Choosing to move to a new country is the start of a great adventure for you and your family. In our increasingly global world, it has never been easier to find a job in a country anywhere around the world.
With Belgium including the centre of many international bodies, including the EU and NATO, we offer some truly unique and challenging career opportunities in the world. But a job isn’t the only thing you’ll need to move here.
As with any country, Belgium has specific visa requirements for people wishing to work here. These vary based on the nationality of the applicant, with those from within the EU, EEA or Switzerland having the easiest time. But, if you’re from somewhere else, what do you need to do?
'The biggest challenge facing people who wish to come to Belgium to work is wait times. '
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.