La vie en Belgique

How to find a job
Job offers are advertised in different ways:
The Media

Public employment services
Forem for the Walloon Region
Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidsbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding (VDAB) for the Flemish Region
ACTIRIS - the Brussels Regional Public Employment Organisation (hyperlink?)
Arbeitsamt der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft (ADG) for the German-speaking Community
SELOR: the selection office for the civil service

Language knowledge
You should use a separate section as knowledge of languages is very important in Belgium. You can either follow courses on ULB or at the commune. If you are applying speculatively, you are applying to a particular company, but not for a specific vacancy. This makes it more difficult to write a cover letter as you cannot gear it to a specific job. Therefore it is important to state clearly and convincing what your career objectives are. Remember, there are no guidelines for cover letters and each employer will have his own personal opinion about this.

  1. EPFC στα αγγλικά. Μαθήματα εντατικά, ημιεντατικά ή εβδομαδιαία.
One language course (120 hours) : 89,48 € (+ 20,73 € for the first course)
or 66,68 € with price reduction – άνεργοι κτλ.
  1. σχολή γλωσσών του φλαμανδόφωνο πανεπιστημίου των Βρυξελλών από 72€ ως 138€ για 120 ώρες
  1. Το σπίτι των ολλανδικών Μαθήματα ολλανδικών εντατικά, ημιεντατικά ή εβδομαδιαία.
?? δεν το λέει στο site
  1. Ιστοσελίδα με διάφορα σχολεία γλωσσών.

  1. Woluwe saint-Lambert promotion sociale
30€ έως 75€ το πακέτο (δεν λέει ώρες)
  1. Schaerbeek promotion sociale
70€ έως 90€ το πακέτο
68€ το πακέτο
  1. σχολείο στο κέντρο των Βρυξελλών
75€ το πακέτο
Από 90€ έως 220€
Από 82€ έως 105€
Από 60€ έως 100€

Renting or buying a house

Facebook group-BXL a louer
E-mail list where you can subscribe to:, in order to
receive daily/weekly e-mails with offers for collocation, house renting etc.

Orange and black signs saying ‘te huur’ [for rent] or ‘te koop’ [for sale] (‘à louer’ and ‘à vendre’ in French-speaking areas) are often placed in the windows of available properties. Most Belgian daily and regional newspapers advertise accommodation for rent and for sale. You can also visit estate agents or look at advertisements on the internet. There are different prises according to the area. Studios cost at least 450 euros per month.

Ariane – Centre d’accueil d’urgence/Κέντρο Αστέγων

Avenue du Pont de Luttre 132 – Bruxelles 1190
Tél. : 02/346 66 60 – Fax : 02/346 52 50
Courriel :
Permanences téléphoniques 24h/24

Landlord – Tenant
The apportionment of costs between the landlord and the tenant is not always very clear. Sometimes landlords see these costs as a way to boost their rental income. However, there is a fairly clear description of the apportionment of costs. The landlord bears the costs of ownership of the building and the provision of services to the tenant. The tenant bears the costs of the use of the house or flat.

Fixed or actual costs?

Separate amounts should be charged for the (indexed) rent and for costs. As a rule, the costs cannot increase, even if the costs actually incurred increase. The parties cannot unilaterally adjust those costs.

Apportionment of costs in an apartment block
If you live in a flat, check how the costs are apportioned between the residents. Are there separate meters for electricity, water, gas and heating oil or is the amount split evenly between the number of flats according to the size of the area let? Is maintenance of the communal areas divided between the number of flats or is the area of the space let used as a basis?
The rent guarantee protects the landlord in the event of tenants failing partly or entirely to fulfil their obligations (damaging the property, for example).

Temporary accommodation
Hotels are quite expensive. Cheaper options are youth hostels, rooms in private houses and B&Bs (ask the local tourist board).
University towns offer rooms in halls of residence during the summer.

Finding school
Compulsory education lasts for 12 years, from the age of six to eighteen, and can be preceded by nursery education.
Nursery education: from the age of two-and-a-half
Primary education: from the age of six
Secondary education: from 12 to 18
After secondary education, young people have access to higher education.

