Moving to Belgium from the US
There are plenty of reasons to move to Belgium – from the high living standards to the incredible culture, world-famous food, and breathtaking landscapes. It’s no wonder it’s attracted roughly 1.4 million foreign residents, who make up 12% of the population.
Whether you’re moving to Belgium on your own, with a family, or with your furry friend, you’re sure to have a blast – but there are a few things you should suss out before heading over to Europe. Scroll down and find out everything you need to know before moving to Belgium from the US.
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Some of Ghent's impressive medieval architecture reflecting in a peaceful canal
Cost of shipping to Belgium from the US
When it comes to getting your belongings from the US to Belgium, you have a few options. Although flying is the faster option, shipping is by far the cheapest.
We’ve calculated the average international shipping rates for some of our most sought after journeys from major US cities to popular destinations in Belgium. The rates are sourced from WorldFreightRates.com, and are based on the port-to-port transportation of a 20ft container of used furniture worth £40,000 – the typical value of the contents of a three-bedroom house (according to Admiral Insurance). The durations are sourced from Searates.com.
This information was last updated in July 2021.
Bear in mind these are estimates only. If you’d like a more accurate idea of how much shipping to Belgium will cost you, just pop your details into this form, and our suppliers will get back to you.
|New York to Bruges||$769.21 – $850.18||10 days, 12 hours|
|New York to Antwerp||$2,401.02 – $2,653.76||10 days, 15 hours|
|New York to Oostende||$769.21 – $850.18||10 days 11 hours|
|Los Angeles to Bruges||$769.21 – $850.18||25 days 4 hours|
|Los Angeles to Antwerp||$2,447.61 – $2,705.26||25 days 7 hours|
|Los Angeles to Oostende||$2,401.02 – $2,653.76||25 days 3 hours|
Please note: these container shipping costs exclude typical add-ons such as door-to-door delivery, professional packing/unpacking, and basic insurance cover. Our shipping suppliers normally incorporate these services into their prices, so expect some discrepancy between the rates given here and the quotes you receive. These estimates should be used as an indication only.
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Cost of flying goods to Belgium from the US
Air freight, while having its advantages in terms of speed, is on average 12-16 times more expensive than sea freight. However, if you’re pushed for time, this option might be worth the money.
These rates are also sourced from WorldFreightRates.com, and are based on the airport-to-airport transportation of much lighter goods – 250kg of household goods, to be precise, worth £40,000, from a major origin city to three major cities in Belgium.
Although the costs below aren’t 12-16 times more expensive than the sea freight prices above, bear in mind that these figures are only for 250kg worth of stuff, because you're much more limited in terms of how much you can put on a plane. The sea freight costs above, on the other hand, are for an entire 20ft container, which weighs 2,100kg when empty – nearly 10 times as much. When full, a shipping container is permitted to weigh up to 30,480kg.
|New York to Brussels||$2,304.91 – $2,547.54||9 hours|
|New York to Antwerp||$2,304.91 – $2,547.54||9 hours|
|New York to Liège||$2,304.91 – $2,547.54||9 hours|
|Los Angeles to Brussels||$2,304.91 – $2,547.54||13 hours|
|Los Angeles to Antwerp||$2,304.91 – $2,547.54||13 hours|
|Los Angeles to Liège||$2,304.91 – $2,547.54||13 hours|
Brussels's famous The Mont des Arts garden in the foreground of a beautiful pastel sunset
Healthcare in Belgium
Belgium is home to one of the best public healthcare systems in Europe – it’s efficient, easily accessible, and best of all, available to expats.
All expats living in Belgium are legally required to have health insurance, but whether you go for public or private cover is up to you. Once registered as a Belgian resident, you’ll have to join a ‘ziekenfonds’ (health insurance fund), pay social insurance contributions, and also pay health insurance premiums.
Residents are free to choose between different ziekenfonds, from a list of government-approved insurers.
Health insurance contributions are 7.35% of your gross salary. This equates to 3.55% from your own salary, plus 3.8% which is paid by your employer – that's unless you’re self-employed, in which case you’ll have to pay the whole percentage.
Once you’re covered by the ziekenfonds, you can receive some of Europe’s most efficient healthcare at subsidized costs.
Before your big move to Belgium, it’s wise to consider whether you’ll benefit more from private medical cover for when you’re out there, rather than state insurance.
Cost of living in Belgium
Depending on which area of Belgium you move to, the cost of living will fluctuate. Brussels, for example, is much more expensive than some of the country's rural areas.
To give you a rough idea of the prices you can expect to see, we’ve listed a few examples below.
|Loaf of bread (800g)||€2.40|
|Milk (1 liter)||€0.65|
|Bottle of wine (mid-range)||€6.00|
|A meal at a restaurant||€15|
|Petrol price (per liter)||€1.5|
|Monthly utilities||€120 – €300|
|Monthly rent||€800 – €1,000|
Data from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Transferring money to Belgium from the US
Speaking of living costs, if you’re about to move to Belgium, you’ll probably need to convert some of your savings into Euros.
However, it’s best to avoid using high street banks for this process, as you’ll usually have to pay high fees, and you won’t get the best exchange rate.
That’s why we’ve done our research and compared all the major money transfer services on the market, so you can choose the right one. Check out our expert ratings and find the best money transfer provider today.
