In Belgium, several routes can be taken to find work and job vacancies:
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 (the Belgian Federal Government’s civil service selection agency)
- Temporary employment agencies.
- Social/professional network sites (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).
The national press is a good source of job advertisements, 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. In German: GrenzEcho.
Local advertising newspapers and regional newspapers (Vlan, JobsRégions, 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 business directories, social media and business networks, newspaper articles and other labour market analyses in professional journals, etc.
Public employment service – Brussels Capital Region
Public employment service – Wallonia
Public employment service – Flanders
Public employment service – German-speaking Community
Selor (Belgian Federal Government’s civil service selection agency)
Federation of employment agencies
Monster (job site with search function)
Vacature (job site with search function)
Stepstone (job site with search function)
Références (job site with search function)
Jobijoba (jobs search engine)
Alterjob (ethical/sustainable jobs)
Guide social (non-profit sector jobs)
Jobat (search by province)
Vlan (search by region)
JobsRégions (search by region)
Het Laatste Nieuws (press)
La Dernière Heure (press)
De Standaard (press)
Le Soir (press)
De Tijd (press)
LinkedIn (business network)
Viadeo (business network)
Most employers read the CV before reading the cover letter. Your CV acts as your business card. It must highlight your strengths and skills in order to grab the attention of the employer. Your CV therefore needs to be easy to read, attractive and clearly structured. The CV should contain:
- Personal details – state your name, address, telephone number (include the country code if you live outside Belgium), email address and Skype address at the top of the page; no photo (except where this is important for the job or if the employer asks for it). In order to prevent any form of discrimination in recruitment, no private details need be provided (age, nationality, family situation, sex).
- The role or post for which you are applying – quote the job title or desired position in the heading (use Belgian job titles).
- Experience – this is the most important part of your CV. It makes sense to list your most recent experience first. List all the roles you have held and provide a short description of each. Use keywords to identify the most important tasks you have performed and mention any responsibility you have held (the number of people under your management, budget responsibility, etc.) and/or provide information about the company (number of employees, turnover). Also indicate your professional successes and the important projects that you have carried out. New graduates may mention traineeships or other professional or personal experience (voluntary work, any traineeships, etc.).
- Education – list your most recent education first and do not go back further than your secondary education, or even your higher education. Also include the title of your dissertation and/or your thesis and your results where appropriate.
- Additional training – here you should list any seminars and training programmes in which you have participated that are relevant to your desired role and the company you are applying to.
- Knowledge and skills – this part of your CV is your chance to show that you have demonstrable expertise in a particular area, for example computer know-how, technical knowledge or other skills.
- Knowledge of languages – this information is best mentioned in a separate section, as language skills are of great significance in Belgium (French in Wallonia and Brussels, Dutch in Flanders and Brussels and German in the German-speaking Community). Use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages to determine your level (language use in practice).
- Interests – outline any sporting and cultural activities and voluntary work you undertake – this gives the employer an idea of your personality. Also include certain general skills that can be used in a professional context.
Personalise your CV – demonstrate creativity and take care with the layout; showcase your practical skills (know-how) and be honest. Be careful with the titles of qualifications and other designations that are specific to your country of origin and may be unknown to the employer.
Also think about posting your CV online so that recruiters can see it. The majority of job-search websites allow you to do this.
Write a separate cover letter for each application, tailored to the company and the vacancy. The cover letter is how you introduce yourself to a potential employer. Describe your personality and your profile. Make clear what your strengths are and how you differ from other candidates with the same qualifications. Make sure that your letter immediately stands out.
In a speculative application, you are applying for a job at a particular company, but without responding to a specific advertised vacancy. The process for writing a cover letter is therefore less obvious as you cannot tailor your letter to a particular post. In this case it is important to set out your career goals clearly and convincingly. Always bear in mind that there are no catch-all guidelines for a good cover letter and that every employer will have their own personal opinion.
Writing a CV (in Dutch)
Help with writing a CV and cover letter in Brussels
Help with writing a CV and cover letter in Brussels
Help with writing a CV and cover letter in Brussels
Writing a CV and cover letter in Wallonia
Writing a CV and cover letter in Wallonia
Job search support in Wallonia
Writing a European CV
Help with writing a cover letter and CV (in German)
Common European Framework of Reference
Diversity and equal opportunities
Employment policy is a regional competence. Each region is responsible for the design and implementation of employment measures.
Each regional public employment service (Actiris, Le Forem, the VDAB, the ADG) offers traineeships and apprenticeships for jobseekers Brussels is unique in the fact that traineeships are offered by Actiris and apprenticeships are offered by regional training providers (Bruxelles Formation and the VDAB).
In Belgium there are thus different ways in which traineeships are delivered, as each public employment service understands the concept differently.
Definition of a traineeship
Actiris considers a traineeship as a practical or professional traineeship of up to 6 months in a company (in Brussels or abroad) aimed at putting the practical skills acquired during studies or vocational training into practice. A traineeship can also take place before or after an initial work experience placement.
In Wallonia there is no formal definition of a traineeship. In general, a traineeship is considered to be a practical trial period related to a course of study, vocational training or policy measures intended to increase the employability of people who are unemployed.
Actiris and its partners offer different types of traineeship schemes and programmes (in Brussels or abroad):
- Eurodyssey: exchange programme of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) that enables young jobseekers aged 18-30 to spend 3 to 7 months abroad in a training placement.
- European traineeships: 6-month traineeship in a company in the European Union after completing a course of study or training.
- Erasmus Pro: traineeship of between 3 and 6 months in a company in the European Union after completing a course of study that is delivered in French.
- Boost 30+: a full-time experience in a European country to shape a job-seeker’s career plan or reorientate them professionally.
- Vocational integration traineeship (Beroepsinlevingsstage – BIS): an agreement for a traineeship in a company to gain practical knowledge and certain professional skills through a training plan.
- Individual vocational training (Individuele beroepsopleiding – IBO) in a company: depending on the company’s needs, a company trains the jobseeker under the supervision of an assigned mentor for a period of 1 to 6 months (via the VDAB). At the end of the traineeship, the company must employ the trainee for a period that is at least equal to the traineeship period.
- Professional training in a company (Formation professionnelle en entreprise – FPIe): an opportunity to receive relevant training in a company for 4 to 6 weeks (via Bruxelles Formation). Afterwards, you will be employed by the same company for the same length of time as the training.
- First stage: for young people who have completed a training course and are able to gain their first professional experience in a company, in a non-profit organisation or in the public sector.
In Flanders all providers of formal vocational education include some form of traineeship in their programme, usually at the end of the course.An employer should therefore be aware of the training needs of the trainee and be prepared to invest time and effort in that person.The employer’s aim is usually to employ trainees at the end of the traineeship, although there is usually no formal promise to do so at the start of it.
At Actiris (traineeships in Brussels or abroad):
- for ages 18-30 or 35 (depending on the chosen region);
- must be resident in the Brussels Capital Region;
- must have the nationality of a Member State of the European Economic Area or Switzerland;
- must be registered with Actiris as an unemployed jobseeker;
- must have obtained a diploma (vocational education, higher education, master’s degree, etc.);
- basic knowledge of a foreign language.
- for ages 18-29;
- no previous traineeship with Actiris International.
Erasmus Pro traineeships
- Transition traineeship (Stage de transition): jobseekers registered with a public employment service and coached by a public employment service within the framework of the Stage d’insertion professionnelle (waiting period before receiving unemployment benefit based on training), up to the age of 30, education level no higher than secondary education.
- Training plan for insertion in jobs market (Plan formation insertion): jobseekers registered with one of the four Belgian public employment services and who have a Belgian residence permit.
- End of training traineeship (Stage de fin de formation): jobseekers who have been trained at one of the vocational training centres of Le Forem.
- Language traineeship: jobseekers registered with Le Forem. The applicant’s ELAO language proficiency test must be at least at B1 level and the applicant must carry out a work-related project related to the traineeship.
All traineeship schemes are open to people from other countries, provided they meet the conditions.
In Flanders, traineeships are only available to people in Belgium or people from outside Belgium who are following a vocational training course.
In Brussels, Actiris offers jobseekers individual support to ensure that a match is found between their profile (skills and needs) and the traineeships on offer. The agreement between the jobseeker, the company and the provider must clearly indicate the learning objectives and tasks of the traineeship. Grants and allowances allow jobseekers to gain experience and develop new skills to improve their integration into the labour market.
In Wallonia, this policy is shaped by regional policy, in line with the recommendation of the European Council on a quality framework for traineeships.
In Flanders, traineeships comply with the recommendations of the quality framework for traineeships.
Under Belgian law, unpaid traineeships are only possible as part of a recognised training course.
Living and working conditions
In Belgium, training period agreements are based on employment contracts; trainees fall under the same legislation as employees (same rights and obligations). For example, the employer must provide trainees with a copy of the employment regulations and must take out occupational accident insurance for them.
Where to find opportunities / job vacancies
At Actiris (traineeships in Brussels or abroad):
At Le Forem:
Stage de transition and Plan formation insertion: job vacancies are listed on www.leforem.be
Language traineeship: Trainees must find their own language traineeship company. They can ask the Immersion linguistique (linguistic immersion) team for support:
Stage de fin de formation: job vacancies are not published. Trainees search for a work placement together with a trainer and with the help of the vocational training centre network.
In Flanders, traineeships are always part of a vocational or other course and are organised within the framework of that course.