Taking a car with you
Taking a car with you.
Driving licenses
There is no common EU/EEA driving license. Instead, Member States provide a ‘Community Model’ driving license, which ensures that licenses issued in different EU/EEA countries can be easily recognized. These licenses are still issued in accordance with national law but they are valid for driving in other EU countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It should be noted however that provisional licenses or certificates issued in a holder’s home country will not be recognized in other Member States. If an EU citizen goes to live in another Member State they can drive there with their current license as long as it remains valid. (However, holders will need to check that they meet any requirements regarding licenses in their new country, such as shorter validity periods or medical checks.) When the existing license expires, or if it is lost or stolen, the holder must apply for a new one in their current country of residence.

Registration procedures and residence permits
Registration procedure
  1. First stage (regardless of the length of stay)
    For the first 3 months you need to give a notification to the commune. For the next period you need to show them your contract of work&home and your insurance. You will need to show your passport or identity card and will be given a special certificate, a ‘Melding van aanwezigheid’ [notification of presence].
  2. Short stays for nationals of the Eu In principle, a notification of presence is sufficient for a stay on Belgian territory lasting less than three months. Note that you must nevertheless go through the procedure to obtain Annex 19 in a number of cases (see, including:
    if you come as an employed person. Your employer may ask for Annex 19. Enquire at the municipal administration.
  3. Non-permanent stays of more than three months for EU citizens
    a. Annex 19 (proof of application for a registration certificate)
    If you want to stay in Belgium for more than three months, you must apply to your municipality (commune) (hyperlink?) for a registration certificate (Annex 19) within three months of arrival. You should report to the municipality, showing your passport or identity card and your “notification of presence”.
    The municipal administration will ask you to give the precise reason for your stay (you are coming as an employed person, a self-employed person, a jobseeker, a student, an EEA national who can provide evidence of adequate financial resources, or as a member of an EEA national’s family). Note that you can perform the actions listed at 3.1.1 and 3.1.3 at the same time (in that event, you will immediately receive Annex 19).
    b. Annex 8 (registration certificate) To obtain Annex 8 (registration certificate), you must submit a number of documents to the municipal administration (Annex 19 specifies precisely which documents). You have three months (from the time of submission of the application) to submit all required documents.
    Situation 1: immediate issue of a ‘registration certificate’ (Annex 8) by the municipal administration. Once all the required documents have been submitted, whether immediately or within the prescribed timescale, the municipality can immediately give its consent, without the involvement of the Aliens Office. This is the case if you:
  • are an employed person
  • are self-employed
  • have sufficient financial resources to be able to support yourself
  • are a student
  • are a family member and are yourself an EEA national.
    In these cases, the municipal administration immediately issues a registration certificate (paper version). Once the address has been checked on site and everything has been found to be in order, the person in question is registered in the Aliens Register. If the result of the check is negative or if the check has not yet taken place, the registration certificate states that the person in question is on the pending register.
    Situation 2: the municipal administration passes the application on to the Aliens Office.
    If all the documents have been submitted, but the municipal administration is not competent to take a decision, it must pass the application on to the Aliens Office. This concerns in particular:
  • job seekers
  • people with sufficient financial resources to be able to support themselves (persons of independent means or through the intervention of a third party) family members who are themselves EEA nationals, but who cannot demonstrate family ties
    Situation 3: refusal by the municipal administration.
  • If you have not submitted the required documents within the set timescale, the municipal administration gives you a first copy of Annex 20, which states that you have been given an extra month to make sure that your application file is complete.
  • If you are able to submit all the required documents within this extra month, the municipal administration will either give you Annex 8 immediately or pass on your case to the Aliens Office (see Situation 1 and Situation 2), depending on the circumstances.
    However, if you do not supply your documents in good time, you will receive a second copy of Annex 20, this time with the instruction to leave Belgian territory within 30 days.

Leave (annual leave, parental leave etc)
Private sector:
In the private sector, the length of your holidays is proportional to the number of days you actually worked (and the days of inactivity regarded as equivalent to working days, for instance sick leave) during the year preceding the year in which you take your holidays. If you worked a full year, you are legally entitled to twenty days the following year in a regime consisting of a five-day week, and to twenty-four days in a regime consisting of a six-day week. These holidays entitle you to holiday pay:
  • If you are a worker or salaried artiste, your holiday pay is paid by a holiday fund or by the National Office for Annual Leave (‘Rijksdienst voor Jaarlijkse Vakantie’ - (RJV)). The amount depends on the salary you earned during the year preceding the one in which you are taking the holidays. The amount corresponds to 15.38% of the salary you earned the previous year.
  • If you are an employee, your employer pays you your holiday pay directly. It includes the salary normally owed for the holiday period plus a supplement, per month worked (including sick leave) the previous year, equal to 1/12th of 92% of your gross salary for the month during which your holiday commences. As a general rule it is paid when you take your main holiday, and at the earliest on the first working day of May of the year of the holiday.

