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Sammy Mahdi wants to make Belgium the 'Silicon Valley of Europe'

06:18 24/05/2022

The secretary of state for asylum, Sammy Mahdi, welcomed on Monday the number of "foreign talents" who come to work and study in Belgium, RTBF reports. He said he hoped retaining international talent in the country would eventually turn Belgium into the "Silicon Valley of Europe".

Visiting the global pharmaceutical company Takeda in Lessines, Mahdi highlighted the results of his single permit for foreign workers policy, which is becoming increasingly popular. The number of first unique permits issued by the Immigration Office at the request of an employer increased to 5,124 in 2021. Before the health crisis, this number was slightly less than 4,000.

Given the many travel restrictions in 2020 and 2021, and the difficulty of settling in Belgium from a distant country, last year's increase was particularly striking, Mahdi said. India, Turkey and Morocco are the top three nationalities for which combined permits were issued in 2021. For the first four months of 2022, the first 2,740 unique permits have already been issued by the Immigration Office. If this sharp increase continues, more than 8,000 permits will be issued by the end of the year.

The "research year" for students from non-EU countries is also bearing fruit, according to the secretary of state. This measure allows students, after the end of their studies, to be able to reside in Belgium for an additional 12 months in order to look for a job or to set up a business here. In the past, the end of studies often meant a departure from Belgium and a subsequent loss of talent. Nine months after the introduction of the measure, 957 graduates have already registered to find a job in Belgium.

"Belgium needs to become a bit like the Silicon Valley of Europe, where the brightest minds from all over the world want to come to work or study here,” said Mahdi. “In order to win the international competition for talent, we must implement an attractive policy to ensure that the best talents choose Belgium and not another country. I am happy that we are achieving this more and more thanks to the one-stop shop and the year of research of foreign students."

Written by Nick Amies