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Belgium

 GENERAL INFORMATION

Area -  30,688 sq. km

Population - 11,420,163 (2018)

Official languages - Dutch, French, German

REGISTRATION AND RESIDENCE PERMITS

1. First step (regardless of length of stay)

You must report your presence to the municipal administration within 10 days of your arrival in Belgium. Take your passport or identity card with you. You will then receive a special document known as a ‘declaration of presence’.

2. Short stays for European Economic Area (EEA) nationals (declaration of presence)

In principle, a ‘declaration of presence’ is sufficient for a stay on Belgian territory lasting less than three months.

Note that, in certain cases, you must nevertheless go through the procedure to obtain Annex 19 (application for certificate of registration). Where, for example, you enter the country as an employed person, your employer may ask you for Annex 19. Enquire at the municipal administration.

3. Non-permanent stays of more than three months for EEA nationals

a) Annex 19 (application for certificate of registration)

If you intend to stay in Belgium for more than three months, you must apply to your municipality for registration (Annex 19) within three months of your arrival in Belgium.

You should report to the municipal administration, taking a valid passport or identity card and your ‘declaration of presence’.

The municipal administration will ask you to give the precise reason for your stay (whether you are coming as an employed person, a self-employed person, a jobseeker, a student, an EEA national who can provide evidence of adequate financial resources or as a member of an EEA national’s family).

b) Annex 8 (certificate of registration)

To obtain Annex 8, you must submit a number of documents to the municipal administration (Annex 19 specifies precisely which documents). You have three months (from the time of submission of the application) to submit all the required documents.

4. Swiss nationals

This registration procedure does not apply to Swiss nationals.They are required to follow a different registration procedure. Enquire at the municipal administration.

LOOKING FOR A JOB

Job vacancies are announced in a range of different ways in Belgium:

Public employment services

  • In Wallonia: Le Forem
  • In Flanders: the VDAB
  • In the Brussels-Capital Region: Actiris
  • In the German-speaking Community: the ADG.

 

Other labour market actors

  • Recruitment and selection agencies
  • Selor (public administration selection agency)
  • Businesses
  • Temporary employment agencies.

 

Vacancies are made known by a range of methods:

Media

  • Internet
  • Social/professional network sites (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).

 

There are also many ‘hidden’ vacancies, in other words many vacancies are never published. This means that speculative applications can also be worthwhile. The ‘hidden’ jobs market can be accessed via Yellow Pages, company directories, social media and business networks, newspaper articles and other labour market analyses in professional journals, etc.

Press

The national press is a good source for the publication of vacancies, especially at the weekend. The most important Dutch-language newspapers are as follows: De Morgen, De Standaard,

Het Nieuwsblad, De Tijd, Het Laatste Nieuws. Meanwhile, the leading French-language newspapers are as follows: La Dernière Heure, Le Soir, La Libre Belgique, La Meuse, L’Echo. The leading German-language newspaper is Grenz-Echo.

Local advertising newspapers and regional newspapers (Vlan, JobsRégions, etc.).

INCOME AND TAXATION

In Belgium, salary levels are determined by collective bargaining, not by law or on the basis of rules issued by the state. The collective agreements vary by sector and job. These agreements apply to all workers. Nevertheless, limits on pay rises have already been imposed by law in order to preserve Belgium’s international competitiveness. There are certain standards governing wages, and set minimum wages.

The Social Legislation Inspectorate monitors these agreements in order to protect workers. Trade unions and the internet can provide more information on wages and other matters concerning labour law and employment contracts. Wages are expressed as gross salaries per hour or per month.

There are two types of deductions from an employee’s gross salary: social security contributions and income tax. Social security contributions are always 13.07 % of total wages. To calculate the net amount, you must deduct your social security contributions and income tax from your gross salary. The level of income tax varies according to your family circumstances (depending on whether or not your partner works and how many children you have). Note: child benefit is a nominal amount that is paid independently of other information. It is not taxed. The amount of child benefit received depends on several factors: family circumstances, number of children, etc.

Taxpayers are entitled to a tax-free allowance, meaning that a portion of the taxable income amount is not in fact taxed.  Any income exceeding the tax-free allowance is taxed. This taxation is progressive, which means that the percentage of tax rises as the income increases. The tax scale consists of five income brackets and thus five taxation brackets.

