Congratulations on finding a contract job abroad, especially in Belgium, the heart of Europe! Here is all you need to know about contracting in Belgium
It is not a coincidence that Belgium is known as the heart of Europe. You can reach almost every European country within a few hours train ride and you get the chance to live at the epicenter of European affairs, becoming a part of many cultural events related to the European Institutions.
As a former expat in Brussels, I have enjoyed living and working in the capital for six months. It was one of the most enriching experiences I have had so far and would recommend working and living in Belgium to everyone who considers the option.
If you are exploring opportunities in Belgium, you will find that it is generally quick and easy to make the transition. You are also likely to find that the most tax-efficient way of operating is to comply with local custom. Tax rates are higher than they are in the UK, but with the assistance of a knowledgeable professional, you can take advantage of business expenses and take home a good percentage of your gross fees.
EU citizens do not need a visa to contract in Belgium
Due to the European Union’s principles of freedom of labour, citizens of the UK do not need a visa to work in Belgium. Anybody who is an EU national can live and work in Belgium; there’s no need for a special visa. However, if you are not an EU citizen, you will need to obtain a legal permit to work in Belgium. The process requires finding a company that would sponsor the work permit.
Any non-Belgian national looking to work in Belgium is required to complete what is known as a ‘LIMOSA declaration’.
What is LIMOSA declaration?
This is an online form which declares to the Belgian authorities who the contractor is and where in the country they are working, enabling authorities to monitor non-Belgian citizens more easily.
Be aware that completing a LIMOSA declaration is a legal requirement. Failure to comply could result in financial fines up to €60,000 or even a prison sentence (ranging from eight days up to a year)!
Usually, with any form of self-employed registration, there are a number of documents that need to be completed and sent off to the authorities, so that you can receive a tax number, social security number and a VAT number.
The whole process can take up to six weeks. As a contractor, you can still be paid while the process is ongoing, so there’s no delay in payment. But the LIMOSA is pretty much the first step when registering to work in Belgium.
LIMOSA is an online portal linked to the Belgian Social Security and Tax office and any information can be accessed for up to five years after it is entered, meaning contractors who fail to comply can be caught long after they have left Belgium.
What should you do when starting a contract in Belgium?
After completing the LIMOSA declaration, you would be required to:
- Complete the necessary registration for taxes and social security, for which you will need a qualified expert for assistance.
- Arranging accommodation in advance is also fundamental. A useful website for searching for accommodation, similar to Rightmove in the UK, is www.immoweb.be
- In most countries around Europe, and Belgium is no different, you need to have a registered address to register for tax. This will obviously require arranging accommodation. Be cautious when renting a property, make sure the landlord allows using their address for registration. As part of your registration process, you’ll need to go to the local town hall and present yourself to get all necessary paperwork stamped and to have your registration and right to work confirmed.
Prepare your documents and finalise the registration process prior to starting your job, as it could be time consuming.
Be aware that you must have a degree to be able to work as a self-employed contractor in the majority of Belgium. It has recently been relaxed so that the Flemish portion of Belgium no longer needs a degree.
How contractors are taxed in Belgium
Contractors in Belgium are taxed through social security payments and income tax and can expect to have a more substantial rate deducted than they would in the UK. Contractors will pay roughly 22% in social security, while tax rates can range anywhere between 25% and 50%.
However, contractors are able to use things such as business expenses to reduce their tax bill, while social security is also tax deductible.
What expenses can be claimed when contracting in Belgium?
Business expenses themselves are similar to expenses in the UK. Travel, training courses and work-relevant subscriptions are allowable expenses.
Contractors can claim for their first and last flight but no others.
As an employee in Belgium, you can claim €5,000 PA without the need for receipts.
Upon finishing a contract and leaving Belgium, you must ensure that you complete deregistration, otherwise you risk being fined. Simply go to the city hall and leave a foreign address. Make sure to annul all your subscriptions or utility contracts.
If you were to leave your registration open, you are still living and working in Belgium as far as the tax authorities are concerned, and so they will still be expecting to receive a tax return at the end of the year, along with quarterly VAT returns.
If you are uncertain about contracting in Belgium and would like to find out more before catching the plane, get in touch with us on our website.
Improved work-life balance and higher earnings are the top reasons UK workers are going solo and pursuing careers as contractors – however there are risks. These are the findings of new research by the WORKR Family.
The newly launched WORKR brand represents the coming together of Link and a number of other payroll and accountancy companies specialising in flexible workers: Walker Smith Global, IMS Accountancy and soon to be launched Freelance Workr. WORKR aims to ensure contractors are paid efficiently, have access to benefits, are protected and stay compliant wherever in the world they are working.
