Guide to visas and immigration in Belgium

Moving to Belgium: Complete guide to Belgian visas and permits

Home Moving to Belgium Visas & Permits Moving to Belgium: Complete guide to Belgian visas and permits
Last update on January 31, 2019

If you’re planning a move to Belgium, find out if you need a Belgian visa or permit to visit, live, work or study in Belgium.

You may need to apply for a visa or permit if you want to visit, live, work or study in Belgium. This essential guide will help you find out which Belgian visa or permit you need depending on your nationality and situation. The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country for your specific circumstances.

Immigration updates

  • Restrictions on newer EU member Croatia have been lifted, and citizens no longer require a work permit for Belgium.
  • Since 2015, applicants applying for long-term visas (D) to stay in Belgium longer for three months can be subject to pay an additional contribution fee to process their application. The contribution is paid on top of the processing fee (around EUR 180). The contribution fee is not reimbursed in the event of a rejected Belgian visa.

Who needs a visa or permit for Belgium?

Citizens of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland can travel freely to Belgium on the basis of their national ID card or passport. EU, EEA and Swiss nationals do not require a visa to travel to Belgium nor a work permit to engage in economic activities.

Moving to Belgium: Belgian visas and permits

However, under certain circumstances, EU/EEA/Swiss citizens need to register at the local town hall (maison communale/gemeentehuis) when they arrive in Belgium. For more information, see Expatica’s guide to EU/EEA and Swiss nationals moving to Belgium.

As a rule, third-country nationals (non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens) need a visa to enter Belgium and a work permit to engage in economic activities

Visas and permits for Belgium

If you require a visa to enter Belgium, there are three types of Belgian visas allowing entrance:

The conditions for qualifying for these visas and the application processes are explained below.

Airport transit visa for Belgium

An airport transit visa (A visa) allows you to pass through the international transit zone in Belgium (and indeed any Schengen country) while you are waiting for a connecting flight. You are not allowed to leave the airport and enter Belgium. For a list of countries whose nationals do – and don’t – need a Schengen visa, see here.

Applying for transit visa

If the transit is via a single airport in Belgium than you should apply for a transit visa from the Belgian embassy in your home country. If you will be transiting at two or more airports in the Schengen area then you apply at the embassy of the county where you’ll be making the first transit stop.

You’ll need to complete, in either French, Dutch, German or English, an application form and provide supporting documents, such as:

  • a valid passport/national travel ID issued in the last 10 years and with at least three months left;
  • a recent photo;
  • documents relating to your onward journey.

You should apply no earlier than three months before your proposed journey. Check the precise requirements with the Belgian embassy in your country of residence. See here for a list of Belgian embassies and consulates around the world.

Short-stay Schengen visa for Belgium

A short-stay Schengen or C visa allows you to stay in the Schengen area (including Belgium) – but not work – for up to a maximum 90 days (three months) in any 180-day period. If you have a Schengen visa issued by another Schengen state you can also come and stay in Belgium, provided you have not yet exceeded the 90-day allowance in any part of the Schengen area.

Most nationals from outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland will need a visa. For a list of countries whose nationals do – and don’t – need a visa, see here.

You can come to Belgium on this visa for:

  • a holiday
  • to visit family
  • to take part in business conferences or other professional reasons
  • for a cultural or sporting event
  • for a short training or study course.

If you want to take on any paid work, including training or an internship, then you will usually need to get a work permit before you can work in Belgium (see below).

Applying for a short-stay C visa

You must apply for this visa no earlier than three months before your proposed journey through the Belgian embassy in your home country. You will need to complete an application form in either French, Dutch, German or English and be able to provide a valid passport/national travel ID issued in the last 10 years and with at least three months left to run, a recent photo and other supporting documents.

These can include:

  • documents relating to the purpose of your trip, for example, a travel/holiday itinerary, letter of invitation to stay with a relative, invitation to a business conference or fair, confirmation of attendance on a training course.
  • confirmation of accommodation in Belgium, for example, a hotel reservation or letter from a private individual with whom you’ll be staying.
  • proof that you can support yourself financially during your stay (in 2016, at least EUR 95 per day in a hotel, or EUR 45 privately), for example, recent bank statements or payslips.
  • proof that you’ll be returning to your home country, for example, evidence that you have a job back home or own property there – or a return ticket in your name.
  • valid travel health insurance with minimum cover of EUR 30,000.

The visa takes the form of a sticker in your passport/travel ID. When you arrive in Belgium you have three days to register your arrival at the municipal administration offices. They will give you a document specifying when you have to leave Belgium.

Long-term D visa for Belgium

If you want to come to Belgium for longer than three months (90 days), you will have to apply for a long-stay (D) visa and residence permit based on the purpose of your stay, for example, whether you will be coming to Belgium to work, study, or join a family member, as detailed below.

