Business Immigration & Brexit | a summary of what you need to know in Belgium

Written on 9 Dec 2020

The final steps are currently being taken to implement the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in Belgium, which regulates the situation of UK nationals already living and/or working in Belgium before 31 December 2020, and their family members.

So far, Belgium has voted two laws anticipating Brexit: one on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU dated 3 April 2019[1] (yet to enter into force), and one dated 6 March 2020[2] on employment matters. On 25 November 2020[1], the Belgian Parliament approved a Brexit bill related to residency rights and immigration. It must still be further approved and published in the Belgian State Gazette.

In a nutshell, under these acts:

1. UK nationals who are beneficiaries under the Withdrawal Agreement can maintain their right to long term residence in Belgium.

The beneficiaries are: (i) employees or self-employed workers who reside and/or work in Belgium before 31 December 2020 and who continue to do so after 1 January 2021; (ii) frontier workers before 31 December 2020 who continue to do so as of 1 January 2021.

Employees or self-employed workers need to file an application for a new type M residence permit by 31 December 2021 at the latest. Frontier workers need to file an application for a new type N permit by 31 December 2021 at the latest. As soon as you submit your application, you will also receive a certificate of application from the municipality which covers your (residence) rights during the examination of your application. The registration certificate and the current residence permits type E or E+ remain valid and will expire automatically on 31 March 2022. Both categories of beneficiaries need to provide evidence of their residence and/or work status, along with an excerpt summary of their criminal record dated no longer than six months earlier.

2. Family members of UK nationals who are beneficiaries under the Withdrawal Agreement, can maintain or obtain the right to long term residence.

Beneficiaries are: (i) family members who reside in Belgium before 31 December 2020 and who continue to so after 1 January 2021; (ii) family members who arrive in Belgium as of 1 January 2021, provided they are either (a) directly related to UK citizens residing in Belgium/frontier workers before 31 December 2020 or (b) children of UK citizens residing in Belgium/frontier workers before 31 December 2020, born/legally adopted after 31 December 2020; or (c) in a duly registered partnership that started before 31 December 2020.

Family members of the UK national need to file an application for a new type M residence permit within three months after their arrival in Belgium in 2021 or by 31 December 2021 at the latest. Both categories need to provide evidence, including a document demonstrating their family relationship, a valid registration certificate or any other proof of their residence or proof of the registered partnership.

If you are a UK national or one of their family members residing in Belgium, the Immigration Office will inform you, individually by letter, of the procedure to apply for a new residence card as beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement at the commune where you reside. No steps need to be taken until you've received this letter.

3. For UK nationals who are not beneficiaries under the Withdrawal Agreement and are arriving or residing in Belgium after 1 January 2021, third country national rules will apply.

Immigration authorities have confirmed that UK nationals travelling to Belgium after 31 December 2020 for a short stay (maximum 90 days in a period of 180 days) will still be able to do so without a visa. However, they will require a visa for stays in Belgium exceeding 90 days over a 180-day period. The same UK nationals coming to Belgium for work purposes will be liable under the work permit obligation. Employees will need a work permit B (for less than 90 days) or a single permit (over 90 days), and self-employed workers will require a professional card.