Together with the other companies in the group, WORKR aims to provide rewarding solutions for self-employed, contract and freelance workers.
As one of their first tasks the team at WORKR, conducted research and established that UK contractors face an uncertain future with increased competition and changing legislation.
WORKR, recently surveyed 150 UK contractors. 45% said a flexible lifestyle was their main reason for ditching the ‘nine to five’, while more than a third (36%) are enticed by the prospect of higher income.
The opportunity to have a flexible lifestyle was the best thing about going solo for 55% of those surveyed whilst nearly half (48%) of respondents saw having more disposable income as the top benefit. However, despite offering a wealth of benefits, 37% of respondents feel as though life as a contractor is more financially risky, with 40% admitting they disliked the uncertainty of not knowing where their next gig was going to come from.
According to the research 45% of contractors believe that their future rates of pay could be impacted by increasing competition and legislation – such as IR35 – while 43% feel as though new legislation will also lead to more contractors moving to umbrella companies. These findings highlight the unpredictability of life as a freelance worker and the pressures of competing in an increasingly popular marketplace.
Do you agree with these findings? What was your reason for going into contracting?
Find out why more women are making the move into contracting.
It isn’t a secret that the world of work is changing. We have heard, read and seen many people opting for flexible conditions and choosing to work on their terms and convenience. Saves the hassle, they say, and gives more personal time away from the artificial light at the office. As I researched topics that could be helpful and interesting to our clients, I contacted a few contractors internationally. Not once did I speak to a Female contractor! This called my attention, so I did some research on the industry of women contractors. Turns out, there are more than you might have thought there were, and they love what they do!
According to a Kingston report, contracting is becoming an increasingly viable and attractive option for women and mothers, as more women than men are making the move into contracting. In 2014, the numbers of female contractors increased to 746,430 – 39.6% of the total.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to talk with one of our customers. We discussed the pros and cons of being a female international contractor. Her name is Gabriela Ječná, and we talked about what her favourite parts of contracting are and what challenges she faces.
Gabriela is originally from the Czech Republic. She chose to become a contractor and has been contracting for three months now, and her position is MES HYDRA Specialist.
Hi, Gabriela, could you tell me more about your position as a female contractor and the project?
I am currently a Technical Assistant and MES Project Manager at Murr Elektronik.
MES HYDRA by MPDV USA is a fully integrated Manufacturing Execution System (MES) that helps organisations collect and analyse critical data related to production, HR, and quality management. With HYDRA, manufacturers can gather real-time data from their shop floor, personnel, machines, and other processes.
What does your role involve?
I am responsible for finding a solution that can be applied across the world. I am also developing solutions specific to one location. What is more, passing the knowledge about MES System is also essential. A vital part of my job is to equip well the employees who will proceed working on the project. That way they will be able to continue working, once I step off.
What is your current contractor assignment and where is it based? Does it mean you are away from home a lot?
I do not have a base at this stage of the project. The current task is to complete the MES template and prepare for migration. I travel a lot between the headquarters and the production plants across Europe.
What does your current contractor assignment entail?
I’m helping with setting of the system solution. How we will use HW and terminals. I am also conducting data analysis and data mapping for the migration. What is more, I have process knowledge, so I am able to help with functionalities and testing.
Please talk us through your typical day.
Usually, I get up, have breakfast in the hotel, and go to the office around eight. There, I go through the emails to make sure I know when I have meetings and then start working on individual tasks. Meanwhile, I have meetings or teleconferences, and sometimes I need to discuss solutions with my colleagues. I end the day at six o’clock, I go to the hotel to change, and around seven, I go with my colleagues for dinner. Then we go for a walk and go back to the hotel. That‘s my day when I’m not home.
What do you most like about your current role and what, if anything, would you change?
I like to see that our work is taken seriously and we have an impact on the future of business. I love independence, and it is also interesting to discover new places. The only thing missing out on my way is family and friends. But they are very understanding and support me through my absence and projects.
How do our services help you as a contractor?
I can concentrate more on my work, and I do not have to spend a lot of time on bureaucracy. Thanks to your service, I spent more time with my family and relax more.
Thank you, Gabriela! That was very interesting.
I would love to find out more about the day-to-day life of other female contractors! Please, if someone has more exciting stories, share them with us! It is a whole new world to be discovered!
Get in touch with LINK Global Management via our website.
We’ve been working with overseas contractors for over 20 years and seen the popularity of certain destinations rise and fall; so where have all the major hotspots been this year?
