Moving out of temporary single permit regime
I am a non-EU national and I just completed my 3 years of continuous employment (permanent contract) in Flanders. I had been on a temporary work permit B which was renewed annually and this July I got a single permit which is valid for next 3 years. I want to look for other opportunities but I am hesitating as I fear I will have to make sure that my joining date in the next company is precisely the next day after my official last day in my current company, so as not to have any interruption in my legal continuous stay of 5 years. Given that it takes 4 months to process a single permit now and it is treated like a brand new application, this can be hard to coordinate and I don't want to take any chances. So I am considering what are my chances to get a permanent residence permit as soon as possible, which gives me free access to Belgian labour market without the need of any sponsorship. I am also married to a EU national (not Belgian). My original plan was to get a type D permanent residency card and then figure out what I want to do next (maybe apply for Belgian passport/citizenship subsequently or move somewhere else within EU)
- Is my fear about last working date and next joining date valid ? Or is it ok if there is a gap ? I am basing this on the fact that under single permit I lose my right to stay in Belgium the same day as my work authorization becomes invalid
- Can I apply for type D residence card at the end of 4 years ? It's not clear from official websites whether it is minimum 4 or 5 years required. If I can get D card next year maybe I could wait.
- Should I apply for F card ? Can I switch jobs freely with that ? If so, will that reset my past 3 years of stay and I will need to wait another 5 years in order to get F+ card before I can apply for citizenship ? Or my 3 years will be counted. Is this a viable option anyway ?
- Is this all too complicated and I better consult a specialized lawyer/consultant for advice ? :)
Appreciate any insights/advice anyone can offer.