, experience and networks. The most sought-after skills mean the biggest reward package and workers move frequently, staying only as long as the project or business lasts.

■ The Blue World: capitalism reigns supreme
In the Blue World, companies see their size and influence as the best way to protect their prized profit margins against intense competition from their peers and aggressive new market entrants. Corporations grow to such a scale, and exert such influence, that some become more powerful than nation states. Workforces are lean and exceptional talent is in high demand – employers secure a core group of pivotal high-performers by offering excellent rewards but otherwise buy in flexible talent and skills as and when they’re needed. Human effort, automation, analytics and innovation combine to push performance in the workplace to its limits; human effort is maximised through sophisticated use of physical and medical enhancement techniques and equipment, and workers’ performance and wellbeing are measured, monitored and analysed at every step. A new breed of elite super-workers emerges.

■ The Green World: companies have to care
In the Green World, corporate responsibility isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s a business imperative. Companies are open, collaborative organisations that see themselves as playing an essential role in developing their employees and supporting local communities. Reacting to public opinion, increasingly scarce natural resources and stringent international regulations, companies push a strong ethical and green agenda. This is characterised by a strong social conscience, a sense of environmental responsibility, a focus on diversity, human rights and fairness of all kinds and a recognition that business has an impact that goes well beyond the financial. Employees enjoy family-friendly, flexible hours and are encouraged to take part in socially useful projects.

■ The Yellow World: we’re all in this together
In the Yellow World, workers and companies seek out greater meaning and relevance in what they do. A strong desire for ‘fairness’ in the distribution of wealth, resources and privilege drives public policy. Workers find flexibility, autonomy and fulfilment, working for organisations with a strong social and ethical record. This is the collective response to business fragmentation; the desire to do good, for the common good. Technology helps by lowering barriers to entry by providing easy access to crowdfunded capital and a worldwide market. The Yellow World is the perfect breeding ground for the emergence of new worker Guilds that develop in order to protect, support and connect independent workers, often providing training and other benefits that have traditionally been supplied by employers.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR JOBS?

PwC’s Four Worlds of Work are each markedly different, but through each runs the vein of automation and the implications of robotics and AI. It’s clear that automation will result in a massive reclassification and rebalancing of work. Some sectors and roles, even entire sections of the workforce will lose out but others will be created. Automation will not only alter the types of jobs available but their number and perceived value. By replacing workers doing routine, methodical tasks, machines can amplify the comparative advantage of those workers with problem-solving, leadership, EQ (Emotional Intelligence), empathy and creativity skills. This view is supported by business leaders worldwide who responded to PwC’s most recent CEO survey. While CEOs are keen to maximise the benefits of automation – 52% told us that they’re already exploring the benefits of humans and machines working together and 39% are considering the impact of AI on their future skills needs – the majority (52%) were also planning to increase headcount in the coming 12 months. Finding the skills they need has become the biggest threat to their business, they say, but the skills they’re looking for are particularly telling: problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration, leadership, creativity and innovation top the list.

For the full report, please visit the PwC website:
https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/services/people-organisation/publications/workforce-of-the-future.html

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Public holidays in 2019

New Year’s Day Tuesday, January 1st 2019
Easter Monday Monday, April 22nd 2019
Labour Day Wednesday, May 1st 2019
Ascension Day Thursday, May 30th 2019
Whit Monday Monday, June 10th 2019
Belgian National Holiday Sunday, July 21st 2019
Assumption Day Thursday, August 15th 2019
All Saints’ Day Friday, November 1st 2019
Armistice Day Monday, November 11th  2019
Christmas Wednesday, December 25th 2019

Applicable rules

When a public holiday falls on a Sunday or another day which is normally a non-working day (usually a Saturday), it must be replaced by a replacement day on a normal working day. In theory, in Belgium, employees cannot be required to work on public holidays. The employer however is obliged to pay the employee a normal salary for that holiday. In the list above, the public holidays that fall on a non-working day in the course of 2019 have been marked in bold. Employees are entitled to one replacement day in 2019, for the Belgian National Holiday (Sunday, July 21st).

The law of January 4, 1974 provides for the manner in which replacement days should be determined. In theory, the Joint industrial Committee competent for each sector may decide when replacement days shall fall, but in practice we don’t see this very often. If the Joint industrial Committee has not taken its decision before October 1, 2018, each company may decide for itself when the replacement days for its employees will fall. The company may take that decision in one of the following ways:

– By the Works Council.
– If the company has no Works Council, by agreement between the union representatives and the employer.
– If the company has a Works Council nor union representatives, by agreement between all the employees and the employer.
– If no agreement can be reached for the whole company, individual agreements may be drawn up between the employer and each employee.

If replacement days cannot be decided upon using one of the solutions above, they automatically fall on the next normal working day following the public holiday (usually a Monday).

Employers must inform their employees of the replacement days for 2019 by displaying a signed and dated document on the company premises before December 15, 2018.

More interesting news can be found on the news page of Pro-Pay

 

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What kind of preparations are recommended before relocating to Belgium in regards to immigration and visas?

“It is key to find out if you need a Belgian visa or permit to visit, live, work or study in Belgium. The Belgian legislation applicable to the employment of foreigners makes a distinction in the rules applicable to the right to enter and stay and the rules applicable to the right to work. EU/EEA and Swiss citizens can work without a work permit in Belgium. Third-country nationals, however, will typically need a work permit to engage in economic activities.”

What is the Blue Card System? Why is it necessary to differentiate between highly-skilled / highly-paid workers and everyone else?

“In 2000 the European Council met in Lisbon to define the strategic plan that could help the Union’s competitive position in the global market in terms of employment, economic reform and social cohesion as part of a knowledge-based economy. In that meeting the Union set the strategy to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.

In order to establish this goal the EU established measures to attract highly skilled employees from outside of the EU, one of those being the European Blue Card. Why exactly was it deemed so important to put the focus on this? At the time the Council concluded that the growth of the EU would be at stake because of the lack of highly qualified and skilled human capital. Therefore, special schemes and measures had to be put in place to increase Europe’s attractiveness towards highly-educated and talented foreigners to help build this competitive knowledge-based economy.”

There are three types of work permit:

Type-A work permits allow you to work for any employer indefinitely;
Type-B work permits allow you to work for a specific employer for up to a year (renewable);
Type-C work permits allow those staying in Belgium only temporarily – such as students – to work for any employer for up to a year (also renewable).

There has recently been some reform to the “Blue Card System”, have the changes benefited workers or have they made the process more difficult and restrictive?

The EU Blue Card scheme has been in operation since 2009. The scheme was proven unsuccessful for a number of reasons, including more attractive national parallel schemes, limited associated rights and its limited ability to attract young talent. The European Commission adopted a proposal to review the EU Blue Card scheme to address those weaknesses and to improve the EU’s ability to attract and retain highly skilled workers in 2016. It foresees more flexible admission criteria, extended labour market access and intra-EU mobility rights for EU Blue Card holders and facilitated access to EU long-term residency. The Commission’s proposal is currently discussed between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council and will hopefully be adopted in the course of 2018.

What are the most common queries that your team deals with in regards to visa processes in Belgium?

  • Can my spouse work? Not automatically. “The spouse of a foreign worker does not have an immediate right to work on the basis of the dependent residence permit. They still require a work permit B sponsored by an employer. The good news on the other hand is that the status of dependent spouse offers access to a work permit B category with more relaxed eligibility criteria.”
  • Can we expedite the procedure? “Unfortunately it is not possible to opt for an expedited procedure in Belgium. The relevant authorities usually handle applications on a first come first serve basis and strive to deliver in a consistent manner against stable processing times (2-4 weeks for work permit applications and 5-15 working days for visa applications).”
  • Does the embassy keep my passport? “Some of our clients who have a very busy travel schedule are terrified of having to surrender their passport at the Embassy while applying for their visa. Luckily we often have good news as most embassies quite cooperative towards the requests from applicants to to give the passport back if they can substantiate the urgent need for this (eg. Business travel).”
  • Does the EU Blue Card offer me the right to work in the entire EU? “Unfortunately this is not yet the case. The EU Blue Card only grants work rights in the member state that has issued the EU Blue Card. I have to explain to our clients that they still require work authorisation if they would go to work in any of the other member states.”
  • Can my (non-married) partner come with me? Again, not necessarily. “This often creates a “reality shock” for non-married couples as they are forced to make a choice to apply for family reunification by either marrying (abroad or in Belgium) or concluding legal cohabitation upon arrival in Belgium (subject to various eligibility requirements).”
  • My work visa is about to expire, should I renew my visa even when I’m already in Belgium and have a residence permit? “The work visa is “transferred” into the residence permit upon completing the town hall registration procedure. The legal status of the foreigner in Belgium is not defined by the visa as soon as they have the valid residence permit. Their status is 100% compliant and covered when they have a valid work and residence permit.”

What is the process from work permit (A, B or C,) to residency (D) to citizenship?

