- Download our Moving to Belgium Guide (PDF)
Expats and foreigners visiting Belgium may require visas for Belgium before entering the country. As Belgium is part of the Schengen visa area, travellers who don't have an EU passport or one from a list of visa-exempt countries will be required to apply for a Schengen visa before arrival.
Visas for Belgium
Those who apply for a visa for Belgium will need to gather the required documents, complete a visa application form, and submit these to the Belgian consulate or embassy in their home country before they travel. Processing time can vary, so applicants should be sure to submit their application well before their intended departure date.
In some cases, applicants may be asked to provide additional documents at the discretion of the Belgian embassy or consulate. It's common for an applicant to be asked for proof of employment and residence in their home country to indicate that they will return home after their trip.
Expats wanting to travel to Belgium for business purposes will likely have to include a letter of invitation from the Belgian business party hosting them and a letter from their local employer stating their duties in Belgium. Those attending a conference will often need proof of registration and accommodation.
Type C Schengen visas
The Type C Schengen visa allows travellers to stay in the Schengen area, which includes 26 European countries, for a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period for tourism, family visits or business purposes. It is essential for expats to check the specific visa requirements for their country of citizenship before making any travel plans, as these requirements can change over time.
Type D long-stay visas
Type D visas are issued for stays longer than 90 days, regardless of whether the holder plans to live in Belgium for a fixed period or settle there permanently. Expats will need a long-stay visa if they're moving to Belgium to study, work, visit family for a longer period or immigrate to Belgium permanently.
For more information, visit the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Residence permits for Belgium
Depending on their nationality, expats wanting to stay in Belgium for longer than 90 days may require a temporary or permanent residence permit.
For non-EU expats, there are several types of residence permits, each with specific requirements and validity periods. Initially, a temporary residence permit, such as an A or B card, may be granted, which allows for a limited-duration stay in Belgium for purposes, including work, study or family reunion. After meeting specific criteria and residing in Belgium for a certain period, foreigners may become eligible to apply for a more permanent residence permit, such as a C card (identity card for foreigners) or a D card (long-term resident status).
Anyone intending to stay in Belgium is required to report their presence in the country to their local commune. Having done so, they will receive a notification of arrival for short stays and a registration certificate for long stays.
For stays of less than three months, EU citizens must do this within 10 working days of arrival and non-EU citizens within three working days of arrival. For longer stays of more than three months, EU citizens must register their stay at any point in the first three months, while non-EU citizens have eight working days to do so.
Non-EU expats moving to the country for employment will likely also need a work permit for Belgium.
- Read more about residence permits on the Belgian Immigration Office website
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice, and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
►Learn more about Work Permits for Belgium
"From the Belgian side, the work permit and visa were straightforward. However, to get the required documents from the South African government took almost six months. After providing the documents to the Belgian government, I was awarded my visa and work permit within four days. I did it all by myself, but with some help from the people in the South African expat group here in Belgium." Learn more about moving to Belgium in our interview with South African expat Marco.
Are you an expat living in Belgium?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Belgium. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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