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4 min read

Moving to Belgium: A Guide for Expats and Digital Nomads

Author

Gabriele Culot

Published

February 22, 2024

Last Update

July 01, 2024

Table of Contents

Step 1: Prepare your documents

Step 2: Manage your finances

Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation

Step 4: Consider career opportunities and working arrangements

Step 5: Organize healthcare and education

Step 6: Ensure your safety

Step 7: Immerse yourself in Belgian culture

Begin your new adventure in Belgium

Key takeaways
  1. Belgium has emerged as a popular choice for expats and digital nomads in recent years.
  2. Applying for one of the many Belgian visas and finding jobs calls for thorough research and careful planning.
  3. Deel’s step-by-step guide shows you how to effortlessly navigate the Belgian visa process and settle into your new home.

Belgium has seen a considerable increase in its population of foreign residents in recent years, a trend amplified by the continued rise of remote work. With its rich history, high-quality healthcare, and central location in Europe, more and more expats and digital nomads are choosing to call Belgium home.

Belgium, a member of both the EU and the Schengen Zone, offers various visa programs, smoothing the path for foreigners to gain permanent residency or even citizenship.

However, while moving to Belgium presents exciting opportunities, it requires careful planning and preparation. This guide takes you through the necessary steps for a successful start in Belgium.

Step 1: Prepare your documents

Before you can move to Belgium, you need to check your eligibility to stay in the country and apply for a relevant visa. Here’s what to consider:

EU countries

Foreign nationals from an EU country are free to live, work, and study wherever they like within Belgium without requiring a visa.

However, regardless of your nationality, if you intend to stay in Belgium for more than 90 days, you will need to apply for a residence permit and register your residence at the local municipality.

Types of visa

The Belgian government provides a diverse range of visas allowing non-EU citizens to enter and stay in the country:

  • Schengen visa: Available for a maximum of 90 days to explore Belgium and experience its lifestyle and culture.
  • Long-stay visa: Required for stays longer than 90 days. You can obtain this visa for studying, working, or reuniting with your family in Belgium.
  • Professional card: Non-EU citizens who want to work as self-employed or establish a business in Belgium need to apply for this.
  • Work Permit: Your employer applies on your behalf if you have secured a job with a Belgian company.
  • Family reunion visa: Applicable for family members who wish to join their relatives who are legal residents or nationals of Belgium.

Visa sponsorship

Non-EU citizens typically require a sponsor to work in Belgium, in addition to other visa requirements. The sponsor could be a future employer or a family member already living in Belgium.

Essential document checklist

To avoid delays and complications, prepare all your documents ahead of time. Depending on your visa type, these documents may include:

✅ Passport (plus copies): Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay and contain at least two blank pages. An identity card is enough for EU citizens.

✅ Passport-sized photos: Recent photographs with a white background.

✅ Visa application form: Download, fill, and sign, adhering to the specific requirements for your visa type.

✅ Proof of outbound travel: It can be a copy of your airline or train ticket.

✅ Health Insurance**:** Prove that you have health coverage for your stay in Belgium.

✅ Accommodation details: You should provide the address where you'll be staying throughout your visa duration.

✅ Proof of employment: If you're applying for a work visa, you’ll need your job offer letter or signed employment contract.

✅ Police clearance: Some visas may require a criminal record check.

✅ Educational certificates: You may need evidence that you’re qualified to work in your chosen field.

✅ Financial records: Proof that you have sufficient means to support yourself during your stay in Belgium.

✅ Marriage and birth certificates: If you’re relocating with your family, they need these documents to apply for dependent visas.

Importance of authenticating and translating documents

Belgian authorities may need certain documents to be legalized. If your country isn't part of the Apostille Convention, you might need to get your local Belgian consulate or embassy to authenticate your documentation.

Documents like birth and marriage certificates might also need to be translated into either Dutch/Flemish, French, or German (Belgium's official languages). For this, use a professional service that can verify the accuracy of the translation.

Step 2: Manage your finances

Belgium is known among expats for offering a high standard of living, albeit at a higher cost in Flanders rather than Wallonia. Effective budgeting makes it possible to enjoy what this vibrant country offers without breaking the bank. Here’s what you need to consider:

Cost of living in Belgium

Here’s a list of the costs you can expect when living in Belgium:

  • Renting: A one-bedroom apartment in major cities like Brussels can cost around €850 ($900) and drops to €700 ($740) in smaller cities and towns.
  • Buying property: Real estate prices can be steep compared to other regions, plus there are significant initial fees and taxes
  • Food and drink: Groceries are moderately priced with plentiful market options. Dining out at local restaurants is reasonable, with meals for two costing around €50 ($53)
  • Transport: Belgium has an excellent public transportation system, and tickets are reasonably priced at about €2.10 ($2.22) one-way for buses and trams
  • Utilities: Like much of Europe, utility costs in Belgium are high, with electricity and gas prices being above the European average

Taxation

Understanding the tax implications is crucial for managing your finances in Belgium. The country has a progressive income tax system, with rates ranging from 25% to 50% based on income.

You will also be required to pay municipal taxes, which vary depending on the commune you live in but typically range from 6% to 9% of your net taxable income.

It's vital to check whether Belgium has a double taxation agreement with your home country and stay informed about any changes to avoid paying taxes twice.

Banking and currency exchange

Belgium has a robust banking system with both local and international banks. To open an account, you'll need proof of identity, residence, and employment, plus a Belgian national number, which you receive after registering with the local commune.