Funding and support
- Stage de transition: during the traineeship, jobseekers receive an allowance of EUR 200 from the employer, reimbursement of travel expenses and a training allowance of EUR 26.82 per day, paid by the body responsible for paying unemployment benefits.
- Plan formation insertion: trainees continue to receive unemployment benefit and also receive an allowance from the employer. At the end of the traineeship, the jobseeker must be offered at least a temporary employment contract.
- Stage de fin de formation: trainees do not receive a salary, but receive an allowance of EUR 1 per hour, and their travel expenses are reimbursed.
- Language traineeship: trainees receive a financial contribution towards their travel and accommodation costs.
All information is available on the Le Forem website: www.leforem.be
In Flanders, traineeships are supported and funded in the same way as vocational education.
Where to advertise opportunities
In Wallonia, employers can publish their vacancies for a Stage de transition or a Plan formation Insertion on the Le Forem website: www.leforem.be
In Flanders, you can find more information at www.vdab.be
Funding and support
In Wallonia, all information is available at: https://www.leforem.be/entreprises/former-un-nouveau-collaborateur.html
In Flanders, employers are supported by the vocational education institution.
Employment policy is a regional competence. Each region is responsible for the development and implementation of employment measures. Each regional public employment service (Actiris, Le Forem, the VDAB, the ADG) offers traineeships and apprenticeships for jobseekers Brussels is unique in the fact that traineeships are offered by Actiris and apprenticeships are offered by regional training providers (Bruxelles Formation and the VDAB).
1. Part-time education for students aged 15-25 in CEFAs (centres d’éducation et de formation en alternance), i.e. training centres that alternate education with work-based learning in a company. Part-time education in school in combination with practical work, for students aged 15-25, is organised by a centre that is usually linked to a technical and vocational training college. Schools work together with:
- sector voluntary agreements;
- Centres for Advanced Technologies in the French Community;
- Centres for Advanced Technologies in the Flemish Community.
These centres were established to improve the course material used on technical and vocational training programmes and to improve the overall quality of the schools.
The apprenticeship centres are public institutions under the responsibility of:
- the office for employment and vocational training for enterprise in Brussels;
- the office for employment and vocational training in Wallonia;
- an office for all vocational training in the German-speaking Community;
- the office of work and social affairs in Flanders, except for students still in compulsory education who fall under the remit of the Ministry of Education.
They all work with sectoral and professional committees and provide four different pathways: apprenticeship, entrepreneurial training, continuing training for entrepreneurs and training in entrepreneurship and start-ups.
To be eligible for an apprenticeship, potential apprentices must sign an apprenticeship contract with an employer.
Different types of contracts may apply:
- Industrial training contract for salaried professions (CAI).
- Socio-professional insertion agreement (CISP). This is an annual tripartite agreement, signed between a centre for part-time education (CEFA), a company and a young trainee. The latter receives a monthly training allowance, paid by the company, which is equivalent to the allowance received by apprentices.
- Part-time employment contract (Law of 3 July 1978).
2. Apprenticeship system for SMEs (15 years and older):
Four organisations manage apprenticeships and entrepreneurial training in Belgium:
- SFPME/EFPME for French-speaking apprenticeships in Brussels (SFPME = Training service for small- and medium-sized enterprises);
- SYNTRA Vlaanderen for Flemish-speaking apprenticeships in Flanders and Brussels (the Flemish Agency for Entrepreneurial Training works together with five regional training centres);
- IFAPME for French-speaking apprenticeships in Wallonia;
- IAWM for German-speaking apprenticeships in the German-speaking Community (IAWM = Institut für Aus- und Weiterbildung im Mittelstand und in kleinen und mittleren Unternehmen – Training Institute for small- and medium-sized enterprises).
3. Industrial training contract for salaried professions (CAI) is a measure allowing a young person to be professionally trained by an employer (approved by the parity commission in the relevant sector) while following theoretical training in a school that organises the alternating work and learning programme.
For full details regarding the legal framework and contracts, see the following reference material: https://werk.belgie.be/nl/themas/arbeidsreglementering/jeugdige-werknemers/statuut-leerling-stagiair
In Flanders, an apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of tradespeople through on-the-job training, often accompanied by teaching (classroom work and reading).
Description of schemes
1. The school-based system:
- Students may choose this part-time vocational pathway after the first 2 years in secondary education. They follow a training programme of 15 hours: 2 days at school and 3 days at a company – on the basis of a specific employment contract (under 18 years of age) or an employment contract from the age of 18. They are supervised by a mentor.
- Coursework and work experience must be fully integrated in order to achieve the targets set for the vocational training. A preliminary pathway (specific individual training module) can be offered to students under 18 who are having difficulties in orientation and integration or who are having problems finding an employer who is willing to offer them a place.
- Students must complete a seventh year before they can be awarded a full secondary school certificate. In the French-speaking and German-speaking Communities, both technical and vocational education offer the possibility of a complementary seventh year for some professions, as well as an additional year of vocational training (1, 2 or 3 years) for nursing studies.
2. The apprenticeship system:
- Young people are allowed to participate in this system if they are between 15 (after successfully completing the first 2 years of secondary education) and 25 years of age, and even up to the age of 30 in the German-speaking Community. They spend 1-2 days in the centre taking general and technical courses and 3-4 days in a company.
- Young people under the age of 18 are still considered to be students, except in the Walloon Region, where they have the specific status of apprentice, i.e. neither a student nor an employee. They comply with the legal educational obligation for compulsory part-time education and are still entitled to child benefit, but nevertheless receive a fixed allowance from their employer. The company’s manager or an employee of the company is the main instructor/tutor of the young person during their apprenticeship period.
- A counsellor from the employer’s staff plays an important role in supervising and coaching the apprentice and acts as an intermediary between the training centre and the employer. The system allows the majority of professions to be learned through the apprenticeship model (some professions require higher qualification levels, such as accountant, insurance broker, etc.).
- After successfully completing the general education section and the professional section (practical work in a company alongside taught courses), the apprentice can obtain a range of certificates and may opt for a job in the company to become a skilled worker (same level as an employee), go on to entrepreneurial training or continue with further education.
These apprenticeships require:
- a training plan;
- an approved school or training centre;
- a contract or agreement;
- a training company that has been recognised as such by the regional authorities.
The apprenticeship leads to a recognised diploma or certificate. The apprentice or jobseeker receives a wage and the employer can receive financial support.
More information is available at:
- Individual vocational training (IBO): The employer gets a trainee at a reduced cost for several months, but has to provide training with the firm intention of employing the trainee at the end of the training period. Supervision and support from PES are available.
- Vocational integration agreement (BIO): The trainee works in the profession and acquires the required skills in the process. A training plan is followed.
- You must hold a residence permit, be registered at a school and be able to provide evidence of sufficient means to live in the country. Candidates from the European Economic Area (EEA) can gain access to Belgian territory by presenting a valid identity card or national passport. They must hold a work permit, except for residents from the EEA or Switzerland.
- Obtain a certificate of equivalence for your diploma.
In Wallonia, the requirement is to hold a residence permit and be aged between 15 and 25. Jobseekers must be registered with Le Forem (only holders of the correct residence document are able to register).
- Individual vocational training (IBO): you must be a Belgian national to be eligible;
- Vocational integration agreement (BIO): you must hold a work permit to be eligible.
Living and working conditions
EU citizens can work in Belgium without a work permit. However, if they wish to work for more than 3 months, they will need to apply for a temporary residence permit. (http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/work/work-abroad/index_en.htm)
In Wallonia, the period of training depends on the legal age. For students, the length of the programme is 2 or 3 years; for jobseekers, the length can vary from 6 months to 2 years.
The apprenticeship is established by an apprenticeship contract and falls under general labour laws.
The wage and allowance may vary depending on the contract, age, sector, etc. For more information, please visit: www.sysfal.be.
- Individual vocational training (IBO): During an IBO, the student receives a benefit payment and an IBO allowance. The amount of the allowance depends on the benefit payment and is paid by the VDAB. In addition, the student receives a travel allowance and childcare allowance where necessary. More info: https://www.vdab.be/ibo/wzinfo.shtml#hoeveel
- Vocational integration agreement (BIO):
The BIO has changed its name slightly from Beroepsinlevingsovereenkomst – BIO (vocational integration agreement) to Beroepsinlevingsstage – BIS (vocational integration traineeship).
During the vocational integration traineeship, the trainee receives a traineeship allowance and reimbursement of travel costs from the employer. The traineeship allowance is EUR 812.84 gross (amount indexed March 2020) for a full-time BIS.
Where to find opportunities / job vacancies
The leading sectoral funds in Belgium:
- IBO: vacancies are published at www.vdab.be
- BIS: vacancies are not published online; the initiative lies with the employer.
Funding and support
Where to advertise opportunities
Employers established in Belgium can advertise their apprenticeship programmes on the websites of the public employment services and vocational training colleges.
In Flanders: www.vdab.be
Funding and support
No information available
The free movement of goods is one of the cornerstones of the European Single Market.
The removal of national barriers to the free movement of goods within the EU is one of the principles enshrined in the EU Treaties. From a traditionally protectionist starting point, the countries of the EU have continuously been lifting restrictions to form a ‘common’ or single market. This commitment to create a European trading area without frontiers has led to the creation of more wealth and new jobs, and has globally established the EU as a world trading player alongside the United States and Japan.
