Immigration Updates Belgium – Introduction of Belgian orientation year (zoekjaar)

The law of 11 July 2021 amending the law of 15 December 1980 on access to the territory, residence, settlement and expulsion of foreigners provides for a number of new rules for students.

This amendment is published in the Belgian Official Gazette on August 5, 2021. This amendment will come into effect 10 days after publication (August 15, 2021).

As of 15 August 2021, foreign nationals in possession of a residence permit as a non-EU student and who graduate in Belgium in the 2020-2021 academic year with at least a graduate, bachelor or master diploma are eligible for a stay of 12 months to work to search in Belgium or to carry out an independent activity. A foreigner who obtained his diploma abroad but who studied in Belgium for a period of time as part of a mobility program is also eligible.

It is important to mention that the provisional access to the labor market is subordinate to the orientation year and has the sole purpose of allowing the foreign national to provide for the livelihood (and that of the family members) pending obtaining the required permits.

If the foreign national has found an employer who wishes to employ him/her, it is recommend to submit an application for a single permit with the competent Region as soon as possible.

The same principle applies if the foreigner wishes to establish himself as a self-employed person in Belgium. He/she should apply for a professional card as soon as possible.

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