The legislation concerning travel abroad and the associated obligations has been amended repeatedly in the past few weeks. This newsflash provides an overview of the most important points of attention for travel to and from Belgium for professional reasons. The following measures apply until – for now – 1 March 2021.
1. Prohibition on non-essential travel
- From 27 January 2021, non-essential travel to and from Belgium is prohibited again.
- This temporary prohibition to travel does not apply to essential travel. “Professional travel” by nationals and residents of the EU/Schengen States and residents from some third countries (as listed on https://reopen.europa.eu/en/ ) – provided that these persons have a declaration of honour (model form on the info-coronavirus.be website) – is considered, among others, as an essential movement. Other third-country nationals must hold an essential travel certificate issued by a Belgian diplomatic mission or consular post, unless the essential nature of the travel is proven by the documents in the traveller’s possession.
2. Mandatory quarantine and testing
- Quarantine and testing after a stay abroad:
- Belgian residents returning from a red zone after a stay of more than 48 hours: mandatory quarantine of 10 days and a mandatory COVID-19 test on day 1 and day 7. The duration of the quarantine can be shortened to a minimum of 7 days provided that a negative test is obtained on day 7;
- Non-Belgian residents returning or travelling to Belgium from a red zone after a stay of more than 48 hours (with the exception of travellers from the United Kingdom, South Africa and South America - see below): mandatory quarantine of 10 days, and a mandatory test on day 7. The duration of the quarantine can be shortened to a minimum of 7 days provided that a negative test is obtained on day 7. In addition, non-residents must hold a negative test result of no more than 72 hours old (regardless of the duration of their stay abroad and their stay in Belgium). There are some exceptions, for example for travellers who do not come to Belgium via a carrier if they have been abroad for a maximum of 48 hours or will be staying in Belgium for less than 48 hours;
- All travellers from the United Kingdom, South Africa and South America to Belgium: mandatory quarantine of 10 days, a negative test result of maximum 72 hours old and a mandatory COVID-19 test on day 1 and day 7;
- All employees or self-employed persons residing or staying abroad who will stay in Belgium for more than 48 hours to perform activities are obliged to have a negative test result from a test that was taken no more than 72 hours before their departure to Belgian territory (regardless of whether they come from a red zone or not).
- These rules do not apply to frontier workers.
- If the worker is required to stay in quarantine, the employer can refuse him access to the workplace.
3. “Public Health Passenger Locator Form (PLF)”
- Mandatory Form for:
- anyone returning to Belgium by plane, boat, train, bus;
- in case of travel by other means of transport, the Form should only be completed if the stay in Belgium lasts more than 48 hours or the preceding stay outside Belgium lasted more than 48 hours. If the traveller is travelling to Belgium from outside the EU and the Schengen associated countries, this Form must be filled in regardless of the length of the stay abroad and in Belgium, i.e., even if it is less than 48 hours.
4. “Business Travel Abroad (BTA)”
- The BTA Form must be completed online by the Belgian employer, the Belgian principal or the international organisation established on Belgian territory if it concerns travel abroad for professional reasons and this before the departure of the employee concerned.
- This Form can only be used for:
- Travel for files or projects that require limited on-site intervention (no time limit).
- Travel to Belgium: This form cannot be used by non-residents of Belgium for travel to Belgium for the purpose of temporary or permanent employment, but it can be used for a limited business contact related to a concrete project or file, with a maximum duration of 5 days.
- This Form generates a certificate number that must be entered in the PLF Form in order to activate the professional travel section. It may give rise to an exception to the mandatory quarantine.
5. Obligations for temporary employment of employees or self-employed persons residing or staying abroad
- All companies who temporarily work with employees or self-employed persons residing or staying abroad to perform work in Belgium are obliged to keep a register of the employees or self-employed persons residing or staying abroad, in which a number of mandatory data must be included.
- The obligation to register does not apply to frontier workers, nor does it apply if the stay in Belgium of the employee or self-employed person residing or staying abroad is less than 48 hours.
- All employers and “users” are obliged to check whether the employee or self-employed person residing or staying abroad has filled in the PLF Form. If this is not the case, the employer or user must ensure that the Form is filled in before the start of the employment in Belgium.
6. General obligation and control
A general obligation is imposed on all persons present at the workplace to comply with the COVID obligations (e.g., rules on quarantine, testing, contact tracing) imposed by the government.
- The occupational physicians and the social inspection can check on the compliance with the above obligations.
The Social Inspection announced at the beginning of January 2021 that it would carry out additional checks on teleworking (“flash checks”). This may include checks on compliance with the above obligations.
Travel abroad for professional reasons is, under certain circumstances, still possible. However, a number of measures must be strictly adhered to and travellers must be in possession of a number of forms.
It is, however, strongly advised to check the applicable rules and obligations at the time of departure, since this matter is constantly subject to change.