A Decree of the Walloon Region government dated 16 May 2019 (hereafter “Work Authorization Decree”) is the new legal framework for work authorizations, issued by the Walloon Region. The Work Authorization Decree has not yet been published in the Belgian Official Journal, but the Walloon authorities already apply it now: a link to the Work Authorization Decree can be found on their website (https://emploi.wallonie.be/files/DOCS/permis-de-travail/AGW_permis%20_travail.pdf).
The Work Authorization Decree applies immediately/retroactively as of 1 June 2019, without affecting the validity of already issued authorizations/permits. An important section of the Work Authorization Decree relates to the implementation of EU directives (e.g. ICT – intra-corporate transfer -, researchers, trainees, volunteers, …): these rules will only come into force as soon as the Implementing Cooperation Agreement between the federal and regional entities, dated 6 December 2018, will take effect.
We summarize a few key points/novelties:
- The annual gross salary threshold for highly skilled and executive level permits is defined on the basis of the average annual gross salary, which will – probably – be 41.868 € for 2019 (12 x 3.489 €). For highly skilled the threshold is 100% of the average annual gross salary (41.868 €); for executives 160% (66.989 €). In addition, the annual gross salary cannot be less favorable than the currently – pursuant to the law, collective bargaining agreements, or practices – applicable salary for similar jobs;
- The definition of salary is clarified. Salary includes all payments to the employee in consideration for work: the amounts must be known with certainty to employer, employee and the Belgian authorities prior to the start of the employment in Belgium. The fact that the amount must be certain excludes discretionary bonuses; contributions paid for professional supplementary pension schemes are not taken into account either. In the event of assignment, allowances, directly linked/specific to the assignment, are considered part of the salary, provided they are not paid in reimbursement of expenditure actually incurred on account of the assignment, such as expenditure on travel, lodging, and board: travel, lodging, and board allowances are thus not considered salary;
- Highly skilled and executive level permits can be valid for the duration of the employment contract or assignment letter, up to maximally 3 years (instead of 1 year). Instead of filing an annual renewal application, the employer must submit copies of salary documents on/by the anniversary date of the issuing of the work authorization.