27 June 2024

New legislative changes in the Flemish Labour Market Policy

by Elise Thijs and Elise Vanhamme

Recently, significant changes have been made to Flemish labor market policies that affect third-country nationals* coming to Belgium to work. These legislative changes, which took effect on May 1, 2024, are intended to tighten policies, attract foreign talent, and transpose European directives into law.

Flexi-jobs for third-country nationals with a combined permit

One of the key changes concerns the possibility for third-country nationals with a combined permit to take on a flexi-job. Previously, a third-country national could obtain only one work authorization, limited to one employer, making it impossible to do a flexi-job. Since May 1, this has changed: third-country nationals with a combined permit are now allowed to perform a flexi-job under certain conditions without needing a new work permit.

Changes for seasonal workers

Changes have also been made for seasonal workers. Previously, seasonal workers had to apply for multiple work permits if they wanted to work for multiple employers. Under the new regulations, they can now apply for a combined permit with one employer and then easily switch employers, provided that the change is reported to the Flemish Region.

Restrictions on combined permits

The most significant change concerns the restriction of the 'other' category when applying for a combined permit. Previously, a combined permit could be applied for any employee after a labor market survey. Now this is only possible for positions listed on the VDAB's list of bottleneck professions.

The new conditions are:

  • The position must be on the VDAB's list of bottleneck professions;

  • The employee must have a qualification level 2, 3, or 4;

  • The vacancy must be open for at least nine weeks on VDAB and EURES during a period of 4 months immediately preceding the application for the combined permit.

There are transitional provisions for people who already have a combined permit that does not fall under a specific category and is not a bottleneck profession. They do not have to leave Belgium; their permit remains valid and can still be renewed, provided they continue to perform the same job with the same employer.

*Third-country nationals refer to persons who do not hold the nationality of an EU member state, nor of a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland. In short, a third-country national is a national of a non-EU/EEA country.

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