Many governmental institutions are located in Leuven, because of its position as the capital of the region. Leuven houses the regional headquarters of many large Belgian companies, too, and of course the breweries and their large corporate offices are still an important employer in the local area. The largest beer company in the world, Anheuser-Busch In Bev, has their corporate headquarters located in the city.
The city is also recognized as an established center of excellence in law, with many large Belgian firms there. Medical service providers are also a large employer in the city, again this is down to the presence of a large teaching hospital connected to the university.
Outside of the professional population there are a large number of people employed on a part time basis in the service industry, a reflection on the high number of students in the city.
The tax rates in Belgium are among the highest in Europe, with the highest earners paying 50% at the highest tax bands. There is a considerable legal obligation placed on companies to ensure that their workforce complies with tax laws.
However, there are some generous tax allowances available to resident expats who are only employed for a short period of time. Typically expatriates who stay on a six month contract (or less) are entitled to non-resident status, whereby one does not pay tax on their worldwide income – only on the money they earn in Belgium.
EEA and Swiss nationals do not require a work permit to work in Leuven. Non-EU nationals can hold one of three types of permit which will allow them to work in the city. It is usually down to the employer to make an application for the expat to work with them, although there is a specific application that those who wish to be self-employed can make use of.
Of the three categories, the lowest class is a category C permit. This allows a non-EU citizen to work in Leuven for up to a year. During this time, it is permissible to work for multiple employers. This class of permit is most generally used for student workers, agricultural laborers and domestic workers. This type of permit would not typically be renewed beyond the initial year.
A class B permit allows you to work for one employer for a period of a year. At this point, they must reapply for the visa in order for you to continue your employment. Once a class B permit has been renewed four times, you are entitled to an unlimited, class A permit.
Class A permits allow you to work in Belgium for an unlimited period of time. It is issued to every expat who has legally lived and worked in Belgium for an uninterrupted period of five years. They will also be issued to non-EU spouses of Belgian nationals, EEA/Swiss nationals resident in Belgium or existing class A permit holders.