Expatriates, working in the US are familiar with the US Green Card, which enables them to work and live in the US. In Europe, a similar document was created, the European Blue Card. The Blue Card combines the work permit and the residency permit documents.
Belgium has recently implemented EU Directive 2009/50/EG (of 29 May) in order to introduce the Blue Card in internal Belgian legislation (it came into force on 10 September 2012). This document can be used by individuals, who do not have the nationality of a EU Member State. A minimum gross salary level of at least 49.995 Euro (not indexed amount and excluding expatriation allowances).
An important restriction to the blue card is the fact that it can not be used in order to temporarily assign a person from one country to another one. Instead, the card applies to direct hires of a foreign employee for employment in Belgium. This has an important consequence for social security, as it requires the employee in many cases to start to work under Belgian social security (no temporary continuation of the home country social security is possible under the temporary assignment rules).
A benefit of the Blue Card is that the decision whether or not to grant the document is to be taken within a period of 30 days. The Card will have an initial term of 13 months and can be renewed (renewal application to be made at the latest 2 months before the end of the validity of the card). After an initial period of 2 years, a Card with a 3 year validity can be obtained and after that period a permanent residency permit can be obtained. A new application is required in case of change or ending of employment, reduction of the duration of the employment contract, reduction of gross salary.
Once the work permit is obtained, Belgian residence documents can be obtained.
The European Blue Card can also have been issued by another European Member State and still be used in order to obtain Belgian residency documents. The Card also enables the employee to go to other EU Member states and to find work on the local Belgian labour market. It also facilitates the residency of family members of the employee in Belgium.
The employee with a Blue Card does not need to request a work permit B in Belgium. Such document, however, remains required for his family members in case they also want to work in Belgium.