Single Permit Entered into effect from 1 January 2019


On 1 January 2019, the combined permit or "Single Permit" application procedure came into force. From now on, all work permit applications for workers of foreign nationality wishing to work and reside in our country for more than 90 days, must be made in accordance with the Single Permit procedure.

The Single Permit is an electronic residence card which comprises both a residence permit and a work permit.

This is handy for employers wishing to recruit foreign workers, because they must fulfil the following conditions:

  • Check in advance whether the latter holds a work and residence permit;
  • Keep a copy of the details of this permit, or different valid authorisation for stay, available for the authorised inspection departments, for at least the duration of the period of employment;
  • Declare the start and end of employment of the foreign worker, in compliance with the laws and regulations.

However, please note that the Single Permit creates no new rights or residence status. It only simplifies the previous laborious procedure(s) for obtaining a work permit and a residence permit. The procedure may be simplified, but it does take longer.
We explain this below.

1. The Single Permit (combined permit)

The Single Permit only applies to employment and residence in our country of longer than 90 days.

Applications for Single Permits should be submitted to the regional Department of Economic Migration (and no longer the provincial department). The documents regarding employment and the stay should be attached to this application.

The whole Single Permit is issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs, and it contains both a work permit and a residence permit.

For employment of less than 90 days, the procedure for obtaining Work Permits A and B still applies, with a separate procedure to be followed for residence. The same applies to the following citizens:

  • young persons working as an au pair;
  • researchers with a hosting agreement;
  • highly-qualified workers (European Blue Card);
  • workers seconded within a company (Regulation 2014/66/EU of 15.05.2014); 
  • seasonal workers;
  • student employees, for the Flemish Region only.

Any work permit already issued shall remain valid until their expiry date. A combined permit will only be issued at the next renewal.

2. How the Procedure works

The worker submits an application for a Single Permit via his employer, except if he is requesting an unlimited work permit, in which case, he must submit the application himself.

This application must be submitted to the regional Department of Economic Migration, which is competent to decide concerning work permits.

This department decides on the completeness of the application within ten days, and informs the applicant of this. Where applicable, they can request to submit supplementary information or documents within fifteen days. If this information is not provided within the set period, the application will be declared inadmissible. An appeal against this decision can be filed with the Council of State.

If the dossier is declared admissible, it is passed on to the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is authorised to decide concerning the residence permit. This department, in turn, has a decision-making period of 4 months, which may be extended in exceptional circumstances, for a complex application.

If no decision is reached within this set 4-month period, the work and residence permit shall be deemed to have been granted. This means that the procedure can take up to four and a half months.

Even if the applicant has obtained a favourable decision regarding employment, he/she may only commence work once the residence permit is actually granted. And, conversely, the decision of the Department of Foreign Affairs is only valid, if a work permit is granted.

If both decisions are favourable (for work and residence), the Department of Foreign Affairs will issue the Single Permit to the employer and, where applicable, the worker.

In the event of a decision to refuse a work permit, an appeal can be filed with the competent regional minister, and this decision can still be appealed before the Council of State.

In the event of a negative decision regarding residence, an appeal can be filed with the Council for Alien Law Litigation, and the decision of this Council can still be appealed before the Council of State.

3. The following workers need not to apply for a Single Permit

Some categories of workers or persons are permitted by law to work in the territory of Belgium. This is the case in the following situations:

3.1  Workers who fall under the Limosa Obligation

Workers who work in a country other than Belgium, or who were recruited in a different country, and come to work temporarily or part-time in Belgium, do not require the Single Permit. They fall under the Limosa obligation.

Employers wishing to employ this kind of worker, must not forget to submit a Limosa declaration to the RSZ (National Department of Social Security) before the worker in question starts work in Belgium. Employers bear full responsibility for this.

More specifically, this relates to the following workers:

  • sales representatives whose principal place of residence is located abroad;
  • journalists who are resident abroad;
  • workers attending training at the Belgian head office of the group to which their employer belongs;
  • ICT specialists in the context of their right to short-term mobility;
  • third-country nationals conducting research in Belgium;
  • workers who are not a citizen of a member state of the EEA (European Economic Area), and who are employed by a company located in a Member State of the EEA or Switzerland, and move to Belgium to perform services.

The period in which this category of persons is exempt from an explicit authorisation to perform work, shall not exceed 3 consecutive months (except for persons conducting research here).

3.2  Posted Workers and Self-Employed Persons

This includes workers employed in the sector of international transport of persons or goods, persons posted for the installation of goods (subject to specific conditions), specialist technicians, workers attending academic congresses in Belgium, workers obliged to attend meetings in closed circle, workers employed by government departments, diplomatic and consular missions, workers employed by an international public-law institution located in Belgium whose status is  governed by a convention, artists of international standing and the persons accompanying them, the researchers and members of an academic team who reside abroad and are employed by a university or an academic institution located abroad, who are participating in an academic programme at a host university or an academic institution in Belgium (subject to specific conditions).

3.3  Workers in a Specific Residence Situation

Certain persons are exempt from an explicit authorisation to work, in the context of a specific reason for residence, including recognised refugees, persons obliged to follow student employee training, foreign students, pupils, persons regularised on humanitarian grounds, persons with subsidiary protection status, persons recognised for family reunification, spouses and children of holders of special residence permits, persons holding an unlimited residence permit (electronic Residence Card B, C or D) etc.

3.4  Persons who fall under the Vander Elst – Exemption

Persons working in Belgium, in the context of the free movement of services and persons (Vander Elst posting), also need not to apply for a work permit.

All exempt persons will be obliged to apply for the Single Permit, if they no longer fulfil the conditions for exemption.

Would you like to learn more about this subject?

Contact our experts or telephone +32 (0)2 747 40 07
Leila Mstoian

Leila Mstoian