Professional card for foreigners

  • Would you like to work as a self-employed professional in Belgium?
  • Would you like to set up your business as a natural person or as the agent of a company or association (paid or gratuitous)?
  • You are not a Belgian national?
  • You are not a national of one of the member states of the European Economic Area (European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) or Switzerland?

If you can answer affirmatively to all these questions, you have to apply for a professional card (with certain exceptions).

The professional card for foreigners is a permit which allows foreigners to work as self-employed professionals in Belgium.

The following section introduces you to different aspects of the professional card:

  • It explains the different steps to take in order to obtain it;
  • It explains the purpose of legislation regarding the card, the application procedure, the treatment of your request as well as your obligations after obtaining the card;
  • It helps you understand why administrative services need certain information to process your request as quickly as possible;
  • It also provides information to those who already have a professional card and wish to modify or renew it.

If you have comments and suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us! 

1. What is a professional card?

2. What is the purpose of legislation regarding the professional card?

3. What criteria must be met to obtain a professional card?

4. Where do I have to apply for a professional card?

5. How do I apply for a professional card?

6. May I apply again if my application is rejected?

7. What is the procedure for examining my application for a professional card?

8. How can I appeal in case my application for a professional card is rejected?

9. How long is the professional card valid?

10. How much does the professional card cost?

11. Which other administrative formalities do I have to complete before I can get started?

12. How do I contact administrative services?

13. Where do I go if I require further information?

14. Who is exempt from the requirement of a professional card?

 

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

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 prupose 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 country’s 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 mesured 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 specialisation. 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 recognised 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 authorisation 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?

  1. The consular or diplomatic representationor theenterprise counter which receives your application will forward it within five days to the Economic Permits Unit.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.External link

      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;
      • Financial standing;
      • Market study;
      • Financial analysis;
      • Contact with business partners;
      • Contract opportunities;
      • Company statutes or draft statutes, etc.

                    In short, all evidence that allows to determine your project’s relevance for Belgium.

  1. The decision
    • 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 Council’s 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 Council’s 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 card’s 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 cardholder’s 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 Councilwill be sent by post, along with a postal receipt, to the address you provided. The same procedure applies to the notification of the Council’s 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 authorised person, lawyer or third party specifically designated by you.

However, you may only be represented by a lawyer before the Economic Investigation Council.

You have the right to access your file at the Economic Permits Unit or at the Registry of the Economic Investigation Council and receive a copy of it.

You may also entrust your representative with doing so.

13. Where do I go if I require further information?

Federal Public Service Economy, SMEs, Self-employed and Energy

Directorate-General SME Policy
Economic Permits Unit
WTC III, 18th floor
Boulevard Simon Bolivar, 30
1000 Brussels, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 277 80 85 or +32 2 277 74 01
Fax: +32 2 277 53 66
E-mail: professionalcard@economie.fgov.be

By appointment only, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on working days or, in case of impediment, on Tuesdays and Fridays until 8 p.m.

 

Registry of the Economic Investigation Council
WTC III, 20th floor
Boulevard Simon Bolivar, 30
1000 Brussels, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2,277 67 47
Fax: +32 2,277 53 63   
E-mail: conseildetablissement@economie.fgov.be ou vestigingsraad@economie.fgov.be

By appointment only, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on working days or, in case of impediment, on Tuesdays and Fridays until 8 p.m.

 

Foreign Investments Unit
City Atrium C
Rue du Progrès, 50
1210 Brussels, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 277 78 08
Fax: +32 2 277 53 06
E-mail: invest.belgium@economie.fgov.be

 

Office for Foreigners
WTC II
Chaussée d’Anvers, 59b
1000 Brussels, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 793 80 00

 

Council of State
Rue de la Science, 33
1040 Brussels, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 234 96 11 

14. Who is exempt from the requirement of a professional card?

Certain categories of foreigners are exempt from the requirement of a professional card due to the nature of their activity, their residency status or in accordance with international treaties. The list is as follows:

  • Foreigners holding an identity card for foreigners nationals or a valid and permanent CIRE (certificat d’inscription au registre des étrangers, or proof of registration at the Register of foreign nationals);
  • Citizens of a member state of the European Economic Area (member states of the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and, provided that they settle with them:
    1. Their spouse;
    2. Their descendants or their spouse’s descendants under age 21 or who are in their care;
    3. Their parents or their spouse's parents who are in their care, with the exception of the parents of a student or a student's spouse;
    4. The spouse of the persons mentioned under 2 and 3;
  • Spouses of Belgian citizens, and, provided that they settle with them:
    1. Their descendants or their spouse’s descendants under age 21 or who are in their care;
    2. Their parents or their spouse's parents who are in their care;
    3. The spouse of the persons mentioned under 1 and 2;
  • Refugees recognised by the Belgian authorities;
  • Spouses who assist or replace their husbands or wives in the exercise of their self-employed professional activities;
  • Foreigners on business trips, provided their stay (required by the trip) does not exceed three consecutive months. Are considered as business trips: trips within Belgium by a foreigner whose main residence is not in Belgium and who travels on his own behalf or on behalf of his company in order to:
    • visit professional partners;
    • seek and develop professional contacts;
    • negotiate and sign contracts;
    • participate in trade fairs and exhibitions to present and sell his/her products or those of the company;
    • participate in board of directors’ or shareholders’ meetings.
  • Foreigners whose main residence is not in Belgium and who come to Belgium to hold lectures, provided the duration of their stay (required by their activities) does not exceed three consecutive months;
  • Foreign journalists whose main residence is not in Belgium and who come to Belgium for professional reasons, provided the duration of their stay (required by their activities) does not exceed three consecutive months;
  • Foreign athletes as well as their self-employed assistants whose main residence is not in Belgium and who come to Belgium as part of their respective professional activities, provided the duration of their stay (required by their activities) does not exceed three consecutive months;
  • Foreign artists as well as their self-employed assistants whose main residence is not in Belgium and who come to Belgium as part of their respective professional activities, provided the duration of their stay (required by their activities) does not exceed three consecutive months;
  • Foreign students who have the right to stay in Belgium, on an internship required by their studies, for the duration of that internship;
  • Foreigners who come to Belgium to follow an internship approved by the competent authorities within the framework of development cooperation or exchange programmes based on reciprocity, for the duration of that internship;
  • Foreigners registered on the roll of lawyers of the Bar Association or the list of trainee lawyers, pursuant to the Royal Decree of 24 August 1970;
  • Executives and independent researchers working for coordination centres falling under the Royal Decree n° 187 of 30 December 1982.

Regulation

Contact Center

FPS Economy, S.M.E.s, Self-employed and Energy
Contact Center

Rue du Progrès, 50
1210 Brussels

Phone (free number): 0800 120 33
From abroad: +32 800 120 33

Fax (free number): 0800 120 57
From abroad: +32 800 120 57

Ask your question by means of the webform

Service des Autorisations économiques

SPF Economie, P.M.E., Classes moyennes et Energie
Direction générale de la Politique des P.M.E.
Service des Autorisations économiques

WTC III, 18e étage
Boulevard Simon Bolivar, 30
1000 Bruxelles

Tél. : +32 2 277 80 85 ou +32 2 277 74 01
Fax : 02 277 97 63
E-mail professionalcard@economie.fgov.be