Despite Europe’s commitment to breaking down all internal trade barriers, not all sectors of the economy have been harmonised. The European Union decided to regulate at a European level sectors which might impose a higher risk for Europe’s citizens – such as pharmaceuticals or construction products. The majority of products (considered a ‘lower risk’) are subject to the application of the so-called principle of mutual recognition, which means that essentially every product legally manufactured or marketed in one of the Member States can be freely moved and traded within the EU internal market.
Limits to the free movement of goods
The EU Treaty gives Member States the right to set limits to the free movement of goods when there is a specific common interest such as protection of the environment, citizens’ health, or public policy, to name a few. This means for example that if the import of a product is seen by a Member State’s national authorities as a potential threat to public health, public morality or public policy, it can deny or restrict access to its market. Examples of such products are genetically modified food or certain energy drinks.
Even though there are generally no limitations for the purchase of goods in another Member State, as long as they are for personal use, there is a series of European restrictions for specific categories of products, such as alcohol and tobacco.
Free movement of capital
Another essential condition for the functioning of the internal market is the free movement of capital. It is one of the four basic freedoms guaranteed by EU legislation and represents the basis of the integration of European financial markets. Europeans can now manage and invest their money in any EU Member State.
The liberalisation of capital markets has marked a crucial point in the process of economic and monetary integration in the EU. It was the first step towards the establishment of our European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the common currency, the Euro.
The principle of the free movement of capital not only increases the efficiency of financial markets within the Union, it also brings a series of advantages to EU citizens. Individuals can carry out a broad number of financial operations within the EU without major restrictions. For instance, individuals with few restrictions can
- easily open a bank account,
- buy shares
- invest, or
- purchase real estate
in another Member State. EU Companies can invest in, own and manage other European enterprises.
Certain exceptions to this principle apply both within the Member States and with third countries. They are mainly related to taxation, prudential supervision, public policy considerations, money laundering and financial sanctions agreed under the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The European Commission is continuing to work on the completion of the free market for financial services, by implementing new strategies for financial integration in order to make it even easier for citizens and companies to manage their money within the EU.
It is not all that difficult to find housing in Belgium.
Renting or buying accommodation
Available housing is publicised by means of orange and black signs bearing the words te huur / à louer (to let) or te koop / à vendre (for sale) in Dutch-speaking and French-speaking areas respectively. Most Belgian local, regional and national newspapers carry advertisements for properties for rent and for sale. You could also use an estate agent or view advertisements on the internet.
Hotels are relatively expensive. Youth hostels and B&Bs (bed and breakfast accommodation) are cheaper alternatives. More information can be obtained from the local tourist information centres.
In the summertime, rooms are sometimes offered for rent in student residences in university towns.
Advertisements for rental accommodation can be found on the internet and in local newspapers. Information centres such as ‘Kotdiensten’ (‘kot’ = student room) and ‘Infor Jeunes’ (information for young people aged up to 25) offer very useful information.
Moving to Belgium
Living in Belgium
Immoweb – website providing real-estate ads
Vlan – online real-estate ads
Information for young people
Information for young people
Belgian youth hostels
Statbel – the Belgian statistical office
GrenzEcho – online real-estate ads
Compulsory education lasts for 12 years, i.e. from 6-18 years of age, and may be preceded by nursery education.
- Nursery education: from 2½ years of age (from 3 years of age in the German-speaking Community)
- Primary education: from 6 years of age
- Secondary education: from 12-18 years of age
After secondary education, young people can go on to higher education.
If you want to know what rules apply to enrolment in primary and secondary education, adult education and higher or university education, you can take a look at the sites listed below:
- belgium.be portal – Education: www.belgium.be/fr/formation
- Education in Flanders: http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/
- Education in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation: http://www.enseignement.be/
- Education in the German-speaking Community: www.ostbelgienbildung.be
- Work and study information service: http://www.siep.be/
- Centre for documentation and information on work and studies (CEDIEP): http://www.cediep.be/
The implementation of the principle of free movement of people, is one of the cornerstones of our European construction, has meant the introduction a series of practical rules to ensure that citizens can travel freely and easily to any Member State of the European Union. Travelling across the EU with one’s car has become a lot less problematic. The European Commission has set a series of common regulations governing the mutual recognition of driving licences, the validity of car insurance, and the possibility of registering your car in a host country.
Your driving licence in the EU
The EU has introduced a harmonised licence model and further minimum requirements for obtaining a licence. This should help to keep unsafe drivers off Europe's roads - wherever they take their driving test.
Since 19 January 2013, all driving licences issued by EU countries have the same look and feel. The licences are printed on a piece of plastic that has the size and shape of a credit card.
Harmonised administrative validity periods for the driving licence document have been introduced which are between 10 and 15 years for motorcycles and passenger cars. This enables the authorities to regularly update the driving licence document with new security features that will make it harder to forge or tamper - so unqualified or banned drivers will find it harder to fool the authorities, in their own country or elsewhere in the EU.
The new European driving licence is also protecting vulnerable road users by introducing progressive access for motorbikes and other powered two-wheelers. The "progressive access" system means that riders will need experience with a less powerful bike before they go on to bigger machines. Mopeds will also constitute a separate category called AM.
You must apply for a licence in the country where you usually or regularly live. As a general rule, it is the country where you live for at least 185 days each calendar year because of personal or work-related ties.
If you have personal/work-related ties in 2 or more EU countries, your place of usual residence is the place where you have personal ties, as long as you go back regularly. You don't need to meet this last condition if you are living in an EU country to carry out a task for a fixed period of time.
If you move to another EU country to go to college or university, your place of usual residence doesn't change. However, you can apply for a driving licence in your host country if you can prove you have been studying there for at least 6 months.
Registering your car in the host country
If you move permanently to another EU country and take your car with you, you should register your car and pay car-related taxes in your new country.
There are no common EU rules on vehicle registration and related taxes. Some countries have tax-exemption rules for vehicle registration when moving with the car from one country to another permanently.
To benefit from a tax exemption, you must check the applicable deadlines and conditions in the country you wish to move to.
Check the exact rules and deadlines with the national authorities: https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/vehicles/registration/registration-abroad/index_en.htm
EU citizens can insure their car in any EU country, as long as the chosen insurance company is licensed by the host national authority to issue the relevant insurance policies. A company based in another Member State is entitled sell a policy for compulsory civil liability only if certain conditions are met. Insurance will be valid throughout the Union, no matter where the accident takes place.
Value Added Tax or VAT on motor vehicles is ordinarily paid in the country where the car is purchased, although under certain conditions, VAT is paid in the country of destination.
More information on the rules which apply when a vehicle is acquired in one EU Member State and is intended to be registered in another EU Member State is available on this link https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/vehicles/registration/taxes-abroad/index_en.htm.
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 ‘notification of presence’.
2. Short stays for European Economic Area (EEA) nationals (notification of presence)
In principle, a notification of presence is sufficient for a stay on Belgian territory lasting less than 3 months.
Note that, in certain cases, you must nevertheless go through the procedure to obtain an Annex 19 (application for certificate of registration). Where, for example, you enter the country as an employed person, your employer may ask you for an Annex 19. Enquire at the municipal administration.
3. Non-permanent stays of more than 3 months for EEA nationals
a) Annex 19 (application for certificate of registration)
If you intend to stay in Belgium for more than 3 months, you must apply to your municipality for registration (Annex 19) within 3 months of your arrival in Belgium.
You should report to the municipal administration, taking a valid passport or identity card and your ‘notification 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 a member of an EEA national’s family).
b) Annex 8 (certificate of registration)
To obtain an Annex 8, you must submit a number of documents to the municipal administration (Annex 19 specifies precisely which documents). You have 3 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.
Living in Belgium – useful resources and information for living in Belgium (in French)
Portal of the Federal Public Service Interior
Portal of the Federal Public Service Interior
Living in Belgium – information on life in Belgium (in Dutch)
Work permits – Brussels Capital Region
Work permits – Flanders
Work permits – Wallonia
Work permits – German-speaking Community
You have decided to come and work in Belgium. Before setting off, there are a number of formalities you need to complete.
- You must have a valid passport or identity card issued by your country of origin.
- You may also need to obtain the necessary authorisations to perform your profession. These vary, depending on whether you are self-employed or employed.
- Find out about the social security system in Belgium and the applicable contribution scheme for employed and self-employed foreign nationals.
- Contact your bank to inform it of your departure, and ask for advice concerning any partnerships with other foreign banks.
- Notify the post office of your change of address and arrange for your post to be forwarded.
- Contact your health insurance provider and find out what documents you need in order to join a Belgian health insurance fund. You must obtain a European Health Insurance Card.
- Make sure you have at least temporary accommodation in place, as well as adequate financial resources on which to live for the first month.
- Irrespective of your status and the length of your stay, certain formalities have to be completed when you arrive in Belgium, particularly as regards any residence permit.
- If you are working in Belgium, you will also have to pay tax there. Find out about the social security system in Belgium and the applicable contribution scheme for employed and self-employed foreign nationals.
- Remember to cancel your telephone, gas and electricity supply agreements, and to arrange new ones on your arrival in Belgium. Don’t forget to transfer your bank accounts and other finances as necessary.
- To open a bank account, you will need some form of identification issued in Belgium, e.g. a residence permit. If you only have an international passport, you can open an account under certain conditions. In order to make transfers to an account in Belgium or abroad, you should preferably know the IBAN and BIC code (this is the same as the SWIFT code).
