Permits, visas and social security: what arrangements do US companies need to make when sending US employees to Belgium for business purposes?

Published on 4th Jan 2017

US companies wanting to send their ‘C’ level employees or managers to Belgium to set up or manage their subsidiary, or just to carry out business, will need to be able to send their employees back and forth between Belgium and the USA for short-term assignments (for example, attendance at board or client meetings).

What are the most important things to consider from an immigration perspective when sending your employees on short term assignments to Belgium?

Permits: As a matter of principle, US employees must get a work permit prior to taking up any work duties in Belgium. Your company is responsible for applying for such work permits on behalf of your employees. Some US employees are, however, not liable under the work permit obligation, including:

  • Employees: (a) in managerial or executive position (b) employed by the registered office  of a multinational group located in Belgium; and (c) who earn a minimum  annual gross salary of € 66.942 (for 2017);
  • “Highly skilled” employees: those who hold a bachelor’s degree and earn a minimum annual gross salary of € 40.124 (for 2017);
  • Employees who are travelling in order to attend business meetings ‘in closed circles’ (i.e. meeting with clients, appraisals of subordinates, strategic negotiations within a multinational group), provided that these meetings do not exceed 20 calendar days per meeting and 60 days per year in total.

Regarding the rest of your US staff, your company will have to comply with the usual work permit procedure by the competent Belgian regional government (Brussels, Walloon, Flemish) in the relevant language (French, Flemish or German).

Visas: For short stays in Belgium of up to a maximum of 90 days over a rolling period of 180 days, US employees do not need a visa and / or residence permit to enter and stay in Belgium. Access to Belgian territory will be granted on the sole basis of their valid national passport. US employees who intend to stay for longer than 90 days in any 180 day period require a visa or a residence permit. The employee must apply for it via the Belgian embassy or consulate of their place of residence in the USA.

Social Security: For US employees working both in the USA and in Belgium, the Agreement between the US and Belgium eliminates the risk of double liability, to both the US and Belgian social security systems. Under said Agreement, the same US employee posted to Belgium for a period of five years or less will continue to be covered under the US social security (and not by the Belgian social security system).

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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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