Those planning to move to Belgium should know that Belgium is a federal state divided into three regions, each with its own peculiarities and characteristics:
- Flanders, in the north of the country, where Flemish (Dutch) is spoken and where almost 60% of the population lives
- the Brussels region, which is officially bilingual, but where French is the main language spoken and where about 10% of the population lives
- Wallonia, in the southern part of the country, where French is spoken and about 30% of the population lives
- A small area on the border with Germany, where German is spoken (about 1% of the population)
The country is very small, has 11 million inhabitants and the capital is Brussels. Belgium was one of the founding countries of the EU, and it is no coincidence that the European Parliament has its seat here. The currency is the euro. There are three official languages: Flemish (Dutch), French and German. The number of immigrants in Belgium is about one million (9% of the population).
Belgium offers an excellent quality of life, efficient services, high salaries, no bureaucracy and a multicultural environment, making it a great place to relocate. The only drawback is the weather, which is always gray and rainy.
Moving to Belgium
Non-EU citizens need a visa to enter Belgium,there are two types of visas:
Visa for a short stay (maximum 90 days), the most common are:
- Visits to family or friends
- Visa for cultural or sporting purposes
- Business visa
- Visa for short-term internships
- Transit visa
- Tourist visa
Visa for a long stay D (more than 90 days), the most common are:
- Belgium student visa. You can apply for this visa if you want to study in Belgium as a rule, it is valid for the entire duration of the course
- Belgium Work Visa. You can apply for a work visa you want to work in Belgium You need to find sponsor in Belgium
After arriving in Belgium on a long-term visa, you must apply for a residence permit, if you want to live here long term.
The Belgian embassy in your country will issue a visa D before you travel, and the Belgian immigration authorities will issue a residence permit after you arrive.
You do not need a visa if you come from the EU/EEA, Switzerland, the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Monaco, the Republic of Andorra, Japan or any other country that has a visa-free agreement with Schengen.
List of third countries whose nationals must be in possession of a visa to enter the Schengen area or are exempt from the visa requirement.
EU citizens do not need anything to move to Belgium, they just need a ID.
Once you have found a place to live, you will need to report to the Aliens Department of the municipality where you live, by appointment, to register your residence. You will need the following documents:
- ID CARD
- Rental contract or certificate of residence from the landlord (can also be a friend/relative) with whom you live
They will give you a provisional registration that lasts three months, and the national registration number, (rijksregisternummer or numero de Registre national), you need to work, and for all other formalities. If you have not found work within 90 days, you must return to your country. Unless you can prove that you have been actively looking for a job, e.g. through e-mails, transcripts of job interviews, etc., and that you have also attended language courses. For example, the free courses for foreigners organized by Le Forem or the VDAB.
One way to buy time is to attend a language school. It is not a bad idea to enroll in a language school and register with the municipality as a student. Once you find a job, register with the municipality to change your status from student to employee and complete any other paperwork. If you have not found a job within 90 days, you must return to your country. Unless you can prove that you have been actively trying to find a job, e.g. through emails, transcripts of interviews, etc., and that you have also attended language courses. For example, the free courses for foreigners organized by Le Forem or the VDAB.
Once you have found a job, but no later than 90 days, you must report back to the municipality and present the employment contract or, if you are an entrepreneur, a certificate of your business. The police will check your residence and you will receive an identity card for foreigners, valid for 5 years.Once you have found work and in any case no later than 90 days, you will have to return to the municipality and show the employment contract or documentation certifying your business, if you are an entrepreneur. The police will check your residence, and you will get an Identity Card for foreigners which lasts 5 years.
If you find a job before you have a residence, and therefore you do not yet have the national registration number, your employer could theoretically hire you anyway. However, many employers will not sign an employment contract if you do not yet have the registration number, but will issue you a promise of employment ( promesse d’embauche), which will be converted into an employment contract when you obtain the registration number.
Moving to Belgium, useful resources
- For those who would like to learn more about life in Belgium, I would like to refer to a complete guide aimed at foreigners who wish to settle in Belgium.
- Institutional website of Belgium, with information about life and work in Belgium.
Finding accommodation in Belgium
After a few days in a hostel or in a room booked from your country, you need to look for permanent accommodation. The real estate market in Belgium is very active and it is easy to find a flat. When signing the contract, you will have to pay a deposit of 2 or 3 months’ rent, which you can get back when you move out of the flat.
Require that this deposit be placed in a blocked account held jointly by you and the landlord so that the money remains available until the end of the contract. In any case, never give out cash.
Most landlords require an employment contract with a salary that is three times the cost of rent. Or a person, relative or friend who works and draws a good salary to vouch for you.
Apartments are usually unfurnished (except for the kitchen). Fully furnished apartments are usually rented only for a short time. Therefore, they are very expensive and it is not advisable to rent them for a long period of time. It is much better to furnish an empty flat by buying everything you need in second-hand stores or on a classifieds website, where you can find used furniture at a good price.
