Brussels sees strong increase in foreign work permits

Brussels sees strong increase in foreign work permits
Brussels saw 349 more work permits in 2021 than in 2019. Credit: Canva

The number of work permits granted to foreigners in Brussels has increased sharply, with 2,358 permits being granted in 2021 – 349 more than in 2019.

This was explained by Employment Minister Bernard Clerfayt, La Capitale reports, who also noted a stagnation in 2020 with just 1,963 work permits granted, likely as a result of the health crisis.

The rate of “highly qualified” staff members applying for a single work permit of more than three months changed from 89% in 2019 to 82% the year after and 84% in 2021.

Efficiency savings

According to Clerfayt, the current system does not present major obstacles for companies recruiting foreign employees. “For highly-qualified workers, only a diploma and a salary threshold are required. For low-skilled workers, Actiris’ (Belgium’s national employment agency) decision is final.”

In 2021, the “working in Belgium” one-stop-shop was introduced to facilitate and ease the recruitment of foreign workers. The median processing times went down from 26 calendar days in 2019 to just eight in 2021.

There are also far fewer refusals of work permits by the region, as 550 requests were refused in 2019, while just 389 and 323 were refused in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

“Actiris is giving more positive decisions following the evolution of the job market,” the minister explains.

More checks, fewer appeals

A total of 6,066 people have been checked by the Regional Employment Inspectorate (IRE), as well as 3,617 employers.

745 workers (holders or awaiting authorization) have been checked by the IRE since the beginning of the legislature. In 2019, this was 302 workers. In 2020 and 2021, this figure fell to 224 in 2020 and to 219 in 2021.

“This drop is explained by health measures and the closure of certain sectors such as contact professions and catering,” the minister said.

There are also fewer appeals – from 253 in 2019 to 275 in 2020 to 152 in 2021. Of these, 60% resulted in a grant in 2019, 64% in 2020 and again 60% in 2021.


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