Immigration to Belgium

Introducing Belgium which can be described as one of the biggest European countries with rich cultural heritage and respect for human rights. Statistics demonstrate that the population of Belgium is currently estimated at around 11 420 163. The biggest ethnic group is Flemish. The country also hosts many immigrants from Morocco and Italy. The official language is Dutch, as well as French and German.

The Official currency is the Euro (EUR). Belgium is a core member state of the European Union and the Schengen area, which provides many benefits for its residents. It is possible to acquire a residence permit in Belgium. For short stays up to 90 days, a visa will be required.

Immigration services

The FPS or Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs (www.dofi.fgov.be) is responsible for immigration services in Belgium.

It may be quite difficult to obtain a residence permit in Belgium, due to the strict immigration policies, in contrast with other European countries. Therefore we suggest the Latvian residence permit. There is a significant difference in Belgian law between a simple "visa" and a long stay or a residence permit, officially called "stay document", however, no long stay visa is required to stay in Belgium for a time period up to 90 days. Moreover, the citizens of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Norway), as well as the Switzerland can travel without limits to the country on the grounds of their national ID card, passport or another travelling document. In addition, EEA, EU and Swiss nationals do not require a visa to travel to Belgium, no work permit to engage in economic activities is required either.

If one is a non-EU citizen, in order to stay in Belgium for more than 3 months, he or she needs a temporary residence permit, resident card or retired residence permit. Thus, anyone entering Belgium with the intention to stay in excess of 90 days and intends to work or study in the country must have a long term visa or entry permit issued by the Belgian authorities.

Immigration services providers

Despite the fact that the Belgian law sets certain exceptions for visa and entry permit requirements, the generally applied rule is that an applicant shall not be granted a stay document, as long as he hasn’t been previously evaluated and approved at the local Belgian municipal administration offices/town hall (maison communale / gemeentehuis).Thus, any person seeking entry to Belgium must start out by drafting and submitting an application to this authority, which is specifically responsible for his country of residence. Submitting application to a wrong authority most likely will result in refusal to issue an approval. Such services are usually best provided by law offices and immigration agencies.

Here are three email address of companies which offer immigration services in Belgium:

  • E-mail: residency@baltic-legal.com
  • E-mail: europe@forsetico.com
  • E-mail: ferdinand.dirickx@skynet.be

Lawful immigration

In order to visit Belgium legally, immigrants need to follow all the requirements provided within Belgian law. The main law, which regulates the immigration of non-EU citizens in Belgium, is the Royal Decree of 08/10/1981 on access to the territory, residence, establishment and removal of foreigners. There are several options, depending on the purpose of one’s visit, considering that Belgium is a part of the Schengen area and the European Union.

Immigration Office is responsible for receiving, hearing visa applications and issuing approvals, however, in order to successfully apply for a visa you need to submit to the very specific authority, responsible for one’s country of residence.

Immigration law

The European Pact on Immigration and Asylum is one of the principal legal regulation for immigrants from various states in Belgium.

Immigration statistics

According to immigration statistics by 2018, the majority of immigrants that move to Belgium come from other European Union countries such as France - 165 486 people and Italy – 156 063. Over the period of the last twenty years, the number of immigrants grew, leading to political debates in government.

More than 1.3 million migrants have acquired Belgian citizenship since the changes of the Belgian nationality law. These are now considered new Belgians. Even more, 89.2% of inhabitants of Turkish origin have been naturalized, as have 88.4% of people of Moroccan background, 75.4% of Italians, 56.2% of the French and 47.8% of Dutch people.

Below you can find information regarding biggest ethnic groups of immigrants in Belgium as per previous year:

# Country of origin Population
1 France 165 486
2 Italy 156 063
3 Netherlands 155 239
4 Romania 87 616
5 Morocco 81 215
6 Poland 71 537

Most popular cities by population

The most famous destination for travellers is the capital city of Belgium - Brussels. In the same time, it is the largest city in the country. Located in the historical heart of the country – the city of Bruges is also a popular attraction for foreigners as well as the old streets and the rich nightlife available in Antwerp. The most populated cities of Belgium back in 2018 were Antwerp – 523 248 people, Ghent – 260 341 people, Charleroi - 201 816 people, Liege - 197 355 people and Brussels – 1 191 604.

