Belgium Alert – Parliament UPDATES Foreigner Integration Act

Belgium – Update on Integration Act

As previously mentioned, the Belgian parliament approved a new Act, which imposed integration efforts on some foreigners who want to reside in Belgium for more than 3 months.  The Act was published in the Belgian Official Journal of January 16, 2017, and took effect 10 days later on January 26, 2017. However, a second version of the “integration Act”, annulling and replacing the earlier publication, has been published in the Belgian Official Journal of February 8, 2017to take effect on February 18, 2017.

The reason for the second publication is probably purely formal: the content of the “integration Act” remains almost entirely identical.

The consequence is as follows: the new Act will, at least in part, take effect on February 18, 2017:

  • The integration obligation will become relevant for all residence applications, filed (not: approved) as of February 18, 2017;
  • The “newcomers statement” will not yet take effect on February 18, 2017: the text of the “newcomers statement” has not yet been confirmed; the Belgian federal authorities first have to agree on a text with the French-speaking, Flemish and German-speaking communities (communities are regional authorities, competent for integration); which is expected to happen in the next few weeks.

At this point in time, it is unclear whether the new obligation(s) will apply to first residence applications only (“newcomers” only), or also to renewals (foreigners already residing in Belgium): instructions/guidelines from the authorities will have to clarify how the new rules will be applied in practice.

Act to introduce “contribution to cover the administrative costs” also for requests to renew residence permits for foreigners; upcoming increase of “contribution to cover the administrative costs” for first applications

Effective March 2, 2015, Belgium introduced a mandatory “contribution to cover the administrative costs” with regard to some first requests for residence authorization (visa D applications, or direct residence permit applications without prior visa D) by foreigners. The levy must be paid by, e.g., work permit holders (215 €) and most of their family members (160 €). Several foreigners (e.g. EEA, Swiss citizens and their family members, minors, etc.) are exempt.

An Act, dated December 18, 2016, allows municipalities to receive a similar contribution for the renewal, extension or replacement of some residence permits. This Act takes effect on February 12, 2017. Its application will depend on an implementing Royal Decree, which will confirm the maximal amount of the contribution (probably 50 €), which will determine for what residence permits the contribution can be received (the contribution would in any event be due for the renewal, extension or replacement of a residence permit type A: this type of residence permit, valid for definite term, is held by work permit B holders and most of their family members).

In practice, the request to renew, extend or replace a Belgian residence permit must be filed with the municipal authorities of the town where the foreigner resides. The new contribution, which will have to be paid on top of the administrative fees for the processing of the new residence permits, is considered an equitable compensation for the administrative services, offered by the municipalities.

The Belgian federal government has agreed to increase the existing “contribution to cover the administrative costs” for a first application: the current amounts, 215 and 160 €, would not reflect the actual cost. The new amounts would be 350 and 200 €.

An implementing Royal Decree will be published shortly.

Act implementing new rules on assignment

An Act of December 11, 2016 implements EU Directive 2014/67/EU regarding assignment.

We summarize some changes, which apply to all posting employers, whether they are EEA-based or not, and to all posted employees, whether they are EEA-nationals or not.

The concept “posting” and the related problem of controlling/monitoring the employment conditions has criteria to define as “posted employees” and “employer” are inserted in the law.

The Belgian inspection services can ask the foreign posting undertaking to submit 4 types of documents:

  • Copy of employment contract (or a similar document),
  • Miscellaneous information (information regarding foreign currency for payment of salary, the allowances or benefits in kind related to employment abroad, and the conditions for repatriation),
  • An overview of the working hours (start, end, and duration), and
  • Proof of salary payment.

This list of documents can be modified by an implementing Royal Decree.

Furthermore the inspection services can ask for a translation of the documents into one of the Belgian official languages (Dutch, French, and German) or English.

Waivers/exemptions are possible, based on the limited duration of the activities in Belgium or the specific nature of these activities: an implementing Royal Decree will confirm these waivers/exemptions.  After the termination of the posting, the documents should be kept available for 1 year. During and after the assignment (1 year), the documents can be kept in paper or electronic form.

The posting undertaking also has to designate a person to liaise: he/she must forward documents to the inspection services. This system still has to be implemented by a Royal Decree.  The name of the person to liaise will also have to be mentioned in the Limosa-declaration: this change will be implemented later this year.

Compliance

“Level 2” penalties can be imposed for the non-compliance with the obligations to submit documents, if requested and to designate a person to liaise.

These “level 2” penalties are either

  • The event of criminal prosecution, a criminal fine between 400 and 4,000 €, or
  • An administrative fine between 200 and 2,000 €.

Please note that this is general information only and not intended as advice on a specific matter. Please feel free to contact Fakhoury Global Immigration directly with questions exclusive to your situation. This news alert was prepared using information from Praetica.