The amount of income tax depends on the brackets and rates of taxation. The 2019 scale for 2018 income, as provided for by the draft finance law, is as follows:

Up to EUR 9 964: 0 %;

from EUR 9 964 to 27 519: 14.00 %;

from EUR 27 519 to 73 779: 30.00 %;

from EUR 73 779 to 156 244: 41.00 %;

above EUR 156 244: 45 %.

The law provides for various tax reductions and surcharges depending on the type of income, expenses during the taxable period, elements that may reduce the tax amount, such as pension fund contributions, etc. It is therefore a good idea to consult a specialist (e.g. the tax authority itself, a bank or a tax adviser).

The tax return procedure if you are resident in Belgium is as follows:

Every resident of Belgium receives a tax return form. As a rule, this form must be submitted to the office of the Ministry of Finance in your place of residence before the end of June in the year following the year worked. If you live in Belgium, you must also pay local taxes. These vary from place to place.

You can file your return online via ‘Tax on Web’.

Social Security and Insurance: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1102&langId=en

LIVING CONDITIONS/ CULTURAL AND SOCIAL LIFE

Belgium’s rich cultural history stands up well to comparison with the cultural tradition of larger and older European countries. This is indisputably reflected in the arts: many Belgian masters played an internationally leading role. They continue to enjoy international renown alongside numerous contemporary artists (in a variety of spheres): painting, literature, detective novels, comic strips, architecture, music, the performing arts, cinema, fashion, exhibitions and more. All of them demonstrate the particularly creative spirit of the Belgians.

The Belgian people are also famed for their gastronomy: chocolate, biscuits, pralines and a vast range of beers. Invented by monks, beer has become the national drink. No other country can compete with the quality and diversity of our foamy brews. Belgium also ranks among the crème-de-la-crème of modern ‘haute cuisine’. The country enjoys an excellent gastronomic reputation on the international stage.

Belgium is also known for its inventiveness. Some examples, among many, include boat lifts and developments in aviation.

There are two major tourist attractions: the Ardennes, an essentially unspoilt natural area, and the Belgian coast, which boasts around 15 seaside resorts. Both Belgian and foreign visitors are also attracted to a number of other places, such as towns of historic and/or cultural interest.

Sport is also very important. Not only are there professional sports such as football, cycling, judo, volleyball, tennis and motocross, in which the Belgians are among the best in the world, but there is also a lot of amateur sport. There is a lively and varied range of club activities, from scouting and tango to archery. In the accessible countryside of the Ardennes, you can climb, abseil and ski (on both natural and artificial slopes) or enjoy cycling or hiking. Compared to many other European countries, cafés and nightclubs stay open late into the night.

The Belgians are characterised as bon vivants, reserved and cautious. It is sometimes said that you only hear a true Belgian speak during meals.

EDUCATION SYSTEM

Right to education

Freedom of education has been recognised as a fundamental right in Belgium since it became an independent state in 1830.

Primary and secondary education is free of charge, and an extensive system of social subsidies and study grants has been established. Today, Belgium’s level of education is one of the highest in Europe.

Organisation of education

As a result of state reform, education became a responsibility of the communities on 1 January 1989. At the same time, schools were given greater autonomy. Initiatives can come from both the authorities and from private individuals. The ‘authorities’ cover municipalities, provinces and the communities.

There are three main educational structures: community education, free subsidised education – primarily Catholic – and subsided public education, organised by the municipalities and provinces.

Compulsory education

Education is compulsory for a 12-year period, i.e. between the ages of 6 and 18. Children under the age of 6 may attend nursery school. Primary education is spread over six years, as is secondary education. Secondary education comprises three levels and begins at the age of 12. Each level covers two academic years. From the second year, the availability of choices increases. There are four pathways in secondary education: general, technical, arts-based and vocational.

Higher education consists of university and non-university education.

There are a small number of schools in Belgium that are not recognised by the authorities. These are private schools that are neither financed nor subsidised with public funds. This category includes European and international schools. Private schools that allow inspections by the public authorities issue diplomas equivalent to those awarded by free and public schools.

Vocational training

There are many public and private bodies that provide training. Some courses are free of charge, while others are very expensive. Some lead to a recognised qualification or diploma, while others do not. It is therefore important to check as carefully as possible whether a course you are considering is worthwhile and really does meet your needs.