Bahrain: The Gulf state relies on oil and gas but isn’t completely centred on the industry. Predicted growth is expected from government-backed infrastructure developments, which offer overseas contract opportunities.
Brazil: It offers contractor opportunities through thriving sectors including banking and manufacturing. It’s an emerging world power with a skills gap that requires high-skilled foreign contractors.
Bulgaria: It offers opportunities in agriculture and manufacturing. It also produces raw materials including iron, gold and coal. The electronics and oil refinery sectors are strong. It’s also a new IT outsourcing destination and lacks managerial and senior level talent.
Chile: Big investment from China is behind new super ports along its coastline and the need for foreign talent. The capital Santiago has established itself as the ‘Chilecon Valley’ hub for start-up technology businesses. It’s actively targeting overseas professionals.
Germany: This is a popular destination for contractors of all disciplines. But especially engineers in the automotive and aerospace sectors. The German recruitment market is the fifth most active employment market in the world.
Kazakhstan: Here, there are openings for overseas contractors thanks to the enormous mineral resources and Baikonur Cosmodrome, the major global spaceport. Major energy projects are currently underway, with enterprises like TengizChevroil, the North Caspian Operating Consortium (NCOC) operated Kashagan Field and BG Group-led Karachaganak.
Kenya : One of Africa’s major markets, expansion is supported by investment into major infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing. The Mombasa-Juba railway that will connect the capitals of Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia with the Lamu Port will likely need the skills of overseas specialists.
Norway: It appeals to contractors as it has one of the world’s highest standards of living. Up until the 2014 oil crash, it drew oil & gas specialists. Now restructuring of the economy away from oil is opening up doors for contractors in other specialities.
Oman: The nation has a thriving oil and gas market with opportunities. Expertise in the utilities and construction sectors is actively sought after.
Poland: A key country for offshore contractors. Poland’s expected to attract up to 30,000 jobs from Britain’s financial sector alone this year, with opportunities for IT and technology contractors too.
Romania : The country has oil and gas projects, existing and in the pipeline. It offers low tax and social security and a low cost of living. This, with proximity to Western Europe, makes it an attractive destination.
South Africa: The country offers opportunities for international contracting in industries ranging from oil and gas to mining and telecoms.
South East Asia: Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore offer contract opportunities in oil & gas, mining & minerals and power & energy industries. Major projects in telecommunications are about to start too. Due to the extensive operations in this region, there are opportunities across a variety of disciplines including construction, HSE, operations & maintenance, drilling & completions, power generation and more.
Switzerland: The country has a dynamic economy and constant need for skilled staff. Particularly in the pharmaceutical, banking and IT industries. It’s a key destination for overseas contractors.
The Netherlands: It continues to be an attractive location for contractors, notably in IT and telecoms, driven by a 30% tax allowance and opportunities across several industries.
With so many opportunities out there for contracting overseas you may want to try a new country next year. We are experts in international contracting payroll so will be able to help you get set up and paid in the most efficient and expedient way possible.
Take a look at all the countries we cover here.
Contractor numbers have soared since the millennium. More workers in all sectors are reaping the benefits of freelance employment and a better work-life balance.
This widening shift to global flexible working is positive news for international recruiters and overseas employers alike.
Global mobility on the up
In the UK alone, the number of ‘iPros’ has risen by 63% since 2004. These are people who work for themselves in skilled service activities.
It’s a phenomenon that covers multiple industries. Sectors include IT and computing, telecoms, oil & gas, construction, and more.
A similar picture can be seen across all EU member states, especially in the Netherlands (95%), Poland (88%) and France (85%).
There’s a growing movement among organizations to tap into this flexible manpower for their worldwide contracting challenges.
Contracting has become an ever more important solution for end clients, with more international businesses recognizing the important work carried out by flexible workers familiar with project-based work.
The future growth of the global economy looks dependent on it too.
The Brexit-Trump factor
But two factors will probably be worrying contractors and recruiters right now.
The election of Donald Trump in the US, and the vote for Brexit in the UK,
We’re in uncharted territory. Just how Trump and Brexit (if it happens in practice) will affect globalisation trends and freedom of movement, nobody yet knows.
But it’s likely there could be new hurdles for contractors to continue working in EU countries. It all depends on the deal the Brexit negotiators strike with Brussels. It’s certainly possible that UK contractors may need a visa to work in the Union in future.
And what about regulations for contractors to the US? This, too, is unknown.
But despite Trump’s ‘Hire American’ push, there’s no denying there’s a shortage of qualified Americans in many sectors. It’s especially true of scientific and programming jobs. It’s what’s forcing US companies to turn overseas to meet their hiring needs.
