Welcome back to our “Customs With Katy!” International Edition blog feature, where we focus on International customs-related topics for various countries abroad, brought to you by none other than Phillips’ very own Move Manager, Katy Duncan! Heading slightly south of the last country we covered in this series, moving to Belgium requires certain registrations and insurances which you’ll need to arrange on your first week of arrival into the country.
You’re going to want to add this complete checklist to the favorites list, as it covers everything you and your family will need to understand and prepare (in advance) to make for a less chaotic transition. We’ll start you off with three of the checklist items (as written by Salvatore Orlando and as seen in EXPATICA) to get you thinking about what’s involved in this particular process.
Note: these three tips are only a brief segment of the complete checklist, and are paraphrased excerpts from the above noted source:
Register at your local town hall
Any third-national foreigner planning on living in Belgium longer than a span of three months must register with the local town hall, starting the process for receiving your residency permit.
For citizens from the European Economic Area – which includes the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – and Switzerland (plus family members): a Belgian visa/permit is not required, but are however, still required to register with the local town hall. Note that the registration process is mainly similar across the country, but some communes do have slight differences with the process. While some town halls may be more accommodating in terms of offering foreign languages and quicker processing times due to dealing with foreigners more often, others can take longer, usually dealing mostly with local citizens.
When you register, be prepared to present your:
- Passport or ID card;
- A rental/housing contract;
- Passport-sized photos (between two to four depending on paperwork);
- Proof of health insurance;
- Proof you can support yourself in Belgium (e.g. a work/traineeship contract, pension allowance or sufficient savings)
Once the town hall has received all of these documents, the police will conduct a two week residence check after your visit. Once this is positively confirmed, you will receive a Belgian national number and be registered in both the population and foreigners register. You’ll also receive your residence permit (note that the best option is to receive it in electronic format, which has a chip. This expires after five years, at which time you can renew it).
Although, the registration process is tricky in that you’ll usually need to present proof of health insurance, yet you’ll need to present proof of residency in order to apply for it to begin with. In order to prevent any complications with the process, it is necessary to complete both processes in parallel and report to either that your request is in progress. If you are an EU citizen, however, you can just show proof of your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Register for social security
Note that you’ll need to register for social security, as all residents must contribute towards their social security (for which both employers and employees make monthly contributions) and healthcare. If you work in Belgium, this is normally done by your employer, but if you are self-employed, however, you will need to get in touch with the National Social Security Office in order to register yourself. You should ensure that this is completed as soon as you arrive in the country, as you need to be registered in order to sign up to receive health insurance. These contributions will help cover multiple social benefits, namely:
- incapacity or disability;
- family allowance;
For more information, review this guide to social security in Belgium.
Sign up with a Belgian healthcare insurer
You must register with a state insurance scheme, as it enables you to access state Belgian healthcare, which is critical, if you wish to claim reimbursements on medical expenses while living there. This process can take anywhere from three to six months.
Are you an EU citizen? Before you leave your home country, it will be useful to request your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), as it will cover you for a period of time until you are able to register for Belgian healthcare.
You may register with any state insurance scheme, so be sure to look into whether any have specialized services, such as English-language information. They will usually provide supplementary insurances, but you are not able to qualify for a reimbursement until after a six-month period. You’ll need to pay upfront for any emergencies such as health or dental unless you happen to have alternative health insurance.
You as well as your employer must make social security contributions in order to become eligible for Belgian healthcare. Check out this guide to health insurance in Belgium for more detailed information on the topic.
Five tips remain! Keep reading through the list, or, read on…
To review: Be sure that you visit the original article and check out all linked resources included under each of the eight tips, following them as closely as outlined to prepare well ahead of your official move date – these steps are both detailed and methodical. Also be sure to conduct sufficient additional background research on topics referenced within the article. Starting your new life once entering the country will be daunting at first, so easing the stress by having the required documentation processed and ready before you depart (as much as possible, depending on the priority) will ease your efforts upon arrival. We would not want you to have to encounter any stressful surprises that impact your lifestyle within your first few weeks or months, leaving you with a distasteful impression of your new country of residence.
For additional cross-border (and international) customs tips, periodically keep checking in on our frequent news updates.
Continue to stay safe and stay customs compliant!