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BELGIUM: Change of Administrative Practice for Renewal of Residence Permits

Under Belgian law, a foreigner who wants to renew a residence permit A (valid for a definite term) must file a renewal application with his or her municipality between the 45th and 30th day before the expiration of the current residence permit.  A renewed residence permit on the basis of a work permit is valid for the duration of the work permit plus one month.

In practice, 30 to 45 days very often does not suffice for the processing of the renewal.  The municipality must forward the file to the Foreigners' Office for approval.  Upon receipt of this approval, the municipality invites the foreigner to "order" the new residence permit, which is produced by an external company.  The standard production time ranges between two and three weeks (expedited production is possible, if a higher administrative fee is paid).  To cover the foreigner's residence in Belgium in the meantime, a temporary document (Annex 15) can be issued, but this is not an ideal solution.  For example, the Annex 15 does not allow re-entry into Belgium after travel abroad.

With regard to renewals, Maggie De Block, the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, announced in a policy statement to Parliament in November 2013 a simplified process for renewal of residence permits A.  The new system implies that a foreigner will be invited to submit the documents required for renewal directly to the Foreigners' Office at least three months before the residence permit expires.

The Foreigners' Office has already started applying this simplified process for renewal of residence permits A.  Foreigners—or third parties who represent or assist them—can email or fax the required documents directly to the Foreigners' Office.  Upon approval of the renewal application, the Foreigners' Office will inform the municipality, which will in turn invite the foreigner to order the residence permit.

This new administrative practice has not yet been officially communicated to the public, but is already being applied by the Foreigners' Office, as noted above.

In practice, it remains uncertain whether this process will result in expedited processing.  One of the documents that must be sent to the Foreigners' Office is the renewed work permit, which is forwarded by the Ministry to the municipality, where it must be collected by the employee or third parties who represent/assist the employee.  In general, most municipalities will forward the file to the Foreigners' Office for approval at the same time as the collection of the work permit.  Direct forwarding by the employee to the Foreigners' Office will not result in a considerable gain of time.

This could be different if the Foreigners' Office could process the file on the basis of the renewed employment authorization, which is sent by the Ministry to the employer approximately one week to 10 days before the work permit is available for collection.  In practice, however, the Foreigners' Office still requires the work permit.

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