And in the end, even in the US, pragmatism about worldwide contracting challenges may well win out…
Supply and demand for global talent
There’s a positive side to this uncertainty though. International recruiters who specialize in sourcing skilled contractors are in the perfect place to take advantage.
That’s because unpredictability always means a shift by global companies away from permanent hires. In times of economic insecurity, contracting makes far more sense. Organizations tend to change their mindset. They go from: ‘I need to hire a person’ to ‘I need to get this job done.’
In this scenario, contractors are the perfect short-term solution.
How contractors are filling the talent mismatch
According to Manpower Group’s annual talent shortage survey, 40% of global employers have talent shortages.
In many parts of their world, there’s a glaring scarcity of homegrown talent. Emerging markets such as Latin America the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe are feeling the pinch most.
The main shortfall areas? These include IT and telecoms, infrastructure and construction, skilled trades, life sciences and healthcare, engineering, energy, and oil & gas.
Employers in EMEA are facing talent shortages at the highest levels since 2006. There, 36% of employers report struggling to fill vacancies. In Romania, Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece, employers have “acute difficulties”. In Asia, it’s 46% of employers and in the Americas, 42%. Argentina’s the worst hit, with 59% reporting an “acute talent shortage”.
So, despite all the uncertainties right now, one thing’s for sure. The war on talent points to an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting talented and flexible workers.
That’s good news for contractors , and good news for international recruiters ,too.
Are you an international recruiter? Tell us about your experience below
Expert advice: the ultimate pre-flight checklist for international contractors
Tempted to broaden your horizons and get an overseas contract? You’ve a lot to look forward to.
So what are the perks for international contractors?
First up, the sheer joy of travel: you’ll get to explore the world, enjoy sunny climes and discover new cultures. Plus have the freedom and flexibility to take downtime when you fancy.
Then the bucks: you’ll be able to cash in on favourable tax regimes and earn up to 50% more than at home.
And finally, the career blessings: you’ll be able to bag varied and exciting job opportunities to boost your CV and skill set.
Landed your first overseas contract?
Great news. But don’t just dash to the airport. Take time to understand the legal and tax implications for international contractors. This goes for wherever in the world you’re heading. And for whatever your job area: telecoms, IT, energy, oil & gas, construction or any other.
Here’s a pre-flight checklist.
1. Get paid fast with the right employment model
Make sure you’re tax-efficient and tax-compliant by getting this buttoned down. You’ve several choices for your employment (or trading) model.
Each country has different rules for international contractors. So your options depend on your job, end client and contract length. It’s always a good idea to get individual advice on this. You’ll save yourself money and worry.
The choice includes:
- Limited company: a popular and tax-efficient choice. But you’ll likely still have to pay corporation tax in the UK. It’s also not suitable for all host countries so talk to an expert first.
- Umbrella or payroll company: a hassle-free option for international contractors on shorter contracts. The umbrella company looks after your monthly payroll. It bills your agency or employer and debits your tax and social security liabilities so you have total peace of mind.
- Self-employment: you’ll have to meet certain criteria for this. Such as having more than one client you work for.
2. Enquire what currency you’ll get paid in
Think about the impact of currency exchange rates. Sterling, for example, has fallen against the euro since Brexit. How a currency fluctuates could mean a pay drop (or a pay rise) for you. Consider where you’ll be spending the biggest part of your salary and how much you plan to save to take home to help you decide the best currency to be paid in. You can also use a foreign exchange currency company to protect your exchange rate for the length of your contract. Your payroll company will be able to help with this.
3. Find out if you need a visa
If you’re a UK or EU citizen, the EU is open to you. You won’t need a visa or permit. We’ll be keeping you updated on any changes that get made to the free movement of labour following Brexit negotiations. But if your contract’s outside the EU, you will need a visa. Your umbrella company can help, often by having a local company sponsor you. Many countries also offer special visas for skilled international contractors. So take good advice.
4. Check your legal status
Find out which country’s law applies to your work contract. Do other local laws apply to the services you’re providing? Usually, the law that applies to the contract between the client (or umbrella company) and you decides this. In the EU, your contract will usually be in the law of the country where you’ve ‘habitual residence’.
5. Get your accommodation sorted
Where will you live? Is accommodation part of the contract package with your end client? Often it’s not, so it’s up to you. Find out if your employer can recommend good-value accommodation. If not, look at serviced apartments. They often work out cheaper than hotels or B&Bs.
