Guide to family reunification in Belgium

Guide to family reunification in Belgium

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Do you want your family members to join you in your new life in Belgium? Follow this guide to learn about the family reunification process and eligibility criteria for hopeful applicants. [Contributed by Fragomen Worldwide]

You are moving to Belgium or are already settled in the country but one thing is missing — your family members. If you want your family members to join you in this new adventure, you will have to submit a request for family reunification with the relevant Belgian authorities. Different conditions and requirements apply depending on your nationality, your family members' nationality and your relationship with them. 

Who is eligible for family reunification in Belgium? 

First, we must understand which family members can benefit from the provisions on family reunification. Regardless of nationality, a spouse will always be eligible for family reunification. If you are not married to your partner but you can provide evidence of having a durable and stable relationship and you and your partner are bound by a Belgian legal cohabitation agreement, he/she can also file an application for family reunification.

Partners who fulfill at least one of the following criteria fall under the Belgian partnership agreement:

  • The couple has lived together at the same address during at least one continuous year prior to the application, either in Belgium or outside of Belgium;
  • The couple has known each other for at least two years and they have met at least thrww times for a period of at least 45 days within those two years;
  • They have a child together.


In addition to partners, the legislation also foresees the possibility to bring your children to Belgium. In principle, they have to be below the age of 18 at the moment of filing the application. Under specific circumstances, adult children can accompany you if they suffer from a medical condition that prevents them from living independently.

If you are an EU national, you can also bring the following family members to Belgium: your children until the age of 21, your grandchildren, your parents and grandparents if they are dependent on you and any other family member who is part of your core family, regardless of their nationality. Children older than 21, however, might qualify if they are still fully dependent on their parents.

How to apply for family reunification

We would like to stress that the processes and eligibility criteria, outlined below, mainly apply to primaries and family members with a non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationality. If both the primary and the family members have EU/EEA/Swiss nationality, a facilitated procedure applies. In this situation, EU/EEA/Swiss nationals can join the primary in Belgium without the need to apply for a visa. They have to register at the local Belgian town hall but they only have to provide evidence of their EU/EEA/Swiss nationality and their family bond to the primary (through a marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.).

Process for applicants with non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationalities

In principle, the application has to be filed with the Belgian diplomatic post in the applicant’s home country. If the primary family member is moving to Belgium for professional purposes and files his/her visa application simultaneously with the application of the dependents, all visa applications will be dealt with simultaneously and the visas will be issued in a matter of weeks. However, if the dependents file their application separately from the primary’s application, the request is forwarded to the Immigration Office which then has six months to issue a decision. In practice, the Immigration Office tends to use the entire six-month period.

Upon arrival in Belgium, the family members must register with the local municipal authorities of their place of residence in Belgium. At this moment, they will request their Belgian residence permit, which is usually issued after a positive police verification. It’s also possible to file the application in the country with the local municipal authorities if the dependents are already legally staying in Belgium. Processing time for the issuance of a decision is still six months. While the application is pending, the dependents receive a temporary residency document, which allows them to stay in Belgium. The temporary residency document, however, is not accepted as a travel document. An exception exists for family members of EU nationals and Belgian nationals as they can even initiate the family reunification process in Belgium while illegally staying in the country. 

Required documents for the application

As mentioned above, the criteria differs depending on the nationality of the primary and the nationality of the family members. Generally, you must provide evidence of the family bond to the primary, evidence of sufficient resources, sufficient housing, health insurance coverage and not pose a risk to public health or public security.

Proof of family bond
The applicant must provide evidence of the family bond to the primary by submitting a marriage certificate (spouse), copy of a legal cohabitation agreement (durable partners) or a birth certificate (children, parents).

Proof of sufficient resources
The primary must provide evidence of having sufficient resources to support him/herself and the family members without becoming a burden on the Belgian social security system. For 2016, the amount is set at a net income of approximately EUR 1400 per month. It is important to understand that these resources have to be stable and regular. Income from unemployment benefits, employment through an interim agency, social aid, etc. are not taken into account. In practice, the applicant must provide copies of the primary’s payslips covering a period of 6–12 months preceding the application.

Proof of sufficient housing
The primary must have sufficient housing for him/herself and his/her dependants. The available space must allow the family to live and sleep together and must meet the elementary criteria of safety, health and habitability. The applicant must provide a copy of the registered rental agreement or a copy of the deed of ownership of the property.

Proof of health insurance
The primary must have health insurance coverage that includes his/her dependants; or the family members must be covered by a separate (private) health insurance. The applicant could submit proof of private health insurance (eg. a Schengen travel insurance) or a statement issued by the primary’s health insurance provider recognising the family members' entitlement to the insurance upon their arrival in Belgium.

Public health and public safety
In some situations, the family members must produce evidence of not posing a threat to public safety or public health. They have to provide the authorities with a completed medical certificate (template is provided by the Immigration Office) and/or a police clearance certificate issued by the competent authorities in their home country.

Given the complexity of the regulations on family reunification and the multiple indicators that might influence your eligibility to a visa/residence permit, we advise you to always consult an expert prior to filing a family reunification application.
 

 

Contributed by immigration lawyer Evelyne Van der Elst, Fragomen Worldwide
Fragomen   

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