Visas and documentation
Process to get your residence permit
There are 19 communes in Brussels. Depending on which one you live, you have to follow the specific instructions. Normally, there are some general steps you need to follow. For more detailed information you can check the websites of each commune.
If you are a non-EEA student :
In order to obtain a residence permit for the duration of your studies, you are required to register in person at your local Commune within 8 days of arriving in Belgium.
In addition to a valid passport, and your temporary visa, you will need to take the following items/documents* with you to the Commune:
- 5 identity format photos;
- proof of enrolment in your sending university, or student card;
- passport (including Visa);
- a copy of your accommodation rental contract;
- sum of ± 30.00 Euros to cover administration costs.
*Please note that the specific documents that are required may vary from one Commune to another, so it is worth checking your local Commune’s requirements in advance.
It is also worth noting that the process is a long one, so we strongly recommend that you contact your Commune as early as possible.
The procedure is normally as follows:
- You should makes an initial visit to your local Commune to declare your arrival; You will present all the documents mentioned above. You need to make an appointment first.
- A police officer carries out a check to verify that you do in fact live at the address you supplied at your initial visit;
- Following the police check, you will be given an appointment at your local Commune in order to finalize paperwork.
If you are EEA students :
To obtain a residence permit for the duration of your studies you are also required to visit your local Commune in person shortly after arriving in Belgium.
The registration process and document requirements for European students are the same as for non-European students.
Documents from KU Leuven :
Students are required to register at the Foreigners Office (in Dutch: Dienst Buitenlanders) at the City Hall of their place of residence after their registration at KU Leuven – Brussels Campus.
For non-EEA citizens:
Shortly after arrival and after having secured a permanent address in Belgium, you should get a residence permit, which you can obtain from the local authority of the commune where you are staying.
The things you will be asked to bring along are:
- Valid passport or identity card
- the Authorisation for Provisional Sojourn stamped in your passport before coming to Belgium (for non-EEA citizens only)
- three recent passport size photographs
- certificate of registration at KU Leuven – Brussels Campus
- the official European Health Insurance Card which proves your affiliation with a health insurance company in your home country (for EEA citizens only) • a proof of solvency
The residence permit/identity card is valid until October 31 of the following year or until the end date of the financial allowance. It may take several weeks to be ready. As long as you did not obtain it you are not allowed to travel abroad if you are a non-EEA student.
Please be aware that your residence permit is a very important document and that you are required to carry it with you at all times. If you lose your residence permit, you must immediately report this in person at the Police Office and make an official statement of loss. By providing this statement to the local authority of the commune where you reside, together with two passport size photographs you will be given a duplicate residence permit.
At the end of your stay in Belgium and before your actual departure, you should give notice of your departure to the local authority of the commune where you are staying and return your residence permit.
For EEA students:
You are not obliged to apply for an electronic residence permit for Belgium. Upon submitting all required documents at City Hall, you will receive a Registration Certificate. City Hall will send a police agent to confirm your address.
The first thing to do is to get informed on which health insurance company you want to register in. You can choose between:
- Aetna International
- Allianz Care
- BUPA Global
- Cigna Global
- Globality Health
These are some of the main ones, but of course there are more which can offer almost the same services. The information regarding the amount of money you need to pay, the way of paying or the services each company provides, can be found on their websites. Also, you can visit their offices to get the full information directly.
The process of registration is quite fast and easy.
- You can go to their offices and present your documents:
Your passport or ID, residence card, proof of being a student, document from the commune you are registered in (your own commune gives you information about it)
- After the registration, the company will send to your house address some documents which provide general information about it, and also the vignettes, which you will need as those are the proof that you have the insurance.
Normally, you need the bank account as well, as the payment will be done through it. Different health insurances however, may ask for something more specific, but in general these are the documents you need.
- After this process, you can start using your insurance, and also the amount of money will be taken from your bank account.
What you need:
- Passport, or ID
- Proof of being a student
- Legal house address (residence card)
- Letter of the commune
Student insurance All students are insured by KU Leuven for the following matters:
- student accidents
- third-party liability for study-related matters
- professional liability
- non-EEA students have to subscribe upon registration to the third-party liability insurance for private life and pay €13; EEA students may subscribe to this insurance plan; this insurance covers the entire family of the student KU Leuven itself does not provide health insurance. Below, you will find more details about health insurance and affiliating with a Belgian health insurance company.
