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Visas, Residency, Immigration & Documentation

Belgium - Visas, Residency, Immigration & Documentation

Visa requirements for visits to Belgium of up to 90 days are shown on The Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation website.

For all visits of longer than 90 days a visa is required for non-EU citizens. With the exception of Cyprus and Malta, nationals of the new European Union Member States (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia) are currently subject to transition arrangements lasting two years and require a long-stay visa for Belgium. However, self-employed persons are exempt from the visa requirement.

EU citizens and the nationals of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are allowed to enter Belgium freely to live and work, along with their spouse and children under 21 years of age, without requiring a visa or work permit. They must, however, have a valid passport or identity card, evidence of health insurance and proof that they are able to maintain themselves in Belgium without resort to social services.

The nationals of other countries who wish to live in Belgium for more than three months are required to apply to the Belgian consulate in their home countries for a visa, submitting their work permit, a certificate of good conduct covering the last five years and a medical certificate, along with any other documents specified by the Belgian authorities. The work permit must be obtained on the employee's behalf by the Belgium-based employer, from the relevant regional employment authorities. In general, the employer will be required to demonstrate that no suitable Belgian national is available for the post.

Changes in the rules relating to the employment of certain non-EU nationals were recently announced by the Belgian federal government, and will come into effect in 2006. These apply to academic researchers employed by a Belgian university or research facility, and managers who are employed by a multinational with a European head office in Belgium, who will no longer need to obtain a work permit.

Other non-EU nationals wishing to take up employment in Belgium must meet certain minimum salary requirements before being granted a work permit. The gross minimum salaries are being increased in 2006 to at least EUR33,082 per year for highly skilled workers and at least EUR55,193 per year for management executives.

Non-EU nationals who wish to work on a self-employed basis in Belgium are required to apply for a 'professional card' from the Federal Public Service of the Economy, Small and Medium-Sized Businesses, the Self-Employed and Energy. The application should be made at the same time as their visa application.

People wishing to retire in Belgium, or settle there without taking employment in the country must provide evidence of their means of support and health insurance policy. Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Within eight days of arrival in Belgium, foreign nationals are required to register at the town hall in the area where they will be living, to apply for a residence permit. EU nationals are required to submit their passport, three passport-sized photos and evidence of financial security, such as a letter from their employer or bank statements, while non-EU citizens also have to submit additional photos, a medical certificate, a 'certificate of good conduct' from the police authorities in their home country, and marriage certificate and children's birth certificates if accompanied by family members. A small fee will be payable. Following a Belgian address check by the police, you will be issued initially with a three-month temporary residence card. Once further checks of employment and other details have been carried out, a permanent five-year card will be issued to EU nationals, and a 'certificate of registration for foreigners' to non-EU nationals, who have to renew this annually. If you subsequently change address within Belgium you are required to register the new address at the town hall.

You can apply for naturalization as a Belgian citizen if you are at least 18 years old and if Belgium has been your main place of residence for at least three years immediately preceding your application. Applications should be submitted to the registrar in your Belgian municipality, and are forwarded to the Chamber of Representatives for a decision.

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