  • To apply for unlimited residency you have resided legally in Belgium for an uninterrupted period of five years.
  • If you hold a Blue Card from another EU-member state, and have lived elsewhere in the EU, this can count towards your five-year period.
  • Acquiring citizenship requires the applicant to have a permanent residency status.
  • Once permanent residency is acquired it then follows a ‘Nationality Declaration’ track.
  • Nationality Declaration:

– Legal residence of between five and 10 years in Belgium;
– Be able to prove that you speak one of the three main languages;
– You are socially and economically integrated.

Want to acquire citizenship through marriage to a Belgian national?

  • You must have been living together for three years;
  • Still fulfil the five-year residence requirement;
  • Also have knowledge of one of the three main languages.

Are entrepreneurs able to apply for a Professional Card without holding any other visa for residency in Belgium? Are the visa and immigration rules different for entrepreneurs?

“As a rule, a foreign national exercising a self-employed activity in Belgium needs to be in possession of a Professional Card. Some foreign nationals are exempt from this requirement, such as foreign nationals who come to Belgium on a business trip, provided that the trip does not exceed three consecutive months. Whether the entrepreneur needs a visa and/or Belgian residence permit will depend on their nationality and duration of stay in Belgium. The general rules apply which are similar for foreign employees and self-employed.”

What is the EU Intra-Corporate Transfers directive and when do you think it will be transposed into Belgian legislation?

“The EU ICT directive harmonises the conditions of entry and residence for third-country nationals amongst the EU Member States (excluding UK, Ireland and Denmark) in the framework of an intra-corporate transfer (ICT). An ICT is the temporary secondment of a third-country national who resides outside the EU, from a company established outside the EU to which the employee is bound by an employment contract to a group company located in a Member State. This directive introduces for the first time a European ICT work permit that enables the third-country national to work under certain conditions in EU Member States other than the one that issued the EU ICT permit.

Given the intra-EU mobility rights associated with this new EU ICT permit, it is crucial that Belgium implements the European Directive as soon as possible. Not doing so places Belgium at a significant competitive disadvantage not only in attracting this type of skilled worker but investment as a whole. It creates an obstacle for economic growth and strategic planning for multinational companies that have their regional headquarters in Belgium and have positions with pan-European duties or have to develop skills in a multicultural international environment. The transposition of the Single Permit and the EU ICT permit is anticipated for the second half of 2018.”

The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) was adopted by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on 19 October 2017. What does this mean for travellers?

ETIAS is an electronic monitoring system and will be compulsory for third country nationals who do not need visas to travel the Schengen Area. It will be the equivalent of ESTA (similar system in the US) and it will aim to ensure that people travelling to the EU do not threaten the security of the Schengen countries and to impede irregular migration.

Legislation setting ETIAS up is being discussed internally in the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. Once both institutions agree upon their respective position, discussions in trialogues between the European Parliament, Council and European Commission will begin.

EDIT: 23/11/2022

The European Union has postponed the launch of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) for another six months to November 2023.

With thanks to Jo Antoons, Alexander De Nys, Christine Sullivan, Andreia Ghimis and Rimma Abadjan of Fragomen.

www.fragomen.com

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The idea of “work” and “working spaces” is changing rapidly, and a business needs to keep abreast of what attracts new staff and what keeps them content to ensure their business stays afloat. ReLocate brings you an amalgamation of two reports, both entailing information crucial to the attraction and retention of staff. The first report being a survey on students and young professional expats by BNP Paribas Fortis, understanding the motivations behind their want or need to relocate based on their job prospects gives businesses an insight on how to position themselves to attract the best staff. The second report is a Global Talent Trends Study from Mercer, an innovative group that uses analysis and insights as catalysts for change within organisations. Their report details the steps employers need to take to ensure they are retaining the best employees and explains how we are moving forward into an era of fierce competition between businesses for talent like we’ve never seen before.

Looking back: what motivates students and young professional expats to relocate?  – BNP Paribas Fortis

Understanding what motivates students and young professionals to up sticks and move their whole lives to another country is key in attracting the best talent. Knowing what the driving factors behind their decisions are enables companies to put in place the most effective recruitment campaigns and attractive employment policies. “Millennials are the driving force behind this contemporary intra-European mobility, with more and more young expats in Europe seeking new academic and professional experiences elsewhere,” states Salvatore Orlando, Head of Expatriates at BNP Paribas Fortis. Despite big changes in UK and American approaches to immigration these past months, the professional market in Europe is still open to vast levels of mobility. The survey was executed by the Think Young think tank, founded in 2007 and focuses entirely on young people, providing decision makers with high quality research on key issues affecting millennials.

MOTIVATION TO RELOCATE – MOST SPECIFICALLY TO BELGIUM
Students
Just over half of students polled stated that the main reason for leaving their home country and relocating to Belgium was dependent on the opportunity offered by university or school in their home country. A further 39% cited experiencing another culture was enough for them to want to leave home. Learning a new language or developing existing language skills was the key factor in motivating 39% of those who responded. The final outstanding motivating factor in students deciding to relocate to Belgium was that they felt that the move would have a positive impact on their CV and would then in turn maximise their career opportunities.

Young Professionals
The results of this survey on young professionals are much more defined, with a massive 80% of respondents stating that the move to Belgium was wholly based on the career opportunities here. Half of those surveyed cite personal development as a driving factor in their decision to move. While motivations such as learning another language, the standard of living or quality of life and indeed even financial reasons are way further down on the list. Andrea Gerosa, founder of ThinkYoung sees the clarity in the results: “It’s a meaningful move, driven not by the desire to have fun but by the willingness to learn more, improve skills, and enhance career opportunities.”

What does this mean for employers and educational institutions?
Employers and educational institutions have the hard task of pre-empting students and young professional’s career aspirations, and ensuring that they provide clear opportunities for career progression.

Educational institutions need to ensure that the courses they offer contain the latest curriculum developments, and that these are transferable should their students wish to change track – as students often do. Universities and colleges should do their best to attract the best teaching staff that employ modern teaching methods that are also tried and tested. It is also important to offer a wide variety of extra-curricular programmes where students can employ their talents in a more practical environment, gaining them valuable experience for their future in the workforce. Scholarships also ensure that students from a wide variety of backgrounds are given the opportunity to learn, providing the learning environment with a variety of opinions and perspectives.

Employers can use this information to entice the best young professionals to their organisation. Providing potential young employees with clear paths of career progression through well thought-out organisational structures, allows each employee the chance to climb the ladder or explore other areas of the business. Progression isn’t always up, it can be left or right, and when employers offer flexibility, such as secondments to other departments, or other locations – this can be the deciding factor for a young professional full of enthusiasm.

Looking forward: what practices can we put in place to retain the best talent? – Mercer

There’s no denying that 2016 was a trying year in more than one area. With the uncertainty faced by the Brexit vote, the big change in American politics and constant conflict in the Middle East it is crucial that companies shift their focus onto their workforce, to care for the health and wellbeing of their staff. Technological advancements are also having a massive impact on the workplace, how we work, where we work and how we can balance that with enough “down time” are all changing our view of the world of work. On top of all this, Mercer reports that 92% of employers expect an increase in the competition for talent this year.

According to Mercer, these are the top six ways in which they feel companies are going to respond to these new challenges:
1. Attracting top talent externally
2. Developing leaders for succession
3. Identifying high potentials
4. Building skills across the workforce
5. Supporting employees’ career growth
6. Increasing employee engagement

FOUR TRENDS TO WATCH FOR IN 2017
1. Growth by design
It’s all about transforming the internal structure of organisations and ensuring that the “people agenda” is not overlooked. In Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Study they state that 93% of organisations are geared up for a reorganisation in the next two years. Those who aren’t already in the throes of redesign may be left behind.

2. A shift in what we value
If an employee feels undervalued, it is likely that their output will decrease and they will eventually look elsewhere when deciding upon their professional future. Mercer’s study reports that 97% of employees want to be recognized and rewarded for a wide range of professional contributions, not just sales targets or financial results. The rewards employees are seeking are not just fair and competitive compensation, they want more flexible work options, they want opportunities to get promoted, they want leaders who set clear direction, as well as peers that will challenge them and help set the tone for the future of the company. Knowing how to reward employees is key to holding on to them.

3. A workplace for me
When an employee feels that they are not just a number, they are more likely to produce work of a higher quality and also more likely to stay within your organisation. Being able to personalise your employees’ experience will bring significant advantages to your output and staff retention levels. One way for your employees to personalise their working experience is to introduce flexible working options. Mercer’s study showed that the majority of employees want more flexibility within their roles, however not all organisations are as flexible as their employees would like. 1 in 3 employees indicated that they had requested a flexible work arrangement in the past, however they were turned down. Further to this, 1 in 2 employees expressed some concern that working part-time or remotely would negatively impact their promotion opportunities. There is clearly more work to be done here.

4. The quest for insight
Companies are collecting more data from both candidates and employees than ever before, Mercer questions how this data can be better used to gain actionable insights – we don’t seem to be using the data to the best of its abilities. Mercer states that even though many organisations around the globe are collecting data, very few are able to translate the data into predictive insights. Just 1 in 4 are able to produce basic descriptive reporting and historical trend analysis. Looking forwards, predictive analytics – such as identifying which employees are likely to leave – would be incredibly valuable however less than 35% of HR leaders are able to provide this information.

