Visas for Belgium
Belgium is part of the Schengen Agreement, and nationals of participating countries do not need to apply for a visa if they plan to visit Belgium (or the Schengen Area) for 90 days or less, for tourism, visiting family and friends, cultural trips, business trips, short traineeships and transit through Belgium. The Schengen Area itself covers 26 territories in Europe that have dissolved their border controls on internal borders, so if you’re permitted visa-free travel to Belgium under this agreement you can travel through all 26 countries within this period.
The following passport-holders will not need to apply for a short-stay visa for Belgium:
- EU, EEA and Swiss citizens
- Nationals of Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Malaysia, Mauritius, Monaco, Nicaragua , New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Holy See, Seychelles, Taiwan (passport bearing identity card number), Uruguay, Montenegro, FYROM and Serbia – regardless of reason for stay
- Nationals of the following countries: Australia, Brazil, USA, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea and Venezuela – if employed in, or holding a work permit for, Belgium
- Holders of a valid residence permit for Belgium, of a British National (Overseas) passport or a residence permit issued by a Schengen Area state
Short Stay (Schengen) Visas
If you hold a Schengen Visa (or are exempt from needing one at all due to the Schengen Agreement – see above) you can travel freely between the 26 countries in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days in a six month period, with day one activated on entry to the Schengen Area. If not, you should apply in person for your short stay visa at your nearest Belgian Consulate, at least three months before you intend to travel. Schengen Visas are granted for visits for tourism, visiting friends and family, for cultural reasons or for professional activities, and they’re sometimes also known as C-Visas.
Check your local Belgian consulate’s website for specific information regarding your visa application, and check whether you will need to make an appointment before showing up there. Any minors travelling with you must submit a separate application form, signed by a legal guardian. Your application pack should comprise:
- A completed and signed application form, ideally completed in English and with a passport photograph attached.
- A passport valid for at least three months from the date on which you intend to leave Belgium. Your passport must have at least two blank pages for stamps, and must have been issued less than 10 years ago.
- All documents proving the purpose of your journey, such as a confirmation letter stating the date, duration and purpose of your stay, or proof of a family tie to the host you will be staying with.
- Proof of accommodation in Belgium – a letter from the friend you’re staying with, or a booking confirmation with the landlord you will be renting a room from, for example.
- Proof that you have sufficient means to stay in Belgium and return home at the end of your stay.
- Evidence that you have roots (family, a job) in your country of origin and will return home at the end of your stay.
- Valid travel insurance covering repatriation costs, emergency medical care and emergency hospital care during your stay. The minimum cover required is 30,000 EUR.
- When you receive visa confirmation, you will then need to show evidence of your travel into Belgium. This doesn’t have to be shown at the initial application stage to save unnecessary costs.
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Long Stay Visas – Work
EU nationals can work in Belgium without the need for a work permit, but non-EU workers will need to apply for one before they secure employment in Belgium. As with many other countries, it is the employer, not the individual, who makes the permit application. The employer must also prove that no Belgian or European Union citizen is able to fill the position before awarding it to a non-EU applicant.
There are three types of work permit for Belgium:
Applicable to all salaried profession, but with a limited duration. This type of work visa is handed out to nationals who are only allowed remain in Belgium for a limited time, such as students and asylum seekers.
This work permit limits holders to working for one single employer and is valid for 12 months maximum. If you change jobs, your new employer must apply for a new B-permit to allow you to stay working in Belgium. Once you’ve renewed a B-permit four or more times and have lived and worked in Belgium for five years or more with the same permit, you can apply for the A-permit.
An A-permit allows you to work in any profession in Belgium for an unlimited period of time, but its regulations are strict. These permits are only given to spouses of A permit holders, the non-EU spouses of Belgian nationals, the non-EU spouses of EU nationals resident in Belgium, and any foreigner who has lived legally in Belgium for five uninterrupted years.
Working Holiday Visas
Belgium offers young people from Canada, Australia and New Zealand (aged 18-30) a working holiday visa for stays of up to a year. This visa allows travellers to work in Belgium to fund their travels.
Long Stay Visas – Au Pairs
Au Pairs can apply for year-long permits to work in Belgium, and these permits can be renewed once only for a further year. Only one change of host family is allowed during the visa period.
Au Pairs must:
- Be aged over 18 and under 26
- Not undertake other work in Belgium
- Prove that they have been in education up to the age of at least 17
- Have basic knowledge of their host family’s primary spoken language, or prove that they will take a course to learn the language as soon as they arrive
- Not have already held a work permit in Belgium for any type of work apart from au pairing
Host families must:
- Have at least one child under the age of 13
- Provide good character references for all adult household members
- Pay their au pair monthly by bank transfer, at least 450 EUR
- Offer adequate medical insurance for their au pair, and be prepared for their early repatriation in the case of sickness or injury
- Provide a private bedroom for their au pair
- Allow at least one day off work per week
- Allow for their home to be inspected
Long Stay Visas – Study
Students from a European Union Member State or from a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) can study in Belgium without the need to apply for a visa. Non-EU or EEA students can apply for a visa to pursue higher education in Belgium, or to spend a preparatory year ahead of university here, in a school, university or college. These visas are for longer stays of 90 days or more. Applicants must be able to show that:
- They will be regular students of a public authority educational establishment
- They can support themselves financially during their stay
- They are free from dangerous diseases and hold sufficient health insurance
- They hold no criminal record
- They are enrolled in a course of study. Enrolment fees should always be refunded if your visa is declined
EU and EEA students will need to meet this criteria as well.
Applications for visas to allow part-time study in Belgium may be taken into consideration if education is to be the applicant’s main occupation in Belgium rather than work, for example. Students wishing to spend a year in Belgium before higher education must be enrolled in a public educational establishment for preparatory learning, such as languages.
For more information and to download all application forms, visit the Belgian Foreign Affairs website.