The international migration information system LIMOSA (Landenoverschrijdend Informatiesysteem Migratie Onderzoek Sociaal Administratief) is a federal government project which has been set up to prepare the country for the complete opening of the labour market for workers from the new EU Member States on 1 May 2009. LIMOSA represents an instrument of control in the fight against fraud and the unfair competition of foreign workers who accept work at below-market wages and disregard Belgian labour laws and regulations.
The international migration information system LIMOSA (Landenoverschrijdend Informatiesysteem Migratie Onderzoek Sociaal Administratief) is a federal government project which has been set up to prepare the country for the complete opening of the labour market for workers from the new EU Member States on 1 May 2009. On 1 April 2007, the system was introduced by the:
- Federal Ministry of Social Security (Service public fédéral Sécurité sociale/Federale Overheidsdienst Sociale Zekerheid);
- Ministry of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and Agriculture which has now become the Ministry of Economy, SMEs, Independent Professions and Energy (Service public fédéral Economie, PME, Classes moyennes et Energie/ Federale Overheidsdienst Economie, KMO, Middenstand en Energie);
- Ministry of Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue (Service public fédéral Emploi, Travail et Concertation sociale/Federale Overheidsdienst Werkgelegenheid, Arbeid en Sociaal Overleg).
Its operations are managed by the National Office for Social Security ( Office National de Sécurité Sociale/Rijksdienst voor Sociale Zekerheid, ONSS/RSZ) and the Crossroads Bank for Social Security (Kruispuntbank van de Sociale Zekerheid, KSZ) in cooperation with other federal and regional institutions. LIMOSA also involves a number of other ministries, such as the Ministry of Finance (Service public fédéral Finances/ Federale Overheidsdienst Financiën), as well as the regional governments of Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia.
LIMOSA represents an instrument of control in the fight against fraud and the unfair competition of foreign workers who accept work at below-market wages and disregard Belgian labour laws and regulations. It mainly targets employers, self-employed persons and student trainees from third countries who come to work temporarily in Belgium. The LIMOSA system comprises three web-based applications.
- Introduction of a general reporting requirement: Every foreign worker, self-employed person or student on work placement who enters Belgium for the purpose of temporary employment, is required to register with the relevant Belgian social security authorities. This registration can be done electronically through LIMOSA, which supports several languages, including Dutch, French, German, and English. Following the registration, the foreign worker receives a receipt – Limosa-1 – which must be presented to his or her employer. For their part, employers are obliged to report to the authorities all foreign workers who cannot present a LIMOSA-1 receipt. Failure to register or to report unregistered workers can result in criminal or administrative sanctions.
- Setting up a central database: This databank can be consulted by inspection services, such as the Social Information and Investigation Service (Service d’inspection et de recherché sociales/Sociale Inlichtingen- en Opsporingsdienst/, SIRS/SIOD) and the Social Inspection Services Anti-fraud Organisation (Organisation Anti-fraude des Services d’Inspection Sociale, OASIS), and other public services to collect and analyse data on the number of registrations and the number of work permits, for example.
- Establishing an electronic office: This office will provide a single point of contact for temporary foreign workers in Belgium, through which all registrations and work permit applications will be processed. The electronic office is expected to make formal procedures quick and simple.
Certain groups of temporary workers are exempt from the general reporting requirement. This concerns, for example, workers and self-employed persons in the international transport of goods and passengers, participants of scientific conferences, workers hired to carry out urgent maintenance and repair work, competitors in international sporting events, and scientific researchers employed by foreign universities.
Employers who register their temporary foreign workers with LIMOSA will be relieved of the obligation to maintain a number of social security documents.
The LIMOSA system aims to improve the monitoring of the employment of foreign workers in Belgium. More specifically, the registration system:
- supports the introduction of a general reporting requirement for all work activities by foreigners in Belgium;
- enables the registration of all relevant information in a central databank;
- offers inspection services the possibility to consult the database;
- generates statistical information on cross-border employment in Belgium;
- simplifies administrative procedures for workers and self-employed persons from other countries;
- coordinates information flows between relevant institutions in Belgium.
Evaluation and outcome
Since the LIMOSA project has only been implemented since 1 April 2007, it is too early to evaluate the system’s benefits or potential obstacles and problems that may arise.
On 30 June 2005, the total number of foreign cross-border workers from France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands was 33,989, according to the 2005 annual report of the National Social Insurance Institute (Institut national d’assurance maladie-invalidité/Rijksinstituut voor ziekte- en invaliditeitsverzekering, INAMI/RIZIV).
To date, there is no information yet available on the costs associated with the running of the LIMOSA system. Nevertheless, the expected gains in using LIMOSA include the following:
- shorter processing times through the digital exchange of data between all relevant agencies concerning the work of foreigners in Belgium, as well as the simplification and improved coordination of procedures;
- the availability of a complete electronically-based dossier on foreign workers;
- the possibility of online consultation;
- the availability of policy information.
Measures such as LIMOSA have contributed to the elimination of seven million paper forms which had been used in the Belgian social security system.
The Belgian government has presented LIMOSA to the European Commission as a possible starting point for a pan-European social service. This would provide all third-country nationals in any European country with a coordinated method to apply for temporary work permits and register as a worker using a single electronic point of contact.
The Minister of Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue, Peter Vanvelthoven, notes that 13 EU Member States require the declaration of foreign employees and self-employed people. However, in these countries, the declaration of foreign workers involves a registered letter in the language of the country to the relevant authorities, as well as additional evidence. The Belgian system is based on an electronic web-based system to declare any foreign workers and supports four languages – Dutch, English, French and German. Given the current state of developments in e-government solutions, the other Member States should be in a position to implement the Belgian approach.
Main organisation responsible: Federal Ministry of Social Security (Service public fédéral Sécurité sociale/Federale Overheidsdienst Sociale Zekerheid)
Vanvelthoven, P., ‘Het waarom van de Limosaverplichting’ [The rationale for the Limosa requirement], Presentation by the then Minister of Labour and ICT, February 2007.
‘Elektronische aangifte sociale risico’s vanaf 1 januari 2006’, Press statement, 19 December 2005.