In Belgium, important changes in the Flanders region’s immigration policy for foreign workers will come into force from May 1, 2024. Many regulations for EU Blue Card holders, intra-company transferees (ICTs) and foreign business travelers have been significantly changed.

On the one hand, the educational qualification requirements for employees transferred within the company and for EU Blue Card holders will be relaxed. In the IT sector, the two residence permits mentioned can be acquired by providing evidence of at least three years of relevant professional experience within the last seven years, even if you do not have a university degree. This is intended to address the shortage of IT specialists in Belgium.

On the other hand, it will be easier for holders of an EU Blue Card to change employers, with a notification to the regional Ministry of Labor within the first 12 months being sufficient. It is then possible to change employers without notification.

The salary requirement for issuing an EU Blue Card has been increased to EUR 60,621 for 2024.

Relaxations will also come into force for business travelers to Belgium from May 1, 2024:

An important aspect of the changes is the expansion of work permit exemptions. Various activities will be possible as part of a business trip to the Flemish part of Belgium from May 2024 without further consent:
• Attend conferences, seminars, business meetings, trade shows and exhibitions
• Negotiating business agreements
• Participation in audits in the areas of sales, marketing, internal audits and customer audits
• Exploring business opportunities
• Participate in or conduct training courses
• Activities related to tourism
• Translation and interpreting services

Employers must continue to monitor the length of stay of their employees in Belgium and ensure that the established rule of a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period is respected.
For occupations with a shortage of skilled workers, employers who want to hire people for medium-skilled shortage occupations must now submit documents about the applicants’ skills, experience and qualifications, which are checked by the regional Ministry of Labor (VDAB). It is expected that this additional requirement will lengthen the internal administrative process. Please allow enough time for this in the application and employment processes!

A further difficulty comes into force for the labor market test procedure: job offers must now be published for at least nine weeks within the last four months before the application. The job advertisements must appear on both the EURES (European Jobs Portal) portal and the VDAB website (VDAB portal of the public employment service for the Flemish region). The government will only accept applications for labor market tests for jobs classified as shortage occupations by the VDAB, potentially limiting employment opportunities for foreign workers.

Every year the list of occupations classified as shortage occupations is updated, in the so-called “Knelpuntberoepen” list. The top 10 occupations in shortage according to this list in 2024 are the following professions: technical-industrial installer/mechanic, nursing staff, cleaners for private households, construction managers, automation technicians, maintenance mechanics, employees in fruit growing, bookkeeping/accounting, road construction workers and structural engineers.

The aim of the measures presented by the government of Flanders in Belgium is, in particular, to align with the European Highly Qualified Persons Directive.
It is expected that the revised EU directive for the EU Blue Card will be implemented in a similar manner in the other parts of Belgium (Brussels and Wallonia). Legislation in these areas is expected to be adopted and come into force in the third quarter of 2024. On the other hand, the measures aim to only allow foreign nationals to work in Belgium when capacities in the Belgian and European labor markets have already been exhausted.

Sources: Fragomen – click here
Econonic Times India: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/nri/work/belgium-announces-major-changes-to-immigration-policy-for-foreign-workers-effective-may-1/articleshow/109119758.cms? from=mdr

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