Guide to relocating to Belgium author avatar


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15 min

Everything you ever wanted to know about moving to Belgium 🇧🇪 !

Visa and/or residency

To start, you need to make sure your paperwork is in order.

If you are a European citizen then moving to Belgium is straightforward: you just move.

If you don’t hold European citizenship then the company where you will be working will need to file for a work permit. When you have your work permit, you can request a long stay visa at the embassy. Once the visa is approved, you can make the move!

Within 3 months of arriving you need to declare your residency at city hall. They will put your details in the residence registry.

Renting a property

Your arrival in Belgium starts with the search for a property. Most people first rent out a short term tourism apartment for a few weeks through platforms such as Airbnb or VRBO. That gives them time to start their apartment search and get an idea of what’s out there.

The best local websites to consult for property rentals are and Nearly all rentals get posted on both property portals by owners and/or property agents.

In Belgium, most properties are represented by a property agent. This means that the owner has appointed an agent to rent out his/her property and find a tenant.

Once a tenant has been found, it is customary for the landlord to pay a commission equivalent to one month's rent + VAT. Note: this fee is NEVER to be paid by the renter.

After searching for a while, you end up finding a nice apartment. You decide to move forward with the agent. Sometimes more than 1 person will be interested in the same apartment.

It is common for the agent to request a copy of your last payslip or current employment contract, to give the landlord an idea of how much you are/will be making.

If multiple people are interested in renting out an apartment, often the landlord will rent it out to the person/couple that is the most economically stable.

Once you get the OK from the landlord, the agent will draft a rental contract for the apartment. There are two main ways to structure a rental contract: a short term contract and long term contract.

A short term contract runs for a maximum of 3 years. At any time during the contract, the renter can give 3 months notice to end the contract. However, under the terms of a short term contract, the renter will have to pay a fine to the landlord equaling 1.5 months, 1 month, or half a month of rent, depending on the year (year 1, 2 or 3) in which the notice was given.

A long term contract runs for at least 3 years, but at most 9 years. The standard term for a long term contract is 9 years, and it runs in blocks of 3 years.

Similar rules apply here: the renter can at any time give 3 months notice to end the contract. When notice is given in the first 3 years, you will have to pay a fine equaling an extra 3 months, 2 months or 1 month of rent (depending if you're in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd running year of the contract).

From the 4th year on, you won’t have to compensate the landlord when you leave a property. You would just have to give 3 months' notice. At the end of the 9th year, your contract will automatically renew for another 9 years.

In certain situations your landlord can also end the contract and give notice (always 6 months). This is the case if (s)he or a direct family member wants to move into the apartment. Or if the apartment is to undergo renovations.

Note: If the landlord gives notice for one of the above reasons and doesn’t follow through with this, you have the right to compensation equalling 18 months of rent!

Landlords can also give notice (without any reason) after each 3 year period. However, if notice is given after the first or second period, the landlord is to pay the renter a fine of 9 or 6 months of rent.

As part of the rental contract, the landlord will request you deposit 3 months of rent into a blocked bank account. Most banks will allow you to open a blocked account using just your passport or EU ID card, even if you are non-resident.

You will get this deposit back if the property is in good state at the end of your rental contract. If not, these funds can be used to compensate for certain expenses the landlord has to make to repair the property.

Once the deposit has been wired into the blocked account, together with your first month of rent to the landlord, you should get the keys.

As part of the rental contract, you will also have to insure the apartment against fire damage. You will need to take out insurance for this.

Lastly you will have to transfer the utilities into your name. When the contract is signed the current usage numbers on the meters are written down on the transfer form. Water is supplied by a single supplier, depending on the region where you live, so you can’t choose there.

Energy and gas contracts can be transferred to a supplier of your choice. offers a good price comparison tool.

The Flemish energy regulator (VREG) also offers a good tool called the V-Test to compare price.

Visiting city hall to put yourself in the registry

With your new rental contract in hand, you now officially have a Belgian address!

Within 3 months of arriving in Belgium you need to make an appointment with the city where you will be living to put yourself in the registry. Be mindful waiting times for this can be a few weeks, as you will usually have to make an appointment online.

The civil servant will draft documents for you to sign to officially change your personal address to your new Belgian address.

For European citizens:

If you are a EU citizen, you will need your passport (or EU ID card), a copy of the rental contract you just signed, and a copy of your employment contract.

Your personal details will be put in the waiting registry and you will receive a document called Bijlage 19 / Annexe 19 / Appendix 19. This document is a temporary document valid for 6 months that formalizes your Belgian residency.

In the weeks following your registration you should expect a random control of residence by the police. This is a brief check to make sure you are actually living at the address you registered yourself at. Waiting times for this vary: in some cities it takes just a few days, in others it can be weeks.

If positive, you will be moved from the waiting registry into the alien (👽) registry and receive a Belgian national number. The national number is a unique identification number consisting of 11 numbers and given to all Belgian citizens and foreigners registered in Belgian cities.

During the next 6 months, the city will forward your case and the supplied documents to the immigration office in Brussels for verification purposes. If you are employed and don’t have a criminal record this is a mere formality.

When the immigration office has confirmed everything, you will receive an electronic identity card (EU card) from the city. This takes 6 months from the date when the Appendix 19 was issued.

For non-EU citizens (third-country nationals):

Since non-Europeans need to get a work permit first and have their long term visa approved by the consulate or embassy before coming to Belgium to be able to work, the process is a bit different here.

