Immigration to Belgium

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So, you want to move to Belgium.
Congratulations and good luck!
Seriously, good luck, because it is CONFUSING.

Although every application and every process is completely different, I am (hopefully) here to make it a little less confusing.

This page will direct you to: helpful sites for visas to Belgium, my own blog posts on our immigration journey and helpful tips to survive the process.

My information comes from the Canadian consulate in Belgium, the Belgian consulate in Canada and various resources and people (most of which will be referenced or linked throughout this page.)

** Disclaimer: Nothing on this page is to be construed as legal fact. I am not an immigration professional. All of this information has been researched by myself, my boyfriend or given to us by professionals. Travel Pray Love can not be held responsible for each individuals immigration journey, because as I said; every process is different.

I am, however, here to give you advice and guide you through the confusing processes of a few different visas, as best as I can; because I know how frustrating and crazy it can get. 

 

  • This visa is often for those who are romantically involved, and can provide proof of their relationship.
  • Most often, the proof required will be in forms of photos with dates, travel itineraries, reservations, social media history and/or email history.
  • Both parties should expect to be interviewed (both separately and apart) when applying for this visa.
  • There will also most likely be police checking up on your home, to ensure you live with your alleged spouse.
  • This visa will most likely require a marriage search for both parties. Neither party can be legally married in either/any country prior to this application.

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT WETTELIJK SAMENWONEN BEFORE APPLYING:

  • This common law visa actually required that you sign a legal common law document. Making you officially partners in the eyes of the government.
  • Signing these common law papers changes a few things for you both; for example, now you would most likely file your taxes together instead of separately.
  • While you’re waiting for the review period of this application (most of the time, 6 months date to date), you will/should be granted an ‘orange card’ or temp visa. This visa often allows you to work within Belgium and should look like this;
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  • Once you’re approved for this visa, you will be granted a BELGIAN ID CARD, and congratulations, you can stay as long as you and your partner are living together! This ID card is to be renewed (easily like any other Belgian ID card) every 5 years.
  • During the wait period (review period is usually 6 months to the date of application submission), you may not be able to leave Belgium. Ask about this if you have plans to visit other countries during that time.

FAQ’s for “Wettelijk Samewonen” in Belgium:

  • How do I begin my common law visa application?— You start the application once you’ve landed in Belgium, at the city hall of the place of your residence. For example, if you’re planning to live in Antwerp, you would visit the Antwerp city hall to begin.
  • What do I need to bring with me to apply?— You will most likely not be able to prepare everything you need, as every situation and process differs. However, most likely you will need the following; a marriage search for both parties, a criminal record(s) search for both parties, proof of relationship (correspondence over a 2 year period of a period of 1 year living together), birth certificates for both parties, passports for both parties, proof of Belgian partners’ income OR proof that they can financially support the other person.
  • Do I need to be IN Belgium for this application?— Yes, most of the time you do need to be in Belgium to begin the process, and once the process has started, you are to remain in Belgium until your case is approved or denied.
  • What do I do if my visa application is denied?— In most cases, if your 90 day stay in the Schengen region (see below) is used up, you have 30 days to vacate the country and/or re-apply. During the re-application process (if they accept your re-application) you will be allowed to stay in Belgium until a decision has been made. While it is harder to be accepted once you have been denied in the past, it is possible (for instance, maybe they just need more proof of relationship or you were missing a document).
  • What do I say when I go to city hall to apply?— You will need to ask for the “attest van legale samenwoonst” (visa for legally living together).
  • What documents will I need for this visa application?— While this varies from country to country, most of the time you will need a passport, birth certificate, criminal record check, marriage search and proof of your relationship. You may be asked for medical history/clearance as well.
  • How long is the review period?— Most of the time, the review period for your application is 6 months to the date of your submission. How it works? The various branches of government that your application goes through, any one of them has a right to call something about your application into question up until 6 months. For instance, K and I submitted our application on May 9th, 2015. We received our approval on October 10th, 2015. Basically, no news is good news in the case of your application (so don’t be worried if no one is calling you about it!)

  • This visa allows you to work for a period of months (most of the time, no more then 3) and the rest of your time (9 months) is to be spent “holiday-ing” in Belgium.
  • This visa is relatively easy to obtain, and for more information you can contact the BELGIAN Consulate in your own country (example: Canada’s Belgian Consulate closest to me was located in Montreal, Quebec.)
  • This visa is valid for one year and often is available for people living in the following countries; Australia, New Zealand, Canada and some parts of America.
  • This visa does have an age restriction; you must be between the ages of 18 and 30 to apply.
  • The approval time for this visa can vary, but is usually between 4 and 6 months from application date.

