Guidance for British cultural professionals wanting to work in Flanders

This page gives an overview of rules applicable to UK citizens and other persons with a non-EU passport wanting to work in Flanders. The information below focuses on professionals in the cultural sector, although most rules are applicable to other professional sectors too.

For working in Flanders, points A and B are the most important. These points explain what you need to do get permission to work. Points C, D, and E talk about customs, social security, and taxation.
You can find a handy “Flowchart guide to working in Europe” on the website of the UK’s Musicians’ Union: https://musiciansunion.org.uk/legal-money/rights-and-legislation/brexit-guidance-for-musicians/flowchart-guide-to-working-in-europe

A.    Entering and staying in Belgium. Please note that visas are NOT issued by the Flemish government, but by the Belgian federal government.

1.    You want to stay in Belgium (or in the Schengen zone) for less than 90 days: you need to apply for a short stay visa (type C). UK citizens are exempt and are allowed to stay for a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period. To calculate how many of the 90 days you have left, you can use the short-stay visa calculator: https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/content/visa-calculator_en

Warning: even if exempt from the need to apply for a short stay visa, you will still need to fulfil entry requirements at the Belgian border, where you may be asked about the purpose of your visit, about proof of sufficient financial means, your criminal record, etc.
With a short stay visa, you are allowed to carry out certain activities, such as business trips or visiting a congress.
From the end of 2022, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will start to operate. Visa-exempt visitors such as UK citizens will be able to use this system, which will cost £6 to apply for.

2.    You want to stay in Belgium for more than more than 90 days: you need a long stay visa. Check the visa requirements in the Schengen country you want to go to.

B.    Working in Belgium. Please note that the guidance below applies to working in Flanders only. Work permits are issued by the Government of Flanders, the Government of Wallonia, and the Government of Brussels – depending on where you want to work.

1.    You are an employee
a.    You want to work in Flanders for less than 90 days: you need a work permit, BUT could be exempt if you have ‘international fame’ and want to work in Flanders for a maximum of 21 days. In practice, this means that if you are known as an artist in at least three different countries on at least two different continents, you can work in Flanders for a maximum of 21 days without needing to apply for a work permit. You will need to be able to prove your ‘international fame’ through a (digital) portfolio showcasing your CV, photos, audio, video, articles, reviews, adverts,…in short: items that show that you are an established artist. If you still need a work permit, your employers needs to apply for it on your behalf, free of charge, by contacting the Flemish ‘Departement Werk en Sociale Economie’: www.vlaanderen.be/arbeidskaart-en-arbeidsvergunning
b.    You want to work in Flanders for more than 90 days: you will need a Single Permit, which allows you to work and stay in Flanders
2.    You are self-employed
a.    You want to work in Flanders for less than 90 days: in principle, you need a Professional Card (https://www.vlaanderen.be/en/professional-card-for-foreign-entrepreneurs). Please note that foreign artists and their self-employed support personnel are exempt from applying for a Professional Card if their activities in Belgium do not exceed three consecutive months.
b.    You want to work in Flanders for more than 90 days: you need to apply for a Professional Card. (https://www.vlaanderen.be/beroepskaart-voor-buitenlandse-ondernemers/een-eerste-beroepskaart-aanvragen)

C.    Customs (taking goods into the EU on a temporary basis)

If you want to bring your own equipment to work in Belgium (props, set-pieces, instruments and technical equipment,…that you are not going to sell and that is temporarily taken out of the UK), you may want to declare it with an ATA carnet. This is a document that states a list of objects that you are going to bring.
The carnet allows you to bring goods through customs without having to pay VAT, import duties or deposits. You are responsible for paying for the carnet as well as for the insurance on your equipment. You can apply for an ATA carnet at the London Chamber of Commerce. More information here: https://www.gov.uk/taking-goods-out-uk-temporarily/get-an-ata-carnet .

An ATA carnet is not mandatory. It may be worth hiring a customs broker to arrange customs paperwork on your behalf, or to use a knowledgeable carrier to ship your goods for you.

D.    Social Security

When traveling to the EU, you will need to be able to provide evidence of social security coverage in the UK via an A1 certificate. You can request this certificate here:

a.    Employee: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tell-hmrc-about-employees-going-to-work-in-the-european-economic-area-ca3822
b.    Self-employed: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-certificate-or-document-if-self-employed-in-the-eu-eea-or-switzerland-ca3837

For employees: your country of residence will remain the social security country of reference if you have a substantial part of your activity in that country. If you do not reside in the country where you have a substantial part of your activities, then it depends on where your employer(s) are based.
For self-employed persons: your country of residence will remain the social security country of reference if you have a substantial part of your activity in that country. If you do not reside in the country where you have a substantial part of your activities, then it will be the country in which the centre of interest of activities is situated.

E.    Taxation

There is a Double Taxation Agreement in force between the UK and Belgium.
Pearle provides a thorough overview of VAT-related rules for the cultural sector: https://www.pearle.eu/publication/the-ultimate-cookbook-for-cultural-managers-vat-in-an-international-context-update-2021

For UK artists coming to Belgium: performing artists will be taxed in Belgium (18%, deducted at source). Your employer, if you are being paid out in Belgium, needs to pay this tax on the services you provided. You may be able to claim back production costs: for the first day of your work period you can deduct up to €400. You can deduct up to €100 from the second day until the tenth day of your working period.

If you are not employed in performing arts (actors, performing artists; but not technicians, producers, choreographers, roadies), it will depend on whether you come to Belgium as a self-employed person or as an employee.
a.    Employee: the general rule is that if you work abroad, you are taxed in the country where you work. However, there is an exception: if you go abroad for less than 183 days, and you are being paid by a UK employer, then you will be taxed in the UK. If you are working for a Belgian employer, then you will be taxed in Belgium.
b.    Self-employed: taxation depends on whether you have a permanent presence/residency in Belgium. If you have one, you will be taxed in Belgium. If you do not have one, you will be taxed in the UK.

Should you have further questions about the above, please do not hesitate to contact london@flanders.eu .