For those of you who have read about our immigration process in the past, you know it’s been a L O N G journey for us! (Read the first part of our immigration story HERE.)
Picking up where we left off; we had handed in our final version of our application. After about 3 different versions that I deemed not good enough, we ended up handing in a large binder (full of approximately 100 pages.)
We felt really confident about everything except for one aspect…the finances.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Generally, the person in the relationship that is a citizen of this country (in our case, K) needs to provide proof of employment going back as far as 3 months.
This was really the only thing that was concerning to us, the only reason we could possibly be turned down, and this is what made the wait for the approval so stressful!
Although my boyfriend has plenty of savings, he did not have an annual income, which was one of the requirements.
- SIDE NOTE: Anyone in my personal life knows that in 2013, this was the reason I moved back to Canada.
See, originally, we wanted to apply for this common law visa in 2013. My Holiday Working visa (1 year) was expiring and we were looking for other visas I was eligible for. I was not interested in attending more schooling, so a student visa was out of the question. We stumbled upon some information about this cohabitation/common law visa, but were ultimately told we were not eligible because of my boyfriend’s student status.So, after 10 months of living our fantasies of living together – I moved back to Canada (basically heartbroken, but more determined then ever.)It was in Canada that I was able to speak with an immigration lawyer who helpfully pointed me in the right directions, saying that if my boyfriend has proof of sufficient savings – we should be eligible. Basically, all the government wants is proof/assurance that you won’t be needing to use their welfare system, so a savings account could act the same as proof of income in that case.Of course, this was a relief, but it also came as a massive blow to my emotions.
Had I just moved back to Canada for NO REASON!?
Just to be sure, I contacted the Belgian embassy in Canada and they assured me that the information given by the immigration lawyer was correct.
IMPORTANT NOTE to anyone applying for a common law or cohabitation visa: A savings account can, in some cases, act in place of an income.
Of course, we couldn’t apply for the visa while I was living in Canada, as the common law visa is based on our relationship and residency together….SO BACK TO BELGIUM I WENT, this time with my cat. (I was really determined that this move would be my last!)
THE BELGIAN COMMON LAW IMMIGRATION PROCESS (full):
FIRST: Upon arriving in Belgium, I had to notify our local government office (city hall) of my arrival. It was at that time we were told which documents we would need officially/legally translated into Dutch (from English) to get our process started. We were given the name of a government approved translation company.
WHILE THAT WAS HAPPENING: We were told that a police officer would be dropping by our home at unexpected times within the next 3 months. (As most non-Belgians can stay within Belgium for 90 days without a visa, this was fine.)
Our police officer had remembered us from the previous year when I was here on a different visa, so she made that process move along really quickly for us. (Thank you!)
NEXT: Our common law status (full description in part one of our Immigration Story) was really an easy thing to get. A translator, marriages searches to proof that neither of us were legally married in either country and a few signatures later, we were a legal couple…why can’t the entire process be this simple!?
All things aside, legally becoming a common law couple was really exciting for us. Knowing no matter what happened in our situation, we were legally bound together at this point … and we figured that had to count for something, right!?
STAYING IN BELGIUM WHILE WE WAITED FOR APPROVAL: I was given an “orange card” (essentially a temporary visa allowing me to stay in the country for the next 5 months while they make their decision about our application.)
We weren’t really given much instruction about what would happen next or how to approval process went. I have a feeling our small town city hall folks had no idea, either.
We were told we would get a phone call when approved, then nothing came.
We were then told to check in once a month, and nothing came of that either.
We were then told we had to wait until the day my temporary visa expired, and then meet our worker at city hall to hear the verdict.
So, with really no idea of how the process went on from here, we just waited…
THEN: ………….5 months of absolutely nothing. More waiting. More anxiety. No contact from the government, no straight answers from city hall, no phone calls, no letters.
The hardest part about this entire thing was trying to live/plan our lives here in Belgium with no knowledge of what would happen when my temporary visa expired. I could be sent back to Canada. We could be denied. Or I could be automatically approved if they haven’t had concern by that date. We had absolutely no idea what to expect.
I am documenting this process in pretty strenuous detail in hopes of helping anyone in this situation. If you or anyone you know ever needs to apply for a common law or cohabitation visa here in Belgium – I hope you read this and have some vague idea of how it works, because we were clueless for most of our process, and that was a terrible feeling!
Turns out, if you don’t hear any bad news by the date of your temporary visa expiration – you’re automatically approved!
That’s right! The final day of my temporary visa rolled around, we went to city hall and were finally given a straight answer after 5 months of wondering.
I was told to come back the next day (the day after my temporary visa expired) and if they hadn’t heard any negative response or concerns about our application from the Brussels’ office by then, I would be approved.
One long, sleepless night later we got the news: I have been approved for a long-term/permanent visa in beautiful Belgium!
WHAT THIS MEANS:
As of Wednesday, October 28th at 12:01 am – I was approved. I can live in Belgium (as a Canadian) for as long as K and I are in a legal relationship.
My temporary visa was extended for 30 days while we wait for my Belgian ID card to arrive in the mail. This ID card has to be renewed every 5 years by simply asking for a new one (just like any other ID card here in Belgium).
WHAT’S NEXT FOR US: A whole lot of NOTHING! The holidays are right around the corner and I couldn’t ask for a more perfect Christmas gift then the stability of a permanent visa.
I do have some travel plans in the new year (my first solo trip in February!), but as for the rest of 2015; we’ll be celebrating our good news by staying still for the holidays and enjoying our newly renovated home. We recently bought a new little kitten (Lucy) to keep our Canadian cat (Tessa) some company.
Two cuddly cats, a Belgian engineer student and a Canadian travel blogger.
Our little family is everything I could ever ask for, and it’s such a relief knowing we can really start to build our life here in Belgium now.
If you or anyone you know is applying for a common law/cohabitation visa here in Belgium, please email me!
I would love to offer any advice or guidance.
I would also love to listen to you vent about how frustrating the process is, because I totally get it!
Read more about How We Dealt With Immigration HERE.