Access to the labour market


Country Report: Access to the labour market Last updated: 01/04/21


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The access to the labour market of asylum seekers is regulated by the Law of 9 May 2018[1] and its 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. By Royal Decree of 29 October 2015, the federal government reduced this period from 6 to 4 months.[2] Until the end of 2018, asylum seekers needed a work permit C to be able to work, but since January 2019 the right to work is mentioned directly on their temporary residence permit (orange card). A separate work permit is no longer needed and asylum seekers can work in the area he or she chooses.

After the outbreak of COVID-19 in Belgium, the 4-month waiting period was temporarily suspended by the Special Powers Decree of 27 April 2020[3] until 30 June 2020, in order to mitigate a shortage of workers in certain sectors due to the border closure. This measure enabled recently registered asylum seekers to work without observing the 4-month waiting period, provided that their asylum application had been registered on 18 March 2020 at the latest and that their employer ensured accommodation. This measure was not extended after 30 June 2020.

Asylum seekers have the right to work until a decision is taken by the CGRS, or in case of an appeal, until a negative decision has been notified by the CALL. 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.[4] Due to the recent legal reforms, asylum seekers who lodge a subsequent asylum application are further 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 job-seekers 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).[5]


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.


Since the adoption of the Law of 22 May 2014, that amends the Law of 3 July 2005, asylum seekers are allowed to do voluntary work during their asylum procedure and for as long as they have a right to reception.

Community services

Asylum seekers are also entitled to perform certain community services (maintenance, cleaning) within their reception centre as a way of increasing their pocket money.[6]



[1]        Law of 9 May 2018, Law on the occupation of foreign nationals in a particular situation of residence, available in Dutch at:

[2]        Royal Decree of 29 October 2015 modifying Article 17 of the Royal Decree on Foreign Workers (published in the Belgian State Monitor of 9 November 2015), available at:

[3]        Article 3 Special Powers Decree nr. 14 (see

[4]        Article 18, 3° and article 19,3°Royal Decree on Foreign Workers, 2 September 2018.

[5]        Articles 35/1 Reception Act and Royal Decree, 12 January 2011, on Material Assistance to Asylum Seekers residing in reception facilities and who are employed (original amounts without indexation).

[6]        Article 34 Reception Act.


Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation