Belgium wants to become the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Europe

Belgium wants to become the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Europe
Asylum and Migration Minister Sammy Mahdi. Credit: Belga

Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum Sammy Mahdi personally met with several “foreign talents” who recently arrived to work and study in Belgium. During the meeting on 23 May, Mahdi said that he hoped that Belgium would gradually become the “Silicon Valley of Europe.”

Mahdi hopes to achieve this by widening access to the Belgian labour market to talented individuals from across the world, either through special employment permits or post-educational opportunities.

“Belgium must become a bit like the Silicon Valley of Europe, where the brightest minds from all over the world want to come to work or study. In order to win the international talent war, we must implement an attractive policy to make sure that the best talent chooses Belgium and not another country,” Mahdi stated.

More flexible work permits for the highly-skilled

At the event at the Takeda company in Lessines, Wallonia, Madhi was attempting to prove the results of his policies regarding “single permits,” which allow employers to hire non-European employees to come to work in Belgium.

This scheme is becoming increasingly popular among employers. The number of single permits issued in 2021 amounted to 5,124, up from around 4,000 in 2019.

In the first trimester of 2022, 740 single permits were issued by the Foreigner’s Office. More than 8,000 permits are expected to be issued by the end of the year, if the trend continues.

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This year marks a distinct increase in non-European employment. The top three recipients of single permits are nationals from India, Turkey, and Morocco.

According to the Secretary, “search years” for students of non-EU universities are also proving fruitful. This allows students, at the end of their studies, to remain an additional 12 months within the country and seek employment or set up a company.

Since the beginning of the scheme, nearly 1,000 students have already extended their stay in Belgium by an extra year in the view of finding employment here.

Mahdi says that Belgium is increasingly meeting its target of foreign talent and will continue working to make the country a “one-stop shop” for search students.


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