How to Emigrate to Belgium
Moving to Belgium and acquiring your visa will depend on several factors, ranging from your age, occupation, nationality. However, the visa application process follows a single procedure and visa applicants are assessed on similar criteria.
And while Belgium boasts one of the toughest immigration rules, it still has one of the highest immigrant populations of any country globally.
Belgium has a lot to offer as a place to live, which explains why so many expats tend to immigrate into the country. Nearly 1.5 million of the country’s residents are foreign-born, which translates to nearly 12.5% of the total population.
Although Belgium is a relatively small country, it boasts numerous top attractions, from the Belgian cities, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bruges city centre and the dynamic city of Antwerp, to the multiple European Union institutions it is home to.
Overview of Belgian visas
Once you have made up your mind and chosen Belgium as your preferred destination, it’s time to assess your visa requirements. It is worth noting that Belgium is a member of the European Union, which implies that citizens of other EU member states have the right to move there under the Freedom of Movement Act.
On the other hand, if you are not from an EU or EEA (European Economic Area) country, you may need a visa to even enter Belgium for short visits. However, the requirements largely depend on your nationality, what you intend to do, and how long you plan to stay there. It is important that you check well ahead of time to avoid any disappointments.
Just like most countries, some of the primary routes to immigrating to Belgium are based on family visas, work visas, business or development visas, humanitarian and refugee protection immigration routes.
There are numerous Belgian visas, but all fall under two categories:
- Belgian Schengen visas (short-term Belgian visas): A short-stay Schengen visa or C visa allows you to stay in the Schengen area, but not work for up to a maximum of three months (90 days) in any 180-day time span. And if you have a Schengen visa from another Schengen state, you can also stay in Belgium if you have not exceeded the 90-day allowance. Although the UK has left the European Union, British citizens do not need a Schengen visa for short term visits to Belgium and other European countries.
- Belgian long-term visas (D visa): A long-term visa allows you to stay in Belgium for about three to six months, but once you are in Belgium, you can easily acquire a residence permit and live there for the foreseeable future through a permanent residency permit. UK citizens who plan on staying in Belgium for more than 90 days will need to obtain a long-term visa.
The requirements for a long-stay visa D for Belgium
Long-stay visa requirements largely depend on the type of visa you are looking to apply for before you move to Belgium. You may be ordered to provide additional documents, but below are the standard documents you must bring during your long-term visa interview:
- Long-stay visa application form: The Belgian embassy or consulate will provide you with this particular form.
- Valid passport: Your passport should be valid and should feature at least two empty pages. Your passport should be valid for up to five years.
- Two passport photos: These photos should be recent, taken within the past six months. In terms of size, they should be 35*40 mm and sharp and clear. They should be in colour.
- Health insurance cover: You must have health insurance that covers you for your entire stay in Belgium.
- Civil status: You should bring any civil status document that’s required of you, either birth, marriage, or death certificate.
- Visa payment: You can make the required payments at the embassy or consulate or the visa application center closest to you. Usually, the embassy will inform you about when and how you can make the payment.
Studying in Belgium
As earlier explained, students from non-EU Countries who want to study in Belgium for a period exceeding three months must apply for a student visa. You can make an application for this type of visa if your studies will be your major occupation during your stay, you have sufficient financial means to support yourself during your stay, you have health insurance coverage for Belgium.
What’s more, you must provide proof of your acceptance into a course at a recognized Belgian institution, along with a valid passport, and proof that you have no outstanding criminal charges against your name (criminal records disclosure).
Working in Belgium
It is possible to work in Belgium if you are from a European Union/European Free Trade Association member state, or boasts the necessary Belgian work visa. With several global companies and established international organizations based in the country, Belgium is a perfect place to find a job and this is one major reason why most ex-pats tend to move to there.
The country’s unemployment rate is 6.6%, which is below the overall European Union of 6.1%. Belgium has strong manufacturing and service sectors and more than three-quarters of Belgian employers are found in legal, financial, tourism, and media sectors. It is also possible to start your own business through a self-employed visa.