It is an exciting time for the employment market. Organisations are redefining and redesigning their internal structures and the results will eventually be a complete overhaul of employment and work in general as we know it. Concurrently, employees are demanding more of their employers and the more vocal they are the better. The more transparent employment processes are employees can be assured of a better fit within the organisation and employers will then benefit from loyal, happy, engaged and steady employees. Workplaces are becoming not just a place where we feel obliged to show up to within certain timeframes, they are morphing into fluid and flexible spaces where our talents are nurtured, our contributions are valued and we work together towards a future that we are all content to be a part of.

TOP TIPS TO WIN THE TALENT WAR
• Promote a contribution culture where everyone feels welcome to give input;
• Focus on the “whole person agenda”, including health and wealth benefits;
• Define exciting career paths for a positive impact on retention;
• Take a chance on non-traditional talent who have potential but not experience;
• Mitigate risk by building a diverse port-folio of skills and a culture of innovation;
• Create a sense of belonging that resonates with your diverse workforce.

Read the full reports:
BNP Expat Survey
Mercer Talent Trends

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So what exactly is burnout? Stress. Plain and simple. Stress in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing: after all it’s one of our oldest survival instincts.  It is important however that the goal is clear and attainable and the person feels supported. Stress only turns to burnout when a variety of factors build up over a long period of time, creating an imbalance between capacity and load, with no end in sight.

A match burns bright before it burns out, and similarly a person with burnout will have put a lot of passion and energy into his or her work. That’s the upside. It also means there’s a lot of ‘self’ involved, with emotional exhaustion, cynicism and a feeling of failure in the end when that ‘self’ isn’t rewarded every now and then.

Causes and Effects
For a long time burnout was ascribed to personality only. It’s true that certain characteristics make a person more susceptible to suffering from burnout. Interestingly enough the majority of these characteristics are what makes the candidate stand out for the job in the first place.  Character traits such as a strong sense of responsibility, perfectionism, idealism, not wanting to disappoint, needing to feel useful and easily offering help, are all highly attractive to an employer.  Balance these out however with the characteristics that are less easily spotted, such as trouble asking for help, introversion and an inclination to depression, and the need to safeguard a careful balance between a healthy amount of stress and unmanageable pressure becomes more obvious.

Where workaholism was worn like a badge of honour back in the 80’s and 90’s, today we are starting to realise it is not the basis for a sustainable lifestyle in the slightest.  There are a number of reasons for this particular swing of the pendulum, most notably the fact that we no longer feel in control. We don’t decide to come in first and leave last because we want to hit that sales target, but because cut-backs mean we have to do the job of three others.  Add to this an increasing expectation to be “always switched on” and it becomes easy to see how work related stress can spiral out of control.

Researchers agree that changes in society account for a large part of the problem. The flexible job market creates uncertainty; the balance between work and private life, especially when working partners also have to take care of a sick family member; (too) high expectations from both ends of the job; an increase in emotional load and openness about stress on the work floor mean we can easily become overloaded to the point of not being able to function anymore.

Workable Work
Despite recent legislation demanding that employers have a clear policy in place that protects workers from stress and burnout, only 15% of Flemish companies actually have one. Or, in the words of neuro-psychologist Elke Geraerts: “This century holds a lot of challenges: changing work-processes, technology that surpasses our mental capacity, the undermining of social structures. Self-knowledge and self-empowerment are necessary for survival.”

Research by the Flemish Stichting Innovatie en Arbeid shows that in 2016 a paltry 51% of employees on the Flemish job market had a job that earned the quality seal ‘werkbaar werk’ (workable work). This means a job that doesn’t cause undue levels of stress, over-straining or illness, that is interesting and motivating, that offers opportunity to learn and develop, and that leaves enough room for family and private life.

Long-term absenteeism is on the rise, mainly due to psycho-social factors.
One in three employees experienced work related stress the previous year.
Estimated yearly cost: 4 billion euro.

Hitting the Wall
Brussels-based psychologist Ioana Cirstea shares her thoughts on the subject. “I used to work for a bank and I currently treat a lot of people who work for multinationals. I notice more and more people are suffering from burnout. After the financial crisis it got worse. The crisis was used as an excuse for reorganisation. Companies concerns for profits dominated, meaning no new hires, causing the remaining employees to do the work of three others. Employees hit a wall when they don’t feel recognised for their work. They are tired, disillusioned, disappointed, have a sense of injustice and feel helpless because they feel their voice is not heard by management. People need encouragement, acknowledgment or even a raise in salary. The bottom line is: people feel faced with a big mountain and become demotivated when they’re not seen as people.”

Expats, high risk demographic?
The obvious question within the context of ReLocate is: are expats at an increased risk of burning out? After all, the pressure is on when an employer has invested so much in bringing you over.  We asked psychologist Ioana Cirstea, who sees a lot of expats in her practice.

“I’m an international myself. I left Romania thirteen years ago to study and live in the Netherlands, Spain, the USA and Belgium. International people in general are a special group and I like working with them, we share similarities. It is helpful for them to see someone who can relate to their problems. Of course it’s not difficult to find international clients in Brussels,” she laughs.

“It’s important to understand that culture shock can happen to anyone, no matter how short the distance moved is perceived to be.  Missing your family and friends, the (often extensive) travelling, … International people often lack a local support system, the network of people who can help them (both in and outside the job). They easily feel isolated, especially when there’s a language barrier. Visa and working permits also cause a lot of insecurity when they are temporary. In general the complexity is higher for expats, but anyone can suffer from a pressure overload.”

Yet expats are ambitious people, which makes them both resilient and receptive. “They set high objectives, they want to succeed and are willing to go great lengths to do so. At the same time they are more alone in life. Work becomes so important – it’s what they have here. So yes, maybe they are at higher risk for burnout or other stress related problems as they will probably not stop, even when their body gives them signals, because they have less options than locals. It’s not easy to change jobs unless you also want to change country which is an additional stress factor.”

Nevertheless, Cirstea sees a solution, including for expats: “Talk! Looking for a different job should be your last option. People who are suffering from burnout are more negative, both about themselves and the world around them. For internationals the possibility of having to go home, a failure, adds even more pressure. It would be great if companies would promote job mobility instead of having people stuck at the same position for three years.”

It’s the system, stupid!
Why all parties involved should make an effort
You can overcome your burnout, but if the system doesn’t change around you, there’s a large risk of it happening again, especially if the causes were predominantly context related. So what can we do? How can we start burning with passion instead of burning out? Governments, employers and employees share equal responsibility. The good news is that the taboo surrounding burnout is breaking down now that the problem has, quite frankly, become too big to ignore. Belgium acknowledging this by means of law in 2014 is an important step forward.

But more is needed, ideally in the form of awareness campaigns, a burnout prevention plan for every company, better access to cheaper psychological help (psychotherapy isn’t recognised as medical help in Belgium, making it very expensive and patients often feel a sense of shame about needing this help), and lots of training for individuals, including learning how to be a better worker.

As individuals we have to make an effort too, which includes asking for help when you need it, but management can help a great deal, starting by taking burnout seriously and installing a prevention plan that might include providing a clear job description for every new task the flexible, multi-available employee gets; providing space and time for tasks that need silence and concentration; team building activities to stimulate a sense of community; no emails over the weekend; respecting breaks; nap-rooms; holding meetings standing up to keep them short and effective; autonomy; challenge; support; feedback; addressing different skills; offering development of talents and skills. “Skills such as mindfulness, presence, active listening, and recognition and acknowledgement of emotions are the very skills that encourage teamwork, connection with colleagues, and recognition of common purpose,” the Institute for Healthcare Excellence website tells us.

The Psychologist’s View
“For me there were times when it was very difficult”, Ioana Cirstea shares her personal experience. “Even though I had nice colleagues and job security, being an employee in big company was not my calling. Fortunately, I found people who understood my difficulties and I was able to change jobs.”

“For Europeans life is easier because they don’t need a visa etcetera. This encourages working abroad and meeting other likeminded people.” To companies she’d like to say: “The intake is very important because the first month is difficult, help is needed with paperwork, registration. On the job itself I suggest coaching, training, whatever is needed for a smooth journey. People shouldn’t be thrown into the job but have a follow-up, a manager who listens to the employees and doesn’t minimize problems, who sees them as persons. Within the company freedom of expression, less competition, doing things together, talking about the challenges of the job, should all be normal.”

She admits it won’t be easy. “One person by himself cannot fix this. The employee can play a role but the problem is related to the way the work is organised, the culture, the management style.”

Does this mean it’s unhealthy to work far from home? “Moving around is becoming more normal. As long as the work is rewarding and the expat enjoys what he or she does it’s fine. To stay in your own country and not like what you do isn’t much of an option either. Instead, working abroad can be glamorous when you start out and ticks those all-important learning and experience boxes. Although once the honeymoon period is over reality can set in with a bump,” Cirstea confesses. “But you find ways to adapt. To answer the question, I don’t think it’s unhealthy to live and work abroad, on the contrary, I think it opens new horizons, you become more tolerant. Living and working abroad is enriching, but not easy.”

