Asylum seekers’ access to the labour market is regulated by the Law of 9 May 2018 and the implementing Royal Decree of 2 September 2018. Asylum seekers who have not yet received a first instance decision on their asylum case within 4 months following the lodging of their asylum application are allowed to work. The right to work is mentioned directly on their temporary residence permit (orange card), so a separate work permit is no longer needed. The asylum seekers can work in the area he or she chooses.
Asylum seekers have the right to work until a decision is taken by the CGRS, or in case of an appeal, until the CALL has notified a negative decision. However, they are not allowed to work during the appeal procedure before the CALL if the procedure at the CGRS did not last longer than 4 months. Asylum seekers who lodge a subsequent asylum application are not able to work until the CGRS declares the application admissible and until they receive an orange card.
Adult asylum seekers who have access to the labour market can register as jobseekers at the regional Offices for Employment and are then entitled to a free assistance programme and vocational training. In practice, however, finding a job is very difficult during the asylum procedure because of the provisional and precarious residence status, the very limited knowledge of the national languages, the fact that many foreign diplomas are not considered equivalent to national diplomas, and labour market discrimination.
If an asylum seeker resides in a reception facility (LRI or collective) and is employed, he or she has an obligation to contribute with a percentage of his or her income to the reception facility and is excluded from any material reception conditions if his or her income is higher than the social welfare benefit amounts mentioned above and the working contract is sufficiently stable (see Reduction or Withdrawal of Reception Conditions).
Impact of the reception crisis (2021 – 2023)
Single male applicants for international protection who do not receive accommodation, often face difficulties obtaining their temporary residence permit (orange card). Most local administrations require a fixed residency in order to obtain a temporary residence permit. Applicants without accommodation often sleep rough, thereby they are unable to obtain a fixed residency. This in turn makes it impossible for them to apply for a temporary residence permit. This severely limits their access to the labour market in practice.
Asylum seekers are also eligible for self-employed labour on the condition that they apply for a professional card. Only small-scale and risk-free projects will be admitted in practice.
Asylum seekers are allowed to do voluntary work during their asylum procedure and for as long as they have a right to reception.
Asylum seekers are also entitled to perform certain community services (maintenance, cleaning) within their reception centre to increase their pocket money.
 Article 18, 3° and article 19,3°Royal Decree on Foreign Workers, 2 September 2018.
 Articles 35/1 Reception Act and Royal Decree, 12 January 2011, on Material Assistance to Asylum Seekers residing in reception facilities and are employed (original amounts without indexation).
 Article 34 Reception Act.