Employment in Brussels has, since its ascendancy to the seat of the European Union, always been a distinct possibility for expatriates: with nearly half of the city’s population working within the EU administration or for a business that caters primarily to EU workers, it is a place of convergence for residents of both European Union member states and for countries that, while not in the jurisdiction of the EU, still wish to have some say in its affairs.
Whether you work for that august body or simply for another Brussels-based company, the ease of fully integrating into Brussels life can be much easier than in some other nations, owing to the explicitly international character of the work offered there. Nonetheless, there are plenty of ‘life essentials’ to consider and serious preparations to make before making the commitment to work in Brussels.Work permits
Permits for work in Brussels exist in both “A,” “B” and “C” varieties, with “C” permits being the least used by expatriate professionals (in fact, these are generally aimed either at visiting students or asylum-seekers hoping to secure temporary employment.) For those relocating to Belgium as professionals, the “B” permit will be far more common, and will be applied for on your behalf by your employer. It also falls upon them to prove that the position to be held by you cannot be held by a native Belgian resident (not as challenging as it may seem, especially if EU employment is taken into the picture.)
Those who are wishing to change employers at will, will want to apply for an “A” visa, although being granted this permit requires that you have worked in Belgium for four of the previous ten years. Given the intricacies of visa attainment hinted at above, and the time it may take for a sponsoring employer to complete the process of choosing an applicant and getting government approval to hire them, it is a wise idea to seek employment for Brussels organizations from your home country, rather than expecting to secure employment while on short visits to the country.
Health care and insurance
Once you are gainfully employed, health care in Brussels is widely available: in fact, it is mandatory for both local residents and expatriate workers to have health insurance. Those making social security contributions will be insured by the state in turn. The receipt of benefits is not immediate; those arriving in the country and signing up for an insurance plan will need to wait some 2-5 months for them to activate. Even though insurance can cover up to 75% of health care costs, some may find it useful to take out supplementary health care insurance, as employers (the EU included) will generally only pay for a portion of any medical expenses that are incurred at local hospitals or clinics. Speaking of which, costs associated with these visits do need to be paid ‘up front,’ with reimbursement from insurance to follow. Doctors or general practitioners in Brussels can be chosen by the individual seeking care, and the Médecin Généraliste Bruxelles website should come in very useful in this process, as it helps to select doctors based on both location and primary language spoken.
Education / schooling
Finding international schools in Brussels, or continued adult education, should not be a problem. The simply named International School of Brussels in the commune of Watermael-Boitsfort, served by 200 faculty and having a student body of around 1,500 pupils (spread across the U.S. K-12 grades as well as collegiate grades), is one of the more popular options for foreign dignitaries. Students here are represented from over 60 different nations altogether, and, as might be expected, subjects such as history are taught here in a manner that attempts to address the whole of human experience rather than focusing on the endeavors of a single nation or people.
Institutions like the British School of Brussels and the European School of Brussels serve roughly similar age ranges and have a similar student body and faculty size. At least one international school in the city, the American School of Brussels, has its enrollment limited to students from US military and diplomatic concerns, as well as students from ‘Partnership for Peace’ countries within NATO.
Once you are employed in Brussels, you will surely be thinking about what to do with the fruit of your labors. There are several banks in Brussels that are well-equipped to handle the needs of expatriate professionals, such as Fortis, which offers an account exclusively for expats, and can have a bank account and bank card waiting for you before you even arrive in the country. Globally oriented banks like KBC and ING will also make similar promises, and feature many round-the-clock services with plenty of English-speaking live support.