Sources:

Elke Geraerts, ‘Mentaal Kapitaal’, Lannoo, 2015
Elke Geraerts is neuropsychologist with her own practice, author of two best-selling books and CEO of Better Minds at Work, helping companies detecting and preventing burn-out amongst employees. | www.bettermindsatwork.com

Presentation by Provikmo, part of ADMB preventie, a service for companies to help them with durable welfare policy. | www.admb.be/nl/provikmo

Thank you Ioana Cirstea! | www.coach-psychologist.eu

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Thanks to Leuven University, Europe’s eldest, the city has long been an international hub for students, researchers and companies. Their presence has done the region good, but it doesn’t mean the people who want more for Leuven can sit back and rest on their laurels. That’s why, in 2016, Mohamed Ridouani (alderman for SP.A) initiated Leuven MindGate, a network of local institutions, government bodies and industry sectors joining forces to guarantee long-term sustainable development, innovation and welfare in the region. How? By creating optimal circumstances for businesses (e.g. attractive tax conditions), research & development, studying and living.

Research + White Paper
Everything starts with people. With the aforementioned survey Leuven MindGate wanted to “investigate what makes Leuven an attractive place to live and work and where there’s room for improvement. A special taskforce was created to come up with practical recommendations and to specify the right actions required to establish this high-level living and working climate within the region”. The results are bundled in a white paper titled ‘Towards An Outstanding Working and Living Environment: needs and practices for supporting international knowledge workers’.

To start with a general conclusion: success boils down to integration. Not surprisingly these are the paper’s three main focus points: integration of the worker in his or her job, the family or partner into the new environment, and both of them into the Leuven community. In spite of the abundance of help on a wide variety of subjects that is offered by relocators and other specialists, several gaps in the supply of information for newcomers kept surfacing. It is here that the city has decided to step up and take responsibility.

A selection of conclusions from the report:
• The knowledge workers were least happy with the help offered in the search for a daytime activity (e.g. a job) for the partner, a school or day-care for the children and cultural integration;
• The partner’s wellbeing often seems to be the determining factor for a longer or even permanent stay in the Leuven region. Fewer than half (42%) of international staff currently feel part of the local community, 45% of partners who want to work in Belgium experience difficulties;
• The City of Leuven plays a vital role in the integration of international knowledge workers, but their initiatives are scattered and not all accessible;
• [Most] people want the City of Leuven to inform them about administration and registration, activities and healthcare;
• The gap-analysis between the importance rated and the quality of the support shows that in the future the greatest improvement (high importance combined with current low quality) can be made with actions targeting partner job search, housing, relocation, schools and childcare and tax matters;
• 54% of respondents indicate that more information from the City of Leuven about cultural and social activities would be useful.”

Leuven, hidden pearl (policy)
Alderman Mohamed Ridouani makes it his personal matter to address these issues. From an interesting but rather unusual portfolio containing (among others) economy, education and real estate, he works on the internationalisation of Leuven. Again integration is key here. “I try to make it one of my assets, because a city with a high quality of living – liveable, tolerant, bustling – is an attractive city. I visited Shanghai during the course of our research for MindGate, and found they’re experiencing trouble attracting knowledge workers partly because of the smog.”

Like many innovations, Leuven MindGate and the dream of an International House originate in frustration. Ridouani: “Leuven has and offers a great deal of opportunities. Everyone knows it as university town, but it’s much less known that we’re also leading in research. Because of that we’re only reaching part of the international talent that might be interested in working here, which means less companies, and less European research funds.”

Ridouani wants the world to see Leuven for what it is: a pearl. In order to do this Leuven MindGate has set two main goals. One: putting the city on the map for health, hi-tech and creativity (Did you know Teno-fovir, one of the most frequently used medications to treat AIDS was developed there?). Two: Combining forces for a larger (social) coherence. “There’s research going on at IMEC (world renowned nano-electronics research centre), there’s research going on at the university hospital, combine those two and you get biotech. This in turn opens up a world of possibilities for start-ups, investments and so forth,” Ridouani enthusiastically explains.

“The university is good for six hundred years of scientific development and gaining knowledge,” Riduani continues, “twenty years of transforming that into products and solutions lead to companies like IMEC that brought wealth to our region. And I don’t just mean financially, with 156 nationalities in one city we can speak of cultural wealth as well. The next step is to make sure we attract and foster activity and business for more prosperity, more jobs, an even higher quality of life. We can only make that happen if people stay.”

Laying the Foundations
When asked about remarkable conclusions that came out of the Leuven MindGate research, Ridouani says: “I was surprised to learn that such a large percentage of respondents like to live here, but they don’t feel integrated. I think 80% of the respondents said they don’t know who their neighbours are. In fact a very important reason for people to leave Leuven is their partners’ lack of activities and integration. I was also surprised that the city’s offerings like cultural activities, schooling, child day care, etcetera are hardly known. It supports my conviction that social cohesion starts on a very local level.” That’s where the International House comes in. Besides investing in affordable workspace and housing, issues like schools for accompanying children are a necessary means to remove the barrier to come to Leuven. In Ridouani’s words: “integration into the local society is a top priority”.

Even though the idea of one location where everything the expat needs is concentrated under one roof was a product of his own imagination, Ridouani is humble enough to admit that he might not be the only one to have had this thought. Research took him to Denmark, to the International House in Copenhagen. The house accommodates public authorities, public services, private services and the University International Staff Mobility team. It offers support before, during and after relocation and integration. “We also visited the International House in Eindhoven. Each has it’s own specialties, but the basic offer is the same: an overview of online resources and forms to prepare the expat’s stay and help in his or her search for accommodation. Once they arrive they will be guided through their emigration process. The International House will be a home base where expats can find all possible information they need to integrate as quickly as possible: information on schools, (cultural) activities, volunteering, job markets. Besides practical and administrative help, we are planning to organise events and a festive International Day. What I think will be unique in the Leuven International House is the integration of the International Primary School that is currently situated in Heverlee.”

“We already have 17.000 international workers in Leuven. I want them to feel at home, to break the barrier between them and the Flemish community, something the people from Leuven would like as well.” Ridouani sounds inspired. “The International House should become the central place for all affairs international, but I hope it will also become a symbol or flagship for Leuven’s international aura and ambition.” By no means is Ridouani planning to replace the service providers that are currently operating in Leuven: instead he’d like to join forces. As far as integration goes Ridouani is thinking big. “Think of all the local applications that research could lead to: city planning, mobility, safety, air quality…”

It looks like 2017 is the year in which many a relocator, expat and employer’s dream finally comes true: Belgium’s first International House is well on its way to becoming a reality. We highly recommend reading the report. Find it here:
www.leuvenmindgate.be/en/news-press/hr-event

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How come Belgium’s such a big player? And what does this silent giant of an industry actually entail? Life Sciences are those fields of study that deal with living organisms and their life processes. You may think in the direction of biology, healthcare and medicine, nutrition, microbiotics, ecology and the various interconnections between those fields. Especially Research & Development, and more precisely the expertise in the area of clinical studies, puts Belgium at the European summit of biotech, the cross-pollination between biology and technology. Twenty-nine out of thirty top pharmaceutical companies that operate in this field (including of course Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Bayer) have offices in Belgium.

Let’s start with some facts and figures. The Belgian biotech industry:
• Is the number one R&D employer in Belgium;
• Was the 2nd largest biopharma exporter in Europe in 2013;
• Creates three indirect jobs for every biopharma job in Belgium;
• Has high global rankings in actual production and patents.

As for the other question, why Belgium, there are a number of factors to account for. Call it a tripod made up of political, economical and scientific factors. Of course this industry didn’t drop onto Belgian soil out of thin air. It all started in the early 80’s. Mark Vaeck, currently CEO of Complix, was “lucky enough” to witness it. “In 1980 Amgen, one of the pioneering biotech companies, was founded in the US,” recalls Vaeck. “In 1983 I started out with Belgium’s first biotech company, which was founded only a year earlier. Only two years later a second company was raised and from there it was a speedy development on account of very important molecular biology research done at the university of Ghent and the spin-offs this created. Two laboratories in particular were important to that development, that of professor Van Montagu, scientific founder of Plant Genetic Systems, and the virology laboratory of professor Fiers that formed the basis for Innogenetics. A lot of the people who now hold top-jobs in biotech in Belgium started out in one of those two companies. So you could say Belgium is a cradle of biotech.”

“Flanders has an innovation culture similar to Silicon Valley. It’s multi-cultural and multi-lingual – research shows that people from such a background are better innovators,”  – Bernard Munos, founder of InnoThink

The whole region of Flanders, with clusters around Ghent, Leuven, Brussels and Hasselt and Antwerp, compares very favourably to the rest of Europe. “It has an innovation culture similar to Silicon Valley. It’s multi-cultural and multi-lingual – research shows that people from such a background are better innovators,” says Bernard Munos, founder of InnoThink (innovation in pharmaceutical industry, ed.). What’s more, the proximity and cooperation between different companies and researchers make Flanders attractive to small companies and small(er) companies can innovate more easily.

