1. What is a professional card?
It is a required permit: if you are not a Belgian national; or if you are not a national of one of the member states of the European Economic Area ( European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein; or if you are not a Swiss national; or if you are not exempt from this requirement for other reasons; and if you would like to work as a self-employed professional in Belgium, be it as a natural person or an agent of a company or an association (with a paid or gratuitous mandate).
2. What is the purpose of legislation regarding the professional card?
This legislation aims to strike a balance between the interests of foreign nationals who wish to work as a self-employed professional in Belgium and the countrys economic, social and cultural interests.
3. What criteria must be met to obtain a professional card?
There are three criteria:
The right of residence:
If you have not gained the right of residence, you must apply for it at the consular or diplomatic representation at the same time as you apply for your professional card;
Compliance with regulatory obligations, in particular those regarding the professional activity:
The relevance of your project to Belgium:
This relevance is measured in terms of economic utility, i.e.: response to an economic need, jobs creation, useful investments, economic benefits for companies located in Belgium, new opportunities for exports, innovation or specialization. Relevance may also be assessed in terms of social and cultural benefits or those in the field of arts and sports.
4. Where do I have to apply for a professional card?
Applications should be made:
at the Belgian consular or diplomatic representation in your country of residence, if you live abroad;
at a recognized enterprise counter of your choice, if you have a valid "model A registration certificate" or a valid certificate of registration with the Register of foreign nationals.
One exception to this rule:
If, for security reasons, you are not able to apply in your country of residence, you may do so either at a Belgian consular or diplomatic representation in another country or at an enterprise counter.
This requires prior authorization from the Ministries in charge of the Self-Employed and Interior Affairs, which has to be be requested from the Ministry in charge of the Self-Employed. Your request has to be substantiated and you will have to provide all necessary evidence regarding your situation.
5. How do I apply for a professional card?
You must apply using one of the two request forms, duly completed, dated and signed.
If you live abroad: Application form for the professional card for foreigners, which must be submitted at the Belgian consular or diplomatic representation of your country of residence.
If you have a valid model A registration certificate or a valid certificate of registration with the Register of foreign nationals: Application form for the professional card for foreigners, which must be submitted at the enterprise counter of your choice.
The application must include all the required documents as well as any other documents that you deem necessary regarding the screening of your application.
The form must also include proof of payment of the tax due when submitting the your application.
6. May I apply again if my application is rejected?
If your application has been rejected, you must wait for two years starting on the date of submission of your previous application before you can reapply.
This rule is not applicable:
if the refusal resulted from a decision of inadmissibility;
if you can claim new evidence;
if your application is related to a different professional activity.
7. What is the procedure for examining my application for a professional card?
The consular or diplomatic representation or the enterprise counter which receives your application will forward it within five days to the Economic Permits Unit.
The Economic Permits Unit verifies whether your application complies with the rules laid out in points 4 and 5.
If not, your application will be rejected and you will be notified via the consular or diplomatic representation or the enterprise counter which received your application.
If these rules are met, the Economic Permits Unit will then assess your application.
Assessment will take place according to the three criteria listed hereafter:
The right of residence:
All decisions on this matter are taken by the Office for Foreigners , in particular if you have not been granted the right of residence in Belgium;
Compliance with regulatory obligations
The Economic Permits Unit verifies whether you and/or your company meet the access requirements for the intended professional activities and whether all other obligations linked to your status are fulfilled.
Given the large number of possible situations, this part of the application requires that you contact the Economic Permits Unit or an enterprise counter.
At this stage of the procedure, if you or your company do not have access to the professional activity you want to exercise, you must still contact an enterprise counter;
The relevance of the project
The Unit collects all necessary information in order to assess this criterion:
Detailed description of the project;
Skills and experience of the applicant;
Contact with business partners;
Company statutes or draft statutes, etc.
In short, all evidence that allows to determine your projects relevance for Belgium.
If your application meets the required criteria, the Economic Permits Unit will issue the professional card. It will be given to you via an enterprise counter.
Otherwise, the Economic Permits Unit will notify you of the refusal and the reasons therefor via the diplomatic representation or the enterprise counter.