Migration in and out of Schengen area

Belgium is currently a member state of the Schengen area and one of the EU core participants. Member states of the Schengen Agreement have abolished passport control as well as any immigration restricting procedures at their internal borders, therefore, one may move freely within the territory of the EU. Passport controls and immigration checks still remain at the external borders. Member states also do recognize Schengen visas issued by other Schengen states. On the external border or upon first entry to the Schengen area member state, normal immigration control procedures still apply, however, admission to any Schengen country is generally recognized as an admission to the entire Schengen, without any further passport and visa control.

Third-country nationals holding a residence permit or residence card may stay in Belgium in excess of 90 days. Because of the strict immigration policy, it may be problematic to acquire a residence permit or any other long stay immigration document. A list of possible grounds for applying for a residence permit is stated on the web site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Types of visas in Belgium

If staying in Belgium for a short time period under 90 days, a third-country national must apply for one of several types of visas in order to make his/her visit legal. According to the Immigration policy legislation of Belgium, there are several different types of visas, which must be acquired depending on case and circumstances:

Long term Type D visa Stay up to 90 days in mainland Belgium Travel health insurance, documents on sufficient funds and proof of accommodation required.
Short-stay national Type C visa Stay up to 90 days in Belgian overseas territories Travel health insurance, documents on sufficient funds and proof of accommodation required.
Type A airport transit visa Airport transit visa Airplane ticket required

Residence permit

Residence permit in Belgium may be quite challenging to acquire, however, with the correct framework and carefully drafted documents it is possible. We kindly recommend applying for preliminary evaluation procedure at the law office or immigration center. Depending on circumstances and your case details, you can apply and acquire one of the following residence permit types:

Stay Document (Visa) – the following document in its essence is a residence permit for immigrants who are visiting Belgium using long stay visa and plan on staying in Belgium for a longer period of time. In order to achieve and acquire such document, the applicant has to comply with the following criteria:

  • Validate their visa which shall serve as a residence permit, or
  • Apply for a residence permit during their initial three months of stay in Belgium

Belgian immigration system offers two types of Stay Document to the applicants:

  • Residency cards – allowing to stay in Belgium indefinitely, working or otherwise, under similar conditions and enjoying similar rights and benefits as Belgian national
  • Residency permit – issued for a time period of time and is renewable upon expiration.

Residency cards types B, C, D, E+, F+ – for all other categories of applicants mentioned above.

Depending on circumstances and your case details, you might be able to apply for one of the following categories of immigration documents: Authorization of stay - a document that may have 1, 3 or 6 months of validity term. It is usually issued in exceptional situations, when the local presence of the applicant is required, for example, to the parent of a sick child in Belgium, or a volunteer on a mission.

It is relevant to underline that according to the provisions of the recently introduced immigration law, which was aimed to attract highly-skilled employees, the application procedure had been simplified for certain categories of applicants including:

  • Executives working for multinationals with gross monthly earnings of a certain amount;
  • Scientists;
  • Those working in the entertainment industry;
  • Seasonal workers;
  • Licensed professions (healthcare professionals, architects, lawyers, teachers, etc).

History

The economy of Belgium was stagnant during the long depression of 1873–95. During the late 19th century, there were general strikes which became an established aspect of its political process. At the end of the WWII Belgium had been liberated by the allied forces in the year 1944. These events shaped Belgium’s history as well as its cultural identity as a nation and people.

Today Belgium is one of the densely inhabited countries worldwide and one of the most urbanized as well. In addition, about 97 percent of the 10 million inhabitants live in its largest cities. The central and northern parts of the country are covered by a dense network of small cities and medium-sized villages. Therefore, people may live in one city and work in another one. Around 10% of its population lives in the capital - Brussels, 55% lives in Flanders and 35% in Wallonia.

In case you have questions or you need a free consultation regarding immigration opportunities to Belgium, feel free to contact us: