Becoming an independent contractor or working with them has become more popular in recent times. Especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people want to work from home or they just want to have more than one job without having to move. In particular, remote workers commonly use this way to find a job. Here are the key points for freelancers and remote workers that they can use to show themselves as an independent contractor in the working area. This guideline serves to give you advice and will direct you to become an independent contractor in Belgium.
Becoming an independent contractor will be a good choice in Belgium because there are so many contractors which adds to almost 20% of the working population. Independent contractors are mostly interested in either the start-up sector or to freelance in Belgium. Although these two elements are agreeably similar, it is important to distinguish between them. The basic explanation for their differences is whether you are working with people or not. If you start a business in Belgium, you set up your business as a limited company and work with employees. However, freelancers do their own work and take own responsibility.
Table of Contents
What are the rules about being an independent contractor in Belgium?
There are some requirements that people, who wish to become independent contractors, need to know:
- You have to be older that 18 years old
- You have not been stripped of your political and civil rights by a judge
- You have not been subjected to a judicial review to be declared not legally incapable
- You have not been banned from doing business
- You may need a license or permission from the Belgium government to work as an independent contractor
- Ensure that you have basic management skills
In addition, you need basic management skills relevant to the certified qualifications. If you want to be an independent contractor, you need to pass an online exam first. For the exam, there are training courses obtainable at both the governmental institutions themselves and at other centres. The exam is set up by Central Recruitment and consists of multiple choice questions.
The following applicants will be exempted candidates from the exam:
- Applicants in possession of a Bachelor, master degree or any other official equivalent diploma; or having CESS participation
- Any certificate obtained after qualification of secondary-level studies; having been an accountant or a commercial technician for six years or having managed a small business for seven years
- Experience in companies for more than 15 years
This certification is compulsory in order to become an independent contractor in Belgium.
Registration and Becoming an Independent Contractor
There are some steps to take before becoming an independent contractor. The registration is a process which needs to be completed.
Initially, you need to get your professional card in order to work as an independent contractor. This requirement is for an outsider in the EU/EFTA who does not have a residence permit. You can acquire it via the consulate in your home country or Belgian embassy before coming to Belgium. The card will be valid for 1-5 years. The cost for a professional card will be 140€ initially and if you need to extend your stay you will need to pay a fee of 90€.
The card will be delivered via an enterprise counter.
To register, you need to follow some of these steps:
- You need to choose a trading name. This name can be your own name or another name that you are free to choose as long as it does not belong to another company. You can check the Belgian company names from the Federal Public Service website.
- When you register your trade, you will have a company or ID number which can also be used as a tax and social security number. This is done via an authorized office in Belgium. For this step you need to register for a bank account with Crossroads Bank for enterprises (CBE) via one of the eight approved business portals.
- As an independent contractor, you will be responsible for making necessary tax payments and social security contributions. With the above bank account you can register for both tax and social security.
All independent contractors have to request a VAT identification number to work in compliance with Belgian laws and regulations. The process to obtain a VAT identification number is as follows:
- You should go to a local office and check whether you need to get a VAT registration. In some activities, you can be exempt from VAT registration.
- Then you need to choose the relevant VAT scheme, it being a standard, global payment or tax exemption.
- You should register, before commencing your work, in a Guichet d’entreprises to obtain the Form 604A from the website
- You should complete Form 604A and send it by mail to your relevant management team or drop it off at an infocenter.
- Your competent office will activate your company number as a VAT identification number and notify you by letter.
Social Security, Health Insurance and Pensions For Independent Contractors in Belgium
If you are an independent contractor in Belgium, you have to join a social insurance fund and make quarterly payments to contribute to their social security obligations. You can register through the FPS. Before registration you need to have your Belgian social security number as an independent contractor in Belgium and you are free to choose which social security fund you will want to join.
You will be enabled to access benefits like:
- Belgian State Pension
- Belgian Healthcare
- Child Benefits
- Maternity Benefits
- Sickness and Disability Benefits
The institution is the National Institute for the Social Security of Self-employed (NISSE) scheme for self-employed workers and freelancers in Belgium. It will provide information on social security providers in Belgium. If you do not choose a provider within a certain time of your registration, you will be automatically enrolled to the National Auxiliary Fund for self-employed.
In general, independent contractors pay a higher percentage of income when compared with employees in Belgium.
Furthermore, social security does not cover unemployment insurance in Belgium. You can take out supplementary insurance to increase your pension or other benefits. Many independent contractors also take out private healthcare insurance for their public coverage and they can then access a broad range of private healthcare services. There are some companies serving as private health insurance providers in Belgium.
If you do not affiliate your social insurance company, the INASTI (Institut National d’Assurances Sociales pour Travailleurs Indépendants) will ask for a regularisation. If you persist, you will automatically be affiliated to the National Fund. That affiliation is much more important in order for you to pay your legally required social contributions as an independent contractor.