Working in Belgium
Like most countries across the globe, expats can find more job opportunities in larger cities in Belgium – particularly Brussels, thanks to its extensive international business scene and European Union (EU) presence.
There are also lots of job opportunities spread out across the country. The manufacturing industry accounts for approximately one third of Belgium’s GDP, with a lot of major manufacturers based in the eastern provinces of Limburg, Flanders, and Hainaut.
A lot of Belgians work in the service sector – think legal, banking, media, and tourism.
Getting a work visa for Belgium
To work in Belgium, expats need to have a valid passport issued by their country of origin, a visa to enter the country, and a work permit.
There are three different types of Belgian work permits you might be eligible for – the one you end up with will depend on employment conditions. There are also different work permits for people who are self-employed.
To apply for a work permit in Belgium, expats need to complete the relevant forms, although different conditions and procedures apply for each employee category. It’s a good idea to research this more – or contact your local embassy – before applying for a work permit, to make sure you complete the right forms.
Belgian work visas are closely linked to residence status. This means that, in most cases, a job will need to be arranged before you can apply for any kind of permit to live and work in Belgium.
Average salary in Belgium
Of course, your salary will depend on the industry you work in. For example, StatBel suggests that, on average, shop employees in Belgium are paid 30% below the national average.
Income tax in Belgium
Belgium has progressive tax rates. This means that the higher your income is, the more tax you pay. Personal income tax is calculated on all taxable income, even if some of it was received abroad.
We’ve listed the tax brackets for 2020 income below.
|Income bracket||Tax rate|
|€0.01 – €13,440 ($0.01 – $15,913)||25%|
|€13,440 – €23,720 ($15,913 – $28,085)||40%|
|€23,720 – €41,060 ($28,085 – $48,616)||45%|
Data from Federal Public Service
Job hunting in Belgium
Home to many EU institutions, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters, and lots of other major international organizations, Belgium has a lot to offer.
Thankfully, there are plenty of job boards out there to help you with your job hunt, including:
Climate in Belgium
Unlike some parts of America, such as Alaska or California, extreme temperatures are pretty uncommon in Belgium. The weather here is influenced a lot by the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, meaning you’ll get cool summers and moderate winters.
Brussels, which sits snugly in the middle of the country, has an average temperature of just below 32°F in January and 71°F in July.
Plus, since Belgium is quite a small country – only roughly the size of Maryland – there is little variation in climate from region to region.
Does it snow in Belgium?
Yes, it does snow in Belgium – although not too much.
Winters in Belgium are crisp, with lots of frosty days, along with a bit of snowfall on roughly 30 to 35 days – but we’re talking a dusting of the white stuff, not Vermont levels of snow.
The best places to live in Belgium
Whether you’re looking for a new city to explore, a fresh start in a small town for your family, or a quiet countryside spot for your retirement, Belgium’s got it all.
To get the ball rolling, we’ve listed the best three places to live in Belgium below.
Brussels: best for work
Where better to start than the capital city and economic center of Belgium? With around 2.5 million people living in the capital, Brussels is the largest city in the country, with tons of job opportunities.
It also has the highest GDP per capita of any Belgian city, which brings in a huge amount of high-skilled workers and entrepreneurs. Aside from the booming financial industry and political presence in the city, the creative, manufacturing, and education sectors are all promising career options for expats.
Antwerp: best for families
If you’re looking for a place to settle down with your family whilst also building your career, look no further than Antwerp.
Antwerp’s expat community is thriving – you can meet people from all sorts of backgrounds here. Plus, if you’re worried about your little ones struggling to pick up the local language at first, you’ll be pleased to know there are a number of international schools in the area, as well as a large population of British and American families to bond with.
Any older teens considering flying the nest soon will also appreciate the relatively young population in the city, which mainly results from the university facilities and growing job opportunities in the city.
Ghent: best for students
Ghent is a prominent student town nestled in the northwest region of Belgium. Here, you can hop from bar to bar in the pedestrianized center, stroll next to the calming canals, discover national gems across a handful of museums, or just sit back and admire the historical architecture.
Ranked 66th in the Academic Ranking of World Universities, the University of Ghent attracts thousands of students each year. This institution also manages to retain a lot of post-grads, thanks to its strong research and development center.
7 Quick Facts about Belgium
- The highest point in Belgium, the Signal de Botrange, is shorter than the world’s tallest building in Dubai
- Belgians pay one of the highest tax rates in Europe
- Belgium holds the record for the longest government formation in history. In 2010/2011, parties took 541 days to form coalitions and 48 days to finalize government positions
- Belgium’s highway network is one of the few man-made structures that can be seen from the moon at night
- Belgium has more castles per kilometer than any other country in the world
- Belgium produces over 173,000 tons of chocolate each year, and is home to an estimated 2,000 chocolate shops
- We owe the Big Bang theory to Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest, who used Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity of cosmology to develop the hypothesis
Moving abroad can be stressful, but hopefully this article has solved any unanswered questions lingering in the back of your mind.
Once you’ve gotten over the excitement of having over 2,000 different chocolate shops to choose from in Belgium, it’s a good idea to think about the serious stuff – starting with how to ship your stuff out there.
But don’t worry – we can help with that too. Forget about spending hours searching for the best companies and prices, and instead simply pop a few details about your trip on this short form – our trusted shipping suppliers will be in touch shortly with quotes for you to compare.