Exceptions to the flag principle

1.1. On the basis of international decrees and treaties

A. For the EU, including Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland

Basis: EEC Regulation 1408/71 art. 14ter, 17EC Decree 883/04 art. 11, 16

Seafarers employed on a sea-going ship that sails under the flag of an EU Member State, including Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland, who reside in Belgium and are paid by a company or person which is registered or domiciled in Belgium, are subject to the Belgian social security system. The establishment of the applicable legislation is indicated with the A1 form.

Seafarers who are subject to Belgian social security, and those who are seconded to a ship sailing under the flag of a Member State of the EU, remain subject to the Belgian social security regime. The secondment can last for a maximum of 24 months and the seconded seafarer must have an A1 form which indicates the applicable legislation.

Seafarers that are seconded to a ship that is sailing under the flag of Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland can do so for a period of one year (by means of the A1 form), which can be extended by a period of one further year.

For secondments that last longer than 24 months, the competent authorities from two or more Member States must conclude an accord.

Online service

Apply for a secondment/A1 form via Working abroad.

B. For other states with which Belgium has concluded bilateral accords

Belgium has concluded bilateral accords regarding social security, which cover the applicable legislation, with various states.

  • For accords with Bosnia, Chile, Morocco, Turkey, Uruguay and the United States, the flag is the determining factor in terms of the social security regime to which the persons concerned are subjected.
  • For treaties with Australia, Philippines, India and Macedonia, the residence of the employee is the determining factor in terms of the social security regime to which the persons concerned are subjected.
  • For treaties with Canada, Quebec, Japan and South Korea, the registered location of the employer is the determining factor in terms of the social security regime to which the persons concerned are subjected.

These accords usually also cover the options for seconding employees.

For more information on the content of the bilateral accords, see www.socialsecurity.be

1.2. On the basis of Belgian legislation

Basis: Civil Code 07/02/1945, art. 2bis, b

Seafarers bound by an employment contract with a natural person or legal person operating in the pursuit of profit, via mediation by a Belgian shipowner, seafarers employed on board ships sailing under a foreign flag (i.e. not EU, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland or another country with which Belgium has concluded a treaty on social security) will be subjected to Belgian social security under the following conditions:

  • The employment takes place via a Belgian mediating shipping company that fulfils its social security obligations to the NSSO.
  • The Belgian mediating shipping company must submit an application for subjection of these ships to the NSSO's management committee for seafarers.
  • The seafarers concerned must be registered in the Pool list indicated in article 1bis, 1° of the Legislative Order of 7 February 1945. The seafarers may not be subjected to a foreign social security regime, in this case of the flag state.
  • The NSSO's management committee for seafarers shall make a decision on the application. This subjection may be permitted for a maximum period of one year, but can be renewed annually.

The Belgian mediating shipowner is regarded as the shipowner for the payment of social security contributions to the NSSO.

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Application for subjection under foreign flag Download