List of Belgian health insurance providers
Quality of work and employment - a vital issue, with a strong economic and humanitarian impact
Good working conditions are important for the well-being of European workers. They
- contribute to the physical and psychological welfare of Europeans, and
- contribute to the economic performance of the EU.
From a humanitarian point of view, the quality of working environment has a strong influence on the overall work and life satisfaction of European workers.
From an economic point of view, high-quality job conditions are a driving force of economic growth and a foundation for the competitive position of the European Union. A high level of work satisfaction is an important factor for achieving high productivity of the EU economy.
It is therefore a core issue for the European Union to promote the creation and maintenance of a sustainable and pleasant working environment – one that promotes health and well-being of European employees and creates a good balance between work and non-work time.
Improving working conditions in Europe: an important objective for the European Union.
Ensuring favourable working conditions for European citizens is a priority for the EU. The European Union is therefore working together with national governments to ensure a pleasant and secure workplace environment. Support to Member States is provided through:
- the exchange of experience between different countries and common actions
- the establishment of the minimum requirements on working conditions and health and safety at work, to be applied all over the European Union
Criteria for quality of work and employment
In order to achieve sustainable working conditions, it is important to determine the main characteristics of a favourable working environment and thus the criteria for the quality of working conditions.
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) in Dublin, is an EU agency that provides information, advice and expertise on, as the name implies, living and working conditions. This agency has established several criteria for job and employment quality, which include:
- health and well-being at the workplace – this is a vital criteria, since good working conditions suppose the prevention of health problems at the work place, decreasing the exposure to risk and improving work organisation
- reconciliation of working and non-working life – citizens should be given the chance to find a balance between the time spent at work and at leisure
- skills development – a quality job is one that gives possibilities for training, improvement and career opportunities
The work of Eurofound contributes to the planning and design of better living and working conditions in Europe.
Health and safety at work
The European Commission has undertaken a wide scope of activities to promote a healthy working environment in the EU Member States. Amongst others, it developed a Community Strategy for Health and Safety at Work for the period 2021-2027. This strategy was set up with the help of national authorities, social partners and NGOs. It addresses the changing needs in worker’s protection brought by the digital and green transitions, new forms of work and the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the framework will continue to address traditional occupational safety and health risks, such as risks of accidents at work or exposure to hazardous chemicals.
The Community policy on health and safety at work aims at a long-lasting improvement of well-being of EU workers. It takes into account the physical, moral and social dimensions of working conditions, as well as the new challenges brought up by the enlargement of the European Union towards countries from Central and Eastern Europe. The introduction of EU standards for health and safety at the workplace, has contributed a lot to the improvement of the situation of workers in these countries.
Improving working conditions by setting minimum requirements common to all EU countries
Improving living and working conditions in the EU Member States depends largely on the establishment of common labour standards. EU labour laws and regulations have set the minimum requirements for a sustainable working environment and are now applied in all Member States. The improvement of these standards has strengthened workers’ rights and is one of the main achievements of the EU’s social policy.
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 not 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.
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.
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.
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.
Europass is an instrument for ensuring the transparency of professional skills. It is composed of five standardised documents
- a CV (Curriculum Vitae),
- a cover letter editor,
- certificate supplements,
- diploma supplements, and
- 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.
Employment contracts are governed primarily by the Law of 3 July 1978 on employment contracts. That law applies to workers employed in the private sector and members of staff in the public sector who are not governed by Staff Regulations.
In addition, certain specific pieces of legislation cover particular situations such as agency work, service voucher workers, sports professionals, etc.
The employment contract is a key element in the relationship between the worker and the employer. The rules attached to the contract may vary depending on the worker’s status (operative, employee, sales representative, domestic worker, student, etc.), the working time (full or part-time work), or even the duration of the contract (permanent or fixed-term contract).
Types of employment contract
Types of contract defined by duration
- Open-ended employment contract:the end date of the employment contract is not stipulated (i.e. it is for an unlimited duration).
- Fixed-term employment contract: the end date of the employment contract is stipulated (contract for a fixed period or for specific, defined work).
- Employment contract for specific, defined work: in this kind of contract, the work to be done is clearly stipulated (e.g. acting in a film or fruit-picking on a farm).
- Replacement contract: this kind of contract may be concluded to replace a permanent employee whose contract has been suspended for a reason other than short-time working on economic grounds or because of weather conditions, a strike or lock-out.
- Employment contract for temporary work and agency work: an employment contract for temporary work or agency work may only be concluded in the following circumstances: replacement of a permanent employee, temporary and exceptional increase in workload, performance of exceptional activities, placing an agency worker with a view to permanent recruitment (= integration), employment within the scope of an employment scheme approved by the region for the long-term unemployed and recipients of financial social assistance and the provision of artistic performances and/or production of artistic works on behalf of an occasional employer or user (via a Kunstenloket – advice desk for artists).
Contracts defined by service volume
- Full-time employment contract: the employment contract is concluded for the maximum hours of work in the company.
- Part-time employment contract: the employment contract is concluded for shorter working hours than is normal within the company.
- Student employment contract
- Sales representative employment contract
- Domestic employment contract
- Contract for home-working
- Professional artists and sportspersons
In Belgium, a minor (a person under the age of 18) can enter into and terminate an employment contract, with the express or tacit consent of a parent or guardian. In the case of opposition by a parent or guardian, the minor may request that the juvenile court give its consent.
Up until the age of 15, all young people must be in full-time education. After 15, they are no longer required to remain in full-time education provided that they have completed 2 years of full-time secondary education (irrespective of whether they have passed). The obligation to remain in full-time education ends at the age of 16. From that point on, young people can be in part-time education and combine learning with working.
Under a student employment contract, young people in full-time education can work full time (max. 475 hours a year) from the age of 15.
In Belgium, there is no single uniform regulation for seasonal work. In order to deal with production peaks and periods of increased activity during certain periods of the year, Belgian employers are allowed to hire casual, seasonal or extra workers. The relevant legislation and the types of employment contracts differ from one industry to another. The existing systems aim to limit undeclared work by offering employers the option of paying lower social security contributions and providing social security and a guaranteed salary to employees.
Agriculture and horticulture: the seasonal worker form
Seasonal work in agriculture and horticulture is subject to specific regulations that provide the necessary flexibility which is essential in that industry.
The seasonal worker form replaces an employment contract. Each working day recorded on the form corresponds to a daily contract. The contract is therefore automatically terminated every day without having to follow a specific procedure. The employer decides every day which person to hire without the need for a new employment contract.
- The first employer provides the worker with the seasonal worker form. Each working day must be recorded on the form, stating the start and end times. The employer is required to sign this form at least once a week. If the seasonal worker subsequently works for another employer, they must present the form to that employer and continue to record all further working days. Workers must present the form in the event of an inspection.
- The number of working days per year is limited depending on the type of farming company and crop:
Number of working days
Agriculture (farming, field crops)
Horticulture (cultivation of fruit and vegetables, trees and flowers)
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the number of working days was doubled for 2020.
- The gross hourly wage is set annually and varies according to the sub-sectors from EUR 9.46 to EUR 11.33. This wage is subject to a withholding tax of 11.11%. The employer is also obliged to contribute to the costs of travel between the place of residence and the place of work
- Working hours can be up to 11 hours a day and 50 hours a week, depending on the urgency of the work. No allowance is paid for working overtime. Work on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays is also permitted without additional compensation. Please note: work may start very early (at 5.00 a.m.).
Tourism and hospitality
In the tourism and hospitality sector, employers can make use of different types of special employment contracts in order to respond to periods of increased activity. It should be noted that in this sector, student labour is widely used during the holiday season.
- A seasonal worker is defined as: a worker who is bound by an employment contract for a period of at least 2 months during the period from 1 May to 30 September with weekly working hours amounting to at least three quarters of a full-time job and who is employed by the same employer in a seaside resort, spa or tourist centre. The worker is subject to the normal regulations of temporary employment contracts. Employers of seasonal workers pay a lower rate of employer’s social security contributions and a favourable system is in place for calculating wage indexation and grading according to seniority.
- Flexi-jobs (https://www.vdab.be/flexi-job) enable workers who are already employed by one or more employers to take on an extra job with another employer in the sector or through a temporary employment agency under favourable terms. This system allow employers to call on workers according to the needs of their business. The employer and the employee must conclude a written framework contract for a fixed or indefinite period, which defines the on-call conditions and the applicable remuneration. In addition, each shift must be agreed upon in an oral or written contract. The normal employee and employer’s contributions are not due for flexi-jobs. The worker keeps the full gross wages. The minimum hourly wage is EUR 9.18.
- Casual or extra workers are employees who are hired in the hospitality industry under a fixed-term employment contract for a maximum of 2 consecutive days. This contract does not have to be in writing.
For more information on specific employment contracts and seasonal work, see
Recognition of foreign diplomas and certificates in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation
Recognition of foreign diplomas in the German-speaking Community
Federal Public Service (FPS) Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue
belgium.be portal – Employment
Recognition of diplomas and certificates in Flanders
An employment contract is an agreement under which an individual – the employee – undertakes to work for another party – the employer – in exchange for payment and under the latter’s authority. The four essential elements of an employment contract are therefore as follows: the contract; the work; the pay; and the authority of the employer (a subordinate relationship).
