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Cohabitation Visa

The Visa for Cohabitation (Type C) is a short term (90 day) visa offered by the Belgian Embassy in Manila. It is intended for those who wish to permanently reside in Belgium by declaring cohabitation with a Belgian resident. The process for applying for this visa is quite complicated and confusing– they ask you to provide roundtrip flight reservations even though you are not planning to go back to the Philippines. This is because the visa is officially just a short stay visa– you will be given permission to stay longer in Belgium once you start the cohabitation process in your partner's Belgian municipality.

The visa decision is usually made within 1-4 months, depending on the completeness of your documents. All your documents (except your passport) will be sent by the Belgian Embassy in Manila to the Brussels Immigration Office in Belgium, which is the body that will decide on your visa application.

If you have any doubts about the requirements, call the Belgian Embassy and they will happily answer your questions (they take a long time to respond to e-mails). Do not go to the Belgian Embassy to ask your questions. They will not entertain you. I saw this happen during my interview at the embassy– a group drove quite a few hours to ask about visa processes and the agent at the embassy told them all the information was online.

Belgian Embassy in Manila Address: 9th Floor, Multinational Bancorporation Center, 6805 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Metro Manila
VFS Manila Address: Ground Floor, Ecoplaza Bldg., Don Chino Roces Ave., Makati City, Metro Manila

Disclaimer:
The steps below are from my experience with applying for the cohabitation visa in Manila, Philippines. I am not an expert. Do take into account that the laws, initial requirements, and rules might change. It is best to obtain information from your home country's Belgian embassy/consulate.

Useful links:
Belgian Embassy in the Philippines
VFS Philippines
Immigration Office
Foreign Affairs

When can you apply for a cohabitation visa?

  • You and your partner are over the age of 21 (or older than 18 if you have been living together for at least 1 year before your arrival in Belgium),
  • You and your partner are both unmarried,
  • You have no convictions for crimes or offenses under common law,
  • You have sufficient personal resources to cover the costs of your stay in Belgium (otherwise, your partner can be assigned as your guarantor via a legalized, admissible and accepted Biljage 3bis/Annexe 3bis),
  • You have known each other for at least two years. You must prove that:(a) You have had regular contact by telephone, by ordinary mail or electronic mail; AND (b) You have met three times during the two years immediately preceding the application; AND (c) That these meetings total at least 45 days,
  • Your partner has the following: 1. Adequate housing for the both of you; 2. Stable, regular, and sufficient resources available (rule of thumb is net monthly income of 1,505.78 Euros); 3. Health insurance

Steps to apply for a Cohabitation Visa with the Belgian Embassy in Manila

All documents need to be submitted at the VFS Office. The interview will be done at the Belgian Embassy. The visa decision will be made by the Brussels Immigration Office in Belgium.

1.) Fill up the online visa application form on the website of VFS. You can do this by clicking this link. Create an account as a new user by selecting, 'Not registered yet.' Once your account is set up, you will be led to the online application form.
2.) Once the application has been created electronically, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with the application form in PDF format. Print and sign this document (this is one of the required documents for the application).
3.) After completing the application form, make an appointment with VFS by clicking this link. Once an appointment is booked, the system will generate an appointment letter. Bring this with you when you visit the Belgium Visa Application Center of VFS in Makati.
4.) On the date of your scheduled appointment, submit all the necessary documents in support of your visa application in person to VFS. Your biometric data (fingerprints and photo) will be captured and you will be asked to pay the non-refundable visa fee, legalization of documents, and the VFS service fee.
5.) During your appointment at VFS, you will be given an interview date which will be held at the Belgian Embassy. The interview at the embassy is usually held on the Tuesday/Thursday immediately after your VFS appointment (if you go to VFS on appointment and not walk-in).
6.) During your interview at the embassy, you will be asked to leave your cellphone with the security guard. Your interview will not be private– it will be at a booth in front of the waiting area. The interviewer (usually a Filipino) will ask you very personal questions about your relationship with your partner, using a microphone and in front of all the other visa applicants. Practice your answers to the sample interview questions below, because the interviewer will not let you change your answers if you remember something differently in the middle of the interview.
Click here for sample interview questions
7.) After I had my interview at the Belgian Embassy in 2018, I was asked to do a written "test" in another room which had a million questions about my relationship with my partner. I have since been told that the embassy in Manila does not do written interviews anymore.
8.) VFS will send you an e-mail 3 to 4 weeks after your application with a file number so you can track your application on the Brussels Immigration website. It will take an additional 3 to 4 weeks for your file number to yield results on the site.
9.) Wait 1 to 3 months for a decision on your visa application. If documents are missing, VFS will e-mail you. The embassy might also call you for any clarifications about your profile.
10.) Once you see on the Brussels Immigration site that your application has been approved, call the embassy and ask them for the next steps. They will usually ask you when you plan to fly to Belgium so they can issue your visa according to your flight date. You can already go ahead and buy your actual flight tickets (do not buy flight tickets if your visa has not yet been approved).
11.) You will receive an e-mail from VFS asking you to send a hard copy of your travel and medical insurance to their office in Makati (you only need to buy insurance AFTER your visa has been approved).
12.) You will receive your passport & visa along with some documents that the embassy will return (legalized birth certificate, etc.). You can choose to pick these up at VFS or have the documents sent to you.
13.) Once you have your visa, obtain a CFO sticker. Without this, Immigration at NAIA won't let you out of the Philippines. I will talk more about this below.
14.) Reunite with your love in Belgium!

