Belgium has implemented a new residence status which will facilitate the stay of employees of international companies who usually work in an office outside the European Union and come to Belgium to carry out a temporary assignment.
This means that international companies can submit an application for their managers, experts or trainees electronically, and if a permit is issued, the person concerned can immediately stay in and travel on to other EU countries, State Secretary for Migration and Asylum, Sammy Mahdi, announced on Thursday.
"With this new scheme, we give opportunities to people and companies all over the world to stimulate and develop talent, without borders or barriers. Introducing well-organised legal migration channels is the best way to make migration a positive story," Mahdi said.
Mahdi has now created the basic conditions necessary for this new regulation to take effect, following the introduction of the electronic one-stop-shop, which allows applicants to ask for both permits in one place, in turn reducing the processing time of a labour migration application to about two weeks, putting Belgium in the European top.
The period of stay under this residence status is limited to one year for trainees and three years for experts or executives.
The rules are the result of the European Intra-Corporate Transfer (ICT) Directive from 2014 and were expected to come into force five years ago, but struggles between the federal level (the Federal Immigration Office) and the regional governments (Regional Employment Services) delayed the implementation.
The European Commission even started infringement procedures against Belgium to encourage it to implement the new residency status.
Before now, it was very difficult for international conglomerates such as Coca-Cola or Pfizer to deploy foreign staff in Belgium and then allow them to move to other subsidiaries in the EU, as they would have had to separately apply for work and residence permits for each country.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Belgium welcome the news, saying that it will "increase competitiveness for attracting international companies and foreign investors, as other EU countries have demonstrated, in addition to encouraging businesses already active on Belgian soil."
The Royal Decree stipulating the implementation of this residency status has been approved by the Council of Ministers and will be published in the Belgian Official Journal following advice from the Council of State.