Belgium is run on a local level by the communes, through which most administrative functions are carried out. The country currently has 589 communes, a sizeable number but one that was the result of an amalgamation exercise in 1975. When the Belgian State was created in 1831 there were a full 2,739 communes.
Since 1975 immigration into Belgium has been heavily weighted towards professional workers and those with higher levels of education, as well as students and professional sports players.
Swiss and EEA citizens
All Swiss and EEA nationals (EU plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) may live freely in Belgium but if staying for longer than 3 months must obtain both a ‘Declaration of Presence’ and a ‘Declaration of Registration’. Both of these can be obtained at the local town hall or maison communale where a person is staying, by producing a passport or identity card
Although citizens from EEA countries have free movement within the European area, they are still considered foreign nationals and must register with the foreign population register.
Long term visa requests are dealt with by the Belgian Immigration Office of the Interior Federal Public Service - the sole authority with final jurisdiction. Documents required:
Once registered on the foreign population register the municipality will provide nationals with a Certificate of Residence (proof of registration B, with the note “posted in the context of EU service provision”), which shall be valid for the length of the service provision. EEA nationals receive an E-card (identity card), proving that the person has been included in the national register. These are normally valid for five years. It is not just foreigners who are issued identity cards - everyone living in Belgium over the age of 12 is required to have an electronic identity card.
All non-Swiss/EEA nationals staying for longer than 90 days must apply for a longer stay visa (type D) with the Belgian consular authority for their country before coming to Belgium.
It has recently become possible for non-EEA nationals of some countries to enter Belgium just using their passport, if they have a family member who is an EEA citizen. This specifically applies to nationals of the USA, Japan, Argentina, Australia and Brazil. Upon entering the country the person must register at the local town hall in Belgium, where they will obtain a temporary residence card. This is valid for 6 months but can then be extended for an additional 6 months.
You can later apply to extend your visa in Belgium by applying to the Foreigners Department. Once they have approved your request you must also submit your passport to the FPS Foreign Affairs (Rue des Petits Carmes 27, 1000 Brussels – Monday to Friday, 9:30 – 11:30). A fee may be payable (usually €30).
Residence visas for non-Swiss/EEA nationals are restricted to purposes such as study, work (if a work permit is in hand) and family reunification.
All nationals are obliged to register at their local municipality within eight days of arriving in Belgium. Upon doing this you will receive a Certificate of Enrolment in Registry of Foreigners, a certificate that is renewable annually.
You and your family must also register on the foreign population register at the municipality town hall and obtain a foreigner identity card, within two weeks of moving into a permanent residence. The foreigner identity card is associated with your residence so if you move to a new permanent residence, you must also apply for a new card.
In addition to the requirements for EEA nationals, you may also need the following, depending on the commune:
When you visit it is preferable to be able to speak the local language, so if you don't, it is best to go with someone who does. After the first visit, you will get a receipt but not a card at this time. There is a small fee, which varies from commune to commune, but it is usually no more than EUR 20, payable in cash.
A certificate of registration in the foreigners register (E-card A) will then be delivered you, which is valid for up to one year, although it depends on the duration of the work permit. This can later be renewed for up to one year.
What happens next
The municipality contacts the police who visit to check that your name is on the door of the address you gave. If their report checks out, EU citizens get an invitation to collect a temporary three-month card. This is renewed for a further three months if proof of employment or self-employment and registration with the relevant social security scheme has been or is later produced, and then in due course you get a permanent five-year card (carte de sejour/verblijfskaart). Non-EU citizens eventually get an annually renewable proof of registration for foreigners (Certification d'Inscription dans le Registre des Etrangers/Bewijs van Inschrijving in het Vreemdelingen Register).
Here is a list of the major town halls in the communal districts of Brussels. For further information see the official site:
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Anderlecht - 02 558 0800
Auderghem - 02 676 4811
Brussels City - 02 279 2211
Etterbeek - 02 627 2111
Forest - 02 370 2211
Hoeilaart - 02 658 2840
Ixelles - 02 515 6111
Kraainem - 02 719 2040
Overijse - 02 785 33 34
Rhode-Saint-Genese - 02 380 2040
Rixensart - 02 634 2173
Saint Gilles - 02 536 0211
Saint Josse - 02 220 2611
Schaerbeek - 02 244 7511
Tervuren - 02 769 2011
Uccle - 02 348 6511
Waterloo - 02 352 9811
Watermael-Boitsfort - 02 674 7411
Wezembeek-Oppem - 02 783 1211
Woluwe-Saint-Lambert - 02 761 2711
Woluwe-Saint-Pierre - 02 773 0511
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