Since 2015, an additional contributionhas been required to process certain long-term visa applications, on top of the usual application handling fee (about EUR 180). Unlike the handling fee which can be paid at the time of application, any applicable contribution must be paid to the Belgian Immigration Office beforehand and the proof of payment attached to your application – or your application won’t be accepted. Some foreigners are exempt from this fee, which ranges from EUR 60–215 depending on your age and the purpose of the stay. Read more about the conditions on who has to pay a contribution and how much. Your local authority, embassy or consulate can advise you.

Working in Belgium

Before you apply for a long-term visa to come and work in Belgium, you will first need to find a job and an employer who will obtain authorisation to employ you and apply for a work permit on your behalf. Some highly qualified individuals can apply for a Blue Card instead. For more information on working in Belgium, see our guide to working in Belgium.

Studying in Belgium

To get a long-term visa to come to Belgium to study in higher education or to spend a preparatory year of study ahead of this, you will first need to be able to prove that you:

  • have a place at a recognised institution (course information, letter from the educational establishment, educational certificates);
  • have 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 over 21.

For more information, see our guide to studying in Belgium.

Family reunification

As a general rule, if you’re a non-EU/EEA or Swiss national, you can get a long-term visa to accompany your spouse, registered partner or parent (if you’re a dependent family member), who has been given permission to come and live in Belgium as long as you fulfil certain conditions. You have to be able to prove your relationship, have suitable accommodation in Belgium, and there must be sufficient funds to support the family’s living and health insurance costs.

For more information, see our guide for moving to Belgium to join a relative or spouse and getting married in Belgium.

Moving to Belgium

How to apply for a Belgian long-term visa

If you’re outside Belgium then you should apply at the Belgian embassy in your home country. You may need to visit the embassy in person.

If you’re already in Belgium – perhaps because you don’t need an entry visa for less than three months, or you have a residence card for another purpose – you should apply at the local Belgian municipal administration offices/town hall (maison communale/gemeentehuis).

You’ll need to complete an application form for a long-stay visa in Belgium, and also supply originals and copies of other documents, which may include:

  • a valid passport/travel ID document;
  • a work permit, proof of registration at an educational institution, marriage/civil partnership or birth certificates (if applicable);
  • proof that you can support yourself during your stay;
  • proof of accommodation;
  • a medical certificate to prove that you don’t have any disease which could endanger public health;
  • a certificate to show you don’t have a criminal record.

The visa takes the form of a sticker in your passport/travel ID.

Once you arrive in Belgium: Registration

Anyone who plans to stay in Belgium for more than three months will be classified as a ‘resident’. After your arrival in Belgium, you have eight working days to go to your local municipal administration office/town hall (maison communale/gemeentehuis) to be registered on the Foreigner’s Register and get your residence card. 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.

You’ll need to take along your passport, work permit (if applicable) and passport photos. You’ll be issued with a Certificate of Registration, and either an A residence card if you are staying for a specific amount of time, or a B residence card if you are allowed to stay in Belgium indefinitely.

Besides registration, you will also need set up the necessary aspects for living in Belgium, such as a bank account, health insurance and more. See the necessary steps in our checklist for after you move to Belgium.

Permanent residence and Belgium citizenship

Once you have resided in Belgium for a period of five uninterrupted years and you plan to stay in Belgium long term, you may qualify for permanent residency in Belgium. Certain residents will also be able to apply for Belgian nationality if they fulfil certain conditions. Both allow you to stay in Belgium indefinitely, working or otherwise, under similar conditions as Belgian citizens.

If you hold a Blue Card from another EU-member state, and have lived elsewhere in the EU for a certain period, this time can count towards your calculation of five years.

For more information, see our guide to Belgian citizenship and permanent residence.

Working in Belgium

EU/EEA and Swiss citizens can work without a work permit in Belgium. Third-country nationals, however, will typically need a work permit to engage in economic activities.

There are three types of work permit, A, B and C:

  • type-A work permits allow you to work for any employer indefinitely;
  • type-B work permits allow you to work for a specific employer for up to a year (renewable);
  • type-C work permits allow those staying in Belgium only temporarily – such as students – to work for any employer for up to a year (also renewable).

Some highly qualified workers can also apply for a European Blue Card to come to Belgium to work.

For more information, see Expatica’s guide to work permits in Belgium and how to find a job in Belgium.

Legalisation and translation of documents

You may be asked to legalise – authenticate – certain documents. This must be done in the country where they were issued (ie. your country of birth), either by being Apostilled (a legalising stamp), or by the Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country. Documents in a foreign language other than French, Dutch or German, may need to be translated by an official translator.

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This information is for general guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country.