But that still isn’t all. Let’s not rule out the importance of a government with a nose for opportunities in growing business and welfare. Minister De Croo (Open Vld, Vice-President, involved with the World Economic Forum) summarises the reasons why he believes Belgium holds a 16% market share in Europe:

• Top-notch academic research facilities;
• Fiscal system geared towards innovation;
• Tax reduction on labour costs for researching;
• Big amount of foreign investors.

Mark Vaeck explains why he and Complix chose to set-up and stay in Belgium. “I have experience in The Netherlands, the US and Belgium. Since I was born and raised here, it’s the most evident territory for me. The technology of Alphabodies was developed within Algonomics, also a Belgian company, in which I was a Board member until we decided to establish a new corporation especially to develop the Alphabodies for therapeutic applications. So my network is here. It’s hard to predict the future, but the next logical step might be to start a subsidiary in the US, as stepping stone towards a listing on the Nasdaq stock market. Other than that, I don’t see any reason to go anywhere else but Belgium, especially the UK,” Vaeck chuckles.

“The surface of Flanders is comparable to that of a large city in the US. If you consider that, the amount of businesses here is hallucinatory,” Vaeck continues. “This density is good. There’s a network of related service companies, good staff, short distance to the universities and we are centrally located in Europe with connections to all the large European cities. Fiscal and practical governmental support also adds to the attractiveness of the region. Subsidies and a reduced income tax for expats compensate for the high taxes and labour costs.”

Science Parks
The activity is mainly concentrated around the universities and the affiliated science parks, the largest being those of Ghent, Leuven and Brussels, which are in a sense a combination of the previously mentioned factors: location, knowledge and financial benefits which attract investors and thus create more jobs. No wonder they call them incubators (from the dictionary: ‘a place, esp. with support staff and equipment, made available at low rent to new small businesses’).

Mark Vaeck acknowledges the benefits of a science park. “We cooperate with several of the universities on a regular basis, but also with VIB, an umbrella research group. Being near such locations makes communication easier. Because of the short physical distance and close cooperation, our branch in Hasselt for example provides us access to the animalium for animal testing. Complix also has a small subsidiary in Luxembourg. The offices are situated at the LIH (Luxembourg Institute of Health), which grants us access to their infrastructure, including machinery that’s too expensive for a small company like ours to buy.”

Expats and a Global Mobility Policy
When asked about a global mobility policy, Mark Vaeck can’t help but laugh. “We’re only twenty five people, what do you think? No, we try to stay lean and mean, with little administration. At this moment we have one foreigner working for us, the Chief Scientific Officer, who is an Irish lady. It’s an important subject though. To be competitive you have to be able to attract the right people, and you won’t find all of them within one small country. Luckily we’re attractive right now, also because of our alliance with Merck & Co (a US  pharma giant, LLtV) which means a real boost for the company’s profile. When we start growing in the future we’ll be able to attract more international people. I always refer to Ablynx (another biotech company that Mark Vaeck also co-founded and led as CEO for the first 5 years, LLtV), we started out small there, and now it has a 300-people staff, which counts, especially within the management, several foreigners.”

“Belgium is an attractive place for biotech companies,”  Vaeck concludes. “The advantages on income tax for expats makes it agreeable, the fact that most people speak English much better then in our surrounding countries, Brussels’ multicultural melting pot, a high standard of living and decent housing at acceptable prices, short distances between hotspots like Ghent and Leuven, good restaurants, nice festivals; Flanders scores pretty well on all those subjects. One thing that needs improvement is the number of international schools. And the traffic jams, they’re a real pain.”

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2004. The Flemish government observes the need for a new paradigm in order to become the creative, innovative region they aspire to be. Until that time innovation was considered something exclusively technological, but around 2004 it started to become clear that new business models were needed and technology was no longer sufficient when handling ever more complex societal issues. A second insight, they couldn’t do it alone, led to the formation of a group of people with diverse, creative backgrounds.

“It started with a conference in Leuven appropriately called ‘Creative Districts Meet at Flanders’”, Pascal Cools, director of Flanders DC, recalls. “Representatives from nine different innovative regions worldwide were invited. The internet has proven to be a great tool to find interesting start-ups and policy surrounding them, how else can you know what’s happening in South-Africa and Israel? Of course there are several organisations, like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), that look into those types of initiatives too.”

The attendees agreed that the initiative to exchange best practices and experiences with trans-regional and trans-disciplinary collaborations was worth fostering and the DC Network, the international branch of Flanders DC, was born. The Districts of Creativity Network currently unites thirteen regions spread across the globe from China, to Brazil, Finland, India, the USA as well as several European hubs. DC Network organises two annual activities: the Reverse Mission, a delegation of entrepreneurs, policy makers, educators, sector-representatives, pays a study visit to one of the member-regions, and the Creativity World Forum, a conference organised by one of the members focused on multidisciplinary collaboration, which takes place in one of the member regions. CWF returns to Flanders every three years..

Stimulating Creativity and Innovation
So why did a government decide to stimulate creativity and innovation in business, culture and education? Not only on a domestic level but across borders too? What are the benefits? And, what’s in it for Flanders? Pascal Cools explains why creativity is such a magical ingredient. “Think about services like Uber or Airbnb. Those are typical concepts from creative sectors, combined with technology and a nose for business. The key to their success: user centric design. This might sound very logical but 90% of companies don’t take the perspective of their customers. My cliché example would be Apple that made computer technology easy, beautiful and fun. They wouldn’t have succeeded with just engineers who think much more linearly.”

Cools also has something to say about the broader value of bringing creatives into your company than just enhancing the saleability of your product. “Competition is not only next door but across the globe. It’s impossible for a Flemish company to compete with a ‘Made in China’ aluminium window frame that’s 40% cheaper. Meaning if we want to assure jobs in the future we will have to make sure companies have a chance of surviving. And that means they need to innovate. The Fortune 500 includes businesses that were able to adapt to circumstances, that reinvented themselves, companies like, again, Apple, Microsoft, Google.”

Besides the commercial necessity there’s also a moral aspect to the need to innovate. “There are societal challenges that ask for a creative solution: climate changes, hunger, diversity”, says Cools. “We need to use the full potential, not just stick to the laboratory. I’m convinced that creatives, meaning people with artistic creativity as their raw material, can contribute to solutions because they perceive the world differently.”

Study into the Success of Thinking Outside the Box

Whether the ‘box’ be a department, a company or an industry, in an economy that can only grow by means of inspiration and creativity, staying within your own walls doesn’t suffice anymore. Flanders DC asked Vlerick Business School (an internationally oriented independent school) to look into what components make innovating across sectors a success. The study was finished in 2015 and then translated into a convenient ready-to-use online tool for managers. www.innovatiefsamenwerken.be

Born Global
Though internationalisation is a large chunk of Flanders DC’s operations, they mainly operate on home ground. Daily business revolves around what Cools calls a ‘Disney slogan’: making entrepreneurial Flanders more creative and making creative Flanders more entrepreneurial. “After twelve years of focussing mostly on the first aspect, the government has asked us to concentrate on the latter,” Cools says. “(Would-be) entrepreneurs from twelve different creative industries like fashion, gaming, design, film and architecture can knock on our door for a broad range of topics such as advice on finance, business models, inspiration and network. We have a special focus on fashion, gaming and design because these three face the same challenges. Companies within these sectors are intrinsically internationally oriented. In fact they need to be ‘born global’, meaning they have to start operating on the international market right away because Flanders and Belgium alone are too limited for them to succeed. We help them with issues such as ‘I want to go to Hong-Kong, but how do I go about it? Do I go there, or de we go to special fairs for design, fashion and gaming?’”

The website cici.flandersdc.be features 32 projects that originated in the 2013 en 2014 Open Call for Innovation with Creative Industries (cici). These projects were selected as they have a possible impact on Belgian science, industry and/or society. One example is the wireless brain scanner developed by the Gent University Hospital that researches brain functions without the patient having to sit still in a hospital ward for days looking like Frankenstein’s hat maker. Patients, and especially kids, wouldn’t wear the helmet, which meant data-gathering was difficult. The cici-project united scientists, designers and a specialised CAD drawer who together realised a comfortable, nice-looking headband. The longer a child wears the band, the more points he or she collects, which is where the game comes in. Pascal Cools reckons this is where its success lies: “The question is not how can we make the machine wearable, the question is how do we make patients want to wear it.” Other examples are wooden interior design objects made from orchard waste, a mobile lab full of technical novelties to introduce children to technique, science and art and a food pairing app that helps you discover flavour combinations previously unheard of.

The Freedom to Feed Creativity
Flanders DC was instigated by the government, but isn’t a governmental organisation. Cools: “They always said they’re interested in results and an increase in revenues, but apart from some of the guidelines I mentioned earlier, they don’t really care how we get there. We have the luxury of great mutual trust. Of course we’re monitored to see if we spend their money efficiently, but the political interference is limited to that.”

