Who needs to have a Belgian driver's license?
Besides Belgians, non-EU nationals living in Belgium for more than 6 months need to have a Belgian license in order to drive. For non-EU nationals visiting Belgium for a short period, you can typically use your foreign driver’s license (depending on your nationality, an international driving permit may be needed to drive in Belgium).
EU nationals do not need a Belgian driver's license since there are agreements in place that allow foreign EU licenses to be used in Belgium. It is recommended, however, that you register your national license at your local city hall. If your license is lost, you can replace it with a Belgian license (as long as you are an official resident of Belgium).
Who can exchange their foreign driver's license in Belgium?
1.) Persons with a Belgian ID card/Orange card, AND
2.) Nationals of countries that have a reciprocal agreement with Belgium which allows a driver to convert their driver’s license for a Belgian one. You can check the following link to see if there is agreement for your country here. Please note that you can only exchange your foreign license if you obtained it before legally moving to Belgium.
What if your home country does not have a reciprocal agreement with Belgium?
You will need to take the Belgian driving exam (practical & theoretical tests). More information can be found here.
How long does it take to exchange your license for a Belgian equivalent?
Around 6-8 weeks. For me, it took 5 weeks for the city hall to determine that my Philippine driver's license was authentic. It then took another week to collect my Belgian driver's license. For holders of a non-EU driving license only: you are not allowed to drive in Belgium during the exchange period.
*Tip: If you have not yet legally moved to Belgium and your country has a reciprocal agreement with Belgium, apply for/renew your driver's license in your home country before coming to Belgium. The process of taking the Belgian driving test is very long and expensive, so it is advisable to do it in your home country.
Exchanging your foreign license, the usual steps
1.) Make sure your home country has a reciprocal agreement with Belgium which allows a driver to convert their driver’s license for a Belgian one. You can check this link to see if there is agreement for your country.
2.) Make an appointment with your local city hall. For Antwerp, you can make an appointment here. Choose Buitenland rijbewijs (Foreign driving license).
3.) During your first appointment, you will need to bring your Belgian ID card/Orange card, your passport, and your valid foreign driving license. The city hall will keep your foreign driver's license (they will not return it). They will determine whether your license is authentic or not (usually takes 5-8 weeks). They will then send a letter by post to let you know whether they will grant you a Belgian license. For holders of a non-EU driving license only: you are not allowed to drive in Belgium during the exchange period.
4.) Once you receive the letter from the city hall, you will need to make another appointment. For Antwerp, you can make an appointment here. Choose Buitenland rijbewijs (Foreign driving license) once again.
5.) During your second appointment, you will need to bring the letter from the city hall, your Belgian ID card/Orange card, your passport, a passport photo, and 25 euros. You will be asked to come back to pick up your Belgian license.
6.) For Antwerp, I had to come back 3 business days after my second appointment. I had to bring my proof of payment, Belgian ID card/Orange card, and my passport. After exactly 6 weeks, I finally had my shiny Belgian driver's license - valid for 10 years!