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Brexit: what are the new formalities and support measures?

Employers | 01 February 2021 | Written by Frederik Dhont

On 1 January 2021, the United Kingdom ceased to be part of the European Union. This means that the movement of goods, services and people across the borders between the two zones is no longer a straightforward process.

Brexit: what are the new formalities and support measures?
One of the benefits of 'free movement' was that it saved both companies and employees a great deal of red tape. Even though the UK government and the EU narrowly reached a trade deal just before Christmas Eve 2020, things will never be the same again for both businesses and employees.

In this article you can read about the formalities to be met when employing UK citizens, and the support measures that our Belgian governments are providing to mitigate the impact of Brexit.
 

You were already employing a UK national in 2020

If you were already employing a British worker legally residing in Belgium, or commuting as a frontier worker before 31 December 2020, Belgian legislation has provided for a 'soft' transition: residence documents currently held by these British employees and their family members will remain valid until 31 March 2022.

However, they should apply to the municipality for new residence documents by 31 December 2021. There are two types of residence permit:
Situation Residence permit Place of application
The British employee lives and works in Belgium M card Municipality of residence
The British employee only works in Belgium,
and commutes across the border
N card Municipality of employment
 
If the municipality approves the application, the British employee may continue to work in Belgium even after 31 March 2022 without a work permit or single permit.

There is also good news for British family members moving to Belgium in 2021: they can apply for family reunification as from 1 January 2021.
 
💡 We still recommend that you request a copy of your British employees’ residence documents to keep in their personnel file. More information on Lex4You.
 

You want to recruit a new UK employee from 2021 onwards:

If you are bringing a British worker to work in Belgium after 1 January 2021, you will notice that there is no longer free movement of people. First, you must obtain an employment authorisation from the Flemish, Brussels Capital or Walloon Region (depending on the place of employment).

The earlier you apply for authorisation, the better. You should be aware that the decision period will take around three months and that there is, moreover, no guarantee of a positive outcome. The Region has a certain amount of discretion at its disposal and scarcer profiles have a leg up.
 
💡 In some legally stipulated situations – such as those regarding spouses of a Belgian citizen – it is not necessary to apply for authorisation. For more information on these exemptions, see vlaanderen.be, economy-work.brussels or emploi.wallonie.be.
 
If the Region decides to grant an employment authorisation, your British employee will receive the necessary documents:
  • either a single permit, if they wish to reside and work in Belgium for more than 90 days; or
  • a work permit and employment card if they wish to reside and work in Belgium for a maximum of 90 days.
 

What Brexit support measures are available?

Flemish Region

In Flanders a number of subsidies have been made available for SMEs (fewer than 250 employees and a maximum annual turnover of €50 million or a maximum balance sheet total of €43 million)
Subsidy for Possibilities
Expanding knowledge SME portfolio (kmo portefeuille) ● SME growth subsidy (kmo groeisubsidie)
Developing international business activities Prospecting trips ● Development of digital business communication ● Participation in foreign trade fairs or niche events ● International customisation
 
Furthermore, Flemish companies can also receive advice via Vlaio on matters related to Brexit.
 

Walloon Region

At the start of 2021, Willy Borsus, the Walloon Minister for Economy announced a support package to alleviate the impact of Brexit on Walloon businesses. This support will assist companies with tapping into the UK export market and financing international projects. It will also address specific training needs in relation to Brexit.
 

Brussels

The Brussels-Capital Region also helps with costs incurred by companies with export plans. These costs include printing, business trips, opening a foreign office, consultants and recruiting export employees.
 
What can Securex do for you?
If you still have any questions about employing British nationals or would like help with applying for a single permit, work permit or employment card , please contact Securex’s International Employment team at international.mobility@securex.eu