Social Security in Belgium: An Expats Guide

Belgium, with its rich cultural tapestry and high standard of living, offers a comprehensive social security system designed to protect residents against the financial impacts of life’s uncertainties.

For expats, navigating this system can seem daunting, akin to deciphering a complex Belgian tapestry. This guide aims to simplify the Belgian social security system, breaking down its components and eligibility criteria for expatriates.

Whether you’re relocating for work, joining a loved one, or seeking a new adventure, understanding how to access and benefit from Belgium’s social security can be a crucial part of your expat journey.

Let’s dive in!

Who Is Required To Register For Social Security?

The vast majority of people living and working in Belgium are required to register for and contribute to the social security system. 

If you intend to stay in Belgium for more than 90 days, you must register with your local municipality. After that, you will be assigned a National Register Number

When you begin new employment in Belgium, your employer must guarantee that you are registered to make the necessary contributions.

Each month, social security contributions are deducted directly from your paycheck. Employees contribute 13.07% of their earnings to the social security system.

Employers, on the other hand, pay roughly twice as much – around 27%. Contributions are made to the ONSS/RNZ.

The employee’s share of contributions goes towards pensions (about 7.5%), sickness and invalidity insurance for healthcare (3.5%) and benefits (1.2%), and unemployment insurance (1%). 

Employers also contribute to insurance for occupational diseases and accidents at work.

Most Belgian workers are required to pay an additional special social security contribution. 

This ranges from €9.30 to €60.94 each month, depending on your household’s income. Each year, the final amount payable is changed. Contributions are capped at €731.28 each year.

What Is The Social Security Number In Belgian?

In Belgium, these abbreviations stand for your Social Security Identification Number: SSIN, INSZ, NISS, INSS.

If you intend to work in Belgium, you must obtain an SSIN number, which serves as your Belgian identification number.

It’s a relatively simple four-step process, but your employer must apply before your start date. Your application can be submitted online by your company.

Documentation

  • Passport
  • ID card/driver’s license 

The quality of these copies must be sufficiently high.

Identification

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Country of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Nationality
  • Gender

Address

  • Your address back in your home country
  • Your address in Belgium

Submission

Upon successful submission, you will immediately receive the unique Belgian identification number.

The processing takes a while and additional research and/or information is needed to be able to assess your application; in this case, your employer will be kept informed by e-mail.

Note

Belgians call their national identification number INSZ (“identificatienummer van de sociale zekerheid) in Dutch.

In French it is  NISS (“No. d’identification de Sécurité Sociale”).

In German it is  INSS (“Identifizierungsnummer der Sozialen Sicherheit”).

Receiving Social Security In Belgium

Everyone who lives and works in Belgium is eligible for social security. The amount you must pay, however, is determined by whether your country of origin has a social security agreement with Belgium. 

Belgium has social security agreements with all European Economic Area (EEA) countries and 25 non-EEA countries.

Some of these bilateral agreements allow you to transfer or combine your benefits. For example, the EU’s agreement requires residents to make social security contributions in only one country at a time. 

This allows you to avoid double taxation

To clarify, if you need to submit a claim in Belgium, any periods of insurance, work, and taxation in your native country can be considered.

If your country does not have a bilateral agreement with Belgium, you may be required to contribute to social security in both countries. 

Consult your country’s embassy in Belgium or the National Social Security Office for assistance.

Right To Social Assistance 

Everyone in Belgium has the right to social assistance from the CPAS/OCMW, the state social welfare center.

They provide social services to ensure that everyone lives with dignity

They assess what assistance is most appropriate given the individual’s or family’s situation, and then provide the necessary means to meet those requirements.

These services are limited for asylum seekers and people without legal status. In addition to the standard CPAS/OCMW service, the government subsidizes a unique reception structure for asylum seekers.

For those who do not have legal status, the service is mainly limited to emergency medical assistance.

Social Security

The social payments that are deducted from your earnings at work form the basis of the Belgian social security system. The social security system is funded by these donations from the general public.

Your company contributes a sizeable sum to the social security fund each month on top of your wage. Additionally, the employee contributes to social security at the rate of a fraction of his gross wage. 

