Work after your studies
Extending your stay in Belgium to find a job after you’ve graduated with the ORIENTATION YEAR.
Are you an international student with a valid residence permit as a non-EU student? Will you graduate at a Belgian university in the current academic year with an associate degree, a bachelor or master diploma? Do you wish to find a job or start your own business in Belgium? From 15 August 2021 onwards, you can apply for a residence permit as a graduate in an orientation year.
As the information on the website of the Belgian immigration office is only available in Dutch and French so far, we provide you with the general rules and conditions below.
FIND OUT IF YOU ARE ELIGIBLE
You have to meet the following eligibility criteria in order to receive a residence permit for an orientation year.
You are residing in Belgium on the basis of your student registration at a Belgian higher education institute OR you have stayed in Belgium for your studies as part of a mobility programme (only for students who have obtained their diploma in another country)
During this academic year you will:
- graduate from an associate degree programme, a bachelor’s, master’s or post-graduate programme at a higher education institution in Belgium; or
- obtain a diploma at a foreign higher education institution and followed a mobility programme in Belgium (e.g. Erasmus Mundus programme)
- graduate from a doctoral programme with a student residence status.
Doctoral graduates will only be able to apply for an orientation year as long as they have a residence status as a student. In case of questions about your current status, contact your Higher Education Institution.
HOW TO APPLY
- If you have obtained your diploma in Belgium
You have to submit your application at the municipality where you have your main residence, at the latest 15 days before the expiry of your residence permit.
- If you have obtained your diploma in another country
You have to submit your application at the Belgian embassy or consulate in your country of residence within 3 months after obtaining your diploma.
The following documents must be submitted with the application:
- a valid passport;
- a proof that you have obtained a recognized diploma of at least qualification level 5 (associate degree) at a higher education institution in Belgium; or
- a Belgian residence permit based on studies OR a proof that you stayed in Belgium for your studies as part of a mobility programme (only for students who have obtained their diploma in another country);
- a proof of health insurance;
- a proof of solvency; one of the options for a proof of solvency is a blocked account with the higher education institution where you've graduated. You can find more information about the blocked account on the websites of your higher education institution:
RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS
The residence permit (A card) is valid for 12 months and cannot be extended. The period under Annex 15, during which you can already start looking for work, is deducted from the validity period of the A card.
You will only be able to obtain the Annex 15 after your current Belgian residence permit based on studies has expired.
During the orientation year:
- You have no right to Belgian unemployment benefits; applying for any kind of financial support from the Belgian government might result in an earlier and forced ending of your orientation year.
- You must be making effective attempts to find work or take the necessary steps to comply with all legal obligations in order to exercise an independent professional activity. The government might ask for proof of you either looking for work, or setting up a business. In case you are not able to provide any proof, the government may end the temporary residence permit.
- You will have unlimited access to the Belgian labour market. The unlimited access will be granted as soon as your application has been filed. That means that you can already start working fulltime with your annex 15 document while waiting for the approval of the application and the issuance of the actual permit.
- Last but not least, you need to look for a job for which the employer can (and is willing to) apply for a single permit. More information about this can be found on the website of the Flemish government.
- Information about the professional card for foreigners and the steps to take to start up a business in Belgium is available on the websites of the Regions:
- Professional card for foreigners (Flanders)
- Professional card for foreigners (Brussels)
- Steps to follow when starting up a business
Other useful resources
- Federal Public Service Economy SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy (FPS): information on self-employment in Belgium, much of which is in English.
- Business Belgium: also part of the FPS, has detailed information in English on setting up a business in Belgium.
- Belgian Social Security (Service Public Federal Securite Sociale): FPS social security website.
- Working in Belgium
How to start a business in Flanders
Extra help from VDAB
VDAB is the Flemish employment service and can help you with vacancies, training and extra support to find a job in Flanders. Register as a job seeker as soon as you graduate. On vdab.be/werken-als-nieuwkomer you will find general information on working in Flanders, how to register and what guidance VDAB can offer you. Use the translator in your web browser to read the information in English or another language.
VDAB has job counselors who specialise in giving advice to highly educated migrants. They can help you if you have obtained a higher education diploma and want to work at the level of that diploma. You will receive practical, tailor-made tips on applying for a job, diploma recognition, learning Dutch... During your orientation year, VDAB can help you assess your chances of obtaining a single permit. On vdab.be/anderstalig-hoogopgeleid you will find inspiration and you can also make an appointment for an interview with a specialised counselor.
Looking for inspiration?
Watch the videos of our international alumni and check what they say about their career in one of the strong sectors of the Flemish economy.