Family Reunification in Belgium is a process that you have to go through if you want to join your partner or family and live in Belgium or vice versa. The process is tedious but I suspect most procedures like these are. There are different set of requirements and conditions depending on your situation, your partner or family’s situation and where you are from.
I am from the Philippines who has been in a relationship with a Belgian national for 3 years. It was mostly long distance. I would come to Belgium in the summer and in the winter. He would go to the Philippines when he goes on vacation. We’ve been getting sick of the distance and we wanted to be together permanently. We thought for the time being, it was better to be in Belgium and maybe later we might consider living in the Philippines.
I have a Schengen visa for 3 years which is a unique situation. Most people coming from the Philippines have to apply for a cohabitation visa or a fiancee visa in the Philippines. I already have the necessary visa to come to Belgium so we were wondering if I needed to still apply for that visa or I can apply for Family Reunification in Belgium with my Schengen visa. People from the USA, Canada or Singapore would go through the same process because they do not require a visa to come to Belgium. They have to apply here. So, we went to his municipal hall to ask but they gave us very vague answers. He even called immigration and they also did not give us clear answers. We thought we’ll just give it a try to apply from here and then if we find out that it’s not allowed, I’ll just go home and apply there.
DOCUMENTS FROM THE PHILIPPINES
Before I came to Belgium in the summer last year, I had my Philippines documents legalized and officially translated at the Belgium Embassy in the Philippines. The embassy is in Manila and I lived 3 hours from there so I had to take several trips for this. These are the documents that I had to prepare. Also you must have your documents notarized with red ribbon at the Department of Foreign Affairs before the embassy will legalize them. For translations, the embassy has a list of official translators with their contact information. They embassy itself does not offer translation so the translators are independent. You can talk to them directly as to how it can be done and what the fees are. After it had been translated, you have to return to the embassy to get the translation legalized too.
- Birth Certificate (authenticated red ribbon, legalized and translated)
- Certificate of No Marriage (authenticated red ribbon, legalized and translated)
- NBI Clearance (authenticated red ribbon, legalized)
- Police Clearance
- Bank Certificates
- Travel Insurance
Actually when I went for an appointment, they did not even take any of these but I submitted an electronic copy of them, more on that later. I know that the Birth Certificate and the Certificate of No Marriage are important for my personal situation but I was not sure about the rest. I just had them with me just in case because it would have been harder to obtain them afterwards should they ask for them later.
PROOF OF RELATIONSHIP
This is very important in my opinion. One of the requirements for us is that we should have known each other for at least two years and of course we had to prove this. These were also all scanned and submitted electronically. These are the documents that we provided.
- Chat logs – not everything of course due to privacy so I just put excerpt with the date since we started communicating until recently maybe one excerpt a month so it proves continuous communication
- Timeline of our relationship
- Flight Tickets
- Hotel Reservations
- Pictures – lots of them!
- Video – we just sent them a link
- Also a screen cap of our Facebook anniversary 🙂
DOCUMENTS NEEDED FROM THE BELGIAN NATIONAL OR PERSON LIVING IN BELGIUM
They also needed documents from the person that is going to “sponsor” you to let the government know that they can be responsible for you and they can afford to support you here in Belgium.
- Past 6 months of pay slips (The minimum net income they require is 1,250 euro)
- Proof of accommodation like the title deed if they own a home or a registered rental contract
- Proof that they are single
- Health Insurance
THE PROCESS AND TIMELINE
JUNE 23 – REGISTERING AS NEWCOMER
Once I arrived in Belgium, I had to register as a newcomer within 8 days. I went to this site to register as a newcomer: https://www.antwerpen.be/nl/e-loket/inschrijving-nieuwkomer-en. I don’t know if this only applies for those who are in Antwerp. If you will live in Wallonia, maybe it is different. We made an appointment at his municipality and signed documents of our union. They took a copy of my passport, my Schengen visa, birth certificate, certificate of no marriage. They gave us confirmation. We were told that we should expect a police visit. We were also given an email address where we can email our documents and our case number as reference we should refer on the email.
JULY 14 – AN INTERVIEW WAS SET TO CHECK OUR RELATIONSHIP
We were given a schedule for an interview to see if our relationship is real. Since I don’t speak Dutch, I had to also provide my own court approved interpreter. I could not find any information about interpreters online so I had to physically go to the Antwerp court house and asked about interpreters. They had a book where that information is available. I just took pictures of it. There was only one Filipino interpreter listed there but there were a lot of English interpreters. So I was frantically emailing interpreters asking about their availability and rates. Fortunately, the Stadsloket in Deurne cancelled our appointment letting us know that there would not be a need for it since we have enough proof of our relationship. Apparently, they did not check the link we sent them before with regards to our documents. We only found out about this because my partner called them and was gonna ask about the translator. It was a sigh of relief because interpreters can be pricey and also, that just prolongs the process.