Although I have never had this type of visa, I did ask a lot of questions about one when I got a few minutes with my immigration worker.

  • How do I apply for a student visa if I am already in Belgium on a separate visa?
    — If you obtain an admission or enrollment to university (or “hoge school”/”haute école”: studies on university level) prior to the date of expiry of your residence permit, you will not need a student visa but you will have to go to the city hall and request a change of status (WHP vs. student) and renew your residence permit; in theory you will not need to re-do the whole procedure but still need a sponsor (who has to sign the “bijlage 32”/“annexe32”= pledge of support for students – see HERE for more info)
  • Would I be able to work part time while I’m in school?
    — As long as you are still under the WHP, you may work half-time and study (once again: no more than 3 months)
  • Do I need to enroll in the program BEFORE applying for a student visa?
    — Yes, because the proof of admission or enrollment will be one of the basic document requirements if you need to file for the visa.

 

Types of Visas in Belgium
Belgium Cohabitation Visa
Consulates of the World in Belgium
Working-Holiday Program in Belgium
The Schengen Region – What is it?
The Visa Information System (Belgium)
All About Belgian Visas
Belgian Visa Application(s) Requirements

FAQ About Belgian Visas — VERY Helpful.

 

There are quite a few posts about our long distance romance, how to move abroad for love, and how our immigration process affected us as a couple – but as far as visas go, this is how it went down. It was confusing and messy and exhausting, but in the end I got the visa I needed to stay in Belgium long term!

So…from the beginning;

It’s 2013. I move to Belgium on a HOLIDAY WORKING VISA (see description HEREto live with my long distance boyfriend. We had been attempting to maintain a long distance relationship for about a year and a half at that point and we just couldn’t be apart any longer!

About halfway through my holiday-working visa stint, I realized I was fast running out of money (as this visa only allows you to work a few months of your total year long stay).

Asking around (at the Canadian consulate in Belgium as well as at our local city hall), I was told that I had two options;

  • a student visa (which seemed out of question because of the whole having no money thing)

OR

  • a common law visa (known here as ‘wettelijk samenwonen’)

NOW – this is where it gets confusing. This is also the part in the story where my face turns red and I need to take a deep breath or two – because what follows is SUCH a waste of time and money.

It is both emotionally and financially draining to be told you’re not eligible for a certain type of visa; only to later realize you were. WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED TO ME.

After meeting a few times at city hall with various people, we were eventually told we were not able to apply for a common law (wettelijk samewonen) visa, due to my boyfriend being a full time student.

One of the “requirements” of this partnership visa was that the Belgian (in this case, my boyfriend) needed to be working for an access of at least 3 months, and provide proof of income.

While this is a rule I understand the origins of (to show that he is able to support his “foreign” partner) I was a bit shocked there wasn’t any kind of loophole for people who had savings in lieu of a job.

SPOILER ALERT: There is such a loophole, but no one we dealt with let us in on that.

But that was that, and I packed my things and moved away from my boyfriend after 10 months together. Obviously it devastated us, but I knew I needed to earn an income anyways, and I did have a spot in the family business waiting for me back home.

9 months of living back in Canada would have been easy, considering the 2 years we had spent doing long distance before. It WOULD have been easy, if I didn’t find out a month after moving back that we WERE eligible for the common law visa and were given the wrong information.

Knowing he could show proof of this kind of savings made the next 8 months unbearable, because I could have stayed if someone would have given us the right information. But now, I was stuck in Canada trying to earn enough money to move my life overseas…again.

To read how our immigration story (happily) ends, click HERE!

And check out all our other posts about immigration (some funny, some helpful, and others are me just ranting about how insane the process made us.) 😉

The Emotional Stages of Applying for a Visa 

Our COMPLETE Immigration Process

How We Handled Our Immigration Process as a Couple

The Difference Between Homesickness and “I Made a Mistake…”

How to Live in a New Country (Without Losing Yourself)

Moving Abroad: The Bad Days (what no one tells you about living abroad…)

Belgium Culture Shock (Part One)

Belgium Culture Shock (Part Two)

Belgium Culture Shock (Part Three)

Also see How I Moved My Cat to Belgium!

GOOD LUCK on your immigration process!

Use this contact box below to ask questions, leave comments and/or leave a rage-rant about how stressful it is – I am here for you!