Visas for Belgium

Updated 2021-12-16 13:18

When entering Belgium, it's very likely that you'll need a visa, even if it's for a brief visit. This means that if you want to make this country your new home, then you'll almost certainly need a visa to enter and stay legally.

It might be confusing to try and wade through the different types of visas available for Belgium. In this article, we'll show you which ones are available and how to obtain them.

The different types of visas to live in or stay in Belgium

Belgium welcomes citizens from all nationalities for:

  • A short stay
  • A long stay
  • Living in the country
  • Studying
  • Airport transits
  • Particular cases: family reunification or airport transit

There are different reasons to go to Belgium for a short stay:

  • Visit friends or family
  • Tourism
  • Business trip
  • Studies or short training
  • Participate in a cultural, sport, scientist, academic, or religious event
  • Airport transit

Here are the different categories of travelers who might want to go to Belgium:

  • Nationals from the European Union member states whose countries did sign the Schengen agreements
  • Nationals from the European Union member states whose countries didn't sign the Schengen agreements
  • Foreign citizens living in one of the European Union member states that did sign the Schengen agreements
  • Foreign citizens living in one of the European Union member states that didn't sign the Schengen agreements
  • Citizens from so-called third countries not affiliated with the European Union

Short stay

Citizens from the EU member states don't need a visa to stay less than 90 days in Belgium, no matter the reason for their stay. They need the following papers:

  • A national identity card, OR
  • A valid passport, OR
  • An expired identity paper (if they have none of the above)
  • A residence permit delivered in another member state (if they have none of the above)

However, nationals from the European Union who stay in a private establishment have to report their presence to the communal administration of the place they stay in within 10 days following their arrival. They'll then receive a declaration of presence.

Minor travelers need parental permission, annotated by the country they come from.

Citizens from third countries (outside the European Union) can't stay longer than 90 days in a time period of 180 days in Belgium.

Below are some short-stay visas you might have to apply for, depending on your reason for entering the country.

Airport transit visa

Many people have the misconception that if you're in an airport for a layover, you don't need any sort of visa since you're just passing through and not exiting the airport. However, you'll be surprised to learn that you indeed need to have an airport transit visa in some countries, including Belgium.

The good news is, most travelers are exempt from needing an airport transit visa. However, if you're from any of the following countries, then you'll need to apply for one at least 15 days before your trip: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Syria. The only exemption is if you're a family member of an EU or EFTA citizen, as their freedom of movement will extend to you.

To apply for an airport transit visa, go to your country's Belgian embassy or consulate. This is only applicable if a Belgian airport is your first or only transit airport. With the application, you'll need to show/submit your:

  • Passport or ID
  • 2 recent passport photos
  • Proof of your flight (such as an itinerary)
  • Proof of travel insurance policy

Tourist visa

Planning on stopping off in Belgium? Then you'll need a tourist visa, even if you're just visiting for a day. The exception is if you're from one of these 61 countries: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Federated States of Micronesia, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Timor Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela.

Like with the airport transfer visa, you can apply at your local Belgian embassy, and you need to do so at least 15 days before your trip. You'll need all of the above documents, as well as:

  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of accommodations
  • Proof you have enough funding for your stay

This visa is also known as the Schengen visa and you'll be free to visit other Schengen countries without applying for another visa.

Visitor visa

You might think the visitor visa is synonymous with the tourist one, but they're actually two different things. They're extremely similar in that you need to apply for it in the same ways and for the same reason: for a short stay.

However, the visitor visa is specifically for visiting family and friends in Belgium. This means you need a letter of invitation, as well as proof that you're related if you're visiting a family member.

Other short-term visas

There are several other short-term visas you might qualify for to go to Belgium for a visit.

The first is a business visa. This is intended for business trips that last up to 90 days in Belgium. Of course, if you're an EU citizen, you won't need to apply for this visa. Otherwise, if you're a non-EU citizen, you'll follow pretty much the same process as for the tourist visa. However, a notable difference is that you'll need either a letter of explanation from your employer or a letter of invitation from a Belgian organization.

There's also the official visit visa. This is also very similar to the tourist visa in terms of the process and requirements. And like the business visa, you'll need a letter of invitation for the official meeting, negotiation, exchange program, or intergovernmental event you're attending.

For those who need medical treatment in Belgium, you can apply for a medical visa. This is applicable if your stay will be shorter than 90 days. Otherwise, if it's longer, you'll need a long-term visa. You'll need to show proof that you need the medical treatment in Belgium, as well as your health insurance and advance payment for the treatment you're receiving.

