As a foreigner, you won’t feel uncomfortable moving to Antwerp, a city which is already well accustomed to multiculturalism. In the sixteenth century, much like today, Antwerp had a policy of tolerance and trade: it attracted Italian and German sugar-refiners; communities of orthodox Jews; foreign merchants from Venice, Ragusa, Spain and Portugal; and bankers from all over Europe. Throughout history Antwerp has been occupied by, amongst others, the French, the Dutch, and the Germans. Then, after the Second World War, the city saw an influx of Spanish and Moroccan immigrants. Today, the Dutch make up the largest group of foreigners living in Antwerp, followed by Moroccans, Spaniards, French, and Germans. Expats of British, US-American, and Israeli nationalities are also represented. Wherever you come from, moving to Antwerp should not be as daunting after recognizing the number of foreign communities already in the city!
The first things any expat has to think about when relocating are the administrative issues associated with the change. How easy moving to Antwerp is for you will depend largely on whether or not you are an EU/EEA citizen. If you are, then you don’t need a visa to enter or work in Belgium.
If instead you do not hail from one of these countries, you need to check, firstly, whether your country has a visa waiver agreement with Belgium. In order to do so, you should inquire at your nearest Belgian embassy or consulate in your country of residence before moving to Antwerp. The Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation has a search engine for Belgian missions abroad on their website.
You will then need to apply for either a long-term or short-term visa, depending on the length of your stay in Belgium. These applications must be sent to your nearest Belgian mission before you set about moving to Antwerp. All of the official information required for visas for Belgium can be found on the Belgian Foreign Affairs website.
Different visas are available depending on the purpose of your stay. For most of them you will have to pay an administrative fee of 180 EUR. If you are moving to Antwerp for business or work reasons, you will have to choose one of the following visas:
For full details of all of these visa types, please see our moving to Belgium pages.
This visa is applicable if you are staying in Antwerp for no more than 90 days and you are a third-state national. A Schengen visa will cost you 60 EUR — visas for children are available at reduced rates — and will take three to four weeks to process. The electronic Visa Information System (VIS) has been operational in Belgium since May 2014. Therefore, first-time applicants may have to apply in person at their closest Belgian embassy or consulate for the purpose of collecting biometric data (fingerprints and a photo).
If the purpose of your visit is business, and you have applied for a Schengen visa, you will also need a letter of invitation from a Belgian company to verify the purpose of your stay. Certain privileged countries don’t require visas to enter the Schengen Area for a short stay, e.g. Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, USA, and several others.
If you are planning on staying in Antwerp for more than three months, you must register with your local municipal authority within eight days of your arrival. Bring proof of residence (either a rental agreement or bank details) with you when you register.
After registration, you will receive an electronic identity card. Belgium has recently updated its residence cards to comply with EU standards. The new electronic cards contain biometric data on a chip, and serve as a certificate of address, a residence permit, and an identity card. After receiving this card, you will have successfully completed your move to Antwerp.
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