JULY 31 – STILL NO POLICE VISIT
It has been a month since we registered and there was still no police visit and that was the only thing we were waiting for. My partner sent an email to the Police to inquire about it and we were told that they are a little backed up. We suspect that because it’s the summer and people are probably on vacations with their kids. We were informed that if it still does not happen by August 20, we can email them again. It was just hard since we wanted to travel a bit before I cannot anymore but we did not want to leave until they have come for the police visit. We felt a bit stuck for a while.
AUGUST 19 – POLICE VISIT
We were a bit surprised actually and did not expect it. Our bell was rang in the morning at around 10. The police man came up and asked about me. He just signed the paper, gave us a copy. Then he went on his way. I actually thought that they were gonna check my clothes, our bathroom. Haha. Pretty glad that it was straightforward.
AUGUST 29 – EMAIL FOR OUR APPOINTMENT
We received an email from the Stadsloket that our appointment was set for September 29. We had to bring the following: confirmation of my appointment, national passport, 2 passport IDs, registered rental contract or title deed, declaration of legal cohabitation, proof of relationship for at least 2 years, proof of health insurance for Belgian and family members valid in Belgium, proof or resources and regular income for the Belgian, proof of payment of federal contribution for thee Belgian. 200 euros had to be paid through bank transfer for the procedure. It was too bad that our appointment was just a few days after my 90 day stay is over. I was still planning to go home to the Philippines and come back in December so I can still settle a few things back home.
SEPTEMBER 29 – APPOINTMENT AND ISSUE OF ORANGE CARD
So we submitted the documents that they needed. He scanned our documents. We also had all our documents scanned in a USB and we just left that with the officer. He asked for 2 passport pictures. He attached one of them to the orange card and issued it. The orange card is my temporary paper while my application is still being processed. It is good for 6 months regardless of the result. They have actually set an appointment for us for March 29 and that’s the day we will find out if our application has been approved or not. The orange card also gives you your national Belgian number which usually starts with your birth date. This card is important as it allows you to apply for health insurance, enroll in integration classes, open bank accounts, you can even work if your partner is a Belgian national. We were also asked to submit a copy of my insurance so we just went straight to the insurance company after to apply so we are done with it. We also opened a bank account that day.
THE 6 MONTHS OF WAITING
What can you do during your 6 months? You can enroll in Dutch classes and integration class. It is subsidized by the Flemish government so you pay very little to do this. You can also look for a job if it allows you. The problem is 95% of the jobs in Flanders require that you speak Dutch. The 5% of jobs that don’t require it, I have no idea how to get. I have looked online and applied for some jobs but did not really get anywhere so I thought I would just learn the language first and get my basics. Also after I get back from the Philippines, I will give my full effort to get a job.
What can you not do? Travel out of Belgium. For my partner’s birthday we could not go somewhere warm because I could not get out of the country. I know that the Schengen area is open and you can drive somewhere but why risk it? Especially if you know the rules.
MARCH 29 – RESULT
We went to our appointment not really on edge. I was reading blogs and they say that no news is good news. We did not hear anything from them in those 6 months. Surely enough, we got a favorable result. Our application has been approved! Woohoo! My partner has always been confident because he would say that they have no reason to deny us. We did our due diligence and most importantly our relationship is real. The card is not issued that day. I had to come back after 3 weeks. The woman who helped us set an appointment. Asked for a passport picture. She scanned it and asked me to sign on the machine. She also issued me a temporary paper with my picture and an official seal. Just in case someone asks for my paper, I can show this because I don’t have my ID yet. If you don’t want to wait for 3 weeks and you need it right away for travel, you can get it in 2 or 3 days. It just costs a lot more. 109 euros for 3 days and 151.60 euros for 2 days compared to the regular 21 euros for 3 weeks.
APRIL 18 – ISSUANCE OF BELGIAN ID
I got my pin code in the mail a week and a half before my appointment. On the day of the appointment, I was there on time. Presented the temporary paper and my pin code. They asked if I wanted to change my pin to something I can remember. I also had to pay 21 euros. I finally have my ID. The validity is 5 years. After 5 years, it will automatically change to a plus card or I can also apply for citizenship.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure that you submit the documents completely and present your case the best way possible. Just think of it if you are at the receiving end of the application, you want to make it easy for them and easier to understand your situation. Since there are no precise information online and every situation is different, I had to look for blogs who had similar experiences. These ones helped me a lot when I was clueless: http://www.liveinbelgium.be, http://belgiumcohabitationvisa.com/, https://www.anaelisamiranda.com/blog/cohabitation-in-belgium. The process also was longer than I expected. It took us close to a year to get everything in order from registration. It can be frustrating at times especially when I could not do much but I think that always comes with a new start. This is a new start for me. I look forward to learning and assimilating in this new country I will soon call home.