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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Antwerp

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Relocating to Antwerp

At a Glance:

  • If you hail from an EU/EEA state, there is no need to have a visa to merely enter Belgium. However, if you are not from one of these countries, you might need a visa. There are different types of visas depending on the purpose of your stay.
  • There are many options for traveling around Antwerp — by public transportation, by bike, by taxi, and even by water. The city airport is strategically located and well connected.
  • Finding housing in Antwerp is not as challenging as in Brussels and it is less expensive as well. In the city center houses are obviously more pricy, but good alternatives also exist away from the center and in the suburbs.

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!

Visas: The Perks of Being an EU Member State

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 for Different Purposes

Long-Term Visas

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:

  • employee
  • self-employed
  • senior manager
  • researcher
  • investor, intern, au pair, etc.

For full details of all of these visa types, please see our moving to Belgium pages.

Schengen Visas

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.

Just Like a Belgian: The Electronic Identity Card

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.

Transportation in Antwerp

Antwerp has an excellently integrated transportation system, both on a national and international scale. The city has become a road and rail center for Belgian and international destinations; therefore, traveling to or from Antwerp as an expat is easy!

The Cheapest and Fastest Way to Travel around Antwerp

All bus and tram services in Antwerp are operated by the Flemish transportation company, De Lijn. These two modes of public transportation provide the fastest and cheapest manner of moving around the city. Trams conveniently run for an additional hour on Friday and Saturday nights, and also coordinate with Antwerp’s night buses.

To make sure you get the cheapest possible fares on De Lijn transportation, buy your bus or tram ticket in advance, rather than from the driver. This can be done at newsstands, supermarkets, or from vending machines near bus and tram stops; you can also purchase tickets by text message. To see all the tariffs, both presale and from the driver, visit the English De Lijn site.

The Ecological Option

One of the greatest advantages to Antwerp’s compact size is how easy it is to get around. If you don’t own a bicycle yourself, you can get a day, week, or year pass for the Velo City Bikes for 3.60 EUR, 8.00 EUR, or 36.00 EUR, respectively. They are fully compatible with public transportation, with stations all around the city, and the first half hour is free.

The Efficient Taxi System

Within Antwerp, taxis are fast and affordable. Each taxi should have a red recognition sign as proof that it is a licensed vehicle. The rate is standardized and is controlled by the city — good news if you are used to rocketing prices in other major metropolitan cities!

De Lijn has introduced a TOV (Taxi — Public Transportation) ticket. This allows you to travel on buses and trams, and also gives you a 2.00 EUR discount on your taxi fare. If you have any problems with taxis, you can contact the “Blauwe Lijn” (blue line) of the Antwerp Police, at +32 (0)800 123 12. For emergencies, however, call 101.

Moving Around by Water

Antwerp is integral to Europe’s vast inland waterway network. Its historic port has long been an important commercial and strategic link via the Scheldt River to various parts of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and via the sea to Britain. Several waterways snake through Antwerp, which makes travel by boat another pleasant means of transportation to, from, and within the city.

A Strategic Position

Antwerp has an impressive international train network: within 45 minutes, you can be in Brussels; in a few hours, you can reach Copenhagen, Berlin, Helsinki, Paris, London, Rome, and many other major cities on the European continent.

Antwerp Airport is a small airport located in Deurne, just two kilometers outside the city. The airport offers limited routes, its most regular being four flights per day to London-City, which account for the majority of its flights. Its short runway length renders it impossible for larger aircraft traveling to more exotic destinations to fly in and out of the airport. Antwerp is considering extending the airport sometime in the future, but, for now, you are much more likely to find an appropriate rail, bus, or automobile connection than a flight — unless you’re leaving from London.

Housing in Antwerp

Compared to living in a capital city, or other major metropolis, the housing market in Antwerp is very reasonably priced. It’s possible to find a range of apartments and homes, suitable for individuals, couples, students, flat shares, or families. This InterNations guide will direct you to the best real estate agents, and give you information on the different areas of the city.

City Center: Luxury with a Price

The center of the city is, of course, the most expensive part of town. Its postal code is 2000: knowing the postal codes of your desired area is important, as the majority of real estate agents will ask you to define the location in which you would like to find property by postal code, rather than by name.

The code 2000 includes the districts within the belt known as De Leien. These run along Antwerp’s main street which changes its name at various points to honor the victors of World War I, from Italiëlei to Frankrijklei to Britselei and finally to Amerikalei. Lei is an older Flemish word for avenue, so the streets are Italy Ave., France Ave., British Ave., and America Ave., respectively. While the price of homes here might put you off, living in the center has major advantages: it has excellent public transportation links in all directions and the benefit of being within walking distance of all the major attractions of the city.

Apartments in this area tend to be quite appealing. However, they do come with a price to match. This means that you will most probably only find single, well-paid expats living in the center. There are many other options though!

Attractive Alternatives

You might feel more at home, for example, in one of the up-and-coming areas across Antwerp. One of these is the district known as Zuid. This is the redeveloped museum district, which has become favored among those happy to live in close proximity to pubs, clubs, and galleries: true inner city living.

St. Andries, popularly known as the fashion district, is where those inclined to an urban lifestyle can find affordable apartments; it’s located between the river and Nationalestraat. Alternatively, Berchem also has a bohemian feel and features some very attractive Art Nouveau houses.

The Family-Friendly Options

None of the aforementioned districts, however, are truly suited to families. If you are moving to Antwerp with children, try finding housing in one of the suburbs. Most families have set up house in the north of the city, where there are larger houses with yards and a more residential feel.

Finally, there are the former municipalities of Borgerhout, Deurne, Berchem, Wilrijk, and Maerksem, which surround the outskirts of the city. The best way to choose between them is to visit each one and get a feel for the area. All are well served by public transportation, so it is unnecessary to invest in a car even though you are living in the suburbs. It takes no more than a 20–30 minute bus or tram ride to reach the center from any of the suburbs.

Some expats, for example, find Deurne particularly attractive due to the Rivierenhof. This large, leafy park with a collection of creeks and lakes, and an open air theater offers a variety of cultural and recreational activities for both children and adults. Others are drawn to Hoboken, a quiet residential area situated at the end of tramlines 2, 4 and 24; it is also known for having one of the city’s bigger green areas, the Hobokense Polder.

Where to Start Your House Hunt

The most important Belgian website for finding apartments and houses, and one that is used directly by both real estate agents and landlords, is Immoweb. Registration is free and easy, though you can gain all the information you require from the site without registering.

There are a wide range of other agents, whose English sites are straightforward to navigate:

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  • Fernando Achutegui

    With the help of InterNations members we've found a good real estate agent. Now we live in a very nice house on the outskirts of Antwerp.

  • Nellie Collins

    I've been looking for other Americans women in Antwerp. InterNations unites them all - some have become very close friends by now.

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