By adopting a new economic migration policy, Flanders aims to increase its attractiveness for innovative and talented entrepreneurs from outside the EU, with a focus on start ups and scale ups. This will be possible thanks to a more selective policy with special focus on innovation and job creation. The digital application procedure will also make things run more smoothly.

A better legal framework for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to settle in Flanders, that was the goal of the Flemish Government when it approved the new Decree on the professional activities performed by self-employed foreign citizens.

The decree introduces a simplified digital application and processing procedure to allow foreign self-employed persons to apply for and obtain a professional card more easily. This procedure will get rid of a 56-year-old dated law that still had to be complied with when foreign citizens wanted to start up professional activities in Flanders.

We explain the application and processing procedure below:

1. The policy will be more selective 

The admission requirements will be assessed based on the entrepreneur's activity. The threshold will be raised and the policy will become more selective.

The concept of "innovation" is (finally) clearly defined. Up to now, the innovative character of a business was mainly assessed by no more than a guesswork.

In the future, in the framework of economic immigration, a distinction will be made between 3 types of companies, namely 1) start-ups and scale-ups; 2) classic enterprises and 3) special statuses such as sports coaches and artists.

A business plan will form the basis for the assessment of each application. The added value an enterprise will generate for Flanders will be examined, including the creation of employment. When assessing the application files, the authorities will call up on the economic expertise of FIT and VLAIO.

2. A simplified and digital application procedure through the digital portal

The application procedure will be digital. The enterprise counters and diplomatic missions will no longer serve as a portal for receiving applications. 

Foreign citizens will be able to submit their applications through a digital platform with the Department of Work and Social Economy (WSE) as from 1 January 2022. Both the payment and the granting of a professional card will take place digitally from then on. 

3. The Flemish Social Inspection takes care of control and enforcement

Economic migration is often seen as a "last resort" to settle in Flanders. To counteract abuse of the professional cards, the Flemish Social Inspection will have the authority to take action if the limits and the conditions of the professional card are not respected.

In case of infringements, the self-employed entrepreneur will risk various sanctions in terms of correctional penalties and administrative fines.

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Leila Mstoian

Leila Mstoian