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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently arrived in Brussels, and have discovered there is figurative red tape at every turn. I have a working holiday visa for Canadians, and the letter from the consulate states that I do NOT need a work permit at any time and that I do NOT need to WAIT for my residence card to work. This is misleading, in my opinion.

I am a qualified journeyman electrician in Canada with 5 years of diverse experience in construction and experience as a foreman, and I do speak French. When I tell this to people, they say I will have no trouble finding work, except that companies seem to prefer hiring through interim agencies and the agencies insist I need a national registration number before they are willing to spend any time with me (most belgians by the way have been extremely unhelpful). This means registering with the municipality, and if I correctly understood the rapid and stern French of the very pissed off woman on the other side of the plexiglass at the municipality where I inquired about this national registration number, it could take up to 3 months to complete the porcess of verifying that I do indeed reside at the flat I just aquired.

What to do!? I phoned the consulate and they say I have the right to work, but the interim agency gives me a different answer and refuses to phone the ministry as the consulate suggests I ask them to do.

Will the ministry provide me with something temporary so I can work like everyone else (one of the few kind belgians here suggested i ask for "une attestation provisoire") or should I just look for a company that will hire me without an agency? Has anyone had this unfortunate experience? This has been par for the course for life in Belgium anyway, so I am beginning to understand, but in my case the most serious problem at the moment.

Wishing I had gone to France instead,

Nick
 

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Be careful what you wish for... France is every bit as bureaucratic as Belgium. (Which probably explains why the French tell Belgian jokes and the Belgians tell French jokes.)

You're unfortunately caught up in a bad economy just at a time when most governments are cracking down on hiring illegal foreigners. So, it makes sense that the agencies are simply dealing with the most routine workers who can provide all the "usual" documents - and may be having trouble placing them as it is.

The working holiday programs have also not been well publicized in country (certainly not here in France), so companies you approach may be wary of your status and right to work, given that you don't have a national registration number.

You might try either getting some sort of attestation from the ministry (as suggested) or at least try and find some official document or site that explains the working holiday visa program and how it works for employers. (The ministry may be able to point to information about it on their website.) Take that with you to explain the working holiday program to either the agencies or potential employers.

Most working holiday programs seem to be directed toward young people, at the start of their career, with limited job skills. You might find it easier to find a job if you lower your sights a bit and go with something less specialized/qualified - like working in the hotel or restaurant industry.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Getting some information for employers is a good idea, thanks. There was an australian at the computer next to me when i posted last night who has been in brussels for six months. He said he's had a lot of visas, lately he has been teaching english, and he said the system here in Belgium is nothing but bull ****. Even the belgians I have become aquainted with telling things are especially complicated in this country, and I maintain that the vast majority are ill-tempered and unhelpful.

The first thing he said was avoid the commune (city hall) of brussels centre, as I have also noticed, too many foreigners, the place is a zoo every day (probably why i was treated so harshly). He went to ixelles to avoid the militant commune in the centre. He moved into the center after the initial registration was complete and then it was easy. Unfortunately, I have already started the process here. I may just make like I am moving to my mom's friend's place a commuter train away in flanders to take his advice.

Today was also told that I could or should have been given a "titre de séjour llimité" by the commune when I went to give them my address, and that would allow me to use the resourses of actiris, the government office that helps people find work. Better than nothing.

So you claim that things are not much better if at all in France? As far as the job market goes, there are construction sites everywhere, from smaller renos to large sites with tower cranes, and people living here, even the trades people like the plumber doing a service call at the hostel said as a certified electrician I shouldn't have any trouble getting work because there is a lack of skilled trades.

As for hotel/restaurant, I am open to alternatives but I am weary of working with the public because I have difficulty with French under pressure, and don't speak any flemmish besides "thank you".
 

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Hi Teneighty,
I would like to know how you are getting along as I too am an electrician. Did you find work?
I am an Australian with a working holiday visa in Belgium and I am currently trying to find my way through all the red tape.
Fortunately, the admin communale that I went to gave me an attestation which, the temp agencies seem to like reading but still want to see more documents.
I just had the police make their visit today and now I wonder what I must do next in order to be employable in the eyes of the great interim fraternity.
Any information would be much appreciated.
By the way, I have already had the visa in France and I found that they do like their paperwork but in my opinion Belgium is worse in this matter.
Cheers
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I did eventually manage to find agencies that would take me, and I did find work, but as it happens, on my own and not through an agency.

I do have quite a bit to add, but don't have the time at the moment for a full reply. If you are in brussels, I can give you the addresses some of the interim agencies as well.
 

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Thanks Nick, When you get a chance to elaborate that would be great for myself and all the others who do the same as us. I am in Brussels infact.

