Belgium is an exciting country to live, work and do business in Europe. The country offers excellent healthcare, education, super high standards of living and a powerful EU passport.
One inway to acquire Belgium long term investor residency for self employed investors and entrepreneurs is through professional card.
Foreigners including third country nationals can acquire Belgian residence through investment by following two cumulative procedures: one procedure to obtain a professional card and a second procedure to obtain a residence permit.
The legal basis for the acquisition of a professional card in Belgium is the Act of 19 February 1965 regarding the exercise of self-employed professional activities by foreigners. The Royal Decree of 2 August 1985 implements this Act.
The legal basis for the acquisition of a residence permit in Belgium is the Act of 15 December 1980 regarding the access to the territory of Belgium, the residence and expulsion of foreigners. In particular, Articles 9 and 13 of the Belgian Aliens Act determine the right of residence for third country nationals, not belonging to the EEA, who want to reside in Belgium as self-employed persons. The Royal Decree of 8 October 1981 implements the Belgian Aliens Act.
Belgium Professional Card
A professional card is the document authorising a foreign self-employed person to exercise a specific activity, either as natural person or within an association or a partnership in fact or in law, on Belgian territory. Which region is competent depends on the place of business. If the company carries out activities in multiple places of business, the company’s registered office is decisive. If there is no place of business in Belgium, the place of actual activity is decisive.
Every foreigner who exercises self-employed professional activities in Belgium on a long-term basis, has to have a professional card. The validity of the professional card depends on the business investment
- Business: a professional card is sometimes issued for 3 years for a renewal if the applicant has been successful in starting up a self-employed activity and his/her business is likely to grow;
- High economic value: a professional card is only occasionally issued for 4 years, for instance if an application is lodged for a business which is expected to generate a very high economic added value and the issuing body would be prepared to issue a professional card for 5 years but the person concerned only has a mandate for 4 years.
- Significant economic value: A professional card is only issued for 5 years if the expected economic added value for Belgium is very significant, which is demonstrated among other things by considerable investment of capital, very high turnover, additional employment, etc.
The application for a professional card is lodged at a local Enterprise Office if the self-employed foreigner resides legally in Belgium, that is to say if the foreigner has a ‘certificate of registration model A’ or an ‘electronic residence card type A’.
If the foreigner has (not yet) a right to reside in Belgium, the application for a professional card is lodged at the Belgian embassy abroad
If the D-visa is granted by the embassy, the foreigner has to go to the municipality of the place of residence within eight days from arriving in Belgium, in order to get registered in the Register of Foreign Nationals and in order to request the issuing of a residence card type A.The residence card type A is usually granted for a period of one year. The residence card can be renewed, the foreigner has to request a renewal between the 45th and 30th day before the expiration date of the residence card.
The application for renewal or extensions must be submitted at least three months before the date of expiration
Refusal and Appeals
If the granting of a professional card is refused, the foreigner can appeal within thirty days upon notification of the refusal.1 The appeal is lodged with the Employment Minister of the competent region. If the Minister confirms the refusal of the granting of the professional card, appeal can be lodged with the Belgian Council of State within sixty days upon notification of the Minister’s refusal.
Article 12bis §1, 2° Belgian Nationality Code, a foreigner who has reached the age of 18 years can obtain Belgian nationality by declaration after five years of legal residence in Belgium if he proves his knowledge of one of the three national languages as well as his social integration and economic participation. The two last conditions are deemed to be fulfilled after having worked as a self-employed person in Belgium for a continuous period of five years and having paid during this period the required social security contributions.
In Belgium, residence rights are a federal issue. The Immigration Office, as part of the Home Affairs Federal Public Service, is entrusted with granting residence permits.
By contrast, since 1 January 2015, the federated entities are competent for economic integration. In particular, the Flemish region, the Walloon Region and Brussels-Capital Region decide in concrete cases whether or not to grant a professional card. In particular, the application for a professional card has to be submitted to the Office of Economic Immigration of the competent region.