Brussels at a Glance
Moving to Brussels
- The city has a bilingual status, which is reflected in a complicated system of government and administration.
- If you hail from an EU country you don’t need a visa to enter Belgium; for third-state nationals it is possible to apply for a so-called Schengen visa.
- Depending on your situation there are different visas available; after having obtained one it is necessary to resister with a local commune.
Most expats moving to Brussels find it relatively easy to settle down in this international city, which is not only the capital of Belgium, but also one of the “EU capitals”. Due to the many intergovernmental organizations and especially the presence of the European Union institutions, Brussels has become a major center for international politics. Numerous journalists, diplomats, politicians, military personnel, and civil servants from across the globe move to Brussels every year, creating a metropolitan flair in this city of just over a million inhabitants.
A General Impression of Brussels
The weather in Brussels is not exactly tropical: expats moving here will encounter a temperate climate, with relatively cool summers and mild winters; temperatures rarely drop below zero or get above thirty. However, you should be prepared for quite a lot of rain all year round — similar to London or Amsterdam. While it is not the greenest city in Europe, Brussels does have quite a few public gardens, parks, and forests to be enjoyed on a sunny day.
As an expat in Belgian, you should be aware of the city’s bilingual status, which is reflected in its complicated system of government and administration. As one of Belgium’s three administrative regions, the Brussels-Capital Region unites 19 municipalities, which are predominantly French speaking.
Brussels is also the administrative seat of both the French and the Flemish Communities. This does not only cause confusion among expatriates moving to Brussels, but also among long-standing residents. Public administration is organized on various levels, as competencies are spread across regional, communal, and municipal bodies, or sometimes a mixture of all three. Newcomers should allow for some time after their move to find their way through the bureaucratic maze.
The First Step: Do You Need a Visa?
EU citizens (including Swiss nationals) do not require a visa to move to Brussels. Most other nationalities do need a visa to enter Belgium, although certain countries benefit from a visa waiver agreement. To find out whether you need to apply for a visa, please check with the Belgian embassy or consulate in your country of residence.
Application forms for both long-term and short-term visas have to be completed and sent to the nearest Belgian mission in advance of your move to Brussels. Please note that additional documents must be submitted with your application, depending on the type of visa you need for moving to Brussels.
What Is a Schengen Visa?
A Schengen visa grants third-state nationals limited access to all 26 member states of the Schengen area. These include Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
“Limited access” means that your stay in the Schengen area is limited to 90 days. There are, however, no restrictions to the purpose of your stay. A Schengen visa can be used both for business travel and vacation.
How to Get a Schengen Visa
Together with your application form, you need to submit your passport (valid for at least three months beyond the duration of your stay), two passport photographs, a travel or health insurance certificate, and evidence of sufficient financial means to support yourself. For business visits, a letter of invitation from a Belgian company outlining the purpose and duration of your stay is also required.
It takes three to four weeks to process a Schengen visa application, and you must pay an administration fee of 60 EUR. Once the visa has been granted, you will be asked to present a valid return ticket for your journey. For more detailed information on the Schengen visa, consult our article on relocating to Belgium.
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