Public sector:
In the public sector, the number of days to which you are entitled depends on your age and the number of days worked in the current year. These days entitle you to holiday pay, which you receive in the month of May and which consists of a fixed part and a variable part.

Leave of absence
You are entitled to be absent from your work and still retain your normal salary in the case of important events in your family, civil obligations or court appearances. To retain your salary entitlement, you should inform your employer of your absence beforehand, or, if that is not possible, as soon as possible.

Leave for imperative reasons:
You may also take leave for imperative reasons, which means any unforeseeable event requiring your urgent and indispensable intervention, provided that the performance of the employment contract so allows (e.g. an accident suffered by someone living with you, fire damage to your home, etc.) Such leave may not exceed ten working days in a calendar year. This leave is not paid, unless otherwise agreed between you and your employer.

Career break:
If you want to take a temporary, partial or complete career break, there are several possibilities, both in the private and in the public sector. During this period, you may be entitled to an allowance.

Public holidays in Belgium:
1 January (New Year’s Day),
Easter Monday,
1 May (Labour Day),
Ascension (6th Thursday after Easter),
Whit Monday (7th Monday after Easter),
21 July (national holiday),
15 August (Assumption),
1 November (All Saints’ Day),
11 November (1918 Armistice),
25 December (Christmas Day).
The Federal Public Services are also closed on 2 November, 15 November (King’s birthday) and 26 December.

Ending employment
The commitments arising from employment contracts end:
1. upon expiry of the term for fixed-term contracts
2. upon completion of the work in respect of which the contract was concluded for contracts for specific work
3. when one of the parties so desires (dismissal or resignation) for open-ended contracts
4. with the agreement of the parties (for all contracts)
5. upon the death of one of the parties (for all contracts)
6. in a situation of force majeure having a long-term impact (for all contracts)
Immediate termination because of a serious misdemeanour: each party may terminate the contract without notice or compensation because of a serious misdemeanour. A strict procedure must be followed, otherwise the termination will be null and void. The party invoking the serious misdemeanour must prove its existence. Any serious offense which makes all cooperation between the employer and employee immediately and indefinitely impossible is regarded as a serious misdemeanour.
Termination with notice: when the contract has been concluded for an indefinite period, each party may terminate it with notice. The communication giving notice must indicate the beginning and end of the notice period.
Notice must be communicated either by registered letter, which takes effect on the third working day after the date of dispatch, or by a court bailiff.
An employee may also give notice in writing to his employer, in two copies. The employer signs one copy as proof of receipt.

Limitation of the right of dismissal
In some cases and with respect to certain categories of workers, the law provides for limitations on the right to dismiss an employee.

Act equivalent to termination
An act performed by one of the parties may modify the working conditions to such an extent that it is equivalent to the immediate termination of the contract (e.g. unjustified absence for several days without having informed the employer).
There are three pension systems:
pensions for salaried employees (general system)
pensions for the self-employed
pensions for civil servants


Pensions are generally paid by:
the ONP/RVP) [National Pensions Office] in the case of a salaried employees and the self-employed, the SCDFpensions / CDVU-Pensioenen for short (part of the Federal Public Service for Finance) [central fixed expenditure service – pensions] in the case of civil servants.
The pensions of persons who worked outside the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, and who paid contributions to the OSSOM / DOSZ [Overseas Social Insurance Service], are paid by the latter. The amount of pensions is calculated according to three parameters: professional career, salary and family situation. The legal pensionable age is in principle 65 years for all three systems: employees, the self-employed and civil servants for a career span of 45 years. You can obtain your pension early under certain conditions, which vary depending on your professional situation.