Depending on the region in which you live, different public services can provide you with information on all the vocational training pathways available: the VDAB in Flanders, Forem in Wallonia, Bruxelles Formation for vocational training for French speakers in the Brussels‑Capital Region (the VDAB serves Dutch speakers living in Brussels) and the Arbeitsamt in the German-speaking Community.

RECOGNITION OF DIPLOMAS AND QUALIFICATIONS

The importance of transparency and mutual recognition of diplomas as a crucial complement to the free movement of workers

The possibility of obtaining recognition of one’s qualifications and competences can play a vital role in the decision to take up work in another EU country. It is therefore necessary to develop a European system that will guarantee the mutual acceptance of professional competences in different Member States. Only such a system will ensure that a lack of recognition of professional qualifications will become an obstacle to workers’ mobility within the EU.

Main principles for the recognition of professional qualifications in the EU

As a basic principle, any EU citizen should be able to freely practice their profession in any Member State. Unfortunately the practical implementation of this principle is often hindered by national requirements for access to certain professions in the host country.

For the purpose of overcoming these differences, the EU has set up a system for the recognition of professional qualifications. Within the terms of this system, a distinction is made between regulated professions (professions for which certain qualifications are legally required) and professions that are not legally regulated in the host Member State.

Steps towards a transparency of qualifications in Europe

The European Union has taken important steps towards the objective of achieving transparency of qualifications in Europe:
- An increased co-operation in vocational education and training, with the intention to combine all instruments for transparency of certificates and diplomas, in one single, user-friendly tool. This includes, for example, the European CV or Europass Trainings.
- The development of concrete actions in the field of recognition and quality in vocational education and training.

Going beyond the differences in education and training systems throughout the EU

Education and training systems in the EU Member States still show substantial differences. The last enlargements of the EU, with different educational traditions, have further increased this diversity. This calls for a need to set up common rules to guarantee recognition of competences.

In order to overcome this diversity of national qualification standards, educational methods and training structures, the European Commission has put forward a series of instruments, aimed at ensuring better transparency and recognition of qualifications both for academic and professional purposes.

  1. The European Qualifications Framework

 

The European Qualifications Framework is a key priority for the European Commission in the process of recognition of professional competences. The main objective of the framework is to create links between the different national qualification systems and guarantee a smooth transfer and recognition of diplomas.

  1. The National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARICs)

 

A network of National Academic Recognition Information Centres was established in 1984 at the initiative of the European Commission. The NARICs provide advice on the academic recognition of periods of study abroad. Located in all EU Member States as well as in the countries of the European Economic Area, NARICs play a vital role the process of recognition of qualifications in the EU.

  1. The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)

 

The European Credit Transfer System aims at facilitating the recognition of periods of study abroad. Introduced in 1989, it functions by describing an education programme and attaching credits to its components. It is a key complement to the highly acclaimed student mobility programme Erasmus.

  1. Europass

 

Europass is an instrument for ensuring the transparency of professional skills. It is composed of five standardised documents

  1. a CV (Curriculum Vitae),
  2. a language passport,
  3. certificate supplements,
  4. diploma supplements, and
  5. a Europass-Mobility document.

 

The Europass system makes skills and qualifications clearly and easily understood in the different parts of Europe. In every country of the European Union and the European Economic Area, national Europass centres have been established as the primary contact points for people seeking for information about the Europass system.

USEFUL LINKS

http://www.belgium.be - Government

http://www.minfin.fgov.be - Taxation                                                                                 

http://www.socialsecurity.fgov.be/ - Social Security                                                             

http://www.socialsecurity.belgium.be/ - National Office for Social Security   

Regional PES Services:                   

http://www.actiris.be/ - Region Brussels                                                                       

http://www.leforem.be/ - Region Wallonia                                                                         

http://www.vdab.be/ - Region Flanders                                                                                  

http://www.adg.be - German-speaking Region            

Education:

http://www.enseignement.be/ - Brussels and Wallonia                                                                  

http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/ - Flanders                                                                                

http://www.unterrichtsverwaltung.be/ - German-speaking Region   

Recognition of diplomas and qualifications:                   

http://www.enic-naric.net/index.aspx?c=Belgium - Recognition of Diplomas                           

http://www.enic-naric.net/index.aspx?c=Belgium - Brussels and Wallonia                                                

http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs - Flanders

http://www.bijob.be/WorkingInBelgium/LiveWorkBelgium.aspx - Living and Working Conditions in Belgium

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