How We Became a Common Law Couple

WE’RE OFFICIALLY A COMMON LAW COUPLE! 

This news was met with an hour of excitement followed by 3 hours of stress-researching common law visas (joking, but only sort of.)

We are, of course, thrilled that we are official partners in the eyes of the government and it makes our next steps a lot easier.

 

If you’ve ever applied for a visa or moved to another country, you understand where I’m coming from – it’s basically one step down, 398 more to go.

 Common law visa, cohabitation visa or just a holiday visa – any visa process is something that a few of our readers have struggled with.

At some point you will be told no (most likely in several languages).

At some point you will staring at your bank statements and crying over all the money you’ve spent on legal documents and at some point you will definitely be laying on the floor, totally defeated while on hold with your national consulate.

 It’s an emotional process, to say the least – best explained by Jim Carey GIFs in our post The Emotional Stages of Applying for a Visa

Trying to figure out this immigration stuff (without hiring an immigration lawyer) has been really difficult, and we want to share our experiences with you to make sure your process is a little easier!

If you’ve been following our story, you know that my boyfriend and I have finally closed the distance (hopefully for good!) and have been anxiously waiting for our common law status here in Belgium, so we can then apply for a common law visa for myself.

Getting our common law status contract was just the beginning and our journey to getting me a permanent visa is far from over, but here’s how we’ve been doing so far!

ARRIVING IN BELGIUM with 2 suitcases, a ton of legal documents and a slightly over-weight cat – I was excited to get the process going and determined that this time around I was staying in Belgium for good. That feeling was mutual, as K was getting anxious too.

A few days after arriving, we went to city hall (of the town we live in) because that was where I was told (by my consulate) that I needed to start the process.

At this time, we were blissfully unaware of the process (oh, how I miss that.) Anyways, we showed up at city hall with my book full of legal documents, my passport and prayers that this would be easy (because nothing up until now has been.)

THE MARRIAGE SEARCH was the only one of my documents that I needed for this part of the process.

Before leaving Canada, my consulate gave me a list of documents I would need to legalize;

  • medical certificate
  • long form birth certificate
  • marriage search
  • criminal records search

My Consulate also gave me a list of things I’d need for the later steps of the application;

  • proof of our relationship (minimum of 2 years) with at least 3 meetings that (together) last a minimum of 45 days -OR- proof of living together (either in his country or mine) for a minimum of one year
  • copies of passport stamps, boarding passes and photos from our visits
  • proof that we’ve known each other for at least 2 years
  • any other proof of our relationship (skype conversations, facebook history, photos, etc)


Arriving at city hall with all of these things in a binder, I was told I only needed my marriage search at this time, and that it would need to be translated before the process could start.

We eagerly sought out a translator and had our document translated into Dutch.

POLICE VISITS were the mandatory next step.

After we handed in my marriage search, the government conducted a marriage search on K as well (easily done in Belgium by your ID card that holds all of your information electronically).

 

We were told the police would be coming by at least 3 times within one month – to ensure that I did in fact live at my boyfriend’s address. So we waited 2 weeks and nothing. Eventually, sometime during the third week, a (really nice) police woman came around and we noticed she was the same officer that had come last year when I was here on a different visa.

Knowing our situation, the officer said that she would hand in her paperwork early and we could go to the city hall the following week to continue the process.

SIGNING OUR COMMON LAW CONTRACT was next.

Both K and I, after almost a full year of trying to figure this immigration stuff out, were relieved. Finally we seemed to be getting somewhere.

To sign our contract (samenwoonst legale) we needed the following things;

  • A translator (chosen by us). This translator had to be a third party (neither of us would suffice, although K’s English was perfect), so we brought his Aunt with us.
  • My passport, and 3 passport photos
  • K’s ID card
  • The translator’s ID card

Heading to city hall we had no idea what we were doing (which, if you’ve been following our story, is how most of this last year has gone).

To our surprise, this was the most effortless part of the process! We arrived at city hall, with our passports and our translator, we sat at a table with a member of the government and she read us our contract. Our translator translated it for me, and then we both signed it. Boom, done. (If only it were all that simple!)

REGISTEREING AS A BELGIUM RESIDENT was the next easy step!

The next day we went back to city hall and I was able to register as a resident of Belgium. Our journey is far from over and there is still a long way to go with this process.

We are officially a common law couple, but now we have to apply for a visa (for myself) based on that and the document we submit proving our relations.

Meaning, for the next six months there will be a lot of waiting and wondering. This will obviously do wonders my anxiety levels, but we’re pleased that we’ve come this far.

 In the last year we’ve travelled together, laughed together, cried together, cried apart from each other and questioned everything.

We’ve debated hiring immigration lawyers, just getting married to make it easier, and we even debated staying apart (for another year) until we both had a steady income.

None of this last year has been easy but I wouldn’t change a single thing. Although our legal partnership just started, I’m thankful for this long journey, because it has made us true partners in life.

A partner is more than a love interest.

A true partner is more than just a soul-mate, they are your team-mate, and we’ve found that in each other over the last year.

 

 

OUR NEXT STEPS;

1. A police offer will come by our home within the next month and verify our housing situation – at this time they will determine if K and I have been/are living together at his residence. If the officer agrees we are in fact living together, she will report back to city hall with positive remarks.

2. It’s at that time we will have to hand in our documents and fill in our application.

3. From there – our documents and application are sent to Brussels where the government reviews (and hopefully approves) our request.

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UPDATE: In the end, we were approved for our visa after the (what felt like ages) 6 month waiting period. I was issued a permanent residence card which allows me to live in this country for as long as my boyfriend and I legally live together. Read more about our approval HERE

 

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