The individual elements of an employment contract (e.g. the nature of the work, a description of duties if defined by a collective bargaining agreement, the working hours and the place of work) cannot be unilaterally modified by the employer or the employee. A contract must be performed under the conditions, at the time and in the place agreed. Any changes to an employment contract can only be made with the consent of both parties. If the employer or the employee unilaterally modifies one of the essential elements of the agreement, this is deemed to constitute a breach of the employment contract. The employer or employee can then give notice of the breach and demand payment of compensation in lieu of notice. This rule does not apply to all changes. The employer, who is responsible for operating the company, may carry out restructuring and reorganisation if necessary for compelling economic reasons, provided this does not significantly alter any essential element of the employment contract. Under the law on employment contracts, any clause by means of which the employer reserves the right to modify the working conditions unilaterally is null and void.
An open-ended employment contract need not necessarily be in writing. All other employment contracts and the contractual clauses must be stated in writing, however.
In practice, employers often use written employment contracts in order to prevent problems with regard to proof.
The following employment contracts must be drawn up in writing:
- Student employment contracts.
- Fixed-term contracts and contracts for specific, defined work.
- Contracts to work as a replacement.
- Contracts for part-time employment.
- Contracts for temporary or agency work.
- Contracts for home working.
The following clauses must be drawn up in writing:
- Trial period clauses (trial periods have not been permitted in new contracts since 1 January 2014, except in exceptions – see point 5.3).
- Non-competition clauses.
Use of languages:
In Belgium, the language to be used in company relations is regulated. Dutch must be used when the employer’s place of business is in the Dutch-speaking region, French when it is in the French-speaking region, and German when it is in the German-speaking region. Undertakings established in the bilingual Brussels Capital Region must draw up documents in Dutch for their Dutch-speaking staff and in French for their French-speaking staff.
Information on employment contracts
Discrimination in the workplace remains significant and can be encountered at any stage of the employment relationship: during the recruitment process, during the performance of an employment contract or at the end of that contract.
This phenomenon is widely documented and has enjoyed very specific legal attention in recent years. The federal and regional public authorities have encouraged all parties in that sector to increase their efforts to combat discrimination in the workplace, and to promote and develop the management of diversity. There are two federal public bodies with responsibility for ensuring and promoting equal opportunities and combating discrimination and inequality in every form: the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Combating Racism and the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men.
Persons with disabilities
Most workers with disabilities do not need any special aid. However, where the measures for the entire population are inadequate for certain persons, there are bodies responsible for adapting public policies to integrate persons with disabilities. These bodies offer help with finding employment and training and provide financial assistance to purchase special equipment or make adaptations to promote everyday independence. They also authorise and subsidise services that welcome, accommodate, train, employ, advise and assist persons with disabilities.
These bodies are as follows: in Wallonia, the Agency for a life of quality (Agence pour une Vie de Qualité – AViQ)); in Flanders and for Dutch-speaking residents of Brussels, the Flemish Agency for persons with disabilities (Vlaamse Agentschap voor personen met een handicap); for French-speaking residents of Brussels, the service for persons with disabilities (Service Phare); and in the German-speaking Community, the service for persons with disabilities (Dienststelle für Personen mit Behinderung).
Women are protected under the law both before and after giving birth. A pregnant woman cannot be made redundant after she has informed her employer of her pregnancy until 1 month after the end of her maternity leave. Pregnant women cannot perform dangerous work (the law sets out a list of such work) and, in certain cases, they cannot work at night.
Students of at least 15 years of age who are no longer subject to the obligation to be in full-time education may enter into a student employment contract:
- if they are in full-time education;
- if they are in part-time education, on condition that:
- they are not working under a part-time employment or trainee contract;
- they are not following an apprenticeship pathway under an industrial apprenticeship contract or ‘small-business’ contract;
- they are not receiving transitional allowances (unemployment benefit);
- they are working as student workers only during the school holidays.
Foreign students from a country in the EEA or Switzerland have the same rights and obligations as Belgian students, even if they are not taking a course in Belgium and are not resident in Belgium.
With effect from 1 January 2017, students can more easily access the labour market. Rather than a threshold of 50 annual work days with reduced social security contributions (2.71% instead of 13.07%), students can now work up to 475 hours a year.
Federal Public Service Social Security
Federal Public Service Social Security
Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism (Unia)
Institute for the Equality of Women and Men
French-language Agency for a life of quality (Agence pour une Vie de Qualité – AViQ)
Flemish Agency for persons with disabilities (Vlaamse Agentschap voor personen met een handicap)
French-speaking service in Brussels for persons with disabilities (Service Phare)
German-language service for independent living (Dienststelle für selbstbestimmtes Leben)
Information for young people
Information for young people
The self-employed undertake work, as either a primary or supplementary activity, without being subject to an employment contract or staff rules. Activities include trade (including itinerant trading), the liberal professions (lawyers, architects, pharmacists, doctors, etc.), the crafts industry, agriculture, livestock husbandry, etc. You must be at least 18 years of age (except in the crafts industry, where the minimum age is 16, subject to the consent of a parent or guardian).
If you plan to be self-employed, there are a number of steps you need to take:
- open an instant-access deposit account for your business, separate from your personal account;
- register with an approved one-stop shop for businesses. In order to be a self-employed worker in the commercial or crafts sector, you must be registered with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (Kruispuntbank van Ondernemingen / Banque-Carrefour des Entreprises – CBE). You can register with one of the authorised business one-stop shops yourself. You will need to produce documents that show you are entitled to exercise your chosen profession: business experience, professional skills in the case of regulated professions, diplomas, licences, etc.;
- value added tax (VAT): following registration with an authorised business one-stop shop, you must contact the competent VAT authority to check whether your activities are liable for VAT. Natural persons should contact the VAT authority in the area where they are resident for tax purposes. Legal persons should contact the VAT authority in the area where they have their head office. The business one-stop shop can do this for you, for a fee.
Federal Public Service Economy, SMEs, Self-employed and Energy
National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed (NISSE)
National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed (NISSE)
Career information and what steps need to be taken
Participation fund – information on financial support for the self-employed
French-speaking association for the self-employed and SMEs (UCM)
Dutch-speaking association for the self-employed and SMEs (Unizo)
Information on working as a self-employed person, conditions for access to certain professions and steps to be taken
Association for the self-employed in the German-speaking Community (MSV)
Entreprenant – e-learning for entrepreneurs
Business portal in Brussels
Business portal in Wallonia
In Belgium, salaries are not fixed by law.
In most cases, they are fixed through collective bargaining agreements. Collective bargaining agreements are concluded between trade unions and employers, at either company or sector level.
Each collective labour agreement sets basic rates and contains arrangements for index-linking of pay and any gratuities such as year-end bonus, lunch passes and premiums for working shifts, nights, weekends, etc. On the other hand, holiday pay is governed by specific legislation.
The salary shown on your employment contract is your gross salary. Your net salary is your gross salary minus certain deductions and is the amount you actually receive (in cash or in your bank or post office account).
The two main deductions are:
- social security contributions, which are paid to the Belgian National Social Security Office (ONSS/RSZ). They are used to fund replacement income (pensions, unemployment benefit, etc.) and supplementary payments (healthcare reimbursements, child benefits, etc.). They amount to 13.07% of the gross salary of employees in the private sector;
- and ‘pay as you earn’, the tax deducted monthly from your pay. This is calculated according to your gross taxable salary (i.e. the gross salary indicated in your employment contract minus social security contributions). It also varies according to family circumstances and other complex rules.
If no specific salary scale applies, workers are entitled to the guaranteed monthly minimum income. This minimum amount is determined by an intersectoral collective bargaining agreement. The (gross) minimum wage for all workers aged 18 and over and in full-time work is EUR 1 625.72. Workers under the age of 18 and students under the age of 21 receive a lower amount, depending on their age.
Workers may dispose of their salaries freely. Employers must not restrict this freedom in any way whatsoever. Salaries must be paid at least once a month for white-collar workers and twice a month for manual workers.
Salaries must be paid no later than 4 working days following the period concerned, except where a collective agreement or labour regulation sets a different deadline (the maximum is 7 working days).
All pay discrimination, particularly on gender grounds, is illegal. https://werk.belgie.be/nl
Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue – remuneration for labour and the minimum wage
Working in Flanders as a foreigner
In Belgium, working hours (the time during which the worker is at the disposal of the employer) must not exceed 8 hours per day or 38 hours per week (on average over the course of a year). In principle, it is forbidden to work more than the legal working hours, outside the applicable hours of work, on Sundays, on public holidays and at night.
Exemptions with and without prior authorisation: it is possible, however, to derogate from the principle of 8 hours per day and 38 hours per week. In some cases, exemptions are possible with prior authorisation and provided that the work does not exceed either 11 hours per day or 50 hours per week. It is up to the employer to request this authorisation. Exemptions without prior authorisation are also possible. The maximum daily working hours can thus be extended to 9 hours where the total weekly number of hours is spread over a 5-day week and there is provision for half a day, a day or more than a day of rest per week, not including a Sunday. In the case of work that cannot be interrupted, working hours must not exceed 12 hours per day. In most cases of force majeure, there is no limit. If work arrangements include night work, a collective bargaining agreement must be concluded with the trade unions. Such work arrangements may be introduced by amending the existing arrangements.
Flexible working hours: flexible working hours should not be confused with flexitime. The latter allows workers more freedom to choose when they begin and end their working day. Flexible working hours, on the other hand, are set by collective bargaining agreement or as part of the work arrangements. Flexible working hours allow normal working hours to be extended (though not beyond 9 hours per day and 45 hours per week), and the application in the company of working hours that differ from the normal ones, providing employees are informed by posters displayed in public 7 days beforehand.