6. Don’t overlook liability insurance
You’ll need to be covered with specialist policies for third party liability, professional indemnity and professional travel insurance for you and any accompanying family members. A good payroll services provider will help you organise these.
7. Make sure you’ve got your health covered
You may be fit and healthy now but what happens if you get ill? There’ll be no NHS to fall back on. As an international contractor you’ll need to arrange health insurance for yourself. The right cover will depend on the country you’re going to so it’s best to get professional advice.
8. Ready to go? Don’t forget these essentials
- Passport and visa
- Will and power of attorney
- All your insurance documents
- Any personal medications (at least a 90 day supply) and medical tags
- Extra eye glasses
- Dollars to exchange in case of emergency, some local currency and your personal credit card.
- Plug adaptor, mobile phone and charger. Check roaming charges before you go. You might be better with a local SIM.
Follow our tips and you’ll be living your career dream. Doing work you love, earning a great salary, in exciting locations and at the pace you want.
Does that sound like you?
Are you an overseas contractor? Anything we’ve left out? Let us know below.
Essential steps to finding a contract job overseas
Tempted to find a contract job overseas? You’re not alone.
More of us are grabbing the perks that working as an overseas contractor brings. So it’s good news that worldwide contract openings are on the up.
Here’s what the UK’s Centre for Research on Self-Employment has to say. “The EU has seen a new phenomenon. It’s the rise of the independent professional, or iPro, often referred to as freelancers. Their rise represents a major shift in the nature of work and ways of working.”
Worried about Brexit? Don’t be
Brexit is part of this picture. It’s likely to mean more contracting opportunities globally.
Why? Because when things look unstable, companies prefer to hire contractors, not full time employees.
Across the world, overseas opportunities are on the rise. Energy, telecoms, IT, oil & gas and construction are the big shortage areas.
This has a lot to do with the push by emerging countries to improve infrastructure. There are skills gaps for overseas contractors to fill. And market demand is good for day rates.
It’s official: overseas contractors are happier
The bonuses of working overseas as a professional contractor are pretty clear. You get:
- To travel the world and be paid handsomely. Thanks to tax breaks and contractors’ better rates of pay (up to 50% more than employees).
- The flexibility to decide when you accept a contract. Or take downtime, for holidays or relaxing with friends or family.
- A bigger choice of job opportunities. So you can broaden your technical skills, learn a new language, and improve your employability.
- To become more resilient and adaptable. Plus a strong global market understanding. All assets for your future professional working life.
A survey by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) shows that 97% of contractors are “much happier than employees”. They’re more satisfied in lots of ways, says MGI. Good salaries, flexibility and opportunities for professional development are just a few. As well as not having to put up with office politics…
Hot spots for contract jobs overseas
So where are the lucrative areas in the world right now for work? Here’s a snapshot:
- Poland: It has 200,000 contractors working in offshore IT and technology operation centres.
- Switzerland: Its buoyant economy means it needs pharmaceutical, banking and IT staff.
- Norway: Oil & gas is big here, with skill shortages in other sectors due to small population.
- Germany: It needs new recruits in mechanical, automotive, and electrical engineering.
- Brazil: An emerging world power, it has openings in oil & gas, energy, mining and IT
- Chile: There are massive infrastructure projects underway. So skilled construction workers are in demand, as well as IT specialists
- Latin America: Oil & gas is under reform and there’s a big rise in exploration.
- Kazakhstan: This has the Kashagan reserves, the world’s largest oil-field discovery in the past 30 years. Commercial production is now underway
- South East Asia: It has lots of opportunities in telecoms, oil & gas, mining & minerals and power & energy industries.
How to find your perfect contract job overseas?
Check out the global recruitment agencies that connect talent with employers across the world.
Get in touch with the ones that specialize in your industry – oil & gas, IT, engineering, telecoms etc.
Keep an eye too on the careers sections of global employers if you know they’re a big player in the country of your dreams.
Get interview-ready for a contract job overseas
Don’t expect your interview to be in person. Geography means more companies are hiring contractors after a Skype interview.
So choose a quiet place and get your Internet connection ready. Log in to Skype with plenty of time to prepare. Dress as if you were meeting face to face. Study common interview questions related to your career field. Write down any questions too that you want to check about the contract. Make sure your answers are clear and direct.
The good thing about phone and Skype interviews is that you can look at your notes. Have your CV and employment details handy too. Afterwards send a short thank you email to show how keen you are for the job offer.
So, is working abroad for you? If it is, it could be the career adventure of your life.
Find out how to get ready for your contract job overseas with our checklist here.
Are you an overseas contractor? Tell us about your experience below