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Work Permits for Antwerp

If you are planning on working in Antwerp as an expat, you’ll probably appreciate some advice about work permits, key industries, and the city’s general economic climate. Read on to discover all the information you need to start working in this city successfully.
Make sure you know whether or not you are counted as a resident of Belgium for tax purposes

After Brussels, Antwerp is one of the key cities for expats who choose to work in Belgium. Employers have therefore generally had plenty of experience in dealing with work permits for expats. The method of applying for a permit and successfully beginning your employment in Antwerp is outlined for you below. Like other EU countries, whether or not you are an EU national makes a big difference when it comes to working in Antwerp.

What You Need to Know about Work Permits

EU nationals can work in Antwerp without a work permit. All other foreign nationals require a work permit, too. It is the responsibility of the employer, rather than the employee, to obtain this. However, you should still be aware of the various types of work permits available.

  • The A Permit is given to foreigners, usually B Permit-holders, who have been employed in Antwerp (or Belgium in general) for at least four years (out of ten). If you qualify for an A Permit, you have the right to change jobs and employers without having to change your work permit.
  • The B Permit is the most common type of permit, and the one your employer obtains for you when you begin working in Antwerp; it is valid for one year. Unlike the A Permit, it is tied to the job for which you moved to Antwerp. Any change of employer requires a new permit. Under the B Permit, the employer has to prove that no Belgian national could reasonably fill your position within the company. All you need to do is fill out the application forms, and provide a medical certificate from a doctor approved by the Belgian embassy (or consulate) in your country of residence. Of course, more processes are involved in obtaining a visa once your work permit is issued.
  • The C Permit is applicable to people with limited residency status, such as students or refugees who wish to find temporary work in Antwerp.

If you wish to change from a B Permit to an A Permit, you need to obtain the forms from the VDAB job center in Antwerp and file them yourself; your employer is not directly involved in the process.

Bothersome but Necessary: Taxation

Your residency status will determine how you pay income tax. If you are a foreigner who qualifies as a Belgian resident, you will be taxed on your entire income. However, if you do not yet qualify as a Belgian resident, you will only be taxed on income arising from Belgian sources.

You can evaluate your residency status as follows. If either your physical presence, for over 183 days per year, or the place where your assets are managed is in Belgium, then you will be classified as a resident. This is just for tax purposes; you must still obtain a residence permit to live in Antwerp.

The tax authorities in Antwerp will inform you if you are liable to pay income tax. If this is the case, you will have to file your tax return by 30 June each year for income earned during the previous calendar year. For more detailed information, in Dutch, French, or German, visit the TAX-on-web site.

Some expats may be eligible for a tax-free allowance to cover the extra costs — such as travel and relocation — of the expat lifestyle. Please contact your local tax authority to ascertain whether or not this affects you. If it does, you are allowed a maximum claim of roughly 11,000 EUR a year.

Regulations concerning Double Taxation

When it comes to double taxation, EU nationals are protected from it, even though regulations may vary per member state. In addition, Belgium has made treaties with numerous countries outside the European Union as well. Those treaties regulate any issues which might arise from the tax authority of the source country interfering with that of the country of residence. It is possible to download a complete list of taxation treaties from the FPS Finance website.

An Overview of the Social Security System

The Belgian social security system is contribution based and it is divided between “classical sectors” and “social assistance”.  Each month the employer pays between 30% and 40% of the employee’s salary into the social security fund. In addition, around 13% of the employee’s gross salary is automatically withheld for social security contributions.

Those who are self-employed pay their quarterly social security contribution to the social insurance fund they are affiliated with. This contribution is provisional and it is calculated based on the self-employed person’s net professional labor income in the third calendar year preceding the year for which the contribution is due. The quarterly contributions start at around 700 EUR per quarter.

The Difference between EU and Non-EU Countries

EU/EEA nationals have the same rights and duties as Belgian citizens when it comes to social security. In fact, they pay the same contributions, receive the same benefits, and keep their rights to benefits, regardless of where in the EU/EEA they reside, as contributions always add up. Nevertheless, as an expat you will probably have to cut through quite a lot of red tape.

Many countries outside the EU have signed social security agreements with Belgium to assure that no social security contributions and benefits are lost. For more information on the individual agreements, consult the website of the Belgian Social Security Portal


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