Mark A Ivener, A Law Corporation

Global Immigration: Belgium


There has been a change in the business visitors’ regime; the Belgian Chamber of Representatives passed a proposal to tighten the rules on family reunification that has not yet been passed by the Belgian Senate; and there is a new Code on Labour and Social Security Criminal Law.

Change in Business Visitors’ Regime

In principle, any employment of a foreigner in Belgium requires a work permit, even if this employment is only for one day. Of course there are exceptions to this rule; for several activities no work permit is required. Two of these work permit exemptions, often invoked by business visitors, have been adapted recently.

  1. Several short-term work permit exemptions have been in effect since October 8, 2007. Two exemptions are often invoked by foreign business visitors employed by a foreign employer.
    1. Participation in meetings “in closed circle”

The Belgian work permit legislation does not further explain or interpret the wording “in closed circle.” In comments regarding the LIMOSA (see #2 below) legislation, which uses the same wording, reference is made to “various types of meetings, mostly in the form of a so-called business trip: negotiations with a customer concerning contracts, conducting evaluation interviews with subordinates, strategy meetings in multinationals, etc.” In practice, the authorities interpret “in closed circle” in a broad sense: almost any meeting will be in closed circle.

The stay in Belgium required for such a meeting cannot exceed 5 days per calendar month.

    1. Attending scientific congresses

Foreign employees who attend scientific congresses in Belgium do not need a work permit, provided that their stay as required for attending the congress does not exceed 5 days per calendar month.

  1. The two exemptions noted above have also been in effect since April 1, 2007, with regard to the LIMOSA obligation (this is the obligation to notify the posting of a foreign national to the Belgian social security authorities; the notification can be done online), albeit with an important difference: the duration of the allowable activities.
    1. Participation in meetings “in closed circle”

The LIMOSA exemption extends to meetings lasting up to 60 days per calendar year and up to 20 consecutive calendar days per meeting.

    1. Attending scientific congresses

There is no time limitation for the LIMOSA exemption: the exemption applies for the entire duration of the congress.

  1. The “time discrepancy” between the work permit and the LIMOSA exemptions has been remedied recently by a Royal Decree of March 13, 2011, published in the State Gazette on March 29, 2011. The current situation for business visitors is as follows:
    1. Participation in meetings “in closed circle”

The work permit and LIMOSA exemptions extend to meetings lasting up to 60 days per calendar year and up to 20 consecutive calendar days per meeting.

    1. Attending scientific congresses

There is no time limitation for the work permit and LIMOSA exemptions: the exemption applies for the entire duration of the congress.

Family Reunification: Proposal for More Restrictive Rules

On May 26, 2011, the Belgian Chamber of Representatives passed a proposal to tighten the rules on family reunification. The proposal has not yet been passed by the Belgian Senate.

The proposal has provoked a lot of reaction. Family reunification with a Belgian citizen will be subject to other, and more restrictive, rules than family reunification with a European Union citizen.

Compliance: New Code on Labour and Social Security Criminal Law

A new Code on Labour and Social Security Criminal Law took effect on July 1, 2011. It codifies existing compliance rules with regard to employment and social security related matters, and will also have an impact on compliance with business immigration laws. For example, for employment without a work permit of a foreigner, who is not entitled to residence in Belgium for more than 3 months, the maximum imprisonment term for the employer will increase but the maximum criminal fine will decrease.

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About the Author

Mark A. Ivener, A Law Corporation, a nationally recognized law firm, has successfully assisted hundreds of clients in immigration matters.

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