Freedom is something Cools offers his people, not surprisingly a multi-disciplinary team, too. Creativity can flourish when there are as few as possible restrictions in how employers reach their targets. How they stay inspired? Cools: “Keeping our antennas activated at all times, keep our finger on the pulse. I think we’re one of very few companies that recognizes the need to be on Facebook and Twitter during working hours, this is where many new ideas are introduced.”

The world is continuously in motion and that’s a fact. Since 2004 many organisations and companies have discovered the benefits of cross fertilisation between disciplines, of injecting a dose of external creativity into their workflow. We might even say it’s becoming mainstream. Does that mean Flanders DC’s job is done? “It’s true we’re facing a new challenge,” acknowledges Pascal Cools. “We have to strive for redundancy, as this would mean we’ve completed our task successfully. It goes against commercial logic, but from a societal point of view it’s the only direction we can take. From a personal perspective it will obviously be a shame if our work ends, but I don’t think we’re finished yet. It’s going to take time before creatives are considered equal to and by the rest of the market.“

www.flandersdc.be
www.districtsofcreativity.org

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ReLocate does away with all the drama and takes a “stiff upper lip” look at Brexit. We’ve  consulted leading immigration law firms Fieldfisher and Fragomen, who in preparing their own clients for change during and after Brexit negotiations, have shared a few practical steps with us to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Overview of Outcomes
Yes, uncertainty is set to reign until negotiations commence in early 2017. Considering that the European Treaty established a negotiation period of at least two years in case of an exit, it is unlikely that there will be any immediate changes in the near future.

These negotiations could have a wide range of outcomes:
• The Norwegian, Icelandic and Lichtenstein model: the UK would remain subject to the majority of EU legislation, however there would be no role played in the decision-making process and no right to veto, including no independence from EU legislation nor the European Court of Justice;
• the Swiss model: ability to develop mutual agreements with the EU;
• the Turkish model: remaining part of the Customs Union;
• the “sui generis” model*: a completely new approach to UK / EU relations;
• total withdrawal from the EU*: if this is to occur, there would be swift changes to UK legislation.

From an International Business Perspective – Fieldfisher
Companies are best advised to anticipate change and ensure they are in a position to identify possible issues that need to be addressed as they arise. In doing so they can reassure staff on all levels. So what could possibly change? Establishing which regulations may be the most heavily impacted can be difficult, Fieldfisher has broken down the main points to be addressed into three main areas to be assessed within internationally operating companies: social security/welfare, employment law and of course, immigration. Fieldfisher has highlighted the existing regulations that may be affected, and what the knock-on effects of these changes may be.

1. SOCIAL SECURITY / WELFARE
883/2004 and 987/2009: regulates the social security scheme applicable to internationally mobile workers

Changes?
These regulations are likely to be repealed once the UK leaves the EU, and the mutual treaties previously established between countries will once again be activated.

Knock-on effects:
• The original mutual treaties limit the determination of the social security/welfare scheme to be applied and benefits covered therein;
• they do not provide for any regulation on simultaneous employment (two or more social security/welfare schemes operating at the same time);
• they do not systematically provide for regulations on accumulation of social security/welfare benefits/entitlements;
• they do not systematically provide guaranteed rights in respect of health/sickness costs.

2. EMPLOYMENT LAW
593/2008: determines the law applicable to employment contracts in a cross-border situation

Changes?
Employment contracts between EU and UK will no longer be viewed in the frame of the “free movement of workers” principle.

Knock-on effects
UK legislation will have to be rigorously applied in cases of EU staff employed in the UK being brought before a UK court with an extraneous element, and vice-versa. When UK employers employ staff on EU territory, they will have to rigorously apply the legislation of that EU state.

3. IMMIGRATION – from a business perspective
Changes?
This is still a hot topic of speculation. The UK Government could implement a points system not unlike that of Australia, although there have been indications that this is not preferred by the May administration. The UK borders are unlikely to close completely, however the UK Government is expected to implement some forms of restriction before the “divorce date” to limit a massive influx of people.

Knock-on effects
The knock-on effects of changes to immigration between UK and the EU are wholly dependent on the outcome of the negotiations. If the right to free movement ceases to apply or is restricted, those businesses built on sourcing international talent will then have to look to the new immigration and employment rulings for guidance regarding any future employment. Attempts to limit net immigration to tens of thousands will then result in severe restrictions to the pool of potential employees in the UK.
Fieldfisher’s advice on handling these potential changes within businesses:
• “Nominate a person or team of people who are responsible for monitoring employment issues. Ensure all staff have a contact person to whom they can address questions or express concerns in all the countries in which the organisation operates. This will ensure that all staff, wherever located get the same consistent message which in turn will give reassurance that the organisation knows what it is doing and what needs to be done as we approach Brexit.”
• “Staff may feel unsettled and anxious about how restriction to free movement may affect their right to live and work in the UK or other EU member states. Given the fact some EU legislation will be repealed, international mobility policies may need to be assessed and adapted, and ensure specialist advice is utilised.”
• “Encourage workers to list their entitlements to pension and other social welfare benefits when starting to work outside the UK.”

“The criteria for nationality applications are not always more demanding than those for long-term or permanent residency, and nationality is the more secure option to guarantee residence rights in the long term.” – Jo Antoons, Fragomen

From an Individual’s Perspective – Fragomen

Companies and individuals are naturally concerned about what Brexit will mean for EU nationals living in the UK and for UK nationals who are residing in another EU country. While UK politicians figure out what approach they will propose for those affected, individuals are wondering what actions they can take now. Fragomen suggest three key points of consideration for UK citizens currently living, working or studying in an EU member state who wish to take measures to safeguard their mobility rights.

1. REGISTER YOUR RESIDENCE IN THE HOST COUNTRY
According to Fragomen the first action step is to register your residence if this was not already done. UK citizens without a residence document who have been residing for more than three months in an EU member state should be encouraged to contact the national authorities and obtain one. Not all EU countries impose registration regulations on EU nationals, and in this case obtaining an official residence document before a divorce date is the safest way to avoid grey areas and maintain your right to reside in the EU even after a formal separation.

2. APPLY FOR PERMANENT RESIDENCE
Permanent residence rights and regulations vary from EU state to EU state. Some require five years of legal residence, some (including Belgium) request only three years when specific conditions are met. Fragomen suggest this action step with two reasons in mind:
• This confirms that you fulfill the requirements for the right to permanent residence, useful in cases of long absences from the EU member state where you currently reside;
• this maintains as many other rights as possible after Brexit. British EU permanent residence holders may have their status automatically transformed to that of non-EU nationals, whereby they are granted long-term residence for the whole of the EU or just the country where they currently reside.

EU or national long-term residence does not boast the same breadth of rights as EU permanent residence, however it does guarantee the right to continue residing in the host member state.

3. APPLY FOR NATIONALITY – but only if it is the right option for you
Obtaining the nationality of the EU country where you have been residing may appear to be the obvious option, however, before taking on an additional nationality, ensure that you’ve considered what is involved in the application process:
• Is dual citizenship allowed in your host country?
• What knock-on effects may a change in nationality have on your taxation status?
• Would this lead to a loss of rights? For example, some EU states grant less generous family reunification rights to citizens as opposed to those granted by EU free movement legislation.

That said, criteria for nationality applications are not always more demanding than those for long-term or permanent residency, and nationality is the more secure option to guarantee residence rights in the long term. Nationality can only be revoked in exceptional circumstances, while residency can be lost after two consecutive years of absence from the host country.

It is essential for businesses to maintain their own sense of structure and identity in this time of uncertainty. When approaching Brexit from an individual’s perspective, each unique personal situation must also be taken into consideration before making a decision. If we are able to maintain a sense of order, promote clarity and adaptability within organisations and keep open channels of communication we will ensure the best outcomes are achieved and business operations and lives carry on as calmly as possible.

With thanks to Stefan Nerinckx of Fieldfisher and Jo Antoons of Fragomen.
You can download their whitepapers by following these links:

www.fieldfisher.com
www.fragomen.com

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Generational Differences
Lisa Johnson, Consulting Services Global Practice Leader of Crown World Mobility says: “The differences for this generation seems to fall into two big categories. First, there are a number of studies that show millennials worldwide expect to gain some international experience during their careers, as well as expecting career progress to happen with a shorter timeline than in the past.

The second big difference has to do with how information is communicated and the options that are open to millennials. There is a need to provide information and communicate using apps, texts and emails rather than through policy documents, face to face meetings or phone calls. Technology and how information is received is one of the biggest shifts in any industry and, of course, also impacts Mobility.”

Lisa Johnson finds that the most recurrent questions faced by relocators today are around low cost ways in which they can provide their services to early career employees seeking international experiences. Discovering which technology lends itself to developing apps and updated services fast enough is a big one, especially as many destination service providers have to operate within a limited budget and timeframe.

