Since Brexit, UK nationals who want to expand their business to Belgium or want to take up employment here can no longer benefit from the free movement of workers within the EU. If you were already present and registered in Belgium on 31 December 2020, the Withdrawal Agreement (‘WA’) guarantees your continued right of residence and right to work.
UK nationals already residing in Belgium before 2021 had to apply to exchange their existing residence card for an electronic ‘M card’. Frontier workers needed to exchange their ‘Annex 15’ for an electronic ‘N card’. Both remain exempt from a work permit or professional card. On the other hand, UK employees that are seconded to Belgium cannot benefit from the WA and always require a work permit since 2021.
In brief, the general rules and exemptions for non-EU economic migrants now apply to both UK employees and self-employed individuals. UK citizens planning to work in Belgium since 2021 need to follow the same procedures in place for third-country (non-EU) nationals.
If you plan to reside and work in Belgium as an employee, you need to apply for a ‘single permit’ as stipulated in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. This combines residence and employment of more than 90 days. The permit to work is typically applied for by the Belgian employer. Depending on the region where the employer is located (i.e. Brussels, Flanders, or Wallonia), a different application procedure will apply. Employees who will only work in Belgium but not reside here only need a ‘work permit’ (e.g. for short periods of employment or frontier workers).
A number of exemptions for short-term work apply depending on the circumstances. By way of example, we can mention international transport activities, assembly or installation of goods, urgent maintenance or repair work, attending scientific conferences, diplomatic or consular missions, performances by international artists, scientific researchers invited by a university, etc.).
On the other hand, UK self-employed individuals need to apply for a professional card. Also, in this case the procedure might be different depending on where the contractor is established. In general, the documents required for the application include a business and financial plan, motivational letter, service agreement with Belgian client(s), recommendation letter(s), etc. The professional card application is more extensive than the procedure for a single or work permit.
A number of exemptions for short-term services also applies to UK self-employed individuals (e.g. business trips not exceeding 3 consecutive months, journalists, sportsmen and their assistants, artists, students, (trainee) lawyers, etc.).
TAXPATRIA® can assist you with applying for either a work permit or professional card and check your eligibility for a potential exemption.