As the corona virus pandemic continues to impact the operations and workforce of companies in Belgium, there are many questions about how to secure and protect the work and residence rights of foreign staff. The situation is fluid and government guidance does not exist for every scenario.
'The Impact Statement answers all type of questions employers have as they look to protect their workforce and ensure compliance with immigration regulations.'
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.
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