Obtain Residency in Belgium

Individuals who wish to obtain a Belgium residence permit  should know that this is divided into two categories: temporary and permanent. The first one is awarded when moving to Belgium for work or study purposes as well as for starting a business or making an investment. The second one is a natural transition for those who wish to live in the country permanently.

The right of residence can be granted to all citizens, irrespective of their country of origin, who come to the country lawfully and provide the relevant documents for their purpose of stay (employment, jobseeker, a student accepted at a Belgian university, investor, or others).

Our team of Belgium immigration lawyers can assist EU and non-EU citizens who are looking to obtain residency in Belgium, whether they wish to do so permanently or temporarily. The process is not a complicated one, however, all applicants are asked to provide the documents that justify their stay and the application is accepted or rejected based on the accuracy of the submitted data. This is why getting in touch with one of our agents is highly recommended before coming to the country or, in any case, before submitting the actual documents for approval.

Our team provides complete and ongoing services for those who wish to obtain residency in Belgium. In this article, we answer some common questions and briefly outline the general application process. Please keep in mind that our team is ready to answer any detailed questions that may apply in your particular case.

How can an EU national obtain a Belgium residence permit?

The Belgium immigration process starts with a temporary residence permit. For EU citizens, the right of free travel within the Union, as well as their granted ability to seek employment in a Member State, may make the process a little simpler than for non-EU nationals.

EU nationals who intend to reside in the country for more than 90 days (the permitted maximum period without a residence permit) need to submit an application that is based on their status. Some examples are the following:

  • Employee: an individual who has taken up employment in the country will provide a valid employment contract;
  • Jobseeker: in the event in which no job has been secured, the applicant will provide evidence of his efforts (application letters);
  • Self-employment: proof of registration with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises and with the social security fund for the self-employed;
  • Student: proof of enrollment with a Belgian school or university is needed, along with proof of sufficient means of subsistence.

These are just some examples of the status for which an EU national can apply for temporary Belgium residence permit. Moving to Belgium is also possible for trainees (based on a traineeship contract) or for family members (a partner, spouse, or children) under the family reunification purpose.

EU nationals can obtain permanent residency in Belgium after an uninterrupted stay of five years (based on temporary residence permits). One of our Belgium immigration lawyers can provide details on the separate process of applying for the permanent residence permit.

What are the residence conditions for non-EU citizens?

Non-EU nationals who wish to stay in the country for more than three months, thus to obtain a Belgium residence permit, will need to observe a set of different formalities, starting with obtaining the D visa type (the one for long-term purposes) issued by the Embassy or Consulate in one’s country of origin. It is useful to note that the visa application takes place before arriving in Belgium, however, in some particular cases, the application can also be submitted with the municipal administration in the area where the applicant lives or will live in Belgium.

Any non-EU national intending to reside in Belgium for more than three months for employment, study, investment or other purposes will need to submit the following documents for the D visa:

  • a valid travel document;
  • the visa application form together with 2 passport photographs;
  • a certificate of good conduct and a medical certificate;
  • documents that prove the status.

Certified translations are required in many cases. One of our immigration lawyers in Belgium can help non-EU nationals during this process.

How is residency status verified in Belgium?

EU and non-EU nationals who obtain residency in Belgium need to be aware of the fact that the residency status is subject to control by the municipality. The police are generally the one entrusted to observe the movements of the population and the criteria for establishing if an individual is actually living at the indicated location is based on several criteria:

  • if the person lives at that address for most of the time;
  • if he or she returns there after work;
  • if the children go to school in the area;
  • if the address is the one for which the gas, electricity, and water invoices are received.

If you would like to know more about the inquiries made by the municipality on the status of the individuals within their territory, please reach out to our immigration lawyer in Belgium.

What are the conditions for obtaining permanent residence in Belgium?

An individual who has been living uninterruptedly in the country for five years can obtain a permanent Belgium residence permit. The permanent permit is applied for in person, with the municipal authority in the area of residence. The Appendix 22 is used for this purpose (séjour permanent/Duurzaam verblijf) and the applicant will be asked to fill it is appropriately.

The authorities may ask for information on one’s lawful stay in Belgium and for this purpose the applicant may be required to provide evidence of having held adequately renewed residence permits for the five-year stay in the country prior to the application for permanent residency.

Once the application is filed, the next step is for the applicant to receive the actual permanent Belgium residence permit. This can be issued either in paper format (in which case it has unlimited validity) or in electronic format (an E+ Card with a validity of 5 years that can be renewed).

An essential part of the process is the fact that the permanent resident is now registered with the population register instead of simply being registered with the aliens’ register. This allows for better social integration.

Non-EU nationals go through a different permanent residence procedure than the one described above for EU citizens. In order to obtain a permanent Belgium residence permit they will:

  • Obtain the B Card: this is the certificate of registration for an indefinite period with the Register of Foreigners and it is the first step as it grants access to applying for the C card; the Immigration Office assesses each case and grants this right of stay; non-EU nationals who have a B card are allowed to work without a professional card, however, a key difference is that they remain registered with the aliens register, as opposed to the municipal one;
  • Obtain the C and the D cards: the C card is granted after 5 years of holding the B card and, like in the case of the EU national, is the manner in which the individual will be registered in the population register as opposed to the aliens’ one; the D card is granted when the foreign national has stable and regular income to support himself and the family, if applicable, he has health insurance and is able to prove the uninterrupted 5-year stay in the country.

Non-EU nationals are also required to apply for the C or D card with the municipality in their area of residence. They receive the residence permit once the Immigration Department approves the application. Both the C card and the D cars have a 5-year validity period and are renewable.

Our Belgian immigration team can give you complete details about this procedure in 2021. We provide assistance as needed to those who wish to remain in the country indefinitely and we assist throughout the application procedure. Please reach out for more information on how we can help you.

Social integration for immigrants in Belgium

Integration in the host country is essential for immigration purposes and proof of such integration is essential for those interested in obtaining a Belgium residence permit for the purpose of indefinite stay. Integration can largely be based on a number of key factors such as obtaining and securing employment, civic participation as well as educational attainment for the children of immigrants. In Belgium, the municipal council has authority at a local level over the implementation of the integration projects and the national immigration policies.

Two main categories of immigrants are distinguished for immigration purposes: asylum seekers and other categories of immigrants. Understandably, the process can differ on a regional level as the country is divided into three areas, Wallonia, Brussels-Capital, and Flanders. For example, in Wallonia and Flanders, non-EU immigrants (such as family members of foreign nationals who are already Belgian employees or spouses of Belgian nationals) are subject to an integration curriculum. The Integration Programme largely focuses on language courses, civic education as well as vocational training, however, the current regulations do not apply for children, students, seriously ill or disabled individuals. Starting with 2017, the Brussels-Capital Region also implements a migrant integration strategy focused on citizenship training, language training for French or Dutch as second languages as well as social and economic participation. The integration programmes and strategies were not subject to an official evaluation in the three regions when this article was written.

Key facts about life in Belgium

Belgium was named the “capital of Europe” and this is also true for the high number of foreign nationals living in the country. The following data was available at the start of 2018, as published by the Statistical Office:

  • there were 11,431,406 people living in the country;
  • 1,198,726 individuals were living in the Brussels-Capital Region;
  • the Flemish Region had 6,552,967 inhabitants;
  • the Walloon Region had 3,624,377 inhabitants.

Contact us for more details about Belgium immigration, obtaining residency, citizenship, and handling different other issues related to living in the country.