Orientation Year

Are you a non-EEA student with a residence permit in Belgium for study reasons, graduating at Hasselt University? Do you want to stay in Belgium after your graduation, to look for a job or start a business of your own? Then you are eligible for  a 12-months residence permit for a 'search year' or 'orientation year'.

The goal of this new residence status is to allow both students and researchers to actively look for a job (in Belgium) after graduation or after the completion of a research project. 'Actively looking for a job' can mean both finding a job with a (Belgian) company or setting up a business of your own (in Belgium). This residence permit only exists in Belgium since August 2021.

You need to apply at the latest 15 days before the expiration date of your Belgian residence permit. The application for a ‘search year’ needs to be presented at the town or city hall of your place of residence in Belgium.


If you want to apply for this residence permit in, you must fulfill the following conditions:

  • you have a Belgian residence permit for study reasons in the current academic year
  • you have obtained a master, postgraduate or doctoral degree in the current academic year
  • you have a health insurance in Belgium
  • you have sufficient means of existence during the 12 months of the search year; you have to sustain yourself during the search year and you have to prove how you will do that.
  • This proof of solvency can be:
    • a proof of your own financial means: e.g. you have transferred a certain amount to a blocked bank account administered by Hasselt University
    • you have employment contracts during the search year
    • the commitment that charge will be taken (annex 32)​​​​.

How to apply

At the latest 15 days before the expiration date of your Belgian student residence permit, you must submit your application for the search year at the city/town hall of your place of residence in Belgium. You need the following documents:

  • your valid Belgian passport
  • proof of your Belgian degree
  • proof of your health insurance
  • proof of solvency.

If your application is on time and complete, you receive a receipt (annex 33ter) and the Immigration Office will take a decision within 90 days.

​​​​​If your Belgian student residence permit expires while awaiting the decision, you will receive an annex 15, a temporary document which covers your stay in Belgium (and allows you to start working in Belgium).

Once your application is approved, you will receive a residence permit for a search year, an A card which is valid for 12 months. This residence permit  cannot be extended. If you have had an annex 15, the period under this annex 15 is deducted from the 12 months.

What can I do during the search year?

During the search year (or during the period under an annex 15) you will have unlimited access to the Belgian labour market. You can work without restrictions, even full time and without work permit; your employer has to keep a copy of your residence permit.

For these temporary  jobs you don't have to meet the single permit conditions, such as meeting salary thresholds for highly qualified workers. Keep in mind that, although these temporary jobs may be interesting and provide you with an income, they are not the purpose of the search year. The real purpose of the search year is to find a job which qualifies for a single permit or to take the necessary steps to start a self-employed activity and apply for a professional card and a change of your residence status. In other words: to obtain a residence permit on the basis of employment.

Try to find a  job which is 'in line' with the diploma and in the sector where you want to find a job which qualifies for a single permit.  This gives you the opportunity to show the employer yours skills and competences and may thus convince your employer to give you a job which qualifies for a single permit.

If you have found a job which qualifies for a single permit, you can already start working for the employer while awaiting the single permit.

You must actively look for a job. After 3 months, the Immigration Office may check whether you have made enough efforts and whether  you have a good chance of finding a job which qualifies for a single permit or of starting a self-employed activity. If you cannot prove that this is the case, your right of residence can be terminated prematurely.


For more information, contact Niels Lambrichts or Stefanie Commeene