Starting Monday 10 September 2012, a “European Blue Card” can be issued to certain highly-skilled non-EEA employees. This will allow them to work and reside in Belgium.

This new “unique” residence permit exempts certain highly-skilled, non-EEA employees from the obligation to have a work permit in order to work in Belgium. However, during the first two years, this European Blue Card can only be issued after the Belgian employer first obtains a provisional work permit from the competent regional government with this being valid for a maximum of 90 days. Thereafter, the Aliens’ office will deliver a European Blue Card if all conditions concerning residency are fulfilled. At first, the Card will be issued for a term of 13 months, which is renewable. After two years, the Card will be renewed for a term of three years.

Of note is the fact that some categories of employees are excluded, such as seconded employees.

If the following conditions are fulfilled, a European Blue Card can be obtained:

  • the employer has to have concluded an open-ended employment contract with the foreign employee, or a contract for a term equal to or longer than a year;
  • the employer has to pay the employee an annual gross wage of minimum 49,995 EUR (an amount that is adjusted annually);
  • the employee has to possess a diploma of higher education with such education having lasted at least three years.

This new European Blue Card will exist alongside the existing work permit type B for highly-skilled personnel (and the additional residence permit). The advantage this new Card offers, is that only during the first two years the employer has to request a (temporary) work permit and the employee only has to dispose of one “unique” residence permit.

The European Blue Card also makes it easier and quicker to obtain a residence permit for family members in case the employee previously worked in another EU member state with a European Blue Card. Under certain conditions, those years can even be taken into consideration to obtain a “permanent” residence permit after five years in Belgium (a so-called “C-card”). On the other hand, the income threshold for the European Blue Card is considerably higher than that for the work permit type B for highly-skilled personnel (at the moment that is 37.721 EUR gross).

Action Point

Before recruiting a non-EEA employee, it is worthwhile checking if this individual can be employed under this new regime.