EU Commission asks Belgium to extend residence rights for job-seekers from member states

According to the European Commission, Belgium is too strict with job-seekers from other EU member states. Therefore the Commission asks Belgium to grant EU-citizens a longer right of residence. If it does not do so, a procedure at the Court of Justice in Luxembourg is imminent.

European Union citizens are allowed to stay in another member state for three months without any obligation. All they are expected to do is to show their identity papers. After those three months, people who want to stay longer and do not have a job must be given the chance and time by the national authorities to look for and find a job for the first time.

In Belgium, however, foreign job-seekers must register in a municipality and with the employment services VDAB, Actiris or Forem. They have to submit the necessary documents showing that they are actually looking for work within that first three-month period. If they are unable to do so, the municipality may refuse to allow them further residence. The persons concerned are then given an extra month to collect all documents. After four months the municipality can issue an order to leave the territory.

With this, Belgium is much stricter than the European rules, which is not acceptable according to the Commission. With a letter of formal notice, it is therefore now starting an infringement procedure that may eventually lead to a trip to the European Court of Justice. The judges in Luxembourg will then have to test the law against EU law.

The Court already ruled in a similar case in 2020. In its ruling then, it said that member states must allow EU citizens who come for the first time to look for a job 'a reasonable period' to find work that matches their qualifications. "On the basis of this interpretation, the Commission considers that the Belgian rules are contrary to EU law," the Commission said in a communication.

Belgium now has two months to respond to the criticism and amend the contested legislation. If it fails to do so, the Commission will send a reasoned opinion - the next formal step in the procedure.


© BELGA PHOTO THIERRY ROGE - Illustration picture shows the Actiris offices at the Astro tower, the highest passive building of Europe.

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