Health insurance all residents of the country, Belgian or otherwise, are required by law to be covered by a health insurance policy. It is also in your own best interest. Without health insurance coverage, the costs of medical care can quickly spiral out of control. For instance, a single night’s stay in a hospital can cost up to € 400 not including treatment or medicine. A standard health-insurance policy will reimburse about 75% of the cost of a doctor’s visit, medication and hospitalization.
For EEA students & EEA exchange students in the LLP/Erasmus program:
Students who are EEA nationals should obtain a so-called European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) proving you already have insurance coverage in your home country. Nationals from Algeria, Australia, Tunisia, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia can also obtain documents under the terms of the agreement between Belgium and their country. Any medical costs you may incur will be reimbursed by a Belgian healthinsurance company if you show them the EHIC. This also applies to the cost of drugs and medication: ask for a 704N form at the pharmacy. If you don’t have an EHIC, you are required to follow the same procedure as non-EEA students and take out health-insurance coverage in Belgium.
Self-supporting students, or those with a scholarship that does not include health insurance, should take out a health-insurance policy. With your certificate of registration, you can subscribe to a health insurance policy at the insurance company of your choice. However, it may be useful to know that KU Leuven has excellent relations with ‘CM’ (Christelijke Mutualiteit, a major healthinsurance company).
The documents to submit:
- Belgian identity card/residence permit (if you have it already) or Annex 15
- the certificate of ‘family composition’ (which you can obtain at City Hall) if you have family members to be insured
- bank account number
- the registration certificate that you will obtain automatically upon registration (this is not the same as your student card).
The fee consists of a quarterly payment, which entitles you to all benefits from the first day of that quarter. There are four payment periods: from the beginning of October to the end of December, from the beginning of January to the end of March, from the beginning of April to the end of June and from July until September.
Students with disabilities or special medical needs Students with disabilities are welcome at KU Leuven. Our university offers assistance to students with hearing or vision impairment, physical disability, chronic illness, learning disability (including dyslexia, dyscalculia,…), psychiatric disability (including ASD and AD(H)D) relating to instructional settings and exams.
If you have a medical condition that requires follow-up, please make arrangements in advance and bring all relevant documentation (recent report from your home doctor). The Student Counselors at Brussels Campus can assist you in getting this organized. For detailed information, see also http://stuvoplus.be/brussel/student-counseling
Open a Belgian bank account
Opening up a bank account for international students in Belgium is easy and straight forward. You can open an online account without setting foot in a bank or just go to any bank office and take a proof of identity – a passport or a Belgian ID is usually enough – and you will get a bank account in no time. Some of the large banks also offer an expat service that allows you to open the account online before you move to Belgium. You will then need to inform the bank once your residence permit has been issued.
Basically, if you do not want to follow the online proves, you can just go to the bank office, present your passport or ID, the proof that you are a student (document which is provided by school), your legal address (if you do not have the residence card yet, you can use Annex 15), and you are done with the process. After that, the bank will send to your address, the bank card, a document containing a code which you will need for the bank account, a card reader, and instructions to use your bank account (some online apps as well)
It is very important to mention, that you need to make an appointment with the bank before going to open the bank account. In order to do that, you can just call on the numbers they have available, or go to the bank office and decide on the appointment.
Some major banks in Belgium include:
- Belfius Bank (French and Dutch)
- BNP Paribas Fortis (French, Dutch, German and English)
- ING (French, Dutch and English)
- KBC Groep (French, Dutch, German and English)
Documents for opening a bank account
- Passport or an ID Card
- Proof of legal address
- Proof of being a student
- Using a bank account
As soon as your account is open you can withdraw money and make payments.
Payments in Belgium are generally made by electronic debit card or credit card. The use of cheques is now almost obsolete in Belgium.
Check the rate of charges for a current account, as these can vary between banks.
Cell phone number.
To have a phone number, you normally need a residence card as a document of identification. However, there are different companies which do not ask for that, so the best option is to look for information on their website, or go to their shops in Brussels, to directly talk and learn about not only the requirements but also what they offer. You can choose between:
- Proximus – proximus.be
- Orange – orange.be (formerly Mobistar)
- Base – base.be
These are the main ones, but there also smaller operators:
- Mobile Vikings – mobilevikings.be (Base network)
- Telenet – telenet.be (Orange network)
- Scarlet – scarlet.be (Proximus network)
- Simyo – simyo.be (Base network)
- Ello Mobile – ello-mobile.be (Base network)
Besides the residence card, you do not need anything else, so the process is easy and fast. It can be done even online in most of the companies, so just by checking the website, you can deal with it. Once you register, then you get to use your phone number normally.