The New Normal
Walter Vermeeren, Senior Vice President EMEA of Altair Global, agrees that the difference in demands is mainly a result of changing times. “Our environment is continually evolving and as a consequence the people living in that environment change. There’s a difference in the type of requests we are seeing and to stand out as a DSP in a society driven by technology you have to adapt, no matter what age group you’re dealing with.”

Although many millennials will have travelled or studied abroad before embarking on their professional careers, they often lack a deeper understanding Walter Vermeeren feels. “They are the younger transferees, frequently single and in most cases they won’t have children. This is very different compared to the typical expat we saw 20 years ago. Millennials are generally very confident. Most of them will have enjoyed a student life without too many financial problems, be it in Europe, Asia or the USA. I certainly wouldn’t want to call them spoiled but it is fair to say that this is a generation that takes a lot for granted. Essentially, we’re looking at a group of independent workers who don’t necessarily expect relocation support but who simply assume that everything they do will go smoothly. And this means that the customer has changed drastically for relocation providers.”

Lisa Johnson elaborates: “We find that a lot of our early career employees have never moved before. They have no idea about all the things they don’t know. Ironically enough companies offer them cash options and DIY move solutions. But few employees are experts at moving, which means we need to offer a lot of practical advice and support. How much will it cost? Is immigration compliance important? Can I live anywhere I want without being concerned about safety? Why shouldn’t I negotiate my own lease?”

Corrective actions are not unfamiliar Walter Vermeeren tells us. “A lease agreement signed without DSP support is a typical example of this. We all know what can go wrong: from dodgy contracts, overpaying for a property or landlords who refuse to take care of essential repairs, by bypassing professional support, millennials can be left disappointed from the moment they arrive in their new home country. Situations like these usually mean the relocation service provider has to step in and fix things after the fact. Equally, it’s not much fun for the millennial who has to ask for emergency support. All this can also end up costing the employer a much higher service fee than anticipated.”

“The emergence of technology designed to support low cost moves is creating a shift in services. Yes, you can move more cheaply and find your own apartment quite easily, but you have to factor in human support in order to advise the millennial employee on the more practical side of things.” – Lisa Johnson, Crown World Mobility

Troubleshooting the Gap
Even so, we are dealing with actual physical human beings and a gap between brain and technology, let alone the detailed and specialist knowledge on vital components to a move abroad, such as immigration. This means that problem solving will probably continue to form a substantial part of the job. Adjusting your services and communication to the specific needs of your clients will surely help to minimize the number of hours spent troubleshooting.

Ensuring a smooth relocation for your clients will (for a part) hinge on how you deliver your services to the client. “With millennials you are best off offering a list of services from which they can choose, with a few mandatory services on the list. And the service list cannot be changed for a financial benefit if they don’t use it,” says Walter Vermeeren. “Start compiling your list by talking to millennials and finding out what it is that they really expect. DSP’s should work with their customers to develop this itemised service list. Try to be as pro-active as you can be, think about what you can provide and what the customer might want you to provide. And communication really works best using modern technology. Keep it fast, short and simple!”

“Use apps, timelines, texts and infographics instead of the typical HR policy document,” Lisa Johnson adds. “Information across the board is being produced and shared in new ways. Uber is a great example of getting what you need when you need it, just as airbnb is. I believe we’ll see a general shift where for example housing options are presented in a way not dissimilar to the airbnb model. And it’s not just the millennials who see the benefits of these technological changes; society at large is coming to rely quite heavily on these visually pleasing and easy to use applications, whatever their form or function. At the same time, technology is shifting faster than guidelines and security measures, so there are some very realistic concerns around these ‘uber mobility’ solutions that will need to be addressed.”

Future Visions
When asked how he sees the future of relocation services, Walter Vermeeren tells us that “The millennials will grow older, which means we’ll likely find that expectations and services required will level out somewhat. But don’t forget that the next generation is hot on their heels: the Z-generation or i-Generation, the digital natives. They’ll expect even more online and highly personalised services through all the media they use (TV, Smartphone, PC, Smartwatch and other things to come, 24/7!). This is a generation that likes to share goods and so co-housing will become more of an option, and a service where DSP’s can add value. This Z-generation was not financially pampered and is growing up in a very uncertain environment. They will be looking for more certainty, which is where DSP’s come in by once again providing guaranteed services and support.”

Lisa Johnson has a more philosophical approach to the future of relocation services: “Every company is aware of the fact that the majority of employees today are millennials and that they are driving certain shifts around career paths and experiences. They want work to be meaningful, have time for activities outside of work or want to be sure they can work for a company that does meaningful things. We will all benefit from these attitudes.”

Technology Musts

Computers, tablets, gaming consoles and smartphones are firmly embedded in our everyday lives. White papers by Crown Relocations, Xonex and Living Abroad teach us that:
1 – one of the greatest values of relocation technology is its ability to deliver pre-assignment resources to candidates through multiple platforms;
2 – tools should be streamlined, allow 24/7 access, reduce disruption, and offset problems in the new location. All of these features add up to faster assimilation into a new location, with less employee and family stress;
3 – relocation technology should be easy to use, must be fully functional on mobile platforms, giving an assignee greater convenience, connectivity and control of their relocation process.

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Increasing Mobility
There is a clear consensus that the volume of workers is expected to keep climbing. A strong majority of employers indicates the number of mobile employees in their organisations will increase or stay the same. As many as 89% of organizations indicated they plan to increase their mobile workers in the next two years according to PwC’s “Moving People with Purpose – Modern Mobility Survey 2014”.

KEY DRIVERS

Talent Gaps
Talent gaps continue to be cited as the top motivator for moving employees abroad with as many as one in three (34%) employers cited as “having trouble filling key positions.” (Moving People to Work)   The dynamics are also changing. The profile of the Western senior executive being sent to explore foreign market opportunities is long replaced with a more complex, horizontal portrait.

“Talent management has become a headache for CEOs, with only 30% saying that they have the talent they need to fulfill their future growth ambitions.”  (Talent Mobility 2020)

Expanded Reach
Employers also cite market expansion as a key driver for sending employees abroad. While this was also true in the past, the opportunities and barriers of market expansion have evolved. The balance between developed and emerging markets is shifting; while Western economies continue to send employees to emerging markets in droves, mobile employees from emerging markets are going not only to more developed countries but to other developing markets too.

“Nearly half of firms (45%) indicate some form of expansion impacted their relocation volumes.” (Corporate Relocation Survey Results)
“[Mobility professionals] regard new market growth as the principal driver behind the growing need for global mobility (60%).” (Strategic Global Mobility)

Leadership Development
Successful organisations are planning for their futures by making sure their high-potential employees develop a global mindset through international experience. They will have to be comfortable leading colleagues, and pursuing market opportunities, from very different corners of the world.  International experiences are seen as opportunities to build intangible leadership skills.

Attract and Fulfill
A key evolution is that employees themselves are asking for international assignments. It is not lost on the broader talent base that global experiences have become a stepping stone to promotion and mandatory for senior leadership.  While previous generations held mixed views regarding the personal value of international work, millennials in particular are increasingly requesting these assignments. International posts, then, are a key tool in the global contest for young talent.

The millennial generation will make up 50% of the workforce in less than a decade and a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reports that of 4000 millennial generation survey participants, 80% state that they want to work outside of their home country at some point during their career. It will be seen as a rite of passage.

Cost Pressures
Global economic confidence has hardly recovered from recent effects of the European debt crisis, let alone the global economic crash of 2008-2009, and cost management continues to place pressure on mobility professionals. This pressure isn’t slowing mobility volumes or even shrinking budgets, but is driving managers to more clearly demonstrate effective management and return on investment.

Compliance
Changing tax requirements and government regulations are quickly becoming the top risk faced by global employers. Governments in every corner of the world are ramping up pressure around enforcement of these regulations. As compliance becomes increasingly complex and increasingly important, employers appear to be increasing the levels of outsourcing this work to external consultants. Despite this rising need, many companies are facing avoidable penalties for non-compliance.

“Over-regulation is cited by 78% as a concern.” (Global CEO Survey)
“Some 40% of respondents reported that they did not have a formal risk control framework to monitor payroll tax and social security compliance, with 64% reporting they incurred avoidable penalties for non-compliance in 2012.” (Global Mobility Effectiveness)

Key Trends
Steven Cryne concludes that there are four important key trends that can be taken from the various reports:
(1) flexible program design as a result of a globalised talent pool, shifting employee demographics and demands; (2) increasingly strategic role for mobility in the organisation; (3) heightened focus and expertise in ROI and data analytics; and (4) more collaboration between business and government on labour regulations.

1. Global Talent Pool and Option Diversity
We are likely to continue to see an increasing variety in the types of assignments and policies, which is being driven by a number of factors. Cost pressures are driving employers to consider less expensive options for mobilising talent, ranging from short-term assignments and employing regional staff to virtual teams and “local plus” packages. Technology is making these different options easier to manage and demand from employees, especially millennials, is also driving flexibility.

