The Van der Elst visa
in a nutshell

The Van der Elst visa is a special category of work visa which grants non-EEA employees of an EU-based company the opportunity to provide services for a limited period of time in another European member state, without acquiring a work permit.

When granted, the visa is only valid to conduct the services specified on the application and does not apply to transfers between branches of the same company.

Origin of the Van der Elst visa

Mr Raymond Van der Elst was a Belgian employer lawfully employing Moroccan citizens in Belgium. After some time, the workers were required to provide services on behalf of Van der Elst in France.

Upon arrival, the French authorities fined the workers and explained that they did not have permission to work in France. Van der Elst appealed his case to the European Court of Justice, arguing the right of an EU company to provide services within the EU, which he won in 1994.

The verdict confirmed that non-EEA citizens who are working in an EU member state are permitted to work in another EU member state, to provide services for a limited period of time, even if not all criteria are met.

Who is eligible?

This visa is suitable for applicants who are non-EU/EEA employees holding a valid EU residence permit. Furthermore, the EU-based company must have won a contract in another EU member state.


The non-EEA employee must be:

  • Lawfully resident in the EU member state in which the employer is established;
  • Lawfully employed and on the payroll of the employer;
  • Going to the host country to provide services on behalf of the employer; and
  • Able to show a valid working contract between the applicant and the home company. There must be a service agreement in place between the home and host company.


  • The applicant cannot be employed in the host country during his / her stay.
  • The employee is not entitled to permanently reside in the State and must leave once the services are finalised.
  • The general rule is that the employee should only be required on a temporary basis in the host EU country. They should not stay there for a prolonged period of time whereby they lose their residency rights in the home EU country, or become integral to the workforce in the host EU country.


  • Family members are not able to accompany or join applicants via this route, unless they are applying as visitors, or have applied independently for immigration permission.

Period of grant

  • Applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Generally, permission under the Van der Elst ruling will be granted for the duration specified on the temporary contract provided and up to a maximum of 12 consecutive months.

Support with your application

Please contact SSW for any queries relating to the Van der Elst visa. With the help of our global network, we are able to navigate international law and assist with the processing of this visa route and ensure that local immigration rules are met thereafter.

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