Compensatory leave and overtime: in most cases where working beyond the statutory working hours is authorised, either in the context of regular work arrangements or in the context of overtime, compensatory leave must be granted. Such leave must be granted in such a way that normal, average weekly working hours are respected over a given reference period. Overtime is paid at a minimum of 150% of the normal rate, or 200% in the case of work on Sundays or public holidays.
Sunday work: working on Sundays is forbidden by law. Some activities may be performed on Sundays, however, for example when the normal work of the company does not allow these activities to be performed on another day of the week, in addition to work in certain undertakings and institutions (hotels and catering establishments, healthcare establishments and services). Workers who work on Sundays are entitled to compensatory leave during the 6 ensuing days.
Night work: it is prohibited to work between 20.00 and 6.00, but exemptions may be granted. They apply to both male and female workers, provided that they are at least 18 years of age. Night work is permitted where the nature of the work warrants it. Thus, night work is permitted for instance in hotels, the entertainment sector, newspaper firms, healthcare, preventive healthcare and hygiene establishments, pharmacies, agricultural work, artisan bakeries, care and housing facilities, etc.
Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue – working time
Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue – working time
In Belgium, full-time employees are usually entitled to 4 weeks’ leave a year. This leave gives entitlement to holiday pay.
However, the calculation of the number of days’ leave and holiday pay is different for blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, apprentices, workers in the arts and civil servants.
Annual leave: https://www.socialsecurity.be/citizen/fr/conges-credit-temps-et-interruption-de-carriere/vacances-annuelles | https://www.socialsecurity.be/citizen/nl/verlof-tijdskrediet-en-loopbaanonderbreking/jaarlijkse-vakantie | https://www.socialsecurity.be/citizen/de/urlaub-zeitkredit-und-laufbahnunterbrechung/jahresurlaub
Holiday pay: https://www.rjv.fgov.be/fr/pecule-de-vacances | https://www.rjv.fgov.be/nl/vakantiegeld | https://www.rjv.fgov.be/de/urlaubsgeld
Circumstantial leave: a salaried worker in Belgium is entitled to take time off work and still receive the normal salary in the case of important family events, civil obligations or court appearances.
Leave for compelling reasons: you have the right to be absent from work for compelling reasons. Compelling reasons are deemed to be any unforeseeable events that require the urgent intervention of the worker, provided that the execution of the employment contract makes this possible. For example: a person living with you is involved in an accident, your home is damaged by fire, etc.
Such leave must not exceed 10 working days in a calendar year. This leave is unpaid, unless agreed otherwise between the employer and the employee.
If you wish to take a temporary, partial or complete career break, there are a range of possibilities, in both the private and the public sector. During this period, you may be entitled to a benefit.
10 national public holidays in Belgium
- 1 January (New Year’s Day)
- Easter Monday
- 1 May (Labour Day)
- Ascension (6th Thursday after Easter)
- Whit Monday (7th Monday after Easter)
- 21 July (National Day)
- 15 August (Assumption)
- 1 November (All Saints’ Day)
- 11 November (Armistice Day)
- 25 December (Christmas Day)
Federal public services are also closed on 2 November, 15 November (King’s Feast) and 26 December.
National Office for Annual Leave
Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue – leave
National Employment Office (RVA)
Commitments when an employment contract ends:
- upon expiry of the term for fixed-term contracts;
- upon completion of the work in respect of which the contract was concluded for specific work;
- when one of the parties so desires (resignation or dismissal) for open-ended contracts;
- by mutual agreement among the parties (for all contracts);
- on the death of one of the parties (for all contracts): an employment contract automatically ends on the death of the worker. This does not apply to the death of the employer;
- in a situation of force majeure having a long-term impact (for all contracts).
Forms of termination common to all contracts
- Immediate termination for good cause: either party may terminate the contract for good cause without notice or compensation. A strict procedure must be followed, otherwise the termination will be null and void. The party invoking the compelling reason must prove its existence. Any serious failing that makes all professional cooperation between the employer and employee immediately and definitively impossible is regarded as a good cause.
- Termination with notice: where a contract has been entered into for an indefinite period, each party may terminate it with notice. The communication giving notice must indicate the beginning and end of the notice period.
Notice must be communicated either by registered letter, which takes effect on the third working day after the date of dispatch, or by a court bailiff.
An employee may also give notice in writing to the employer, in two copies. The employer signs one copy as proof of receipt
Acts equivalent to termination: Certain acts performed by one of the parties may modify the working conditions to such an extent that it is equivalent to the immediate termination of the contract (e.g. unjustified absence for several days without having informed the employer).
Limitation of the right of dismissal
In some cases and with respect to certain categories of workers, the law provides for limitations on the right to dismiss an employee.
There are three pension systems in Belgium:
- pensions for employees (general system);
- pensions for the self-employed;
- pensions for established civil servants.
In principle, the statutory retirement age is set at 65 for all three employment models: employees, the self-employed and civil servants for a career spanning a 45-year period. You can take early retirement under certain conditions, which vary depending on your professional situation. In 2030, the retirement age will increase to 67.
Pensions are generally calculated by:
- the National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed (NISSE) if you were self-employed;
- the Federal Pensions Service if you had a career in the civil service or as an employee.
The pensions of individuals who worked outside the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland and who paid contributions to the Office for Special Social Security Systems (DIBISS/ORPSS) are paid by the latter. The responsibilities of the DIBISS/ORPSS (formerly the Office for Overseas Social Security (DOSZ/OSSAM)) in respect of overseas social security were transferred to the National Social Security Office (RSZ/ONSS) on 1 January 2017. FAMIFED is responsible for child benefit.
Your pension amount is calculated on the basis of three parameters: work history, salary and family circumstances.
Federal Pensions Service
National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed (NISSE)
belgium.be portal – Retirement and end of career
National Social Security Office
There are trade unions in Belgium. The three largest are as follows:
- ABVV/FGTB – the General Federation of Labour of Belgium;
- ACLBV/CGSLB – the General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium;
- ACV/CSC – the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions.
Trade unions: a trade union is an organised association of workers, recognised by law, whose purpose is to protect workers’ rights in the workplace and to have a positive influence on their working conditions. By joining a trade union, workers can influence issues relating to their work, such as salaries, working hours, benefits and occupational health and safety, among many other things. Governments are required to ensure that the laws they draft are in accordance with the standards of the International Labour Organisation (a United Nations agency), in particular the right to form or join a trade union. Trade unions are crucial to maintaining a fair and equitable workplace; they represent the voice of the workers. They support workers in ensuring that they are entitled to better salaries, a higher standard of living, a safe working environment and secure employment. Many of the benefits and much of the protection that workers enjoy today derive from the efforts of trade unions in the past. Such protection can easily be lost if the unions do not remain strong.
The trade unions also provide the unemployed with the information and documents they need, helping with applications for benefits at unemployment offices, and payments of unemployment and other benefits.
HVW/CAPAC: the Auxiliary Fund for Unemployment Benefits is a public social security authority that pays unemployment and related benefits (holidays for young people, help with active job search, etc.).
General Federation of Labour of Belgium (ABVV/FGTB) – Socialist trade union
General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium (ACLVB/CGSLB) – Liberal trade union
Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (ACV/CSC)
Auxiliary Fund for Unemployment Benefits (HVW/CAPAC)
A strike is a complete cessation of work. However, working slowly or deliberately impeding work without actually stopping activity (a ‘go-slow’) does not constitute a real strike and may therefore be regarded as a misdemeanour that can result in disciplinary sanctions.
The purpose of a strike is to reinforce demands concerning, for instance, pay (salary increase, introduction of a bonus, etc.), working conditions (heating of the workplace, means of transport), work schedule or working hours, the employment situation (redundancies etc.) or corporate strategy (new commercial policy, etc.).
Federal Public Service (FPS) Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue portal
The term Vocational Education and Training refers to practical activities and courses related to a specific occupation or vocation, aimed at preparing participants for their future careers. Vocational training is an essential means to achieve professional recognition and improve chances to get a job. It is therefore vital that vocational training systems in Europe respond to the needs of citizens and the labour market in order to facilitate access to employment.
Vocational education and training has been an essential part of EU policy since the very establishment of the European Community. It is also a crucial element of the so-called EU Lisbon Strategy, which aims at transforming Europe into the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based society. In 2002 the European Council reaffirmed this vital role, and established yet another ambitious goal – to make European education and training renowned globally by the year 2010 – by championing a number of world-class initiatives, and in particular by strengthening cooperation in the area of vocational training.
On 24 November 2020, the Council of the European Union adopted a Recommendation on vocational education and training for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience.
The Recommendation defines key principles for ensuring that vocational education and training is agile in that it adapts swiftly to labour market needs and provides quality learning opportunities for young people and adults alike.
It places a strong focus on the increased flexibility of vocational education and training, reinforced opportunities for work-based learning, apprenticeships and improved quality assurance.
The Recommendation also replaces the EQAVET – European Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training – Recommendation and includes an updated EQAVET Framework with quality indicators and descriptors. It repeals the former ECVET Recommendation.
To promote these reforms, the Commission supports Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) which bring together local partners to develop ‘skills ecosystems'. Skills ecosystems will contribute to regional, economic and social development, innovation and smart specialisation strategies.
