The turn of the year also brings a couple of changes to the legislative framework regarding employment of third-country nationals.
Below is a summary of some noteworthy changes:
In 2022, third-country nationals could obtain an authorisation to work as a ‘trainee’ provided that the following conditions were met:
- the internship is a continuation of an education for which a degree or certificate has been obtained
- the intern is older than 18 and younger than 30 on the moment that the single permit is granted
- the duration of the internship is limited to 12 months
- the intern undertakes not to perform any work for another employer during the internship
- the work in the framework of the internship is performed on a full-time basis
- the sectoral minimum wage is complied with
- a training plan is established
As of 1 January 2023, third-country nationals can obtain an authorisation to work as a ‘trainee’ provided that the following conditions are met:
- the intern is still enrolled at an education institute for higher education or has graduated within two years preceding the application for the authorisation to work
- the internship corresponds to the qualification level of the intern and is situated in the context of the studies or the degree
- the internship agreement is concluded for a maximum duration of 6 months (in certain cases renewable for an additional period of 6 months)
- the intern undertakes not to perform any work for another employer during the internship (only in Brussels)
- appropriate housing is provided in case the intern stays with a guest entity
The most important differences between the old and the new legislative framework can be summarised as follows:
Intern has graduated
Interns is still studying or has graduated albeit within two years preceding the application
No age condition
Duration of authorisation is limited to 12 months
Duration of authorisation is limited to:
- Flanders: max. 6 months + 6 months
- Brussels: max. 6 months + 6 months
- Wallonia: max. 6 months
- In-country modification of status
As a rule, third-country nationals need a single permit to reside and work on the Belgian territory for more than 90 days. Furthermore, this single permit, as a rule, has to be applied for whilst the third-country national is residing abroad.
However, in certain cases and for specific profiles, the single permit could be applied for whilst the third-country national already resides in Belgium. As of 1 September 2020, these cases were restricted to third-country nationals residing in Belgium based on a legal short-term stay and third-country nationals residing in Belgium in the framework of a legal long-term stay albeit to the extent that they were students or researchers.
The legislator has reversed this decision and has significantly expanded the category of third-country nationals who, during a legal long-term stay, can qualify for a change of status while remaining in Belgium to include:
- third-country nationals who (for humanitarian, exceptional circumstances or medical reasons) were authorised by the minister for a long-term stay
- third-country nationals admitted to a long-term stay by law
- certain family members who were authorised for a long-term stay in the context of family reunification (↔ pending procedure)
- third-country nationals with temporary protection such as Ukrainian nationals
- third-country nationals who have renounced their privileged diplomatic status
In other words, certain third-country nationals who have already been authorised or allowed to reside in Belgium for more than 90 days but want to switch to a different status (i.e. towards an autonomous and/or more reliable residence right), can henceforth apply for a single permit without having to leave the Belgian territory.
A classic case in practice concerns the third-country national who has obtained the right of residence within the framework of family reunification but wishes to switch to a single permit for certain reasons
(e.g. independence of the partner, divorce, the residence right of the partner becomes uncertain, etc.).
- Croatia is part of the Schengen Area
On 1 January 2023, Croatia has officially joined the Schengen Area. Henceforth, certain third-country nationals (i.e. with a Schengen visa exemption linked to nationality or residence status in another Schengen country) will be able to travel to Croatia without obtaining a Schengen visa.
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