Work authorizations for non-European employees and self-employed individuals

Foreign workers, to be eligible to work in Belgium, must have work authorisation. This condition does not apply to nationals of a Member State in the European Economic Area (members of the EU, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) or Switzerland, or to certain categories of workers.

The rules on authorisation to employ non-European nationals in Belgium changed in early 2019.

The main change relating to the employment of foreign nationals concerns the establishment of a single procedure for issuing the residence permit and the work permit in response to any requests for authorisation of residency for work purposes for a period longer than 90 days. This is the much-discussed 'single permit'.

What is the single permit?

To recap, anybody wishing to work in Belgium has, until now, had to face a dual procedure. First of all, the employer had to request work authorisation from the relevant regional body which would issue a work permit to the employee. They then had to request a residency document, based on this work permit, from the Office for Foreigners. Once in possession of these two documents, the employee in question was authorised to work in Belgium.

The single permit will consist of a residency document that will also give access to the employment market.

New arrangements

To work in the Brussels-Capital region for more than three months, requests for work authorisation and residency permits are now submitted in a single process to Brussels Economy & Employment. At the end of the procedures, the 'single permit' is evidence of the entitlement to both reside and work in Belgium.

In addition to simplified administration for applicants, the intention of the reforms is to harmonise procedures in Europe.


  • Any request submitted in 2018 will be dealt with in accordance with the regulations in force in 2018.
  • All work permits are valid until their date of expiry.

In practice

It is generally the employer who requests authorisation from Brussels Economie et Emploi. If authorisation is granted, the worker is given a permit.

Depending on the profession of the foreign national, their situation and the duration of their stay in Belgium, the type of authorisation requested and the type of permit vary.

  • In most cases:
    • Over three months in Belgium: single permit
    • Less than three months in Belgium: work permit
  • In some cases:
    • Over three months in Belgium: single permit as a dispensation
  • For certain specific conditions (for example 'work permit A'): unlimited single permit
  • For certain highly-qualified workers: European blue card

To request authorisation or to check whether authorisation is needed, Bruxelles Economy & Employment can help you: Here you will find an explanation of all authorisation types and the procedures to follow.

Updated 08/07/2019

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