Erasmus+ is the EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe.
It has an estimated budget of €26.2 billion. This is nearly double the funding compared to its predecessor programme (2014-2020).
The 2021-2027 programme places a strong focus on social inclusion, the green and digital transitions, and promoting young people’s participation in democratic life.
It supports priorities and activities set out in the European Education Area, Digital Education Action Plan and the European Skills Agenda. The programme also
- supports the European Pillar of Social Rights
- implements the EU Youth Strategy 2019-2027
- develops the European dimension in sport
Who can take part? Find out here.
Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Europe
Lifelong learning is a process that involves all forms of education – formal, informal and non-formal – and lasts from the pre-school period until after retirement. It is meant to enable people to develop and maintain key competencies throughout their life as well as to empower citizens to move freely between jobs, regions and countries. Lifelong learning is also a core element of the previously mentioned Lisbon Strategy, as it is crucial for self-development and the raising of competitiveness and employability. The EU has adopted several instruments for the promotion of adult education in Europe.
A European area of lifelong learning
In order to make lifelong learning a reality in Europe, the European Commission has set itself the objective of creating a European Area of Lifelong Learning. In this context, the Commission focuses on identifying the needs of both learners and the labour market in order to make education more accessible and subsequently create partnerships between public administrations, suppliers of educational services and civil society.
This EU initiative is based on the objective of providing basic skills – by strengthening counselling and information services at a European level, and by recognising all forms of learning, including formal education and informal and non-formal training.
EU organisations promoting vocational education in Europe
With the objective of facilitating cooperation and exchange in the field of vocational training, the EU has set up specialised bodies working in the field of VOCATIONAL TRAINING.
The European Centre for Vocational Training (CEDEFOP / Centre Européen pour le Développement de la Formation Professionnelle) was created in 1975 as a specialised EU agency for the promotion and development of vocational education and training in Europe. Based in Thessaloniki, Greece, it carries out research and analysis on vocational training and disseminates its expertise to various European partners, such as related research institutions, universities or training facilities.
The European Training Foundation was established in 1995 and works in close collaboration with CEDEFOP. Its mission is to support partner countries (from outside the EU) to modernise and develop their systems for vocational training.
Quality of life – on top of the EU social policy agenda
Favourable living conditions depend on a wide range of factors, such as quality healthcare services, education and training opportunities or good transport facilities, just to name a few aspects affecting citizens’ everyday life and work. The European Union has set for itself the aim to constantly improve the quality of life in all its Member States, and to take into account the new challenges of contemporary Europe, such as socially exclude people or an aging population.
Employment in Europe
Improving employment opportunities in Europe is a key priority for the European Commission. With the prospect of tackling the problem of unemployment and increasing the mobility between jobs and regions, a wide variety of initiatives at EU level are being developed and implemented to support the European Employment strategy. These include the European Employment Services network (EURES) and the EU Skills Panorama.
Health and healthcare in the European Union
Health is a cherished value, influencing people’s daily lives and therefore an important priority for all Europeans. A healthy environment is crucial for our individual and professional development, and EU citizens are ever more demanding about health and safety at work and the provision of high quality healthcare services. They require quick and easy access to medical treatment when travelling across the European Union. EU health policies are aimed at responding to these needs.
The European Commission has developed a coordinated approach to health policy, putting into practice a series of initiatives that complement the actions of national public authorities. The Union’s common actions and objectives are included in EU health programmes and strategies.
The current EU4Health Programme (2021-2027) is the EU’s ambitious response to COVID-19. The pandemic has a major impact on patients, medical and healthcare staff, and health systems in Europe. The new EU4Health programme will go beyond crisis response to address healthcare systems’ resilience.
EU4Health, established by Regulation (EU) 2021/522, will provide funding to eligible entities, health organisations and NGOs from EU countries, or non-EU countries associated to the programme.
With EU4Health, the EU will invest €5.3 billion in current prices in actions with an EU added value, complementing EU countries’ policies and pursuing one or several of EU4Health´s objectives:
- To improve and foster health in the Union
- disease prevention & health promotion
- international health initiatives & cooperation
- To tackle cross-border health threats
- prevention, preparedness & response to cross-border health threats
- complementing national stockpiling of essential crisis-relevant products
- establishing a reserve of medical, healthcare & support staff
- To improve medicinal products, medical devices and crisis-relevant products
- making medicinal products, medical devices and crisis-relevant products available and affordable
- To strengthen health systems, their resilience and resource efficiency
- strengthening health data, digital tools & services, digital transformation of healthcare
- improving access to healthcare
- developing and implementing EU health legislation and evidence-based decision making
- integrated work among national health systems
Education in the EU
Education in Europe has both deep roots and great diversity. Already in 1976, education ministers decided to set up an information network to better understand educational policies and systems in the then nine-nation European Community. This reflected the principle that the particular character of an educational system in any one Member State ought to be fully respected, while coordinated interaction between education, training and employment systems should be improved. Eurydice, the information network on education in Europe, was formally launched in 1980.
In 1986, attention turned from information exchanges to student exchanges with the launch of the Erasmus programme, now grown into the Erasmus+programme, often cited as one of the most successful initiatives of the EU.
Transport in the EU
Transport was one of the first common policies of the then European Community. Since 1958, when the Treaty of Rome entered into force, the EU’s transport policy has focused on removing border obstacles between Member States, thereby enabling people and goods to move quickly, efficiently and cheaply.
This principle is closely connected to the EU’s central goal of a dynamic economy and cohesive society. The transport sector generates 10% of EU wealth measured by gross domestic product (GDP), equivalent to about one trillion Euros a year. It also provides more than ten million jobs.
The Schengen area
The Schengen Convention, in effect since March 1995, abolished border controls within the area of the signatory States and created a single external frontier, where checks have to be carried out in accordance with a common set of rules.
Today, the Schengen Area encompasses most EU countries, except for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania. However, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are currently in the process of joining the Schengen Area and already applying the Schengen acquis to a large extent. Additionally, also the non-EU States Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have joined the Schengen Area.
The creation of a single European market in air transport has meant lower fares and a wider choice of carriers and services for passengers. The EU has also created a set of rights to ensure air passengers are treated fairly.
As an air passenger, you have certain rights when it comes to information about flights and reservations, damage to baggage, delays and cancellations, denied boarding, compensation in the case of accident or difficulties with package holidays. These rights apply to scheduled and chartered flights, both domestic and international, from an EU airport or to an EU airport from one outside the EU, when operated by an EU airline.
Over the last 25 years the Commission has been very active in proposing restructuring the European rail transport market and in order to strengthen the position of railways vis-à-vis other transport modes. The Commission's efforts have concentrated on three major areas which are all crucial for developing a strong and competitive rail transport industry:
- opening the rail transport market to competition,
- improving the interoperability and safety of national networks and
- developing rail transport infrastructure.
Belgium, an independent federal state since 1830, is a constitutional monarchy.
The fundamental principles of the Belgian electoral system are laid down in the Constitution. Voting is by proportional representation based on universal suffrage.
Nationals of other countries (EU Member States and third countries) may vote in municipal elections if they fulfil certain conditions. Non-European residents have been able to vote in municipal elections since 2006.
Belgium is a representative parliamentary democracy. Federal legislative elections are held every 5 years, regional and European elections every 5 years and municipal and provincial elections every 6 years.
Belgium is a federal state composed of communities and regions. Decision-making power no longer resides exclusively with the Federal Government and Federal Parliament. The regions and communities have the power to make decisions in the areas for which they are competent.
Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French and German. This is why it also has three communities: the Flemish, French and German-speaking.
The country is further divided into 10 provinces and 581 municipalities.
The federal state retains key powers, not only in the fields of foreign affairs, national defence, justice, finance and social security, but also in relation to public health and home affairs. The regions and the communities nonetheless have the right to maintain relations with other countries on political matters within their competence.
For jobseekers, there are four public services providing assistance: Actiris for the Brussels Capital region, Le Forem for French-speaking Wallonia, the VDAB for Flanders and the ADG for the German-speaking Community.
The National Employment Office (RVA/ONEM) is responsible for providing unemployment benefits and organising certain employment measures.
National Employment Office (RVA)
Public employment service (Flanders) (VDAB)
Le Forem –Wallonia vocational training and employment office
Public employment service (Brussels Capital Region) (Actiris)
Public employment service (German-speaking Community) (ADG)
In Belgium, salary levels are determined by collective bargaining, not by law or on the basis of rules issued by the state. The collective bargaining agreements vary by sector and job. The 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 a number of income brackets and therefore a number of taxation brackets.
The table below shows the income bands and percentages for 2020:
Up to EUR 13 440
From EUR 13 440.1 to EUR 23 720
From EUR 23 720.01 to EUR 41 060
Over EUR 40 060.01
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).
If you are resident in Belgium, the tax return procedure 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 also pay local taxes. These vary from place to place.
You can file your return online via ‘Tax-on-web’.
Taxes in Belgium
Ministry of Finance
Calculate your pay
Tax-on-web – online service for filing a tax return
Belgium is considered to be a country with a comfortable standard of living but where the cost of living is quite high. The price of everyday consumer goods such as energy and housing vary from region to region, but also according to the size of cities.
On the ‘Loonwijzer’ / ‘Votre salaire’ website, you can check the cost of living for each region.
Loonwijzer / Votre salaire – salary-checking websites
Cost of living comparison
Buying and selling
Buying a home of their own is at the top of many Belgians’ wish list. However, there is so much to think about when buying a home that it is easy to get confused.
