Maggie De Block, minister for migration, has announced two measures to make it easier for companies to employ foreign workers from outside the EU.
The changes come at the request of companies looking to employ workers from outside the European Union, whose citizens already have the freedom to work in any of the member states.
Demand for foreign workers is high in certain sectors, such as technology and IT where thousands of vacancies remain unfilled, but companies complain that the procedures for obtaining a work permit are complicated and delays are long.
Waiting times of up to four months are not uncommon, businesses say.
Now De Block has assigned 20 new staff to the “long-stay” department of the Office for Foreigners, to speed up the administrative process and cut waiting times. By doing so she hopes to reduce delays by half.
At the same time, the procedure itself has been simplified. Since the beginning of this month, the service has fewer documents to deal with, allowing it to make work of more cases.
Work permits are issued for a period of 12 months, but they can be renewed. However while the process of applying for and receiving a prolongation is under way, the worker often has to stop working.
From now on, the worker or employer only has to make an application to the region they are in, and the prolongation can be approved. In the meantime, the worker has no need to stop working.
“Companies based in this country often have a need for specific foreign workers,” De Block said. “Thanks to this administrative simplification, we are able to cut the red tape.”