2. Integrating Talent Mobility in Organisational Strategy
As the value proposition of mobility shifts, so might its role in the organisation. Mobility professionals and consultancies are all advocating for mobility to play a more strategic role and to become embedded in a diverse range of activities, playing a broader role in human resources.

3. Proving Return on Investment Becomes Crucial
All surveys that asked about tracking, evaluating, and other elements related to ROI clearly show organisations are not excelling in this area. “95% of companies don’t measure international assignment ROI… respondents simply are not sure how to do so” (Mindful Mobility).

“Three in four respondents expect to be measuring return on investment from mobility in two years’ time, compared with  just 9% who do this today. Fewer say they  can accurately quantify the cost of their programme. Even by 2017, only around half (49%) expect to be able to do this accurately.” (Moving People with Purpose)

4. Increased Government Collaboration
Employers have not been passive in response to heightened pressure over government regulations and compliance requirements. Even when their governments do not see it, employers know that mobile labour is a national economic advantage. Developed countries with ageing populations will become less dependent on domestic labour and employers – and associations – are helping them to recognise it.

“Indeed, 44% of CEOs plan to work with their governments to develop a skilled and adaptable workforce over the next three years. Twenty-seven percent want to collaborate with government to create a more competitive and efficient tax system.” (Global CEO Survey)

For the full presentation, please contact EuRA.

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Highly skilled personnel – From 1 January 2016, a foreign worker must earn at least 39,824 Euro gross per year in order to qualify for an employment authorisation and work permit type B as a highly skilled worker. In addition, he or she must also hold a higher education or university degree (or the equivalent).

Management personnel – The salary required for an employment authorisation and work permit type B as a manager will be at least 66,442 (or 66,441 in the Brussels region) Euro gross per year from 1 January 2016. Obviously the person in question must also actually hold a managerial position within the company.

Blue card – For the award of a European “Blue card” (i.e. a residence title which (under certain conditions) grants its beneficiary a right to a stay of longer than 3 months, while at the same time granting him the right to work) a minimum gross annual salary of 51,494 Euro is required as from 1 January 2016.

Exemption for executives working at headquarters – For foreign nationals employed at headquarters as executives or managerial personnel to benefit from the work permit exemption, from 1 January 2016 they must earn at least 66,441 Euro gross per year.

Wage elements taken into account – For the calculation of this minimum amount, all sums (gross salary, bonuses, year-end bonuses, double and single holiday allowances, etc.) and benefits in kind such as housing, car, etc. which count as remuneration for work will be taken into account, provided they are expressly included in the employment contract, with the amount specified.

Wage elements not taken into account – The allowances often granted to foreign workers to cover the additional costs that their employment abroad may involve are therefore not eligible (so-called ‘cost of living allowances’, removal costs, children’s school fees, etc.).

www.fieldfisher.com/locations/brussels

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If we feel hard done by, we’re quick to share our displeasure with the world.  Today’s media is abound with public relations disasters such as sackings being tweeted live through the company account and disgraced public figures who said one thing and did another altogether, effectively ending their careers.

We have a strong sense of justice and fairness and as a society, we crave a more meaningful life.  This means that aligning our personal and professional values is becoming increasingly important to both our success and our happiness.

So how does this translate into the global mobility sector?  As a people oriented business the majority of the relocation industry is quick to see the benefit of strong customer relations, but with a continued pressure on cost and speed it is easy to lose sight of the rest of our stakeholders’ interests.

Elisa French, partner and founder of Ceeyana, brought to life how easily and quickly we can integrate our personal philosophy into professional practice. With over 2 decades in Executive Coaching and Strategic Management behind her, Elisa is actively involved with the Relocation Professionals Coaching Program in cooperation with Oxford Brookes University and has transformed lives for a wide range of clients from small businesses to large corporations around the world.

The Conscious Capitalist
“Capitalism has served us well,” posits Elisa, “but is has come at a great cost. We now own more mobile phones than toothbrushes and our world is being disrupted at a greater speed than ever before.  As consumers we have more choices, but they don’t necessarily make us happier. We don’t always feel heard or appreciated by our peers.  Depression, burn-out, loneliness; they’re all signs of our time and very much on the rise.”

“Businesses need to acknowledge that it is their role to serve society, and as business people we need to see opportunity in this,” she continues.  “We all prefer doing business with organisations that have a philosophy we can relate to, but it takes courage and commitment to change for good.”

“Typically organisations sense that they would like to take a more conscious approach to their day-to-day dealings, but it’s not easy turning such a big ship around.  Compliance and governance are big hurdles to overcome, but we don’t rea-lise how many easy and small things already set us on track towards creating a more fulfilling life in a better world.” Elisa adds when we catch up after the conference.

Most of us will already have made a start towards positive change without even being aware of it. Whether you’re recycling your printer cartridges or just making sure that you don’t print out every single email, taking those first steps towards instilling a more conscious approach throughout your organisation isn’t as daunting as you might expect.

Improving Lives
“For the vast majority of us money is not our driving force.  Whether your company mission is to have fun along the way, to make a personal difference to the families you relocate, or to support a local charity, for most of us work involves wanting to improve life in one way or another.”

It’s finding this higher purpose that helps take your company to the next level Elisa believes.  “Every organisation is different and what works for one, may not work for the other, so ask yourself, what does conscious capitalism mean to you? What are your principles, what are your values and what do you really want to stand for?  Tell me why should I work with you and not somebody else.  Ask yourself how you can integrate this common purpose into your day-to-day processes and relationships, but most importantly: turn up and actually do what you have set out to do.”

Money to be Made
Research supports the claim that defining and working towards this common higher purpose as a person, a team and as an organisation, is the key to creating a sustainable and successful business.  A study by Edelman Marketing even suggests that companies committed to conscious capitalism outperform others by a factor of 10, proving there is money to be made in adopting a more conscious approach to business.  The 2012 study also showed that when price and quality are equal, 71% of consumers would not just switch brands, but even help a brand promote their product or service if there was a good cause behind them.

“These companies are not settling for the cheapest suppliers or squeezing what they can out of prices, but instead work with selected suppliers to become loyal and mutually respected partners who invest in quality and innovation,” Elisa continues.  “By investing in salaries, education, health and wellbeing, staff feel validated and want to come to work.  Simply allowing people to speak up, paying them well, acknowledging them and giving fulfilling work builds a committed and loyal team who will carry your message out into the world.”

Being your Best
Your purpose is what anchors your organisation.  It’s the magnet that serves to draw in all of your stakeholders and gets them to buy into your ‘story’.  From clients and contractors to individual team members, you want everyone to be on board so that you can flourish by aligning with society’s need to lead better, more conscious lives.

It’s the millennials who are driving this desire for a more sustainable future.  It can be hard for management – and long-standing team members – to see the need for change.  They are often perfectly happy with how things have been running, but when you hire fresh young thinkers they bring new impetus to your company culture. So ask yourself: ‘are your processes bringing out the best in every stakeholder? Does your business allow you to be the best you can be?’ and then go from there.

“Think about it.  Only too often do we devote all of our energy to getting the job done, to the detriment of living up to our higher purpose.  We may choose to ignore the fact that a team member’s moods affect the entire office as we believe they get the job done.  Or perhaps you’re keeping on  a client that really you’d rather not have, simply because they pay the bills.  If you’re accepting situations that undermine who you are and what you believe in for the sake of saving time and resources, it’s bound to come back and bite you. It has a massive impact your organisation’s culture, and takes away from where you are trying to head.  You really need to critically assess what type of a culture you are tolerating: it’s the life force of your organisation. If your company is all about measuring quarterly profits and quick wins, then this is what you’ll get.”

If on the other hand you can not only define your values, but really embed them you start building values such as transparency, trust, integrity, compassion, generosity, autonomy and more into your company culture. Values that have a huge impact on your performance and that create great, energetic places to work.  If, for example, you were to look at employee turnover as a key performance indicator, you’re starting to think like a conscious leader.

Creating Structure for Growth
“When you truly start walking the talk everybody gets to play a part in making this higher purpose become a reality and becomes accountable for their individual input and actions,” says Elisa.  “When everyone is seen as equal you create a culture where feedback – even the most critical – is welcomed as an opportunity for learning.  Defining your values sets boundaries and creates structure for growth as well as offering the opportunity to become who you really want to be.”

Most importantly you have to check in with your values on a regular basis. Whether it’s your operating systems, your business model or your company culture, make sure you don’t stray from your path or allow yourself to become distracted by the one who shouts the loudest.

Be the Change You Want to See
“When we do purposeful work we treat people with trust, care, and respect, and restore the ecosystems around us.  We start recognising that all aspects of our lives and the world are interconnected. We go to sleep not feeling as lonely and depleted, but happier and more fulfilled.  We feel engaged with the world around us and our work environment gives us the opportunity to lead the most meaningful lives we can.  That being said, it’s up to us to step out of our comfort zone as individuals as well.  We all want the world to be the best place it can be and we all have a part to play in this.  Yes you want your company to be the force for good, but you have to live and breathe what you stand for as a person too,” Elisa concludes.

Find Elisa’s talk on the EuRA website or visit her online at www.ceeyana.com

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