Coming to Belgium as a foreigner, you must have identity and residence documents. For citizens of the European Union, a passport or Identity Document, such as a passport, is sufficient. Other nationalities, however, may need a visa to visit. There are different visas for different situations and generally the type of visa required is determined by nationality, length and purpose of visit. To apply for a visa, contact the closest Belgian embassy or consulate (http://www.diplomatie.be/en/addresses/abroad/default.asp) in your country of residence. If there isn’t one, contact the office designated to your country, usually in a neighbouring country. The application process can take a while and it is recommended to apply at least a month before you plan to travel, with some visas even more. The Belgian visa website, http://www.diplomatie.be/en/travel/visa/default.asp provides comprehensive information on who needs visas, documents required, where to apply, cost, application status, and actions to take in the event the visa is denied.
Citizens of the Schengen common visa agreement do not need visas. These consist of the following countries;
Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.
United Kingdom citizens, though part of the EU have to produce passports at entry into the Euro common visa area though they do not need visas.
In addition, citizens of Norway, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Iceland, and Switzerland, though not part of the EU, have freedom of movement within the EU common visa area.
1. OBTAINING THE CORRECT VISA
Holiday/Tourist/Reconnaissance Trip – Short-stay Visa
Many foreigners do not need a visa to travel to Belgium for a short stay, generally 90 days. See “You want to go on reconnaissance” for more information.
Working in Belgium
For most foreigners, to work in Belgium you need a work permit. It is best to come to Belgium already with a work permit as you may have to go to your country of residence to apply for the permit anyway. It is also necessary for the employer to show that no Belgian or European Union worker is able to do the same job. (See “You have a job and need to relocate.”)
Retiring in Belgium
There is not a specific visa for those wishing to retire in Belgium. There are, however, visas for people with independent resources. For more information, see the “You have a job and need to relocate” section.
To study in Belgium, it is necessary to apply for a temporary residence permit for study (Autorisation de Séjour Provisoire pour études/Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf voor studies) from the Belgian embassy/consulate in your country. This permit can only be submitted in your home country or visa office responsible for your country of residence. (See “You want to study” or “You are going for an internship.”)
2. PROCESSING THE APPLICATION
It is advisable to apply as early as possible in the event there may be delays in the processing of the application and may take over a month for the visa to be issued.
When the application is complete, it is sent, in some instances, to the Immigration Service at Federal Public Service Home Affairs in Belgium, which decides whether or not a visa may be issued (Chaussée d’Anvers 59B Antwerpsesteenweg, B-1000 Brussels, Tel.: +32 (0)2 206 15 99, Fax: +32 (0)2 02/274.66.91, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.dofi.fgov.be).
If the visa is issued, you must go in person to the municipal authority in your place of residence within eight days of your arrival in Belgium.
Young people and minors
Children under 16 may enter Belgium without their own individual travel document when accompanied by a parent, grandparent or guardian, provided said person is of the same nationality and the child is included on their passport, otherwise their own travel document and visa are necessary.
Minors travelling alone or with persons other than their parents require a statement of authorisation to travel signed by both parents or legal guardian, authenticated by local authorities. If travelling with one parent and the parents are divorced, authorization for travel must also be given by the authorities for the minor.
Access to the territory
Presentation of a visa does not grant an unconditional right to enter Belgium or the Schengen area. When you present your visa at the border, you may be refused access to Belgium if you are clearly without means of subsistence and are unable to procure such means by undertaking legal paid employment. Proof of adequate means of subsistence may take the form of cash, cheques and credit cards accepted in Belgium, the original copy of a pledge of financial support, a work contract, bank statements, proof of enrolment on the trade register and/or of professional activity.