Nationals of the European Union countries don’t need a visa to enter Belgium, whether for a short or long stay. You are, however, subject to various registration requirements, particularly if you’re staying longer than 90 days. Nationals of other countries may or may not be subject to visa requirements. In order to find out if you need a visa, you can visit the FPS Foreign Affairs website.
Belgium is signatory of the Schengen agreement (signed in Schengen, Luxembourg), which allows free movement within most of the EU member countries, as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City. Each member nation retains the right to refuse to allow you to enter, even with a valid visa, though this is unlikely.
For visits of up to 90 days within any six month period, nationals of Australia, the US and Canada do not require a visa. All EU nationals, whether from a Schengen country or not, can stay for an unlimited period of time without a visa. However, those staying for longer than three months must obtain a residence permit.
If you’re going to Belgium to conduct business or engage in a remunerated activity, even for a short period, you should check with the consulate or at the FPS Foreign Affairs website to see whether some form of business visa is required.
If you’re a non-EU resident staying in Belgium longer than 90 days, you must have a visa stamped in your passport before you enter the country. To obtain a visa you should apply in person to your local consulate or embassy long before leaving home.
For those who require a visa for stays of up to 90 days, the most common type of visa issued is the Schengen visa. This visa allows you freedom of movement within the twenty six nations of the Schengen agreement. You must apply for the visa of the country that is your primary destination during your stay, i.e. either where you’ll be staying the longest or, in some cases, the country where you’ll enter the Schengen zone. Requirements for a Schengen visa vary slightly from country to country, but generally include:
- a passport valid for more than six months
- an application form and two current photographs
- proof of the purpose of your stay,
- confirmed lodging
- sufficient funds to cover the costs of your stay
- and a return airline ticket.
Processing the application can take a month or more, so plan accordingly.
You must register at the municipality of the place you will be residing within three working days after your arrival in Belgium. The municipality will issue you with a declaration of arrival.
Long-stay Visa (Residency)
If you are planning to stay in Belgium for more than 90 days you should check with the consulate or at the FPS Foreign Affairs website whether you need a long-stay visa or not. You must apply for a long-stay visa at the appropriate consulate or embassy in your country of residence and must have the visa stamped in your passport before travelling. Visas cannot be obtained or changed once you’re in Belgium.
To apply for a long-stay visa, you’ll need a passport that’s valid for at least 12 months plus some or all of the following documents:
- a legalised birth certificate (i.e. with apostille) and translation for each member of your family;
- legalised (apostille) copies of marriage or divorce certificates with translations, as applicable;
- a medical certificate from an approved doctor (the consulate or embassy will give you a list);
- the completed application form(s);
- passport-type photos (one to six or more, depending on the circumstances);
- a work permit (if you’re planning to work) or evidence that your employer has applied for a work permit for you;
- evidence of eligibility to practise your trade in the country (if you’re self-employed, a journalist or in some other regulated profession) or a professional card, which serves as a work permit for some self-employed trades;
- a police report (sometimes called a ‘certificate of good conduct’);
- proof of financial resources (if you aren’t going to take up employment);
- proof of health insurance;
- if a student, evidence of admission from an approved educational establishment;
- if an au pair, a copy of your agreement with a host family.
If you require a visa to enter the country do not attempt to do so without one, as you will be refused entry. Note that Belgium generally requires you to have a work permit or evidence that your employer has applied for one on your behalf before you can even apply for a long-stay visa or residence permit.
There are several different sorts of long-stay visas, depending on whether you’re going to Belgium for employment, to retire or to join your spouse or other family members. It’s possible to obtain a long-stay visa if you’re going to Belgium to marry or live in a stable relationship with a Belgian citizen or someone already legally residing in Belgium, but there are additional documents you must submit with your visa application, including evidence that the person already in Belgium is able to support a foreign spouse or partner.
If you’re going to Belgium for employment and aren’t from the EU, your prospective employer must apply for a work permit first; once that has been issued, you can apply for your residence visa. The Belgian embassy advises that the visa process can take up to a year, so don’t buy your travel tickets until your visa has been approved. You may be required to present certain certified and translated documents (birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.). For more information on the documents you need to apply for a long-stay visa, visit the FPS Foreign Affairs website.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Holland, Belgium & Luxembourg. from Survival Books.