Belgium offers political and economic stability. It also has efficient tax systems with numerous exemptions beneficial to locals and visitors. Belgium provides high quality living standards. A healthy and safe environment is also offered by this country. Its cultural heritage make Belgium among the most visited and respected countries throughout the world.
Belgium has three (3) organizational or administrative areas. These are:
1. Waloon area – This French speaking land is located in the southernmost portion of Belgium. The capital of Waloon is Namur.
2. Flemish area – The capital city of this northern Belgium area is Brussels.
3. Central Brussels area – This is the third and the last administrative region in Belgium. It is located near the northern Flemish area.
The Belgian regional capitals deal with permit applications. Procedures for work permit applications are different in every area. However, such areas have the same legislation.
The rights of foreign nationals to enter, reside in and settle in Belgium are governed by the Law of 15 December 1980 and the Royal Decree of 8 October 1981 on the entry, residence, settlement and expulsion of foreign nationals and by its later amendments.
Foreign Nationals and the required Belgian Visa
1. Citizens of the EU or European Union Member States – The EU member states are composed of Switzerland, Iceland, Monaco, and Norway. Nationals of these countries are free to move and roam around Belgium. EU nationals may stay and live in Belgium on the power of an identity card or a state passport as well as evidence of health insurance. In addition, EU nationals must provide proof of sufficient funds to support their stay in Belgium. An example of this is an employment contract.
2. Citizens whose countries became a member of the European Union on May 1, 2004 – The same principle applies to the citizens of the ten (10) countries that later became a part of the European Union. There is also a 2-year transition period concerning the citizens from eight (8) countries who come to Belgium to take on paid work. These countries include Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, and Czech Republic. Within this period, citizens of these countries still need to acquire a work permit. However, “seconded” citizens to Belgium by new or old member states of the European Union are exempted from this policy since they are not required to have work permits.
Non-exempted salaried workers from these countries are free to enter Belgium even without Belgian visas. They just need to acquire a “residence authorization” to register with their city of residence. This authorization may be appended to the work permit at the community where they reside within three (3) months upon arrival at the Belgian consulate or embassy.
3. Other foreign nationals – These are nationals from other countries excluded from the list above willing to stay for more than three months. The Belgian consular and diplomatic authorities are the only ones who deal with this type of visa application.
There are specific procedures put aside for certain situations. Examples of these are employment purposes, studies, family reunification, self-employment, adoption, cohabitation and for a wedding in Belgium. The Alien’s Office will carefully examine and review on a case-to-case basis all the other person-to-person cases. The Alien’s Office also requires applicants to submit there application within the deadline so they can do an investigation whenever it is required. Foreign nationals must go to the nearest municipal authorities upon their entry to Belgium.
Important things to remember:
a) Translations are done by an under oath translator for Legal documents written in languages other than Dutch, English, German or French.
b) Present official foreign documents with the original copy as well as the translation following the legalization by local authorities to Belgian diplomats. These documents make up all required legalizations and certified true copies for executive purposes. The Belgian consulate or embassy will return the original copies to the applicants.
c) The handling fee for a short-stay visa (stay not exceeding 90 days) is 60 EUR. For a long-stay visa (stay exceeding 90 days) it is 180 EUR.
An expat in Rest of the World Expat Forum last December 9, 2008 shared other thoughts on Belgian immigration:
Is there a reason you’re moving to Brussels? (I.e. family, girlfriend, etc.) I only ask because you are going to run into a visa issue, as Synthia has already mentioned unless you have EU nationality. If you are moving with family members, make sure you know the work status for your visa, as work visas are extremely difficult to get in Belgium, particularly for someone without a degree and/or local language skills.
In addition, Brussels is a “multi-lingual” enclave in the middle of the Flemish part of Belgium. Many of the “English speaking” employers are either connected with the European Union or with NATO – and jobs with those sorts of institutions are extremely competitive. It could be next to impossible to find a job outside the city of Brussels without speaking Flemish. Language is a very sensitive issue there.
Required Documents for Visa Applications
The Belgian consulate or embassy requires foreign nationals to attach special documents to their Belgian Visa applications. These special documents include:
• General policies leading higher education – Whenever applicants decide to continue their studies in Belgium, the Belgian Embassy requires medical certification as well as a certificate of good moral behavior or conduct. These are necessary for temporary residence authorization. The applicants must also give:
i. a properly completed application form – the consular or diplomatic authorities provide the application form for Belgium immigration;
ii. enrollment or admission certificate for one of the recognized members of higher education institutions organized by authorities or grant-maintained – this certificate may be an application for an equivalent certificate for diplomas or certificates granted abroad, and it must cover a full 4 or 5-year course, while fewer school hours are still acceptable if the applicants can prove that the course embodies their main activities and complements or prepares them for another full course study; and
iii. special procedures for secondary and primary school education – the Alien’s Office entertains this type of application provided that applicants can show evidence of strong family ties with a 1st to 3rd degree relative living as a legal resident in Belgium, or the applicants can prove that they are incapable of pursuing the type of education they want in their own country or in a neighboring country.
Getting a Belgian visa takes two (2) days to eight (8) weeks. It usually depends on the resident status and nationality of the applicant. There are also certain foreign nationals who must personally apply in the Belgian Embassy or Consulate. The type of visa needed for entry into Belgium is dependent on the length and purpose of the trip.
Application Steps for a Belgian Visa
1. Foreign nationals must apply for a visa at the Belgian Consulate or Embassy in their countries. Whenever their countries do not have a Belgian Consulate or Embassy, they are obliged to apply in a neighboring country with a Belgian Consulate or Embassy.
2. The embassy will inform applicants if they can present their visa applications in their countries through the embassy of a Schengen country.
3. Whenever the applicants are traveling, they should apply for a short stay visa in Belgium to be granted up to ninety (90) days in the country.
4. Foreign nationals must submit their Belgian visa applications to the Immigration Service Department at FPS Home Affairs and wait for a decision.
These procedures cannot be used on applications for long stay visas that grant foreign nationals over ninety (90) days in Belgium.
The usual valid period of short-stay Belgian visas including single and multiple entry types is six (6) months from the date of issuance.
For transit Belgian visas including single and multiple entry visas, the maximum validity is only five (5) days per entry. This 5-day period includes the day the foreign national arrived at Belgium.
Visa extensions are not permitted. Foreign nationals need to submit new applications each time they want to go back.
Types of Belgian Visas
Applicants must choose the appropriate visa type for their purposes. The Belgian Consulate or Embassy provides advice on the kind of visa suitable for the purposes of foreign nationals. The Schengen visa is a byproduct of the Schengen Agreements. The following are certain types of Belgian Visas:
1. Type A (Schengen Visa) – This is a type of airport-transit visa. Nationals can generally stay within the international transit region at the airport without the aid of a visa while waiting for the connecting flight. Nevertheless, some foreign nationals are obliged to have a visa even if they do not leave the international transit region’s premises.
2. Type B (Schengen Visa) – This type of visa is applicable for transit throughout the Schengen countries. This transit visa is valid for only five (5) days.
3. Type C (Schengen Visa) – This visa allows the holder to enter Schengen countries for a maximum duration of ninety (90) days within a period of six (6) months. Visas like these are issued for single or multiple entry purposes.