You can exercise a self-employed activity in Belgium if you comply with the regulatory obligations and if you can demonstrate the importance of your activity for the region in terms of economic value (for instance job creation, useful investments, innovative character, social or cultural value, etc.).
If you fulfil the conditions, you will be issued a long stay visa type D, a professional card and a residence permit.
Certain categories of foreign nationals are exempted from the requirement to hold a professional card.
Where and how to apply
You can introduce a request for a single permit for residence and work through your host institution. The application must be submitted to the department of economic migration of the region where the institution is based: Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels Capital Region or the German-speaking Community.
To apply for a single permit your host institution needs to submit a number of documents, including proof of payment of the administrative feeSearch for available translations of the preceding link (see ‘Documents required’). Your application is assessed by the competent regional authority and the federal Immigration Office.
The regional and federal authorities need to take a decision within 60 days.
If the regional authority grants an authorisation to work and the Immigration Office grants an authorisation to stay, you receive a decision to be granted a single permit (annex 46) from the Immigration Office.
If one or both of the authorities fail to take a decision, you receive a certificate to be granted a single permit (annex 47) from the Immigration Office.
If one or both of the authorities reject your application, you receive a decision rejecting your right of residence (annex 48).
D Visa (long-stay visa)
To obtain a D visa to travel to Belgium, you need to present your annex 46 or 47 and international passport and submit a visa applicationSearch for available translations of the preceding link to the Belgian diplomatic or consular postSearch for available translations of the preceding link of your place of residence.
The authorities take your fingerprints and a digital photo.
To apply for an authorisation to work and stay, your host institution must submit:
After your arrival in Belgium, you need to register at the municipality of your place of residence within 8 working days.
You receive a temporary residence document (annex 49) pending the residence check to be executed by the authorities.
If the residence check is positive, the municipality issues a single permit for a limited period of time (A-card).
Duration of validity of permit
The single permit for researchers is valid for the duration of the research project, for a maximum period of 3 years. The permit is renewable.
Conditions for renewal
You need to apply for renewal at the latest 2 months before your single permit expires.
If your authorisation to work has been granted for a limited period of time, you need to apply for renewal of the single permit to the regional authority.
If your authorisation to work has been granted for an unlimited period of time, you need to apply for renewal of the permit to your municipality.
In the first 5 years, you receive a single permit for a limited period of time if you fulfil the required conditions (A-card). After 5 years, you receive a single permit for an unlimited period of time (B-card).
If your application for an authorisation to work has been rejected by the regional authority, your host institution can appeal this decision before the competent appeal body within 30 days after you received the decision. You can lodge an appeal against this decision before the Council of State within 60 days after you received the decision.
If your application for an authorisation to stay has been rejected by the Immigration Office, you can appeal this decision before the Council for Alien Law Litigation (CALL) within 30 days after you received the decision.
Coming to work in BelgiumSearch for available translations of the preceding link
Authorisation to work in Flanders
Authorisation to work in WalloniaSearch for available translations of the preceding link
Authorisation to work in Brussels Capital Region
Authorisation to work in German-speaking Community
Authorisation to staySearch for available translations of the preceding link
Visa applicationSearch for available translations of the preceding link
Stay and employment after research
Change of status
If your personal situation or purpose of stay changes during your legal stay in Belgium, you can apply for most other statuses.
Your family members have a right to stay in Belgium if they meet the conditions for family reunificationSearch for available translations of the preceding link.
You can apply for EU long-term resident status after 5 years of uninterrupted legal stay in Belgium, provided you have sufficient, regular and stable means of subsistence and health insurance.
Stays for reasons of temporary nature (for instance as seconded employed worker) are not taken into account.
Please note that Directive (EU) 2016/801 has not yet been fully transposed into national law. At this moment there are no specific provisions regarding short-term or long-term mobility of researchers.
- Coming to work in Belgium
- Federal Science Policy Office
- Economic Migration Flanders
- Economic Migration Wallonia
- Economic Migration Brussels Capital Region
- Economic Migration German-speaking Community
- Immigration Office
- Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs
- Diplomatic Missions Abroad
- Council for Alien Law Litigation
- Council of State