Moving to Belgium?
Admin Issues for Expats in Belgium
The Short-Term Schengen Visa
Belgium is one of the original members of the Schengen area, which now includes 26 countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.
You can access all the countries listed above with one and the same visa. A Schengen visa is valid for 90 days. You can enter and leave the Schengen area as often as you like. The application process takes three to four weeks, and there is a fee of 60 EUR. A reduced fee of 35 EUR is applicable to children between six and twelve years old, and to certain adult foreign nationals whose countries have a visa facilitation agreement with the EU, e.g. Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. No fee applies to children under six years old.
To apply, you need to fill out the appropriate application form and present it at the nearest Belgian embassy together with your passport, two passport photographs, proof of insurance cover, and sufficient financial means to support yourself during your stay.
Once the visa has been granted, you need to present your valid return ticket for the journey. If you are planning a business trip, a letter of invitation from a Belgian company should be included as well.
A Visa for Each Occasion
There are several categories of long-term visas for people moving to Belgium. The category depends on the purpose of your stay. Processing times vary from weeks to months, but the administration fee is usually 180 EUR.
- Employee visa: This is only granted with a work permit, which must be obtained beforehand by your employer (for which they require a medical certificate and three passport photos from you). In addition to your passport, you need to submit two completed application forms and two passport photographs, a criminal records disclosure covering the year preceding your application, and a copy of the medical certificate submitted for your work permit.
- Self-employed visa: Before you can apply for it, you need the authorization of the Federal Public Service for Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy. This authorization comes in the form of a “professional card” (carte professionnelle / beroepskaart), which can be requested via the Belgian embassy by submitting the following documents: three completed application forms, three passport photographs, a project plan, and a criminal records disclosure. You should also submit your CV, certified copies of your diplomas, professional references, and letters of recommendation. Processing of the professional card can take four months.
- Manager visa: Senior managers who earn more than 66,406 EUR a year (2016) are usually exempt from work permit requirements in general, but obviously still require a residence visa and should submit the same visa documents as employees. If you are a high-level executive wanting to work in Belgium, please ask your company or the Belgian mission how to proceed.
- Student visa: As well as your passport, you need to submit two completed application forms, two passport photographs, and a criminal records disclosure covering the year preceding your application (if you’re 21 or over). Further, you need the original and two copies of the following: a medical certificate, a letter of acceptance from your university, a personally written pledge that you won’t overstay your visa, and proof of financial means (either 604 EUR per month of your stay or a financial support declaration).
- Research visa: Scientists and post-docs are usually exempt from the need for a work permit as long as they are conducting research in Belgium or have a hosting agreement with an accredited research institute. The exemption can last up to three years or for the duration of the research project.
- Specialist visas are also available for investors, interns, au pairs, de facto relationships (when one of the partners is Belgian), regrouping families (when one person of the married couple is Belgian), and working holiday visas for Canadians between 18 and 30 years old.
The Electronic Card for Foreigners
All foreigners intending to stay in Belgium for over three months must register with the local authorities within eight days of arrival. All third-state nationals residing in Belgium on a long-term visa are included in the Register of Foreign Residents.
A new, European-wide system of electronic identity cards for foreign residents has recently been implemented in Belgium. It replaces the old system of carte blanche (certificate of inscription), carte jaune (identity card for third-state nationals), and carte bleue (identity card for EU nationals). This card is issued by the municipality itself after the registration.
EU nationals residing in Belgium receive an electronic identity card similar to the type of identity card held by Belgian nationals. Third-state nationals are given an electronic card serving as residence permit, identity card, and certificate of inscription at the same time. All new cards contain a chip with biometric data (a photograph and two fingerprints). This card replaces the paper residence permits for both EU and non-EU citizens. In this way, foreigners can have access to e-government applications and sign documents in an electronic fashion.
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