Depending on your nationality and the length of your course, you may need a student visa to study in Belgium. This article is aimed at helping you find out if you need a student visa, how to apply, and what documents would be required from you.
Visa or Not to Study in Belgium?
Students from a European Union Member State or from a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) are not required to obtain a student visa in order to study in Belgium. However, required to carry a national identity card, which they must present to the customs officer on arrival to Belgium. If you are a student from the EU, you must still fulfill certain criteria to study in Belgium, which include:
- Enrollment at an approved university/educational institution,
- Sufficient income to live in Belgium without needing income support,
- Comprehensive health cover.
If you are a citizen of a country that does not belong to the EU, you may need a student visa to gain entry to Belgium. Students from some countries (such as the US) are not required to obtain a visa for Belgium if their stay is up to a maximum of 90 days.
Students from the People’s Republic of China must obtain an academic evaluation certificate issued by the Academic Assessment Centre (APS) before being authorized to enroll in a higher education institution in Belgium. This APS certificate is required to obtain a student visa for Belgium. The examination consists of a technical assessment of your diploma and an interview. In certain cases, you can be exempted from this interview.
How to Apply for a Student visa to Study in Belgium
Before applying for a student visa for Belgium, you first need to be accepted onto a course at an accredited educational institution, and pay the registration fees (this will be refunded if your visa application is rejected). If you are an international student, you will then need to contact your nearest Belgian embassy or consulate in your country. The embassy will help you determine whether you need a student visa, and will guide you through the visa application.
All the information concerning Belgian visa applications can be found on the website of the Foreigners Department of the Federal Public Service (FPS) for Home Affairs, available to read in French, Dutch and English. As an international student, you’ll need to apply for a national long-stay visa (D visa), which allows you to stay longer than 90 days in Belgium.
The procedure to obtain a visa for Belgium varies depending on the Belgian consulate or embassy you use. In general, however, you’ll need to fill in a visa application form and submit an application fee along with all the required documents (see below). Applicants from some countries may need to make an appointment with their consulate or embassy in order to make their application. It is also possible that some consulates may work with an external service provider who carries out most of the administration tasks – an additional service fee will be charged in this case.
What are the visa requirements for Belgium?
To fulfill student visa requirements for Belgium, you’ll need to provide the following documents:
A completed and signed visa application form (you may need to bring more than one)
A passport or similar travel document valid for more than 12 months. In some countries it’s required for the passport to be no more than 10 years old, and have two empty consecutive pages facing each other.
Proof that you have sufficient financial income or support for the duration of your stay. This must cover your healthcare, living, study and accommodation costs as well as the cost of your return ticket. This can be in the form of a certificate stating you have received a grant or scholarship, an agreement of financial responsibility from your sponsor, or your personal bank statement showing sufficient funds.
A medical certificate stating you don’t carry any diseases that may endanger public health (such as TB, diseases that require quarantine and other infectious diseases)
A police certificate of good conduct confirming that you don’t have any prior convictions (if you are aged over 21). If you’re from the US, you’ll probably need an FBI background check, which can take up to five months to obtain.
Student visa requirements for Belgium also include proof of your student status and study plans. For this, you may need:
Proof of registration at a recognized higher education institution in Belgium (must cover a full-time course of study, suggesting that the candidate’s main activity in Belgium is studying)
Application for an equivalence certificate for a diploma or certificate conferred abroad (only required for French Community education)
Original and certified copy of your diploma, certificate or baccalaureate from your secondary education, and the academic record from your last year of secondary education
Copy of all diplomas and certificates obtained since the end of your secondary education
An employer’s statement underlining the necessary for you to pursue higher education as part of your work (more likely to apply to postgraduate students)
Documentation giving a brief description of the courses organized by your institution of choice, with a short explanation comparing those courses to courses organized in your country of origin
All documents in a language other than German, French, English or Dutch must be translated by a sworn translator, legalized as a separate document in your country of origin, and legalized again by the Belgian consulate or embassy you go to. Your consulate or embassy may ask for other documents not mentioned here, depending on your country of origin.
You will also need to provide a supporting letter explaining why you have chosen the particular course, why you have chosen to study in Belgium, and how your choices will benefit you. You must demonstrate that you have sufficient knowledge of the language in which you intend to study, by providing either proof of passing an internationally recognized language proficiency exam or a certificate issued at the end of education in your chosen language.
You can track your visa application using your reference number and the location of your chosen consulate or embassy. The Belgian consulate or embassy considers visa applications on a case-by-case basis and has the exclusive decision to accept or refuse your visa. You may appeal against this decision if you wish.
If the embassy or consulate you have applied to is unable to process your student visa application for some reason, they may suggest you apply for a tourist visa, which is easier for them to issue. If so, make sure they give you a written statement showing that they advised you to apply for a tourist visa, as this statement will allow you to exchange your tourist visa for a student visa once you’re in Belgium, and allow you to register at your chosen higher education institution.
When you arrive in Belgium
All students (including those from the EU) must go to the local municipal administration within eight days of arrival in Belgium. You will then be issued with a residence permit which allows you to stay in Belgium and also allows you entrance to the Schengen States without a visa for a period not exceeding three months. You can apply to renew your residence permit yearly, approximately 30 to 45 days before its expiry date.