Any foreign third country national who wants to perform activities as a self-employed worker in Belgium must apply for a professional card (as opposed to a work/single permit for employees).
As of 1 January 2022 Flanders will have its own legislation regarding professional cards for foreign self-employed. A Decree of 15 October 2021 regarding the performance of self-employed professional activities by foreign nationals was published in the Belgian Official Journal of 12 November 2021. This Decree of 15 October 2021 will be implemented (e.g. exemptions, required documents, procedural rules) by further legislation which was approved by the Flanders authorities on 17 December 2021 and which will be published in the Belgian Official Journal shortly.
The new Flanders legislation will take effect on 1 January 2022.
The main outlines of the new legislation are summarized as follows:
- New online application via an electronic counter – As of 1 January 2022 foreign nationals who are legally residing in Belgium can online apply for a new professional card via the electronic Department of Work & Social Economy (WSE) counter. This means that it is no longer required to apply for a professional card via an enterprise counter. For the time being, applicants who are still abroad or want to renew an existing professional card should follow the current (offline) procedure.
- Admission requirements – New admission requirements are introduced. E.g.: an application by a high tech consultant will be assessed on a different basis than an application by a sports coach. These admission requirements will enable the authorities to better determine whether the applications deliver innovative, economic, sports, artistic or cultural added value for Flanders: specific criteria for each added value are laid down in the new legislation. Experts in various policy areas will be consulted: e.g. the public agency “Sports Flanders” will advise on the sports added value.
- Administrative simplification – An overview of all required evidence is provided for each type of business. In principle the applicant will receive a final decision within 120 days as of the day on which the application was declared complete/admissible; however in highly complex files the processing time can be extended with another 120 days. If no decision has been taken withing the processing time (120 days, or max. 240 days if extended), the decision will be deemed positive. If the decision is positive, the applicant can consult the professional card online or download it (against payment).
- Updated appeal procedure – During an appeal, experts in various policy areas will be consulted to advise on the potential added value for Flanders.