Belgium

Working in Belgium

With a strong international business centre and EU presence, Belgium offers a range of opportunities for graduates with good language skills.
Brussels is a good place to network as there is a large number of international companies and EU institutions based there.

The job market | Applying for jobs | Vacancy sources | Getting work experience | Visa information | Living in Belgium

The job market

What are your chances of getting a job?

EU citizens have the right to work in Belgium and are employed in a wide range of jobs. Many of the institutions, bodies and agencies of the EU, as well as NATO headquarters, are based in Brussels and offer good opportunities to overseas jobseekers. There is also a variety of other major international organisations and multinational companies offering further chances for work.

However, many people living in Belgium are able to speak more than one language so if you only speak English, this could put you at a disadvantage. Dutch (Flemish), French and German are all spoken in different provinces and it's likely you'll be expected to know the official language for the region you'd be working in.

Most jobs are available in the services sectors, for example finance, transport and communications, and distribution/retail, and there are fewer jobs available than before in industry.

Make sure you show that you have the required skills, including language skills, in your application and highlight any relevant work experience you have to increase your chances of getting a job.

Where can you work?

  • Major industries: basic metals, chemicals, engineering and metal products, glass, motor vehicle assembly, petroleum, processed food and beverages, scientific instruments, services, textiles and transportation equipment. 
  • Shortage occupations: varies between regions but there are skills shortages in the IT and engineering sectors, in particular. 
  • Major companies: Ageas (insurance), Ahold Delhaize (food retail), Anheuser-Busch InBev (brewing company), Banque Nationale de Belgique (banking), Colruyt (food retail), Elia (energy), KBC Group (banking and insurance), Proximus (telecommunications), Solvay (chemicals), Umicore (materials technology).

What’s it like working in Belgium?

  • Average working hours: 38 hours per week, with an average of 8 hours a day. 
  • Holidays: accrued throughout your time working for the employer but usually you get around 20 days, plus 10 public holidays.
  • Tax rates: Belgium has one of the highest tax rates in Europe. The percentage of income tax you pay rises as your income increases. The rate of tax increases on a sliding scale from 25% to 50% depending on how much you earn. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure you're not losing any UK pension rights.

Applying for jobs

You don't need to be in Belgium to apply for jobs. The application process is very similar to that in the UK: either a CV and covering letter or an online application form.

Provide the standard type of CV used in the UK for jobs with large multinational companies or international agencies in Belgium but check with the employer if it's okay for it to be in English. Try to keep it to a maximum of two pages. CVs for smaller, local companies may be a bit longer but in the same style. Remember to include a section on your language skills and level of fluency.

Job adverts are usually in the language used by the company so you should match your application to this, unless they've stated that they'd like applications from other language speakers.

Interviews vary with each company but will mainly follow formats that are also used in the UK. You should be informed of what is to be expected beforehand.

Get more applications and CV advice.

Will your UK qualifications be recognised?

Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), UK qualifications are usually recognised by an employer.

Vacancy sources

Job websites

Recruitment agencies

There are lots of recruitment agencies in Belgium, many of which specialise in particular career sectors. Details of agencies can be found in the Belgian Golden Pages.

A walk along the high street in most major towns or cities is likely to identify the most popular agencies. Check that agencies are members of Federgon, the federation of HR service providers in Belgium.

Newspapers

Vacancies are also advertised in the weekend editions of the main newspapers, for example:

Other sources

Jobs are also advertised at local public employment offices in the various regions of Belgium. See ONEM (national office of employment) for a list of local offices. Regional services also have an online jobs board, for example:

  • Actiris (covers the Brussels area) 
  • ADG (for the German-speaking community)
  • Forem (covers Wallonia)
  • VDAB (covers the Flanders area)

Networking is a good way of making contacts and finding out about vacancies. Brussels, in particular, is a good place to network as there is a large number of international companies and EU institutions based there.

Organisations such as the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and the European Professionals Network (based in Brussels) are useful places to start when looking for contacts.

Getting work experience

Erasmus+

Erasmus+ is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020 and covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Both under and postgraduate students can study abroad for 3 to 12 months. Erasmus+ also provides opportunities for work experience for students to learn new skills or languages, as well as volunteering in different countries for between 2 weeks and 12 months.