Not everyone needs a Belgian Driving Licence to drive in Belgium. People moving to Belgium from within the EU or EEA are not required to exchange their driver’s licence. Still, it is very much recommended that they register their licence in their local Town Hall, in case of loss or theft of it. If a licence from these countries is lost or stolen, the replacement will be with a Belgian driving licence. Another possibility is to exchange the driving licence of your home country with that of Belgium.
You can use a foreign country (home country)’ s driving licence in Belgium only for short stays or stays up to six months. However, if you are planning to stay Long- Term, you will need a Belgian Driving Licence. For information on IDPs, ask the driving authorities in your home country or visit your local town hall office.
Reciprocal arrangements are in place with numerous non-EEA countries that permit a driver to easily exchange their driver’s licence for a Belgian equivalent, but the individual must be registered within a municipality first and show a Belgian residency permit. Non-EEA nationals can check the government website to see if there is agreement for their country: www.mobilit.fgov.be.
If your country has no such agreement with Belgium, there is a requirement to pass the Belgian driving examination comprising a theory and practical test. The Examination Centres (GOCA or SBAT) can arrange English versions of the theory exam, although it is recommended to book well in advance.
You can find more information on this page:
Transportation, mobib, train and campus card
In Belgium you can use the public transport which is cheap and efficient. You can choose between bus, tram, metro and trains, everyday, so simply.
The MOBIB card is an interoperable smart card issued by the NMBS/SNCB, the National Railway Company of Belgium.
It can be used for the entire Belgian public transportation network.
So, having a MOBIB card, means you can use bus, metro, and tram each time you need.
The bus is a convenient means of travel and the network covers a wide area not served by other forms of public transport.
The bus routes in Belgium are handled by three different companies: De Lijn, TEC and STIB. De Lijn is responsible for the network in Flanders, while TEC handles bus travel in Wallonia. The STIB buses cover the Brussels metropolitan area.
Tram – metro
Tram and the underground metro are ideal to get around in the city. They encounter little or no hindrance from other forms of traffic and bring you safely and quickly to numerous destinations within the city limits.
You can travel by tram in the cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Charleroi. You can also travel along the Belgian coast by taking the kust (coast) tram.
The metro is currently only available in Brussels. The metro forms part of the STIB network together with the bus and tram services of the Brussels metropolitan area.
To get a MOBIB card, you have to go to one of the “KIOSK”s located in different metro/tram stations:
- De Brouckère
- Gare Centrale
- Gare de l’Ouest
- Gare du Midi
- Gare du Nord
- Porte de Namur
When you go there, you have to just present the document which the school gives you for the public transport. Also an identification document is needed. With these two, you can get a Mobib card.
As a student, until 23, you pay 55 euros, yearly for the card. Once you have it, you can freely use it in public transport, bus, tram and metro.
However, you need to be careful of the different companies operating in Belgium. Different ones may need different subscriptions. You have the option to choose combinations of different ones, so for more detailed information make sure to check their webisite: Belgian Rail Website.
Even if you do not have a card for a specific company (De Lijn bus for example), you can always buy tickets at the station.
Traveling by train in Belgium is a great way to get from city to city. Train travel is easy since it’s primarily a regional system that takes you from location to location in no time at all.
You can conveniently connect to the rail network from Brussels National Airport and travel into Brussels, or on to Antwerp or historic Bruges. First class accommodation is available at your choosing.
The following people can travel for free:
Children under 6 years of age accompanied by a passenger of 12 years of age or older carrying a valid travel document (maximum 4 children).
Children from 6 to 12 years of age accompanied by a person of 12 years of age or older carrying a valid travel document, on condition that they travel after 09:00 on weekdays (maximum 4 children).
Children under 12 years of age with a ‘large family reduction card’. Only valid in second class.
Employees of companies that have an agreement with NMBS to pay 80% of the rail pass. The government pays the remaining 20 %.
Journalists travel free in second class.
For the train, you can buy tickets each time you travel, in the train station or online, or you can as well make a subscription. You can find all the information you need about using the train in Belgium on the SNCB website. This includes information on timetables, domestic connections and international rail links.
Belgium has multiple airports with scheduled services on commercial airlines.
- Antwerp International Airport (ANR)
- Ostend-Bruges International Airport (OST)
- Brussels Airport (BRU)
- Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL)
- Liège Airport (LGG)