If you have a relative or partner living in Belgium, see if can apply to live and work in Belgium for the purpose of family reunification.
If you want to move to Belgium to join a family member or partner, different conditions and requirements apply depending on your nationality, the nationality of your family member and the family connection. This guide explains how to apply for a Belgian visa and permit, if required, to join your family and live and work in Belgium:
- EU/EEA/Swiss citizens moving to Belgium
- Family members of an EU/EEA or Swiss citizen
- Family members of a non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen
- How to apply for family reunification Belgian permit
- After your family members arrive: Registration
- Can your family members work in Belgium?
- What happens if your family member leaves Belgium?
- Immigration websites and help in Belgium
EU/EEA/Swiss citizens and their family members
If you’re from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, you can freely join your relative in Belgium without the need to apply for a Belgian visa. However, you must follow certain rules regarding registration as a foreigner. You will need to register at your local Belgian commune in order to be issued with a foreigner’s residence card. For more information, see Expatica’s guide for EU/EEA and Swiss nationals moving to Belgium.
Family members of EU/EEA/Swiss nationals
If you are not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland, but your relative or partner is, you can be eligible to join or accompany them in Belgium. In general, spouses, registered partners and children under 21 of EU/EEA/Switzerland nationals are entitled to a Belgian residence permit for the purpose of family reunification.
However, your relative in Belgium must be registered at the local commune; this can be done on the basis of employment, looking for a job, study purposes or sufficient resources. Your relative must also have adequate health insurance and sufficient financial resources to support both themselves and you. Dependent parents (from both sides) can also join EU/EEA relatives working or looking for work but not those who are studying in Belgium.
When applying from outside of Belgium, you will typically need to apply for a long-stay D visa at the Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country. Then, within eight days of arrival in Belgium, you will need to register at your local Belgian town hall in order to be issued with a residence permit (F card). Under some circumstances, if you’re already legally residing in Belgium under another Belgian visa, it will be allowed to apply at your local Belgian town hall. Your residence card is valid for five years and renewable.
You can find out where your local office is by clicking on this list of communes throughout Belgium.
Family members of an EU/EEA or Swiss citizen
If neither you nor your relatives are from the EU/EEA or Switzerland, then you can apply for family reunification based on the status of your relative living in Belgium. Typically, if you are the spouse, registered partner or unmarried child up to the age of 18, you can join or accompany your relative in Belgium if your relation has authorisation to stay in Belgium or has settled there permanently.
Which family members can join you in Belgium?
Relatives that are eligible for family reunification are:
- your spouse or civil partner (with whom you are still in a relationship);
- unmarried dependent children, including adopted children, aged 18 years or under, of either you or your spouse/registered partner;
- dependent children or a person over 18 years old who has disabilities for whom you, or your spouse/registered partner, is a legal guardian.
If you plan to get married, read about getting married in Belgium.
How to apply for family reunification
As a general rule, a family reunification application should be submitted at the Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country. You will need to complete an application form and supply certain supporting documentation that will include, but is not limited to:
- a valid passport;
- evidence of your relationship, such as a marriage or civil partnership certificate, or a birth certificate;
- a medical certificate;
- proof of adequate health insurance;
- proof that you have somewhere suitable to live;
- proof of a regular and sufficient means of support.
Unless your documents are in Dutch, French or German (and sometimes English), you will need to have them translated by an officially recognised translator and in some cases legalised or apostilled, which is when your foreign documents are certified as authentic by the appropriate authority in your home country, or have an ‘Apostille’ seal if your country has signed up to the Hague Convention.
As an exception and under certain circumstances, for example, if you have already obtained a legal stay in Belgium, you will be able to initiate the family reunification process while in Belgium. In such cases, your application for a long-term visa D should be filed at your local Belgian town hall. Please note that travel restrictions will apply during this six months procedure. See a list of communes in Belgium to find where to apply.
However, in certain cases, even if you are legally staying in Belgium, for example, you hold a C visa (short-stay visa) for studying or a holiday, you will need to leave and still apply from your home country.
When your relatives arrive in Belgium
When relatives arrive in Belgium they have eight working days to visit their local municipal administration offices/town hall (maison communale/gemeentehuis) in the commune where the family will all be living. This is in order to be registered in the foreigner’s registry and obtain a foreigner’s identity card, which acts as a Belgian residence permit. You can find out where your local office is by clicking on this list of communes throughout Belgium. Typically, this residence permit will be linked to the status of your relative and will have the same length of validity as their residence permit.
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.
Working in Belgium
As a general rule, EU/EEA and Swiss citizens – and their family members – do not require a work permit in order to be employed in Belgium. However, third-country nationals (non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens) and their family members typically require a Belgian work permit.
Most relatives of non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals will be able to obtain a Belgian work permit on the basis of their own employment, otherwise on the basis of their relative’s status in Belgium. The type of Belgian work permit they require and any specific conditions, restrictions or exemptions will depend on the type of work they find in Belgium.
In general, you will have to leave Belgium if your relative decides to leave Belgium permanently (for example, when the job or study in Belgium ends). As with any rule, exceptions can apply.
For more information
- See the family reunification pages of the official Belgium Immigration Office.
- New in Town: government initiative website for newcomers (in French and Dutch).
- Crossroad Migration Integration: website for legal aspects related to immigration (in Dutch).
- The Association for the Rights of Foreigners: factsheets on immigration (in French).
- eID: information on Belgium’s electronic identity card.