Study in Belgium: Guide to student visas and permits
Find out which student visa or permit you need to study in Belgium, take part in a student exchange, carry out research, or undertake training or internship work.
If you want to study in Belgium, you may be required to get a Belgian visa or permit depending on your nationality and situation.
Typically, unless you’re from the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, you will need a Belgian student visa to come to Belgium to study, take part in a student exchange, or carry out training if you plan to stay more than three months (90 days).
Before you can apply to get a Belgian student visa, however, you will generally need to be accepted into a course or study programme by a recognised Belgian university or education institution. You can find a list of Belgian universities and application procedures to study in Belgium.
This guide answers some important questions:
- EU/EEA/Swiss students coming to Belgium
- Can you study as a non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen?
- How to apply for a student visa
- Grants and scholarships in Belgium
- After you arrive in Belgium: mandatory registration
- Can your family visit or live with you?
- Can you work as a student?
- Coming to Belgium on student exchange, an internship, or as a researcher
- Getting your foreign qualifications recognised in Belgium
- Information and help on Belgian student visas
EU/EEA and Swiss students have the right to come and study in Belgium without the need for a visa or other permit but should be enrolled at a recognised university or institution of higher education as their main occupation in Belgium, have sufficient funds to cover expenses while studying in Belgium, and have adequate health insurance coverage.
For more information, see Expatica’s guide to EU/EEA and Swiss nationals moving to Belgium
Third-country nationals who want to study in Belgium for a period exceeding 90 days will typically need to obtain a visa D from the competent Belgian embassy in their country of residence before arrival. In principle, you are entitled to a Belgian student visa if you are registered in a study program at an officially recognised institution of higher education in Belgium.
To qualify for a Belgian student visa, students must fulfil the following:
- the studies must be the main occupation of the student during their stay in Belgium;
- the student must have sufficient resources to support themself during their stay in Belgium;
- the student must be covered by health insurance coverage;
- they cannot pose a threat to public security (for example, have no pending criminal cases).
It is important to note that you need to register for a specific study program in Belgium before submitting your visa application. This should either be a complete study program (Bachelor, Master, Manama, etc.) or preparatory studies which will prepare you for further higher education (for example, language classes). As a rule, your studies must be full-time and the main purpose for your residence in Belgium.
Studies at private education institutions might be accepted under certain conditions.
Once you have a place, non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals must apply for their visa from the Belgian embassy in their home country. If the course is more than three months long, you’ll need to complete an application form for a long stay in Belgium, and provide certain documents.
For your application, you may be asked to provide:
- a valid passport/travel ID;
- proof that you have a place at a recognised institution (see options below);
- copies of educational certificates;
- details about the course;
- evidence of sufficient funds to cover your living costs, study, healthcare and repatriation costs (EUR 617 per month for the 2015-2016 study year);
- a medical certificate;
- proof that you don’t have a criminal record, if you’re older than 21 years.
To prove your acceptance at a recognised institution, you can provide one of the following:
- the official confirmation of registration for the program;
- an attestation which indicates you have access to the anticipated studies. The attestation must clarify the conditions that you need to complete your registration upon arrival in Belgium and must be issued by the relevant educational institution;
- proof of your registration for the entrance examinations.
You may also be asked to provide a letter outlining why you have chosen your particular course, why you want to study in Belgium and how this will benefit you. Additionally, you may also be asked to show some language proficiency in the language the course will be taught in, often by showing that you’ve taken a language course.
You may need to have your foreign documents translated into German, French or Dutch by a sworn translator, and legalised or carrying an apostille stamp. More information is detailed in Expatica’s complete guide to Belgian visas and permits, and by the Belgian Foreign Ministry.
You may be eligible for financial assistance for studying in Belgium. Belgium's Foreign Ministry supplies details of grants and scholarships to study in Belgium.
Withing eight days of your arrival to Belgium, you must visit your local municipal administration offices/town hall (maison communale/gemeentehuis) to request your residence permit and be registered on the foreigner's population register. To find the details of your local town hall, you’ll need to contact the commune in which you’re living; click here for a full list of communes.
If you were not yet enrolled or registered in your study program at the time of filing your visa application, you must provide proof of registration as soon as possible; you can enrol on your course at the university or educational institution after you arrive, and ask for an enrolment certificate. You should present this when you visit the local municipal administration offices/town hall (maison communale/gemeentehuis) to get your residence permit.
Your non-EU/EEA/Swiss spouse or registered partner and dependent children can accompany you and can apply for a visa and residence permit from the Belgian embassy.
They will need to supply documentation proving:
- your relationship (marriage/civil partnership/birth certificates);
- that you have been accepted on a course in Belgium;
- that you have sufficient financial resources;
- that you have somewhere for you all to live in Belgium.
Read more about moving to Belgium to join a relative or spouse
If you’re a foreign student enrolled at a Belgian educational institution and have a valid residence permit you can work up to 20 hours a week during term time, as long as it does not interfere with your studies. You will need to get a written fixed term contract from your employer, which is known as a ‘student employment contract’, and a type C work permit (see our guide to working in Belgium).
Otherwise, you can work during official university holidays without the need for a Belgian work permit.
If you’re coming to Belgium on a student exchange through an organisation or scheme like WEP (World Education Programme) or AFS Intercultural Programs, when you apply for your visa, you’ll need certain documents.
These can include:
- evidence that the exchange organisation will be funding your stay in Belgium;
- information from the organisation about your itinerary;
- if you’re under age according to the law in your home country, a parental consent form.
In principle, researchers or guest lecturers have to follow the standard immigration rules regarding visas (see Expatica’s guide to Belgian visas and permits) and work permits (see our guide to working in Belgium).
Under certain conditions, scientific researches and fellowship holders (PhD and post-doctoral) are exempt from requiring a Belgian work permit. However, they may still need a visa and residence permit to cover their stay in Belgium. Scientific researchers will typically first need to sign a hosting agreement with a research organisation (contact the research organisation for more details).
Researches may find study and grant opportunities with the Belgian Science Policy Office.
You can come to Belgium to take on an internship after your studies if you’re aged between 18 and 30, and the company will need to apply for a work permit on your behalf (see our guide to working in Belgium). The internship or training cannot exceed one year, must be full-time and you must be paid the legal minimum wage.
In some cases, you may be asked for an ‘equivalence statement’ to show how your educational qualifications obtained in your home country relate to Belgian qualifications. If you already have a higher education qualification and want to come to Belgium to continue your studies, the university is usually responsible for establishing equivalencies.
If you come from a country signed up to the Bologna Process you will have your educational qualifications recognised in Belgium.
- See the Belgian government’s official information and services portal with specific information about coming to Belgium to study.
- Belgian Foreigner's Office: information on the application procedure and required documents.
- Belgian Foreign Ministry: information on immigration, grants and study options in each language region.
- New in Town: government initiative website on immigrating to Belgium.
- Check what is happening with your visa application.
- The Association for the Rights of Foreigners: factsheets on immigration as a student (in French)
- This Euraxess guide has information for researchers and trainees coming to Belgium.
- Complete guide to Belgian visas and permits
- Guide to work permits in Belgium
Expatica / Updated by Fragomen Worldwide
The information given here is for general guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country.
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