Upon presenting yourself, your personal details will be put in the waiting registry and you will receive a document called Bijlage 49 / Annexe 49 / Appendix 49. This is a temporary document that formalizes your Belgian residency and allows you to work.

The city will then also initiate the procedure to issue you with an electronic A card for aliens (👽). This is an electronic ID card. When the card has been issued this will replace the Appendix 49. Since you have already been granted a work permit and long term visa, this should be faster.

Following your registration, just like for EU citizens, you should expect a random control of residence by the police. The city wants to make sure you are actually living at the address you are registered at.

If positive, you will be moved from the waiting registry into the alien (👽) registry and receive a Belgian national number. The national number is a unique identification number consisting of 11 numbers and given to all Belgian citizens and foreigners registered in Belgian cities.

Electronic ID card:

Your electronic ID card allows you to access all Belgian government services online. In Belgium, everyone is also required to carry a valid form of ID at any time.

With your national number and electronic ID card, your Belgian life begins!

Note: some countries also require you to declare that you are leaving. When moving to Belgium from abroad, make sure you take yourself out of the foreign registry if your previous country of residence requires you to. Not doing this can sometimes have unexpected tax consequences!

Opening up a Belgian bank account

Using your national number, you should now be able to open up a full bank account in Belgium. The country has many banks of different sizes.

The main big banks are BNP Paribas Fortis, Belfius, ING and KBC. They all charge a monthly fee for a checking account, unless you are younger than 25, and are usually the easiest to deal with for foreigners.

In particular, if you are American or have a weaker passport (from a 'higher risk' country) then these banks are your best bet to open up an account. Serving American clients comes with increased compliance costs for small(er) banks due to FATCA, so don’t take it personally if a small bank doesn’t want you as a client.

If you have existing money to bring over from abroad, depending on the amount, you will also have to prove the historical source of these funds. All banks in the country offer free SEPA wire transfers.

The bank will issue you with a debit card that is widely accepted across Europe. Credit cards are available upon request, depending on your income. Not everyone in Belgium has a credit card so expect to ask for it if you want one.

Registering at your local embassy or consulate in Brussels

Now that you are registered in Belgium, you might also want to register at your embassy or consulate in Belgium.

This is useful when you need to renew your passport, are in need of assistance, or are required to vote. Some countries allow you to send in your vote by mail, others require you to register and go to the embassy/consulate.

Joining the public health insurance fund (mutualiteit / mutualité)

To benefit from the public health insurance as a Belgian resident, you must register with a public health insurance fund (mutualiteit / mutualité). As a member you must pay them a small annual membership fee.

The health insurance fund (partially) reimburses medical costs. Examples are the purchasing of prescription medicine or glasses, visiting your general doctor, or visiting your dentist.

The fund also offers certain health related insurances for an extra annual fee, such as specialized dental insurance and additional specific health coverage.

As a member you can also request your free EU travel insurance card, giving you broad health insurance coverage across the entire EU when travelling.

The largest health insurance funds are LM, CM and Solidaris.

Enrolling your children in a local school

Within 60 days of relocating to Belgium, your children will be required to enroll in a school.

Local education will be in either Dutch or French, depending on where you live in the country. You can enroll your children in any school of your liking, given the school has an open spot available.

Educational standards within Belgium are high. Belgium is actually one of leading OECD countries when it comes to investment in education. Local schools are an excellent choice and mostly free.

Belgium also hosts a selection of international schools. These usually follow more international curriculums: the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and International Baccalaureate (IB). There are also American international schools offering an American curriculum.

Get local insurance

After relocating to Belgium you will likely want to get insurance coverage for certain things. Fire protection insurance is the most common one, and usually contractually required if you rent a property.

Other common ones are car insurance (paid by the company if you have a company car), family insurance, and additional medical insurance.

The large banks all offer insurance products with good coverage.

To find the optimal insurance product, it is common in Belgium to work with an insurance broker. They are a neutral party and sell different types of insurance from different companies, meaning they can recommend the optimal product for you.

Some websites also offer insurance comparison tools. We like

Exchanging a foreign driving license

If you are the holder of an existing EU driving license then your license will be valid throughout the EU and there is no requirement to exchange yours. Belgium does not use a penalty point system like other EU countries do.

When your EU license expires (generally 10 years after issue) you can go to the city and request a renewal. They will issue you with a Belgian equivalent.

If your license was granted outside of the EU, the situation is more complicated. While you can use your foreign license in Belgium as a tourist for a short amount of time, when you permanently relocate you will need to get an EU license.

Belgium has agreements with certain countries to exchange licenses. But the list is limited to just a small amount of countries. Click here for the overview.

If your country is not in the list, then as a Belgian resident you cannot drive in Belgium with your current license. You will have to take the local driving test to get an EU license.

Getting a new license involves passing a theoretical and practical test. There also is a required waiting period between the theoretical and practical test of 3 months. The theoretical test can be taken in Dutch, French, English or German.

💡 If you don’t hold a European license but currently reside in a different European country then make sure to check if you can exchange the license in your current country of residence.

EU licenses are valid throughout the entire union for the period they are issued, but the right of issue and exchange lies with an individual member state. This can lead to odd situations.

As an example: Spain recognizes and exchanges Colombian and Venezuelan licenses, but Belgium does not. However, an EU license issued by Spain through the exchange of a Colombian or Venezuelan license is a valid EU license in Belgium.

You won't be able to renew your license in Belgium in the future, but it will give you the right to drive for 10 years.