I have just made a wikispace called BelgiumWHV and I might have a go at putting together some info like what we are talking about for others to see all on the one site.

world wide web belgiumwhv.wikispaces dot com
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
That is a good plan. If I feel compelled to contribute what I have learned from this experience to make it a little easier for the next guy. It really shouldn't be this way but it is and we need to help eachother out a little.

After I got into Actiris I had a couple of appointments with a counselor there and we overhauled my resume and did a good cover letter. It was much much better. I don't know why I, a foreigner, qualify for such a service at all, but since I was falling through the many administrative cracks, they owed me something. I came here expecting the right to work and could not afford to take time off while they got around to my file. In any case I used that resume and cover letter to find a job myself, but I did manage to register with some of the interim agencies after doing some preparation. I did get somewhere. I took it upon myself to educate myself and compiled a little package to go along with my resume which included:

A photocopy of my visa
A photocopy of the letter from the consulate (I would present the original in interviews)
A copy of the portion of the Belgian Monitor where laws are published, concerning the program
A list of contacts that I had spoken to that agreed, I did have the right to work without a permit

The contacts were:

Service Publique Fédéral de Sécurité Social (En particulier 'Inspection Social')
Boulevard du Jardin Botanique 50
02 528 60 11

Service Permis de Trvail
Rue du Progrès 80
1035 Bruxelles

Direction des Affaires Consulaire
(Noté sur la lettre du consulat mais pas le plus utile)
02 501 32 00

Consulate Général de Belgique a Montréal
(I won't bother with details since you are from Australia)

Le Moniteur is available online at: Moniteur Belge - Belgisch Staatsblad

I did a search for “vacances-travail” and clicked on list, and there are laws published regarding Australia published 2004-09-06, 2004-11-24, and 2005-02-08

Tempo-team and Start People seemed to have a pretty strict policy. Actief's industrial office was in Vilvoord, just outside of Brussels, walking distance from the train station. They were pretty enthusiastic. I sat down for an interview and registration with Trace! In Charleroi, but there are offices in Brussels as well. I think I registered at Addecco as well, but it might have been a little more peculiar. There was what seemed to be a smaller one on Avenue de Louise, Vivaldi's I believe, that I got a fairly positive feeling from as well. They said they weren't so specifically an industrial interim but they did actively receive requests for tradespeople from employers. There might have been one or two more as well, I can't remember now. I had an interview between Christmas and new years, started work January 4th, and got a few more calls around mid January.

Before I found work, I pounded a lot of pavement going between different government offices and related services, anything I could think of and any suggestions I was given. The worst example was the first time at Actiris, they asked for an annex 8, so I went back to the commune and asked if I could have one, whatever it was. The lady was not pleased I had asked for one, and when she noted that I had already been by to provide my new address she got real unpleasant when she explained how I had to wait for the police, etc. When I asked for clarification, she was clearly on the angry side and said in french «*Sir, I am going to explain this to you one more time*». Many Belgians I have discussed it with agreed, I was just an annoyance with my bizarre questions and difficulties in their day, and they just wanted to get back to their newspaper and coffee, or something like that.

So there was some of that unwillingness in other offices, and sometimes people were actually sympathetic, but admitted the system was very complicated and there was nothing they could really do about it. I met with a lady at the offices “inspection social” at the “service publique fédéral de sécurité social” which actually does the inspection and enforcement of work permits in the field. I suppose it was already clear I was having difficulty but I began to explain I have a working holiday visa and I am exempted from the work permit requirement, and she said to me “ah, yes that will be a problem because they will ask you for one.” But I asked her if what I had on hand would satisfy an inspection, the passport and the letter from the consulate, and she said that it seemed in order. I had the same response earlier after sitting down with someone from the “Service Permis de Travail” that issues the work permits.

Ironically, the number on the letter from the consulate, if you have the same, “Direction des affaires Consulaire” (Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs) was fairly useless. Takes a long time on hold to actually speak with someone, they will absolutely not see you in person, phone or fax only, and I got the usual not too interested in helping you there. The two biggest problems are nobody knows anything about the program, and that the administrative arrangements in place are poorly organized, and we get stuck on red tape or fall through the cracks. Everything is supposed to be fine once you have an identity card, which is actually a “titre de séjour” but in the mean time, there are not enough provisions so that we can continue to exist in Belgium normally. And this is a huge short fall, because I have been here over 4 months and I just got the identity card yesterday! Fortunately my boss has been cool about it, but the french night class has been wanting to see it in a hurry, and the 2-3 weeks between the registration actually taking place and the identity card being ready, there is no legal means for me to obtain a drivers license. My international was no good after registration and I can't take the belgian test without the actual card. Now with the card finally I have a learners license and it will be a long time before I can do a driving test for the full B drivers license.
 
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