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Headline Labour & Employment: Introduction of the European blue card for the employment of highly qualified non-EU foreign workers

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As of 10 September 2012, an employer who wishes to employ a highly qualified non-EU foreign employee in Belgium can apply for a temporary employment authorization, on the basis of which the foreign employee can afterwards obtain a European blue card. By introducing this possibility, Belgium fulfils its obligation to implement the European Directive 2009/50/EC on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment. This directive aims at encouraging the immigration of knowledge migrants with a view to the development of the European Union as a knowledge-based economy.

In order to obtain a temporary employment authorization within the framework of the European blue card, the following conditions must be met:

1. the employer and the foreign employee must have entered into an employment contract of indefinite duration or a fixed-term employment contract of a duration of at least one year;
2. the foreign employee must be entitled to an annual gross salary of at least 49.995 EUR (amount for 2012, yearly indexable);
3. the employee must be the holder of a degree from a higher education institution, awarded for an education program with a duration of at least 3 years.

After the temporary employment authorization has been granted to the employer, the foreign employee will have to apply within 90 days for a European blue card at the Foreigners’ Office.

The European blue card is initially valid for 13 months and can be renewed for a new period of 13 months. If, after two years, the European blue card is renewed for the second time, the European blue card remains valid for a period of 3 years. Each renewal of the blue card is, however, subject to the condition of obtaining a temporary employment authorization by the employer from the competent Regional administration and thus implies that the granting conditions (see above) remain fulfilled.

It is important to note that the foreign employee can start working in Belgium as of the moment that:

- he/she has a copy of the temporary employment authorization (which is in principle granted to the employer within 30 days after filing the application);
- provided that he/she is legally staying in Belgium; and
- he/she has filed the application for a European blue card.

During the first two years of employment, certain changes, such as the termination of the employment contract, the change of employer, the reduction of the annual gross salary or the reduction of the duration of the employment contract, must be reported to the competent Regional administration which has granted the temporary employment authorization. In such cases, the foreign employee must also apply for a new European blue card.

Certain categories of foreign employees are not eligible to obtain a European blue card.

It goes without saying that we can assist you in filing an application for a temporary employment authorization in the framework of the European blue card, as well as in the filing of a ‘standard’ employment authorization.