Belgium (officially the Kingdom of Belgium) has a mixed cultural heritage having been ruled over by Holland, Spain, France and Austria at various times in the past. Today it is home to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels and the country is a popular tourist destination for millions every year.
A signatory to the Schengen Agreement in 1995, Belgium requires visitors (who are not otherwise exempt) to possess a Belgian Schengen Visa in order to enter, stay or transit through the country.
Visa-exempt countries include all members of the European Union or Schengen Area as well as approximately sixty countries on a visa liberalisation list. Citizens of all other countries, which covers most of the world, must possess the correct form of Schengen Visa before being permitted entry to Belgium.
Main Visa Types
There are numerous types of Schengen Visa available covering tourists, business people and students. The type of visa required will depend upon several factors:
- How long an applicant intends to stay.
- Whether they are staying with friends or family or at independent accommodation.
The purpose of the trip to Belgium.
Whether an applicant is staying in Belgium or merely transiting through an airport.
Citizens of countries outside the EU and Schengen Area or not on the visa liberalisation list are what is termed “world citizens” and, as such, will require the correct visa type from among the following:
- Airport Transit Visa if merely changing flights at a Belgian airport.
- Tourist Visa for short-stays or vacation purposes.
- Visitor Visa is for visiting friends or family members resident in Belgium.
- Business Visa is specifically targeted at business people attending meetings, conferences or other functions.
- Official Visit Visa is solely for members of foreign delegations visiting for official purposes.
- Visa for Medical Reasons is for world citizens requiring a medical procedure or treatment at a Belgian hospital or medical centre.
- Visa for Culture, Sports and Film Crews is confined to those in sports or the entertainment industry attending a cultural or sports event.
- Visa for Study Purposes for students attending courses of no longer than three months duration at a Belgian educational establishment.
As with any Schengen Visa, the holder may only stay within the Schengen country or zone for a maximum total of ninety days in any 180 day period of time. This rule also applies to students and those who wish to attend longer courses will require a Student Visa to do so.
Type C Visa
The Tourist Visa is often referred to as a Type C Visa and is the one most requested by applicants. Once granted, a Type C Visa grants the holder not just permission to visit Belgium but also any of the Schengen Zone member states. The only stipulation is that Belgium must be the first Schengen country entered on any itinerary.
No matter what type of visa is being applied for there are a number of documents that must be provided alongside the application form before approval can even be considered. Some of these documents are easier to acquire than others and collecting all the required material can be a daunting task as well as a time-consuming one.
Nevertheless, the Belgian authorities in charge of processing a visa application will require:
- Fully completed and signed application form.
- Two passport photographs, identical and taken in the preceding three months.
- Current passport with a minimum of two blank pages to accommodate the visa.
- Copies of previous Belgian or Schengen Visas (if requested).
- Details of flight numbers and dates of travel.
- Documented proof of planned accommodation in Belgium.
- Certificates of marriage, births of children or death of a spouse.
- Proof of sufficient money or funding for the entire duration of stay in Belgium.
- Travel insurance.
- Proof of accommodation will consist of printed verification of confirmed reservations in hotels or guest houses.
- Which birth, death or marriage certificates will be required depend on each individual case.
Passports must be less than ten years old and valid for at least three months after the last scheduled date in the Schengen Area.
Adequate sufficient funding is currently set at €95 a day for visitors staying in a hotel and €45 per day in cheaper accommodation.
Travel insurance must have a minimum policy coverage of €30,000 which will cover medical emergencies while in the Schengen Area or the cost of repatriation in the tragic event of death while abroad.
It is also necessary to supply a short covering letter outlining the reason(s) for visiting Belgium and detail any planned itinerary within Belgium or the Schengen Area.
An additional complication to add to an already complicated process is the matter of an applicant’s employment status. Depending on whether an applicant is unemployed, employed, self-employed, a pensioner or a student some of the following documentation will be required to accompany the application:
- Letter of employment
- Preceding six months bank statements
- Employer’s permission of leave
- Copies of income tax returns
- Copy of business registration
- Recent company bank statements
- Proof of enrolment at a recognised educational institute
- Pension statements for preceding six months
When all required documents have been collected and checked it will be necessary for an applicant to arrange a personal interview.
At the Embassy
A personal interview at the embassy, consulate or designated visa processing centre is the final step in the process of obtaining a Schengen Visa for Belgium and is a mandatory requirement. At the interview the official in charge takes stock of the applicant and verifies all documentation provided. Any errors or omissions should be taken care of at this meeting and the applicant will have a chance to personally explain the purpose for requesting a visa.
Personal attendance is also necessary because the applicant must provide fingerprint exemplars which are stored along with the personal information gathered from the application form and requested documentation.
The interview is also where payment in full for the processing of the Belgian Schengen Visa must be made.