A new and improved immigration route has become available for assignments to Belgium, the EU Intra-Corporate Transferees (EU ICT) scheme. While there remain uncertainties linked to the issuance of this new EU ICT permit, Belgium is finally in a position to compete with neighboring countries to attract foreign talent and investments. Let’s delve deeper into the particulars of this new EU ICT permit and why it is important for Belgian business.
The EU ICT permit in brief
Although it is similar to the EU Blue Card, this new permit’s innovative nature rests in the intra-EU mobility rights attached to it. On a practical level, this means that an EU ICT permit obtained in a European country opens work rights for its holder in another European country.
The EU ICT permit applies to qualified foreign managers, specialists and trainees who are sent for more than 90 days from a company outside the European Union to a company belonging to the same group located in Belgium. As its name makes clear, this new immigration scheme originates from EU legislation and, consequently, is available in all EU countries (except Denmark and Ireland).
The type of mobility this permit allows is two-fold: short-term mobility (less than 90 days in any 180-day period per country) and long-term mobility (more than 90 days in any 180-day period per country, but less than the time spent in the country which issued the main EU ICT permit). Although some administrative steps (notifications or permit applications) do have to be taken to ensure the work is conducted in a compliant manner in the ‘mobility’ countries, they are less burdensome than obtaining an additional work permit.
Let’s take a look at a practical example: the case of Joe, a Canadian national who is an IT project manager locally hired by his employer in Canada. Consider that Joe is transferred on a two-year assignment to Belgium to a corporate entity of the Canadian employer. During his assignment, he has to travel to Italy and Germany to help with the development and implementation of new software at the company’s entities located in these two countries. His trips last between one and two months on average. With an EU ICT permit issued by Belgian authorities, Joe can travel and work in Italy and Germany by means of a simple notification. No approval is required from Italian and German authorities. Thus, there are no government fees, no additional document requirements and, most importantly, no waiting time before the work can start.
This is a major improvement, especially if these trips go beyond what is permitted under the business visitor status. The EU ICT permit ensures full compliance while having speed on the ground, driving cost efficiency and administrative simplification for foreign nationals who have work responsibilities in various EU Member States either simultaneously or who must perform consecutive assignments in different countries.
Working in several EU countries with one permit: a smooth process?
Despite the innovative nature of the mobility rights, challenges exist for full effective use of the EU ICT permit. As such, a common and consistent approach by all EU Member States on the social security liability of the transferees who make use of intra-EU mobility rights is required. In addition, some EU countries also require Posted Worker notifications to be submitted next to mobility notifications creating an additional burden for employers. Moreover, in some countries there are restrictions on the work at client site. Fragomen has already flagged these issues to European and national policymakers. We are closely monitoring developments and continue to push for the improvement of this high potential immigration scheme.
Can employers already start applying for EU ICT permits in Belgium?
Belgian EU ICT permits cannot be issued yet as further legislation is required. Until foreign nationals receive their Belgian EU ICT permit, they will not be allowed to work in another EU Member State. Nevertheless, we advise employers to start applying for EU ICT permits as soon as the application process opens in October 2020.
Initially, another type of single permit will be granted, which will need to be exchanged for an EU ICT permit once available. However, if companies still opt for the standard single permit instead (for example a Single Permit of highly skilled employees), the non-EU nationals will have to leave Belgium and apply for an EU ICT permit from outside the EU should they desire to obtain one with the objective of benefiting from intra-EU mobility rights (EU ICT permit applications can only be filed whilst the non-EU national is outside of the EU).
Belgium: a resource pool country
The EU ICT permit brings significant advantages; however, its implementation in Belgium remains incomplete. It is important for employers to know that there is no “one size fits all” solution for their mobility needs within the EU. Strategic workforce planning is required to overcome obstacles and minimize compliance risks. Nevertheless, with this new immigration scheme in combination with a steep decrease in government lead times for granting permits over the course of the last months, Belgium becomes a serious candidate amongst EU countries where resource pools can be created in view of deployment to other EU jurisdictions. This is even more relevant in contexts such as the current COVID-19 mobility landscape where mobility amongst EU countries is privileged over that originating from non-EU states.
About the authors
Jo Antoons, Attorney & Managing Partner, Fragomen
Jo Antoons has 15+ years’ experience in the mobility and labor law field. Jo is responsible for managing corporate immigration compliance and advisory work across Europe, particularly for Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. She is considered an immigration law expert in the industry and has spoken at numerous seminars and authored a range of publications related to economic migration and international social security law. Jo leads Fragomen’s Government Strategies initiatives with European institutions.
Andreia Ghimis, Senior Consultant, Fragomen
Andreia Ghimis is part of Fragomen’s Brussels office EU client advisory team. She joined the firm in 2006 and works on developing the government strategies of the Brussels office. Andreia has been involved in several research projects focused on the EU’s legal migration policy, the free provision of services and the free movement of people. She has extensive experience with the mobility of key personnel and monitoring the incorporation of EU and transnational rules into national legislation and practice.