Representation of workers
There are three trade unions in Belgium:
1. FGTB / ABVV- Fédération générale des travailleurs de Belgique / Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond (General Federation of Belgian Workers)
2. CGSLB / ACLVB - Centrale générale des syndicats libéraux de Belgique / Algemene Centrale der Liberale Vakbonden van België (General Liberal Trades Union Centre)
3. CSC / ACV - Confédération des syndicats chrétiens / Algemeen Christelijk Vakverbond (Christian Trades Union Confederation)
Trade unions: A trade union is an organized association of workers, recognized by law, whose purpose is to protect workers’ rights in the workplace and to have a say in working conditions. By joining a union, workers can influence issues relating to their work, such as salaries, working hours, benefits, occupational health and safety, among many other things. Governments are required to ensure that the laws they draft are in accordance with the standards of the International Labor Organization (a United Nations agency), in particular with the right to form or join a trades union. Trades unions are crucial in ensuring a fair and equitable workplace, they represent the voice of the workers. They support workers in ensuring that they are entitled to better salaries, to a higher standard of living, to a safe working environment and to secure employment. Many of the advantages and much of the protection that workers enjoy today derive from the efforts of trades unions in the past. Such protection can easily be lost if the unions do not remain strong.

Impact of trade unions

Labor disputes - strikes
A strike is a complete stoppage of work by workers. However, working to rule or deliberately creating conditions which leave something to be desired, without actually stopping work (a ‘go-slow’) does not constitute a real strike and may therefore be regarded as a misdemeanour that can result in disciplinary sanctions. The purpose of a strike is to reinforce demands concerning, for instance, pay (salary increase, introduction of a bonus), working conditions (heating of the premises, means of transport), work schedule or working hours, the employment situation (redundancies, etc.), corporate strategy (new commercial policy, etc.). Funding is available for a range of activities including exchanges, study visits and networking actions. Projects are many and varied, aimed at both students and their trainers and teachers.

The political, administrative and legal systems
Belgium, an independent federal state since 1830, is a constitutional monarchy.
The fundamental principles of the Belgian electoral system are laid down in the Constitution. Voting is by proportional representation based on universal suffrage. Nationals of other countries (EU Member States and third countries) may vote in municipal elections if they fulfill certain conditions. Non-European residents have been able to vote in municipal elections since 2006.
Belgium is a representative parliamentary democracy. Federal legislative elections are held every four years, regional and European elections every five years, and municipal and provincial elections every six years.
Belgium is also a federal state. Decision-making power no longer resides exclusively with the Federal Government and Federal Parliament; the Regions and Communities also have some power to take decisions in their respective fields.
Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French and German and is currently divided into three Communities. The country is further divided into 10 provinces and 589 municipalities.
The Federal State still retains considerable power, among other things in the fields of foreign affairs, national defense, justice, finance, social security, large parts of public health and home affairs. The Regions and the Communities nonetheless have the right to maintain relations with other countries on matters within their competence.
For job seekers , there are four public services providing help: ACTIRIS for the Brussels Region, FOREM for the Walloon region, VDAB for Flanders, and ADG for the German-speaking area of the country. The Rijksdienst voor Arbeidsvoorziening (RVA) [National Employment Office] is the federal public body responsible for providing unemployment benefits.

Incomes and taxation
In Belgium, salary levels are determined by collective bargaining, not by law or on the basis of rules issued by the State. Collective agreements vary according to sector and job. The agreements apply to all workers. Nevertheless, limits on pay rises have sometimes been imposed by law. There are certain standards governing wages, and fixed minimum wages.
The ‘Service public fédéral Emploi, Travail et Concertation sociale / Inspectie van Sociale Wetten’ (Social Legislation Inspectorate) monitors these agreements to protect employees. Trade unions and the Internet can provide information on wages and other matters concerning labour law and contracts of employment. Wages are expressed as gross salaries per hour or per month.

