Some tips to make your move to Belgium run as smoothly as possible.
Aside from chocolate, waffles and 500 different types of beer, Belgium is one of the highest-ranking countries in the world for quality of life, so it is unsurprising that a significant number of expats choose to relocate here.
Whether you wish to settle down amongst the gorgeous medieval canals and cobbled streets of Bruges, prefer the hustle and bustle of a lively capital like Brussels, or want to be in a multicultural, trendy place like Antwerp – Belgium is a small country with plenty to offer.
Matthew James Relocations, which handles removals to Belgium from anywhere in the world, outlines the most important things to do when moving to Belgium.
Register and get a residence permit
If you are planning to live in the country for more than three months, you must first register with your local town hall, known as a maison communale/gemeentehuis, within 8 days of arriving there. This is the first step in the process of receiving a residency permit, which all foreign people living in Belgium must acquire. In order to do this, you must bring with you your passport, work permit, proof of address in Belgium, proof of health insurance (or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you are an EU citizen), and passport-sized photos.
Once the process is complete, your local office will issue you with a Certificate of Registration, along with a residence card under either category A (time-limited stay) or B (indefinite stay). You will also receive a Belgian national number – this is unique to you.
If you are a citizen of a country in the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you will not need to get a visa or a permit to move to Belgium, though registering with the local town hall must still be completed.
Social security registration
Every resident in Belgium must contribute towards healthcare and social security, which means they must first register to do so. If you have a job contract in the country, your employer usually does this on your behalf, but always be sure to check once you arrive.
On the other hand, self-employed folk should register themselves by contacting the National Social Security Office.
Take out health insurance
In order to access state healthcare while living in Belgium, you must be registered with a state insurance provider (mutuelle/ziekenfonds). This normally takes 3-6 months, so it is important to cover yourself in the meantime by getting an EHIC before you arrive in Belgium, if you are an EU citizen.
You can register with any mutuelle, but if you do not speak one of the three main languages in Belgium – French, Dutch and German – then it is wise to seek out a mutuelle that has services in English.
Opening a bank account
The majority of people living in another country will want to set up a local bank account in order to avoid overseas fees and for convenience purposes. Setting up a Belgian bank account is rather straightforward – in fact, you don’t even need to have a Belgian address yet to do so. Simply go into your chosen branch with your passport or ID card and official proof of address, whether in Belgium or your home country and fill out the necessary documentation.
Some banks even allow people to open an online bank account before they arrive, making the process a lot quicker and easier when they reach Belgian soil.
A place to live
Expats in Belgium normally choose to rent a property initially, though there are no restrictions on foreigners buying properties. For rentals, the period for long-term leases is normally 9 years or more. For short-term leases, this is 3 years or less.
For all rentals, an inventory of fixtures is required by law, which is drawn up in cooperation between the tenant and the landlord prior to moving in, or during the first month. This is a document which details the current state of the property at the time the tenant moves in. The inventory must be registered with the lease by the landlord (or a chosen third party, splitting fees between landlord and tenant).
For more information on moving to Belgium, visit the country’s official information site.