Belgium has added to the list of categories of travelers with an essential function or need, and has issued an update on restrictions on non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
List of categories of essential travelers. Belgium has extended, effective July 2, 2020, the list of specific categories of travelers with an essential function or need to “4 categories: mariners, persons attending meetings of international organisations, students and highly qualified personnel whose work cannot be carried out at a distance (taking into account the visa procedures currently in force).”
Furthermore, EU+ citizens and third-country nationals legally residing in the European Union, as well as their family members, can travel wherever they wish in the EU+, including Belgium, and no longer only in their country of residence. The Belgium government listed “EU+” countries in a public statement from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Philippe Goffin (https://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/newsroom/news/2020/non_essential_travel_outside_eu_no_major_changes_before_7_july).
“Highly qualified personnel whose work cannot be carried out at a distance” refers to the category “highly qualified third-country workers if their employment is necessary from an economic perspective and the work cannot be postponed or performed abroad” as mentioned in the EU Council Recommendation 9208/20, dated June 30, 2020. For the time being, the Belgian authorities have limited “highly qualified personnel whose work cannot be carried out at a distance” to Blue Card holders, who will receive a visa type D with the code B29. A Belgian visa type D contains a code B (number), indicating the underlying legal basis for the visa D.
The EU Blue Card is issued in Belgium to highly qualified employees, but it is not the only permit for highly qualified/skilled employees, and definitely not the most popular one. Many highly qualified/skilled employees hold a single permit that allows them to obtain a visa type D with the code B34. Some observers have said that the current limitation to Blue Card holders does not make sense. Despite pressure from the business community to include single permit holders, as of this writing, there was no final decision yet.
Restrictions on non-essential travel. As of this writing, restrictions on non-essential travel were still in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this was not expected to change immediately. The Belgian press reported that the federal government decided not to reopen the borders for “white-listed” (safe) countries because the health situation in nine countries would not allow this and there was a lack of reciprocity with respect to the other countries on the list. Reportedly, if Belgium’s neighboring countries (France, Germany, Netherlands, Luxembourg) would allow entry to travelers from the white-listed countries, Belgium would implement unannounced border checks to prevent these travelers from entering Belgium. Formal confirmation of this decision by the federal government was awaited.
The 15 white-listed countries included Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, and China (subject to confirmation of reciprocity).
The Public Health Passenger Locator Form must be completed by every passenger on flights from outside the Schengen Area to Belgium. On arrival, the travel must hand over the form to the designated authorities at the border. Information on travel to Belgium is available at https://dofi.ibz.be/sites/dvzoe/EN/Pages/Travel-to-Belgium.aspx. The form is at https://dofi.ibz.be/sites/dvzoe/EN/Documents/BELGIUM_PassengerLocatorForm_ENG.pdf.