Other Types of Insurance For Independent Contractors in Belgium
There are other insurance types of which some are compulsory and some are optional:
- Public liability insurance is compulsory if you are operating from a business premises.
- Professional liability insurance is an optional one. It covers costs associated with professional mistakes or bad advice.
- Vehicle insurance is also compulsory for all vehicle drivers.
- Building and contents insurance is optional, however, with certain business premises it will be mandatory.
- Cyber insurance is an optional one that protects you against hacking, data loss or server failures.
Recognition of Qualifications
If you are Belgian nationals, Swiss nationals and Member States of the European Economic Area (which include European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) you do not need any recognition from Belgium. Nonetheless, if you are not a citizen of one of these countries you have to have a work permit and a recognition of your professional qualifications to work as an independent contractor in Belgium.
A work permit allows you to stay and work in Belgium between 2 and 5 years. To obtain this permission, you have to go to a Belgian diplomatic post in your country or any Business Counter (Guichet d’entreprises) in Belgium.
You must provide them with the following:
- A completed form for the application of a professional card
- Proof from the police register stating you have no criminal record
- A copy of your ID
- 2 ID photos
- An explanation of your business plan (20 pages max.)
Exempted People From The Requirement of A Professional Card
As mentioned, a professional card is necessary in order to employ independent activities in Belgium.
However, some people are exempted from needing a professional card:
- Nationals of the European Economic Area and Switzerland citizens do not need to obtain a professional card work permit to become an independent contractor in Belgium
- Foreign nationals holding a valid ID card for foreign nationals or a valid and permanent CIRE (certificate of registration in the foreign register) or proof of registration at the Register of foreign nationals
- Family members of the national of the European Economic Area i.e.:
- His/her spouse;
- His/her descendants or his/her spouse’s descendants, under the age of 21 or who are in their care;
- His/her parents or his/her spouse’s parents, who are in their care, with the exception of the parents of a student or a student’s spouse;
- The spouse of the persons mentioned under 2 and 3;
- Spouses of Belgian citizens
- The descendants of the Belgian or of his/her spouse, under the age of 21 or who are in their care;
- The parents of the Belgian or his/her spouse, who are in their care;
- The spouse of the persons mentioned under 1 and 2;
- Refugees recognised by the Belgian authorities
- Partners who assist or replace their husbands or wives in the performance of their independent contractor professional activities
- Foreign nationals on business trips, provided their stay (required by the trip) does not exceed 90 consecutive days. These trips are considered as business trips if they are trips within Belgium done by a foreigner whose main residence is not in Belgium and who travels on his own behalf or on behalf of his company in order to:
- Visit professional partners;
- Seek and develop professional contacts;
- Negotiate and sign contracts;
- Participate in trade fairs and exhibitions to present and sell his/her products or those of the company;
- Participate in board of directors’ or shareholders’ meetings.
- Foreign nationals whose main residence is not in Belgium and who come to Belgium to hold lectures, provided that the duration of their stay (required by their activities) does not exceed 90 consecutive days;
- Foreign journalists whose main residence is not in Belgium and who come to Belgium for professional reasons, provided that the duration of their stay (required by their activities) does not exceed 90 consecutive days;
- Foreign athletes as well as their self-employed assistants whose main residence is not in Belgium and who come to Belgium as part of their respective professional activities, provided that the duration of their stay (required by their activities) does not exceed 90 consecutive days;
- Foreign artists as well as their self-employed assistants whose main residence is not in Belgium and who come to Belgium as part of their respective professional activities, provided that the duration of their stay (required by their activities) does not exceed 90 consecutive days;
- Foreign students who have the right to stay in Belgium, on an internship required by their studies, for the duration of that internship
- Foreign nationals who come to Belgium to follow an internship approved by the proficient authorities within the framework of development cooperation or exchange programmes based on reciprocity, for the duration of that internship
- Foreign nationals registered on the roll of lawyers of the Bar Association or the list of trainee lawyers, pursuant to the Royal Decree of 24 August 1970
- Independent executives and researchers working for coordination centres falling under the Royal Decree n° 187 of 30 December 1982 regarding the creation of coordination centres.
The Application of a Professional Card
Firstly, you need to make your application at the Belgian consul or at a diplomatic representation in your country of residence, if you are living abroad. Furthermore, if you have a valid model A registration certificate or a valid certificate of registration with the register of foreign nationals, you can make your application at a recognized enterprise counter of your choice, if you live in Belgium. You can check the required forms and documents here.
To conclude: being an independent contractor gives you the opportunity to work both remotely and/or more than one job at the same time. If you want to become an independent contractor in Belgium, similar to every country’s regulations, Belgium also has some obligations which need to be met and completed by freelancers.
*This document should not be assumed as legal advice. The above information may change so please make contact with our team of attorneys to confirm it.