While there's a student visa, that's intended for longer programs. If you need to go to Belgium for to up 90 days for educational purposes, you can apply for a short-term study visa.

Long stay (Not permanent)

For citizens of the EU, if their stay in Belgium exceeds 90 days, they have to present themselves to the town they reside in and ask for a registration certificate (called Annex 19, which is valid for three months). 

Once this is done, EU nationals receive a national number and are registered. The residency check will follow, and then they'll have to register on the foreigners' register. During the three months' validity of the registration certificate, long-stay applicants are asked to collect a certain number of documents.

They'll receive a registration certificate (called Annex 8) once all the conditions are met.

As for citizens who don't come from a member state of the European Union, they need to ask for their visa at the consulate or embassy of the country they come from.

They have to provide:

  • A valid travel document (e.g. national passport) valid at least 12 months after the arrival date, with space for the visa to be appended
  • Two visa forms duly filled and 2 identity photographs in color
  • A certificate of non-criminal record, issued no later than 6 months prior. The certificate must refer to the previous year and be translated by a sworn translator
  • A medical certificate, issued by an accredited practitioner from the Belgian embassy or consulate
  • Additional documents might be required, depending on the status of the third-country national (employed, independent worker, intern)

Once they get their visa, and within 8 days following their date of arrival, citizens from countries outside of the EU need to register themselves on the Alien's Register at the Population or Alien Department where they live in Belgium. The Alien Department appends a temporary residence permit on their passport.

Once they've done all this, a new file has to be submitted, comprising of:

  • A valid passport adorned with a temporary residence permit
  • A work permit or a professional card (a work exemption or an internship permit for interns)
  • A few identity photographs
  • A small tax, varying from one town to another

These documents are necessary to get a registration certificate at the Alien's Register. Once the citizen's residence is controlled and if the temporary residence permit has no restrictions on the length of stay, the registration certificate is then valid for one year.

This registration certificate allows people to travel freely among all the Schengen area member states.

Here are some of the possible long-term visas you might need.

Student visa

If you want to study in Belgium as a non-EU student, then you'll have to apply for a student visa. You need to show evidence of:

  • Studying as your main occupation while in Belgium
  • Acceptance at a recognized university
  • Enough money for the stay (around €650 per month)
  • Health insurance
  • Clean criminal record

Temporary work visa

If you're a temporary employee or an au pair, then you'll need to apply for a temporary work visa. These are valid for up to one year.

For those of you who've come to Belgium not on work purposes (such as students and asylum seekers), and you've found temporary work to supplement your lifestyle while you're in the country, then you'll need a type C work visa. You'll be able to renew this work visa in some cases after the 12 months are up.

If you're still in your home country and are interested in moving to Belgium to work temporarily, then you can have your employer sponsor you and apply for a type B work visa. After securing this visa, it's very common for renewals, meaning your temporary stay can be extended.

Otherwise, if you want to be an au pair, you can apply for an au pair visa. You must be between the ages of 18 and 26. Plus, there are several requirements:

  • You have education up to age 17
  • You know the host's language
  • You've taken a course in the language of the area
  • You've never been an au pair in Belgium before

Your host family must have a child under 13 years old and have daycare for any children under 6 in their household. They also have to provide character references for all adults and pay you at least €450 every month, as well as take out a health insurance policy for you.

Family visa (Non-immigrant)

Let's say you want to visit your family for an extended period of time, but not immigrate to be with them. If this period of time is longer than three months, then you'll have to do two things: get a category D family reunion visa and a temporary residence permit. These can be valid for up to five years, with the possibility of renewals.

To apply for these visas, you'll need to go to the Belgian consulate in your country of origin. The process will be different for each person since many factors are involved, including how long you're staying, where your relatives are from (EU/EFTA or non-EU/EFTA), and which country you're from.

Permanent stay (Living in the country)

Citizens from European Union member states automatically obtain permanent residence after five uninterrupted years of residence in Belgium. These cards are good for five years and are renewable.

As for citizens from outside of the EU, they have to prove they have a health insurance policy covering them entirely, and sufficient financial resources to cover both them and their families, as well as five uninterrupted years of residence in Belgium. You must apply for permanent residence by sending your application to the Federal Immigration Office. Once you're approved, your permanent residence card is valid for five years and is also renewable.

Some people might be eligible for Belgian citizenship, so if you're interested in that, it might be worth looking into so you can stay in Belgium permanently and securely.

Useful links:

Visas for Belgium - Immigration Office

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation - Visas for Belgium

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.