Working in Brussels?
Healthcare and Work Permits for Brussels
Of Crucial Importance: Health Insurance
Health insurance is compulsory for everyone in Belgium. If you work in Brussels and pay social security contributions, you will automatically be insured under the government scheme. However, you are responsible for registering with a health insurance fund. This can be a mutual insurance fund, a regional service of the Auxiliary Fund for Sickness and Invalidity Insurance, or the Health Insurance Fund of the Belgian National Railway Company Holding.
Most mutual insurance funds are associated with a certain profession or religion, but in practice they are now open to everyone. More information on registering with a mutual insurance fund can be found on the Social Security Portal; the information is provided in French, Dutch, and German.
What Does Your Health Insurance Cover?
Your insurance covers up to 75% of your medical costs as long as prices conform to government-approved guidelines. Check with your doctors whether a) they are registered as econventioneerd/conventionné (i.e. follow those guidelines) and b) whether the treatment they offer is on the standard nomenclature of medical dispensations (a list detailing all types of medical care to be reimbursed).
Please note that you are expected to pay for any visit to the doctor upfront. To receive reimbursements from your health insurance, you need to attach a sticker (provided by your fund) to the bill and send it in. Some people opt for additional private health insurance to cover the non-refundable share of medical costs.
Handy to Know: Medical Facilities in Brussels
You can register with any doctor of your choice. It is also possible to see a specialist without first consulting a general practitioner. The website Médecin Généraliste Bruxelles helps you search for a GP by area or language; the English-language helpline CHS can also provide you with details of English-speaking doctors and medical advice; finally, the US Embassy has a list (by region and specialty) of English-speaking doctors.
Brussels’ five big public hospitals are united by the IRIS network. Three of them are university hospitals: the Brugmann University Hospital, the Saint-Pierre University Hospital, and the Queen Fabiola Children’s University Hospital (QFCUH). The Jules Bordet Institute is an independent hospital devoted entirely to cancerous illnesses and the IRIS Hospitals South make up a generalist institution on four sites south of Brussels. In addition, there are several private clinics in Brussels, which are not necessarily better, but they often specialize in specific illnesses.
Pharmacies are open during normal opening hours, but in every area there’s always one pharmacy on 24/7 duty. To find an open pharmacy, consult the Service de garde. When collecting a medical prescription, the reimbursement rate is applied directly: you needn’t pay the full amount.
Which Work Permit Is Right for You?
All non-EEA nationals and some “new” EU citizens who want to work in Brussels are legally obliged to obtain a permit. The transitory period for the “new” EU member states, Romania and Bulgaria, expired on 31 December 2013, so citizens of these countries may now work freely in Belgium. The following types of work permit are available:
- A Permit: This one is only aimed at foreigners already working in Belgium on a B Permit. It is exclusively granted to people who have been working in Belgium for a minimum of four out of ten years. The advantage of an A Permit is that its holders are no longer tied to a specific job and can change employers at will.
- B Permit: Your prospective employer needs to obtain this on your behalf before you start working in Belgium. It is valid for one year and commits you to the job for which it was originally granted. The employer must prove that the vacancy cannot be filled by an EU citizen or permanent resident of Belgium.
- C Permit: People with a limited residency status, e.g. students or refugees, can apply for this permit if they want to take up temporary work. C Permits are not tied to a specific job or employer.
How to Attain a Work Permit
A B Permit will automatically be granted if your employer has received authorization to employ you. You need this work permit to apply for your visa. If you want to upgrade from a B Permit to an A Permit, you should contact the Brussels authority responsible for work permits: the Cellule permis de travail (Work Permit Unit) of the Ministère de la Région Bruxelles-Capitale (Ministry of the Brussels-Capital Region), Gare du Nord (Brussels North Station), Rue de Progrès 80, 1035 Brussels.
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