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Immigration : looking back and forward

With Christmas Carrols in the air, it’s time to reflect on some hot immigrations topics which kept us busy in 2019, also preparing for what 2020 will bring.

One year Single Permit – taking stock

2019 has been a quite challenging year for employers wishing to source foreign talent to work in Belgium.

For non-European Economic Area nationals coming to work in Belgium for more than 90 days, as from 1 January 2019, employers need to obtain a Single Permit, in most cases, prior to the individual moving to Belgium. Although in origin aimed at simplifying the way foreign talent can be employed in Belgium long term, in practice, we have seen a considerable rise in complexity, increase of different process steps, processing timelines, administrative cost and time spent.

Also for short term employment in Belgium of non-EEA nationals, which is covered by a work permit B, the process has become less flexible and processing times have increased in certain Regions.

It has to be said that the majority of the authorities involved have been focusing hard during this year trying to remediate these hurdles. They realize that a slow immigration process is negatively influencing the attractiveness of Belgium for foreign investments and talent. And their efforts will continue in 2020 with various digitalization projects under way and some even ready to be launched early 2020. However, there is still a long way to go in order to bring processing times to more acceptable standards including an overall process simplification.

Therefore, also in 2020, employers need to be conscious of the challenges Belgian immigration procedures bring and optimize their internal organization to, at least partly, counter effect the lengthy process and complexity of the procedure.

A couple of elements are key in this respect: get informed on process and required documents upfront to avoid surprises at time critical moments, timely initiation of the case and managing expectations of the business and the individual.

A path not to venture on is trying to bypass the imperative legal procedures by incorrect use of business visa or visa exemptions. Recently, Flemish inspection authorities sent out a clear message by expelling from Belgium a large number of illegally employed non-EEA nationals which were working at the same plant.

From our end, we will continue to be engaged with authorities’ decision makers to share our ideas for an overall improvement of the Belgian immigration procedures for economic immigration.

 

2020 Mininum salary thresholds

 

Amounts 2020

Brussels Region

Walloon Region

Flemish Region

Highly-skilled personnel

€ 42,869.00

€ 42,869.00

€ 42,696.00

€ 33,156.80 (<30 years or nurses)

Management personnel

€ 71,521.00

€ 71,521.00

€ 68,314.00

European Blue Card

€ 55,431.00

€ 55,431.00

€ 51,235.00

Trainee

Min. salary (sector)

Min. salary (sector)

Sufficient means of existence

Mid-class

N/a

N/a

Min. salary (sector)

 

Brexit and immigration : still relevant ?

Brexit, seemingly a never ending story, of which we tend to turn away as it is perceived being too unpredictable and by now as boring as a bad soap.

And is there anyhow anything employers can do already now ?

Actually, there is! And it does not need to be very complex :

  • For EU nationals and their families currently living in UK, make sure they apply for (pre)-settled status with competent authorities in UK. https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families
  • For UK nationals and their families, currently living in the EU, ensure that they are compliant with any local immigration procedures/registrations including posted workers registrations where needed.
  • Overall, ensure your workforce be it business travelers, locals or assignees, is compliant with social security formalities either in UK or EU. Although always a plus to avoid issues, having the proper A1 in hand will likely proof a golden ticket to less red tap be it in a deal or no deal scenario.

And what will 2020 bring Brexit wise for people ?

The honest answer is … that depends.

In any case, we will continue to closely follow-up and communicate our insights going forward. So stay tuned.

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Van den Brande Wim
Partner

Global Mobility Services
Brussels

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