It is worth noting that most listings for job vacancies are in either Dutch or French. Of course, English is widely spoken, but in case you don’t have a conversational grasp of the three official languages, your best bet is to conduct your job search in international companies, the IT sector, or employers with lots of international engagements!
Types of work permits
To work in Belgium, you must have a valid work permit. Generally speaking, there are three types of work permits in Belgium, and it depends on your situation as to what Belgian work permit is ideal for you. Below is a description of the different work permits for Belgium:
Belgian work permit A
This type of work permit is valid for all employers and paid occupations in Belgium and is valid indefinitely. To get this type of permit, you must prove that you have worked for four years on a type B work permit within an uninterrupted ten-year legal stay in Belgium. You’ll have to apply at the immigration center in your local area, which may also offer further information on how to acquire a work permit in Belgium. In case your application is rejected, you will be notified through mail. on the other hand, if successful, you’ll be notified via the appropriate local municipality department to collect the permit.
Belgian work permit B
This is usually issued for a specific job with a specific employer and warrants sponsorship from the potential employer. They are only issued when there is an acute shortage of qualified candidates within the Belgian workforce or for some skilled positions such as managerial posts, academic staff, and entertainers.
Belgian work permit C
This is only available for some foreign nationals who are living in Belgium temporarily, including students or family members of consular officials, or whose right to reside in the country is not confirmed by the Belgian government such as asylum seekers. It allows you to take on paid employment in any field, for all types of jobs for the validity of your residence permit, providing similar rights of employment as Belgian citizens. The permit is valid for 12 months but is renewable under certain conditions.
European Blue Card
This vital document is a combined work and residence permit that enables a highly-skilled non-EU citizen to reside and work in Belgium for more than 90 days. To be eligible, you must possess a permanent, or a minimum of a year-long employment contract with a legitimate Belgian company, have a recognized higher education qualification, and be paid a gross yearly salary of more than EUR 51,882.
It is important to note that non-EU citizens looking to work in the self-employment sectors must apply for a professional card, which serves as an employee visa and authorizes you to undertake your professional activity in the country.
Passports and travel
If you plan to travel to any of the EU countries, you must meet the Schengen area regulations. Simply put, your passport should meet two basic requirements; it must be less than 10 years old on the day you enter and should also be valid for at least three months after the day you plan to vacate the country. You should contact your travel provider or Belgian immigration office should you think that your passport doesn’t meet the above requirements.
You are free to travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to three months in any 6-month period without a visa. As already mentioned, this only applies if you travel as a tourist, to visit family or friends, or to attend business meetings, cultural, sports events, or for short-term training or studies.
However, if you are moving to Belgium from the UK without a visa, you should ensure your whole visitation period falls within the 90-day limit. This is because visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you move to Belgium count towards your 90 days.
You should acquire a free UK Global Health Insurance Card or European Health insurance Card before moving to Belgium. And if you already have a GHIC or EHIC, it will remain valid provided it remains in date.
This important medical certificate entitles you to Belgian state-provided medical treatment that might become necessary when you move to Belgium. If you don’t have an EHIC, you should contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare team to be issued a provisional replacement certificate.
You are strongly advised to carry your appropriate travel insurance. This is because An EHIC or GHIC is never an alternative to travel insurance and you must have the two before you move to Belgium.
If you need any emergency medical assistance, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. In case you are referred to a medical facility for specialized treatment, contact your medical assistance company for further information as soon as possible.
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Within eight working days after moving to Belgium from the UK, you must turn your long-stay visa into a Belgium residence permit at your local town hall or administration office. You will have to register on the Foreigner’s Register to acquire your A residence card.
If for whatever reason your Belgian long-stay visa is rejected, you have a chance to appeal your refusal, but only if you have substantial proof or strongly believe your visa has been unjustly rejected. Your refusal letter will tell you how to go about the appeal process.