A recent statistical survey conducted in 2009 showed that:
10% of wage-earners earn a maximum of EUR 1807 per month, gross.
10% of wage-earners earn at least EUR 4214 per month, gross.
The average monthly salary in Belgium is EUR 2837.
Company managers earn the most, and home helps and maintenance personnel the least.
The petrochemicals industry is the best-paid sector of the Belgian economy. Hairdressers, cleaners and beauticians are the worst paid.
Working in Brussels affords the best opportunities for a well-paid job.
People with better qualifications earn more.
There are two types of deductions from gross wages: social security contributions, and wages tax. Social security contributions are always 13.07% of total wages. To obtain the net amount (cash in your pocket), you must deduct your social security contributions and wages tax, the amount of the latter varying according to your family situation (depending on whether or not your partner works and how many children you have). NB: child benefit is a nominative amount that is paid independently of other information. It is not taxed. The amount of child benefit depends on several factors: family situation, number of children, etc.
Taxpayers are entitled to a tax-free allowance: this means that part of the taxable income is not in fact taxed. If the income exceeds the tax-free allowance, it is taxed. Taxation is progressive, which means that the percentage of tax rises as the income increases. The tax table consists of five income brackets and hence five taxation brackets.
For the 2012 tax year (incomes from 2011), the brackets are as follows:
Tax rate of 25% for the 1st income bracket up to a taxable income of EUR 8070 net per year
30% for the 2nd bracket (from EUR 8070.01 to 11480.00)
40% for the 3rd bracket (from EUR 11480.01 to 19130)
45% for the 4th bracket (from EUR 19 130.01 to 35060)
50% for the 5th and last bracket (portion of income exceeding EUR 35060)
The difference between the tax on the income as a whole and the tax on the tax-free allowance does not necessarily represent the amount of tax owed. The law provides for various reductions and surcharges depending on the type of income, expenses during the taxable period, elements that may reduce the amount of taxation, such as pension fund contributions, etc. To find out more, speak to a specialist (tax authorities, bank, tax adviser, etc.).
The procedure for declaring tax if you are resident in Belgium, is as follows:
Anybody who is resident in Belgium receives a tax return form. As a rule, tax returns have to be submitted to the Ministry of Finance in your place of residence before the end of June in the year following the year worked. If you live in Belgium, you will also pay local taxes. There are two types: additional municipal taxes and ordinary municipal taxes. They vary from place to place. With ‘Tax on Web’ you can file your return online.

Cost of living
Below are some figures from the most recent survey (2007) of average annual household expenditure in Belgium (in euro):
Total 32.577
Food, drink, cigarettes 5.068
Food 3.934
Drink 889
Cigarettes 245
Clothing and footwear 1.606
Heating, electricity, water 1.772
Hotels and restaurants 1.676
Education 230
Vehicle expenses (fuel, etc.) 2.381
Health spending 1.535
Health Systems

In Belgium you do not automatically get a social security card when you start working. You must first register with a Mutuelle. The cornerstone of the Belgian social security system is the mutuelle (ziekenfonds in Dutch). The Belgian health insurance and social security schemes are administered by the several mutuelles, which are linked to the various political pillars (Liberal, Neutral, Christian, and Socialist). You are free to choose one that best suits your needs. For example, some are more geared to the self-employed, while others may provide cover for alternative medicine. Once you are a paying member of a mutuelle you will receive your SIS card, a microchip card which carries all your details. When you visit a doctor or pharmacist, you will have to pay the fees up front. You will be given a receipt which you should submit to your mutuelle for reimbursement. The amount you will be reimbursed depends on the health services provided. You should check with your mutuelle to see what services are covered by your insurance. Both you and your employer must make contributions to social security and health insurance through the mutuelle. The amounts you pay are set by the Government. All hospitals are private-public so you can make use of all of them.
This is the list of the various mutuelles to which you can subscribe:
  • Mutualité Socialiste
  • Union des mutualité libérales
  • Mutualité Neutre de Bruxelles, Avenue de Tervueren 68-70, 1040 Bruxelles/Tél. : +32.2.733.97.40 - Fax : +32.2.733.74.21
  • Mutualité Chrétienne
  • Union Nationale des Mutualités Libres (U.N.M.L.)
  • EUROMUT/ Bld Mettewie 74-76, à 1080 Bruxelles/Tél. : + - Fax : +
  • SECUREX/ Rue de Genève 4, à 1140 Bruxelles/ Tél. : +32.2.729.92.11 - Fax : +32.2.726.84.17/
  • PARTENA/ Boulevard Anspach 1, à 1000 Bruxelles/ Tél. : +32.2.549.71.11 - Fax : +

Health cards
Anyone planning a temporary visit abroad, such as a holiday or business trip, should take the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card allows people from the EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland to access health care services when visiting these countries.vEHIC holders are entitled to access public sector health care in the same way as nationals of the country they are visiting. The card covers short-term health care, including maternal care for pregnant mothers and the management of pre-existing conditions.
Anyone who needs medical care should show their card to the appropriate health professionals, be they doctors, pharmacists or health center workers. They will then get the medical attention they need. The aim is to provide people with the treatment they require so that they can continue with their trip or holiday.

A monthly card for inner-city transport abonnement mensuel costs 46 euros, a normal ticket 2 euros and a 10 rides ticket 13euros.

Info taken from EURES and The Brussels Connection

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