Professional travel: what are the rules from 19 April?

Author: Catherine Legardien (Legal Expert)
Date:

Since 19 April 2021, non-essential travel abroad and to Belgium is again permitted. This means that in order to travel for professional purposes, the employee no longer needs to fill out a declaration of honour to prove the essential nature of his travel. The other formalities still apply, however.

What travel is allowed?

As from April 19, the following travel is allowed again:

  • all (essential and non-essential) travel abroad,
  • all (essential and non-essential) travel to Belgium, with the exception of persons who do not have the nationality of a country of the European Union or the Schengen zone and who have their main residence in a third country which is not included in this list.

For the latter, only so-called "essential" travel to Belgium is permitted. These is mainly travel for professional purposes, which are included in this list .

Professional travel: which formalities?

Although employees no longer have to fill in a declaration of honour when they travel abroad or in Belgium for professional purposes, they still have to complete a series of formalities.

No more declaration of honour

From now on, employees travelling abroad for professional purposes will no longer have to fill out a declaration of honour to prove the essential nature of their travel.

The same applies to employees who travel in Belgium for professional purposes.

Persons who are not nationals of a country of the European Union or the Schengen zone and who have their main residence in a third country which is not on this list must always hold an essential travel certificate for their professional travel to Belgium. This certificate is issued by the Belgian embassy or diplomatic post if it is shown that the travel is essential. However, this is not required if the essential nature of the travel is demonstrated on official documents in the possession of the traveller.

‘Business Travel Abroad’

If the employee is travelling abroad for professional purposes for longer than 48 hours, the employer must complete the Business Travel Abroad (BTA) certificate prior to the employee's departure abroad.

The same goes for travel to Belgium by non-residents, but only  for limited business contacts related to a specific project or file, of a maximum duration of 5 days. This formality must be completed by the Belgian employer.

The 'Business Travel Abroad' certificate generates a 10-digit code ('certificate number of the professional travel') that must be communicated to the employee .

‘Passenger Locator Form’

When the employee returns to Belgium after a stay abroad, he must complete the 'Passenger Locator Form' within 48 hours before his arrival in Belgium in the following two situations:

  • if he returns to Belgium by carrier,
  • In any case if he's been abroad for longer than 48 hours.

The same applies to the non-resident employee in the following two situations:

  • If he arrives in Belgium by carrier,
  • in any case if he stays longer than 48 hours in Belgium.

By carrier, we mean:

  • the public or private air carrier,
  • the public or private maritime carrier,
  • the inland navigation carrier,
  • the rail carrier or public or private bus, for transport from a country outside the European Union and the Schengen area.

On this form, the employee must indicate that he has travelled for professional purposes and must include the “the professional travel certificate number" previously provided to them by the employer.

He must also complete a self-assessment questionnaire about the circumstances of his travel and/or stay abroad.

The 'Passenger Locator Form' and self-assessment questionnaire will be examined to determine whether or not the employee should be considered a 'high risk' contact.

The fact that it regards a stay for professional purposes, certified by the employer via the 'Business Travel Abroad' (BTA), does not automatically mean that the employee should not be considered a high-risk contact.

The assessment parameters of the 'Passenger Locator Form' and of the self-assessment questionnaire are just less strict for professional travel.

"If the employee is considered a 'high-risk contact' after this examination, he must observe a quarantine period and be tested on the 1st and 7th day after his return/arrival in Belgium."

Negative PCR test

The employee arriving on Belgian territory, coming from a red area and not having his main residence in Belgium, is required to present a negative test result on the basis of a test carried out at the earliest 72 hours before departure to Belgian territory.

This obligation applies to travellers coming to Belgium:

  • by carrier;
  • who do not use a carrier and of whom:
    • the stay in Belgium exceeds 48 hours and
    • the preceding stay outside Belgium lasted more than 48 hours.

By carrier, we mean:

  • the public or private air carrier,
  • the public or private maritime carrier,
  • the inland navigation carrier,
  • the rail carrier or public or private bus, for transport from a country outside the European Union and the Schengen area.

There are some exceptions to this rule, amongst others for certain categories of persons who travel to Belgium in the context of their duties. Therefore, a negative test result is not required for:

  • employees in the transport sector or transport service providers, including drivers of vehicles transporting goods intended for use on the territory as well as those who are merely in transit;
  • the seamen, the tugboat crew, the pilots and the industrial staff employed in the offshore wind farms;
  • the United Kingdom Border Force Officers;
  • border workers.

Measures and restrictions imposed by the country of destination/origin

In addition to all the formalities imposed by Belgian regulations for travelling abroad or to Belgium, the employee must also comply with the rules in force in the country of destination or origin.

Sources: Ministerial Decree of 20 March 2021 amending the Ministerial Decree of 28 October 2020 on urgent measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, Belgian Official Gazette of 21 March 2021; https://www.info-coronavirus.be/en/travels/;  https://bta.belgium.be.

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