Work placements and internships

  • The European Commission offers an official in-service traineeships scheme which lasts five months and runs twice a year. Contact the European Commission Traineeships Office for more details.
  • Europlacement has a searchable database of placements in Belgium in a variety of job sectors.
  • Search for internships in Belgium at Intern Abroad.

Exchange programmes

  • AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales), a student-led organisation, provides paid international internships ranging from 6 weeks to 18 months in a range of countries, including Belgium.
  • IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) provides science, engineering, technology and applied arts undergraduates with the opportunity to take part in exchange programmes. These typically last up to 12 weeks during the summer and are available in a range of countries, including Belgium.

Teaching schemes

  • If you’re a native English speaker, have completed two years at university and have B1 level French or equivalent, you can apply to work as an English language assistant in Belgium as part of The British Council – Language Assistants programme.
  • In order to teach English in a private language school, international schools or business in Belgium, you'll need a Teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification. TEFL jobs are advertised on a variety of job sites, including TEFL.com, tefl-jobs.co.uk and ESL Base.

Casual work

Recruitment agencies and government employment offices can help with finding short-term vacancies. Also, check the job sections of local newspapers. You may find temporary work in restaurants and bars, on campsites and at summer camps for children.

Gap year and volunteering opportunities

Belgium has an excellent road and rail network linking you to the rest of Europe, making it a good location for a gap year. There are many organisations offering gap years in Belgium (or Belgium as part of a gap year). To choose a reputable organisation, get advice from your university careers service or check whether the company is registered with Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) or other similar organisations. Some companies will also offer services such as a 24-hour emergency helpline.

Details of volunteering opportunities in Belgium can be found through organisations such as Concordia and the International Voluntary Service (IVS). Young people (17-30) can volunteer in a range of countries, including Belgium, via the European Voluntary Service (EVS) on projects lasting from 2 weeks to 12 months

Visa information

Do you need a visa?

EU nationals have the right to work in Belgium and don't need a visa or work permit. If you're planning a temporary stay of less than three months, you should register with the local authority on your arrival. You'll need your passport to do this and will be granted a 'notification of presence'.

If you want to work in Belgium for longer than three months you must apply for a registration certificate from your local communal authorities. For this you'll need your passport and notification of presence, as well as a certificate of employment or confirmation of your job from your employer. You must carry your registration certificate at all times.

Citizens of non-EU countries may be required to have a visa or work permit. Contact the Belgian embassy in the country where you're currently living to find out how to obtain one of these. If you’re living in the UK go to the Belgian Embassy.

How do you become a permanent resident?

EU nationals automatically acquire the right of permanent residence after living in Belgium for an uninterrupted period of five years. You can then apply for a permanent residence document, which confirms your right to live in Belgium permanently without any conditions. Although not compulsory, this document can be useful when dealing with the authorities.

Living in Belgium

  • Cost of living: living costs in Belgium are generally slightly higher than in the UK, but the cost of rent is lower. The cost of living is higher in Brussels than elsewhere in the country.
  • Internet domain: .be
  • Currency: Euro (€)
  • Health: the standard of health care and medical facilities in Belgium is high. Residents of the European Economic Area (EEA) should get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling. You’ll still need to have travel insurance but the card entitles you to state medical treatment. This will be provided on the same terms as for Belgian nationals, meaning you'll only pay a fee for treatment if a Belgian national also has to pay a fee.
  • Type of government: constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.
  • Laws and customs: Belgian law requires everyone to carry some form of identification, so make sure you have your passport with you at all times. Possession of drugs and trafficking in drugs are serious offences. It’s illegal to wear clothing that hides your face either largely or completely in any public place. Those wearing this type of clothing (including tourists) could risk a fine of up to €137.50 and/or detention for up to seven days.
  • Emergency numbers: the European emergency number 112 can be used in Belgium for ambulances, fire brigade and police. British citizens can get help in an emergency from the British Embassy Brussels.
  • People: Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%
  • Major religion: Roman Catholic 75%

Important!

Our information and advice on job hunting, further study and visas remains current following the UK’s formal triggering of Article 50, and will be updated in the light of developments from the UK’s negotiations to leave the European Union.

AGCAS editors, March 2017

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