8. How can I appeal in case my application for a professional card is rejected?
If your application for a professional card is rejected, you may appeal against this decision at the Ministry in charge of the Self-Employed.
You must submit your appeal within thirty days starting on the day following the date when you were notified of the decision.
The minister will contact the Economic Investigation Council immediately and will request its opinion. This opinion must be delivered within four months.
The Council is an independent body. It is chaired by a magistrate or a lawyer and is composed of government officials representing the different departments concerned by the matter. It may request any additional information useful for the assessment of your application.
The Council gives you the opportunity to defend your interests during a hearing. You may seek assistance from a person of your choice. However, if you are not able to be present at the hearing, you may only be represented by a lawyer. The hearing may be postponed, if you can provide valid reasons for not being able to attend.
The Council will let you know its opinion in due time. Should this not be the case, the Minister may decide alone.
The Minister shall take a decision within two months after the date of notification of the Councils opinion or the deadline of four months if the Council has not provided an opinion within this time frame.
In the absence of a decision by the Minister within these two months, the Councils opinion shall be considered as the final decision.
In the absence of an opinion by the Council or a decision by the Minister in due time, the appeal is rejected.
You will be notified of the decision directly. The decision may be appealed against before the Council of State within sixty days after the day following the date you were informed of it.
9. How long is the professional card valid?
The professional card is attributed for a maximum period of five years.
Generally, an initial card is granted for a probation period of two years.
Once it expires, it may be renewed as long as you have met all your regulatory, tax and social security obligations as well as the criteria of relevance on the basis of which the permit was granted.
You must apply for renewal at least three months before the cards expiry date via a chosen enterprise counter.
The card is issued for one or more specific activities (as mentioned on the permit). A new permit must be granted before changing your activity or adding new activities. Similarly, any change made to particulars mentioned on the permit requires its modification.
You may also request these changes at the Economic Permits Unit via a chosen enterprise counter. The same procedure applies if you need to replace a lost or destroyed card. In the latter case, your request must be accompanied by a sworn statement of loss or destruction.
The validity of the card is linked to the card holders right of residence. If this right is revoked, the card can no longer be used and must be returned to an enterprise counter.
10. How much does the professional card cost?
Application for first professional card, modification, replacement or renewal: 140 EUR.
Delivery or renewal of the professional card, via an enterprise counter : 90 EUR per year of validity.
No fees are due when a modified or replacement card is issue.
11. Which other administrative formalities do I have to complete before I can get started?
If you are self-employed, you must go to an enterprise counter once you have received your professional card, in order to:
obtain your enterprise number;
register with the Enterprise Crossroads Bank.
According to your business activity, you must also:
register for VAT;
register with a social insurance fund for self-employed workers.
If you are responsible for the daily management of a company as an agent, you must:
register your professional card with the Enterprise Crossroads Bank via an enterprise counter;
register with a social insurance fund for self-employed workers.
If you are an executive director or a partner, you are only required to register with a social insurance fund.
To set up a business in Belgium, you must register your company statutes with the Registry of the commercial court of the location where the headquarters of your company are established.
In this process, the company will be registered with the Enterprise Crossroads Bank and will receive its enterprise number.
In addition, if the company engages in business activities, it must:
obtain access to the profession via an enterprise counter;
register its activities with an enterprise counter;
register for VAT.
Finally, if it employs any personnel, it must register with the National Social Security Office.
12. How do I contact administrative services?
You can apply for a card or its modification, renewal or replacement via the consular or diplomatic representation or via an enterprise counter of your choice, using one of the following application forms, as appropriate:
Application form for requests via a consular or diplomatic representation;
Application form for requests via an enterprise counter.
The professional card will be delivered through an enterprise counter; according to the case at hand, the consular or diplomatic representation or enterprise counter will inform you of any decision of rejection.
The letter inviting you to appear before the Economic Investigation Council-will be sent by post, along with a postal receipt, to the address you provided. The same procedure applies to the notification of the Councils opinion.
According to your choice, any further contact will be made by post, fax or e-mail. You must however specify your preference using the application form or by written mail.
You may also communicate with administrative services through an authorized person, lawyer or third party specifically designated by you.
However, you may only be represented by a lawyer before the Economic Investigation Council.
You may also entrust your representative with doing so