If you decide to use a real estate agency, you will have to pay half a month as a brokerage fee when you sign the contract, or you will not have to pay anything at all because the brokerage fee will be paid entirely by the owner.
Whether you hire a brokerage office or do it yourself, always be very careful when signing the lease.
The first thing you should know is that if you leave the apartment before the end of the contract, you will have to pay a penalty, the amount of which will depend on the length of the contract and how long you stay. However, everything must be written in the rental contract.
If the apartment is rented through an agency, the contract must be registered within 60 days of its signing. It is possible to verify if this registration has been done on Minfin.
Beware of agencies that ask you for money up front to show you apartments. There are even some that require you to pay them a month’s rent in advance, and if the owner does not accept it, they say they will give it back to you. Do not bother with that, it’s just a scam.
Rental prices vary widely by city; in Brussels, a one-bedroom apartment costs between €600 and €1,000 per month, while a one-bedroom starts at €500 per month. You can find many apartments on your own, if you walk through the different neighborhoods of the city you will often see signs saying ‘a louer’ (for rent).
In Brussels you have to be ready to compromise on the conditions of the apartment, which are often in old buildings with very poor maintenance. If you want to save on rent, you can choose a shared accommodation or look for an independent house outside Brussels, where rental costs are lower.
One last thing for pet owners. In Belgium the landlords cannot deny renting to those who own a pet, (it is a law), but many out of fear the pet will do damage tend not to rent when they know you have a dog or a pet with you. So my advice is not to say anything, then once you have signed the contract you can do what you want because, by law, the owner cannot refuse pets in the house. And you can always say that you bought it, after your entry.
At the beginning it is much easier to rent a room in shared apartment, because the owners ask for few guarantees, then once you find a job you can think to change.
Finally, I recommend that if you have any problems, you contact the owner not only by phone, but also by email or registered mail to leave a trail in case of any subsequent disputes. If you have problems with your accommodation, I also recommend that you contact the local tenants’ association (huurdersbond or syndicat des locataires).
etat de lieux
Another important point is the famous “etat de lieux”, an inventory of all the items in the home and their condition, so that upon departure it can be verified that the home and furniture are in the same condition as before.
The etat de lieux can be drawn up:
- independently between the owner, (or his representative) and the tenant, using templates and can be downloaded from the Internet. Carefully inspect the entire apartment, furniture and existing items and take photos, make two copies, signed by you and the owner
- by an expert selected by the owner or agency, whose fee is paid 50% by the landlord and 50% by the tenant. If you hire such an appraiser, you should be aware that he sometimes makes only rough descriptions without going into detail, and takes panoramic pictures without photographing the details. This can result in you being charged for damages when you leave that are already there but were not mentioned in the inventory. So always ask for an accurate description of the condition of the apartment and detailed photos of the existing damages. Do not listen to statements like this, “we know the house is old”, “there is no problem”, etc. Because when you leave, your deposit could be a temptation and you will be charged for the damages that were not previously pointed out
- by an expert of your choice, also in this case the fee is split in half between you and the owner. It might cost a little more, but you have a greater guarantee that the professional will look after your interests
If you leave the apartment, you must draw up a new etat de lieux, by the same person who wrote the first lease.
If you sign a contract without involving an agency, you cannot issue the etat de lieux when you enter, and you do not have to issue it when you leave.
Rental websites in Belgium
If you decide to search on the Internet, here are the most popular real estate websites:
- Immo vlan, quite popular website
- Appartager, the most popular website for shared accommodation
- Brussels destination, apartments for short term in Brussels
- Immobe, fully furnished apartments in Brussels
- Rentmore, fully furnished apartments in Brussels and Antwerp
- Century21, real estate agency with offices in many cities
- VB partners, real estate agency in Antwerp
- Jeronimmo, rooms for rent in Brussels
Belgian bank account
One of the first things you should do upon arrival is to open a bank account, both for rent and for finding a job, because many employers will ask you for your Belgian bank account number. Many banks do not open checking accounts for people who do not have a foreigner’s ID, so it may be necessary to visit several banks.
Belgian Health Insurance
Anyone living in Belgium is required to have health insurance, and there are several to choose between. For employees, the cost of this insurance is deducted directly from your salary. Self-employed people must pay the costs themselves.
Moving to Belgium, conclusion
In summary, the following steps are required for EU citizens to move to Belgium:
- Registration at the immigration office of the municipality and obtaining the national registration number
- Register with Le Forem / VDAB / Actiris to receive their services, including assistance in preparing the CV and assistance in finding a job
- Start looking for a job and keep the evidence of your search, which will be useful if you do not find a job within 90 days
In summary, we can say that it is much easier to find a job in Belgium than in many other countries in the world. The health system works well, the schools and services are good. But it also has its disadvantages: taxes are high and the cost of living is high.
Belgium still offers the possibility to create your own life, but social relations and interaction with people are very formal. Belgian society is very cold and closed. The weather does not help either. In the beginning, supported by enthusiasm, this will not be a big problem, but in the long run, seeing the sun only forty days a year might be a problem.