Working in Belgium

Expats working in Belgium will find themselves in an open economy that punches far above its geographic weight, and is showing strong signs of continued recovery from the global financial crisis.

Despite the effects of the crisis and taxes that are generally higher than countries such as the UK and the USA, expats have continued looking for work in Belgium to enjoy the quality of life it offers residents.

Job market in Belgium

The services sector accounts for almost three quarters of the Belgian economy, and it also has a strong manufacturing sector. The country’s main exports include automobiles, metals, plastics, food products, finished diamonds and petroleum products.  

Belgium is in the heart of Europe and offers expats a diverse, multicultural working environment, with Belgian business culture largely influenced by Dutch, German and French business structures and etiquette.

The business environment in Belgium is fast-paced, demanding and aggressive, and the local workforce is known for being skilled, productive and multilingual. While the job market is highly competitive in general, many of the English-speaking companies in Belgium are either connected with the European Union or with NATO – institutions that are in themselves extremely competitive. 

Finding work in Belgium

Expats are most likely to find themselves employed in the services or manufacturing sectors, especially in the capital, Brussels. Those with the best chance of finding a job in Belgium work in specialised jobs where there is a shortage of personnel such as engineers, technicians, mechanics, accountants, certain IT specialists and qualified teachers. 

Foreign job applicants who are able to either speak French or Dutch will have an added advantage over those who cannot, especially when looking for work outside of Brussels. In fact, it might be difficult to find a job if one doesn't speak the predominant language of the region.

Expats moving to Belgium on a non-EU passport will require a work permit, and will likely find that it is best to secure a job before moving to Belgium. This makes the visa process easier, as the hiring company is required to apply for the work permit on the employee’s behalf.

Generally speaking, expats from European Economic Area (EEA) countries will only need a valid passport and identity document in order to work in Belgium. Work permits for Belgium are usually valid for a period of 12 months and are renewable annually.

It can, however, be difficult for non-EU nationals to find employment in Belgium as a company has to prove that it cannot find a European national with the same qualifications to fill the position.