After that, social security is paid from this fund:

  • Payments in the case of illness
  • Benefits for unemployed
  • Allowances in the event of an occupational disease
  • Allowances in the event of accidents at work
  • Allowances in the event of illness or invalidity
  • Family allowances
  • Pensions

Self-employed people can also receive social security benefits.  As a result, self-employed people must pay a social contribution

This contribution is less than the joint contribution of employers and employees, but it provides fewer rights

However, self-employed individuals may make additional voluntary contributions, which provide them with additional rights in specific circumstances. The self-employed pay “provisional contributions” at first.

Some rules apply to civil servants that do not apply to employees or self-employed individuals. Employees who work under contract for a government agency may be eligible for social security benefits.

There are various supplementary support systems. These additional assistance schemes are funded by the government rather than by contributions.

To be eligible for various types of assistance, you must meet stringent legal requirements. These types of assistance often are based on your available income. 

Foreigners are not usually entitled to the same levels of Social Security and assistance as Belgians.

  • Financial support 
  • Income guarantees for the elderly
  • The guaranteed family allowances
  • Payments for handicapped people
  • Payments for elderly assistance

Belgium’s Unemployment Benefit For People With A Social Security Number

Workers in Belgium may be eligible for unemployment payments if they lose their jobs. 

To be eligible, you must have worked 321 days in the last 21 months or 624 days in the last 42 months, depending on your age. 

Furthermore, you must be a Belgian resident, have lost your work through no fault of your own, and be able to demonstrate that you are actively looking for a new career

You should also apply to one of Belgium’s governmental employment services:

  • ACTIRIS – Brussels-Capital Region
  • Le FOREM – Walloon Region
  • VDAB – Flanders
  • ADG – German Community

Sickness Benefits

If you are unable to work as a result of an illness or injury, you may be eligible for income replacement benefits.

The National Institute for Sickness and Invalidity Insurance (INAMI or RIZIV – webpage in Dutch and French) provides this benefit.

The eligibility rules differ based on your work. Salaried employees, for example, must have contributed to their mutual insurance fund for at least 12 months.

 They must also declare their inability to work within 30 days of the onset of the illness. Self-employed individuals must demonstrate that they have been contributing for at least six months. 

Employees must produce a doctor-signed medical certificate as proof of their inability to work.

Invalidity Benefits In Belgium

If you are still unable to work after a year, your illness insurance will expire and you will need to file for invalidity benefits

The Invalidity Medical Council (Conseil médical de l’invalidité, CMI – website in Dutch and French) regulates this allowance. 

For workers without dependents, invalidity insurance is granted at 55% of earnings, up to a maximum of €80.84 per day. If you have a dependent, the cap is €95.54 per day.

Maternity Benefits 

Maternity benefits are offered in Belgium to pregnant mothers who have paid into the social security system. 

These benefits are administered by the National Office for Family Benefits for Salaried Persons (ONAFTS – website in French, Dutch, and German), which has branches in all major cities.

Maternity leave can be used for up to 15 weeks. Prenatal leave must be taken for six weeks before the baby is born, followed by postnatal leave for nine weeks after the due date. 

Self-employed individuals are entitled to a total of 12 weeks of paid leave. It is mandatory to take leave the week before and the two weeks following the birth.

Child Benefits

In Belgium, family benefits are available to all children under the age of 18. If the youngster continues to attend school, this figure rises to $25. In Wallonia, however, the age limit for children born after 2001 is 21

The basic allowance is accessible to all families, but the amount you can receive each month is determined by where you reside, the number of children you have, and the year you were born. 

In Brussels, for example, each kid born after January 1, 2020, will earn €153 per month

Furthermore, low-income parents may be eligible for means-tested social supplements.

Survivor Benefit In Belgium

In Belgium, spouses may be eligible for a survivor pension if their partner dies.

To be eligible, you must be at least 48 years old, have been married for at least a year at the time of death, and have not remarried after your spouse’s death. 

If the surviving spouse does not fulfill the minimum age criteria, they can get a transitional allowance for 12 months (if they do not have dependents) or 24 months (if they do have dependents).

Conclusion

Having explored the intricacies of Belgium’s social security system, it’s clear that while complex, it offers extensive protections that can make living in Belgium as an expat a more secure and rewarding experience.

From healthcare to family benefits and pension plans, being well-informed about your rights and responsibilities is key to making the most of the comprehensive social safety net available in Belgium.

As you continue to weave your own story into the fabric of Belgian life, remember that this system is designed to support you through various life stages and challenges.

Secure living!

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