It is important to gather sufficient information together before you start the process of buying a home (https://www.belgium.be/nl/huisvesting/kopen_en_verkopen/voorbereiding). In order to finance the purchase, you will probably need to take out a mortgage. Once you have signed all the papers before a notary, you become the official owner of the property and will have to pay the property tax every year. It is advisable to take out insurance on your new home.
In most cases, when you buy a property or a piece of land you have to pay transfer tax.
Leases are subject to the Residential Rental Act. The Act aims to provide a balance between the rights of the landlord and the interests of the tenant. The Residential Rental Act is only applicable to residences which serve as the tenant’s principal place of residence with the landlord’s consent. The tenant must therefore actually occupy the rented property as a main residence.
Only fixed-term leases concluded before 28 February 1991 are exempt from the Residential Rental Act. Since the introduction of the Residential Rental Act in 1991, it has not been possible to conclude an open-ended lease. All leases are thus time-limited now. Landlords and tenants can enter into a lease for a term of:
- 9 years (the standard term if no other term is stipulated in the contract);
- 3 years or less (short-term lease);
- more than 9 years (long-term lease);
- the lifetime of the tenant (lifelong lease).
Following the sixth Belgian state reform, competence for rental legislation lies with the regions. Further information can be found on their websites:
- Wallonia: dgo4.spw.wallonie.be
- Brussels Capital Region: huisvesting.brussels
- Flanders: www.wonenvlaanderen.be
Rental prices differ by region or city; there can sometimes even be major price differences between different parts of a city or different neighbourhoods. Of course, the specific features of a property also have an impact on the price: size, number of rooms, state of repair and age, quality of the fittings, etc.
A rental deposit protects the landlord in the event of tenants failing partly or entirely to fulfil their obligations (damaging the property, for example). Most leases therefore include a clause stipulating that the tenant must pay a deposit. The rental deposit system is not mandated by law. A deposit is therefore only mandatory if provided for in the lease.
In addition to the rent, the tenant must also pay costs and expenses or refund them to the landlord. These cover costs associated with the use of the property: water, electricity, gas, maintenance of common areas, lift maintenance, etc.
These charges are paid in one of two ways: the tenant pays either a fixed sum (lump sum) or the actual costs and expenses (non-fixed sums). In either case, these costs and expenses must be indicated separately from the basic rent.
belgium.be portal – Renting
Accommodation portal for the Brussels Capital Region
Equal opportunities when searching for accommodation
Organisation of healthcare
Today, the vast majority of the Belgian population has access to healthcare. The social security and healthcare systems are constantly evolving to ensure that anyone with a health problem receives the right quality of care.
When you are ill, you generally go to see your general practitioner (or tending physician), who is responsible for primary care. You might sometimes then be referred to a specialist, who may see you in their own practice, as part of a multi-disciplinary group practice, or in a hospital. In other cases, you may need emergency care.
Compulsory insurance for medical care and benefits
As a policyholder or dependant you are entitled to a reimbursement of the compulsory insurance for medical care and benefits if you are affiliated with an insurer (a health insurance fund, the Auxiliary Fund for Sickness and Invalidity Insurance (HZIV/CAAMI) or SNCB/NMBS Holding’s National Healthcare Fund (HR RailCare), the Belgian railway workers’ health insurance fund). For example, the costs of GP consultations are reimbursed, there are lump-sum payments to cover admission to hospital, and benefits are payable in the event of you becoming unable to work or becoming pregnant.
Compulsory insurance for medical care entitles you to basic reimbursement. This covers the reimbursement of certain medicines and a range of services provided by medical practitioners, such as doctors, dentists, physiotherapists and nurses.
Some groups are entitled to a higher level of allowance due to their specific situation. They therefore pay less for most medical services. Moreover, under certain conditions, it is possible to apply to the Special Solidarity Fund (BSF/FSS) for certain medical benefits that are not covered by health insurance.
Thanks to the compulsory medical care insurance system, health insurance funds reimburse a large proportion of medical costs. Nevertheless, the portion that you have to pay yourself can mount up, for example if you have a serious, chronic or long-term health problem. The maximum charge system ensures that patients’ healthcare expenditure remains within certain limits.
Most health insurance funds offer supplementary insurance, on top of the compulsory insurance for medical care, for an additional charge. You can also take out insurance of this nature with a private insurance company.
Supplementary private insurance covers, for example, hospital admission, the purchase of spectacles and contact lenses, some dental treatments, some vaccinations, taking care of sick children and medical care abroad.
The precise cover provided by such insurance differs from one health insurance fund to another and, sometimes, even within one insurance fund, from region to region. If you want to know what services you have to part pay, the best thing to do is to contact your health insurance provider.
belgium.be portal – Health
belgium.be portal – Healthcare costs
Health insurance providers in Belgium
Health insurance providers in Flanders and Brussels – comparison (in Dutch only)
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 competence of the communities on 1 January 1989. At the same time, schools were given greater autonomy. Initiatives can come from both the authorities and private individuals. The ‘authorities’ cover municipalities, provinces and the communities.
There are three main educational structures: community education, subsidised independent education – primarily Catholic – and subsidised public education, organised by the municipalities and provinces.
Education is compulsory for a 12-year period, i.e. between the ages of 6 and 18. Children aged 5 may attend nursery. Primary education is spread over 6 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 state schools.
In Belgium 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 the education and training pathways available: the VDAB in Flanders, Le 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.
belgium.be portal – Education
Education in Flanders
Education in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation
Education in the German-speaking Community
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 frothy 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 in Belgium. 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 bons vivants but reserved and cautious. It is sometimes said that you only hear a true Belgian speak when they are eating.
Tourism in Belgium
Tourism in Flanders
Tourism in Brussels
Tourism in Wallonia
Tourism in East Belgium
Births must be registered with the municipality within 15 days by the father or mother or both. The following documents are required: the child’s birth certificate, the parents’ identity cards and the parents’ marriage certificate if applicable. In some municipalities, births can also be registered at the maternity unit.
In Belgium people may marry from the age of 18. Prospective married couples must register their marriage with the registrar in a municipality where at least one of them is registered. The following documents are needed: a certified copy of the birth certificate, proof of identity, proof of entry in the population register and proof of nationality. Any religious marriage may only be celebrated after the civil marriage.
The Act of 13 February 2003 made it possible for two persons of the same sex to marry. Under the Act of 18 May 2006, they can also adopt a child.
Divorce may be granted in one of two ways in Belgium: divorce by mutual consent or divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Divorce is pronounced by the courts.
Persons who cohabit can make a declaration of legal cohabitation before the registrar in their place of residence. Legal cohabitation ceases to exist if either of the parties marries or dies, by mutual consent or by unilateral dissolution by one of the cohabitees.
If a death occurs, the family, the undertaker or a friend/neighbour must notify the registrar in the municipality where the death occurred, or in the municipality where the deceased is to be buried or cremated, as soon as possible.
One adult witness must be present. In the case of a death in a private dwelling, this must be attested by two adult witnesses, preferably next of kin or close relatives.
belgium.be portal – Family
Belgium boasts a very dense traffic network in terms of both public transport (train, tram, bus, metro) and private travel. The road network is well developed.
Airports and air traffic
The following airports welcome international traffic: Brussels National Airport (Zaventem), Charleroi (Brussels South), Liège, Ostend and Antwerp (Deurne). There is generally a mix of scheduled flights, charters and low-cost carriers. It is important to remember that if you take the train from or to Brussels National Airport, you must pay a surcharge known as the ‘Diabolo’ charge in addition to your train ticket. This must be paid before you board the train.
There are also four seaports in Belgium (Antwerp, Ghent, Ostend and Zeebrugge), as well as the port of Brussels and the Liège port complex. The Belgian rail sector also has good links by high-speed train / Thalys. Paris (Charles de Gaulle) and Amsterdam (Schiphol) airports are readily accessible (in about an hour and a half from Brussels-South railway station by direct train). There are also links with Germany (ICE) and the United Kingdom (Eurostar).
Public transport infrastructure (trains, trams, buses and taxis) is excellent in terms of both the regularity of travel times and the density of the network.
Trains: Belgian National Railways (NMBS/SNCB) is still responsible for organising train traffic. A host of concession fares are available for young people and senior citizens, as well as attractively priced 10-journey tickets, weekend fares, etc. Trains have first-class and second-class carriages. Ticket machines are located in the stations.
Several of the bigger cities such as Antwerp, Brussels, Charleroi and Ghent have trams. Journeys are cheaper if you buy multi-journey tickets, available from various places, including newsagents. You can also purchase a single-journey ticket from the driver on trams and buses.
Buses: almost all routes are operated by De Lijn in Flanders, MIVB/STIB in Brussels and TEC in Wallonia. Tickets can be purchased from the driver. However, it is cheaper to buy multi-journey tickets in advance at larger stations or newsagents.
Taxis: you can ask for the approximate cost of a journey in advance, but the actual price is determined by the taxi meter. You can phone for a taxi or get one at a taxi rank. It is not normal practice to flag down a taxi in the street.
belgium.be portal – Public transport
De Lijn – public transport in Flanders
TEC – public transport in Wallonia
MIVB/STIB – public transport in Brussels
NMBS/SNCB – trains
Brussels Airport (Zaventem)
Brussels South Charleroi Airport
Taxis in Brussels
Yellow Pages – taxis