Belgium uses the euro, and currency exchange is easily accessible at banks and exchange offices, although the best rates are usually found at banks.

Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation

Securing accommodation is crucial for settling down and integrating into Belgium. Here's what you need to know about your options.

Renting vs. buying

With the competitive property market, especially in Brussels and other major cities, buying can be a long-term investment but comes with high transaction costs, including notary fees, registration fees, and property taxes.

Properties in Belgium are generally well-maintained, but it's still wise to budget for any unexpected repairs.

Renting is a popular option among expats due to its flexibility. The rental market can be tight in city centers, so start your search early, especially if you’re moving during the busy summer months.

Finding suitable housing

Belgium offers a wide variety of housing options, from modern apartments to charming townhouses. While older buildings have their appeal, they might also come with issues, such as less efficient heating systems.

Utilize websites like ImmowebZimmo, and Immovlan to find rental properties based on your location, budget, and space preferences.

The demand from the expat community has led to a good market for short-term, furnished rentals, ideal for hassle-free setups.

Once you find a property, ensure you understand the lease agreement, which typically covers:

  • A detailed description of the accommodation
  • Rent amount and due dates
  • Security deposit requirements (often equivalent to two to three months’ rent)
  • Lease term (usually spans one to three years for long-term leases)
  • Tenant and landlord responsibilities
  • Pet policies

Step 4: Consider career opportunities and working arrangements

Finding work in Belgium can be both exciting and daunting. The job market is robust, with a significant demand for IT professionals, engineers, and healthcare workers. Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union, offers numerous opportunities in international organizations and NGOs. Also, Belgium’s central location in Europe makes it attractive for multinational corporations.

In this section, we’ll discuss how to navigate the Belgian job market and what to consider when applying for jobs.

Job market overview

Understanding the trends in Belgium is crucial. IT, engineering, biotech, and healthcare sectors are thriving. The European Job Mobility Portal (EURES) may provide valuable insights into current market trends. 

Industry-specific websites like ictjob.be for IT positions, and StepStone.be offer targeted job opportunities. Belgium’s strategic position in Europe also creates opportunities in logistics, manufacturing, and services catering to the European market.

Language skills are vital in Belgium, where the population speaks Dutch, French, and sometimes German. While many international organizations and companies may operate in English, knowing at least one of the local languages significantly broadens career prospects.

Understanding work culture in Belgium

Belgium has a structured work environment, placing a strong emphasis on direct communication and consensus-building. Belgians typically value punctuality and formal titles during professional interactions. Work-life balance is taken seriously, with a standard 38-hour work week and ample vacation time.

Business settings in Belgium may vary from the more laid-back atmosphere in creative industries to formality in government and corporate sectors. Networking and personal connections are essential, so engaging with professional associations and attending events can be beneficial.

Step 5: Organize healthcare and education

Belgium’s healthcare and education systems are among the best in the world, providing high-quality services to its residents.

The healthcare system in Belgium

Residents have access to the public healthcare system, which offers comprehensive coverage at a relatively low cost due to mandatory health insurance. Quality of care is excellent, with Belgium boasting some of Europe's best hospitals and specialists.

Private healthcare is available, complementing the public services, and it's advisable for expats to secure a health insurance plan that fits their specific needs.

Education options in Belgium

Children of expats have various educational options, including public schools, private schools, and international schools offering curricula from around the world. Education is compulsory for children aged between 6 and 18, with public schools teaching in Dutch, French, or German, depending on the region. International schools are a popular choice for those seeking education in English.

Higher education in Belgium is renowned, with institutions like the Catholic University of Leuven and Ghent University offering a vast range of programs in English. Tuition fees are reasonable, particularly for EU/EEA students.

Step 6: Ensure your safety

Belgium is generally a safe country, with relatively low levels of violent crime. However, petty crimes like pickpocketing and bicycle theft can occur, especially in larger cities and crowded areas.

Expats should familiarize themselves with local emergency services. The Belgian emergency number is 112. It's also wise to have the contact details of your home country’s embassy in case of emergencies.

Belgium’s primary safety concerns are related to road safety and occasional protests in urban areas. Staying informed through local news outlets is advisable.

Step 7: Immerse yourself in Belgian culture

Embracing Belgian culture is key to a smooth transition. Belgium boasts a rich tapestry of cultural influences, exquisite cuisine, including world-famous chocolates and beers, and a passion for art and history.

Relationship with neighbors: Belgium has a friendly relationship with its neighbors, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, and enjoys a blend of cultural influences.

Dress code: Belgians dress smartly and conservatively for work and social occasions.

Cafes and social life: Belgium has a vibrant cafe culture, with locals enjoying fine dining, chocolates, waffles, and a variety of beers.

Festivals and traditions: Belgium has a strong tradition of local and national festivals, including the famous Carnival of Binche.

Begin your new adventure in Belgium

From the charming cobblestone streets of Bruges and Antwerp to the vibrant heart of Brussels and the scenic beauty of the Ardennes, Belgium stands out as a prime destination for expats and digital nomads. Enjoy a high quality of life, comprehensive healthcare, myriad employment opportunities, rich cultural heritage, and a strong focus on innovation and digitalization.

A well-thought-out plan and thorough research can facilitate a smooth transition for those considering moving to Belgium. For additional guidance, Deel can help organizations and their employees navigate the work permit or immigration process.

Learn how Deel can support you in obtaining the necessary work permit or visa, or explore the Deel blog for more in-depth insights on relocating to Belgium.

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