Required Documents to apply for a Cohabitation Visa at the Belgian Embassy in Manila

Important: Each document should be lodged in 3 sets (1 original and 2 photocopies). I submitted a total of 13 kilos of papers at VFS!

General requirements

1.) Visa application form dully completed and signed (can be found here)
2.) Passport with validity of at least 3 months after the end of the planned journey
Note: Technically, the cohabitation visa is considered a short stay visa (valid for 90 days); but of course in reality, once you arrive in Belgium, you will apply for long term residency, so you will not be going back to the Philippines any time soon. Just make sure your passport will be valid for at least 3 more months after your 90 day cohabitation visa expires. Also submit your old passports.
3.) Copy of the data page of the passport together with all pages having visas and stamps
4.) One (1) passport sized photo with white background and not older than 6 months
5.) Non-refundable visa application fee to be paid upon submission of visa application
Note: Breakdown of fees can be found below.

Supporting documents

1.) Copy of the roundtrip airline ticket reservation with passenger name & registration number (or reservation number). Do not pay for/buy the actual flight tickets until a visa has been granted.
Note: You need to make a flight reservation with a travel agency. I recommend Gazelle Travel & Tours, you can make a flight reservation via this link. The date of departure for Belgium should be the same date you wrote on your application form. The date of return to the Philippines should be 90 days after your arrival in Belgium. These dates are just for formality, because your visa might be approved well after the intended date of departure that you wrote on your application form.
If the application is approved, the embassy will contact you and verify your new flight details. The visa will be issued according to your actual flight departure date. You will still be required to buy actual roundtrip flights (with the date of return set to 90 days after your arrival). This might seem like a waste, because you won't actually be using the return ticket (if everything goes well in Belgium), but the price difference for a one way ticket is minimal.

2.) Proof of Travel Medical Insurance
Should be bought from accredited companies only(see list here).
The insurance should: Have a minimum coverage of 30,000 Euros, be valid in all Schengen countries, and cover the entire duration of the trip.
Note: You only need to buy insurance and submit the proof AFTER your application has been approved. You can request travel insurance from my website (in partnership with Standard Insurance and Gazelle Travel & Tours) in this link.

Documents to submit specifically for travelling in view of cohabitation in Belgium

From the partner to be joined in Belgium

1.) Proof of civil status (“Burgerlijke staat/Etat civil”) to be obtained from the partner’s Belgian municipality
2.) Proof of registered and sufficient lodging
Note: This document must be registered at the partner's city hall and must bear the city's seal/stamp. If your partner is renting his home, make sure to get a written confirmation from his landlord that you (the visa applicant) are permitted to stay in the home. These two things are what delayed my application.
3.) Proof of certificate of Health Insurance
4.) Proof of sponsorship:
a.) Original Affidavit of Support (“BIJLAGE 3bis / Annexe 3bis”), legalized by the Belgian municipality where the future partner is registered
Note: This must be the original document, registered at the partner's city hall and must bear the city's seal/stamp. Your partner may send this to you via FEDEX/UPS (please do not use Bpost, as the Philippine postal service will take too long!). This document is the only document that needs to be original, but since you're already spending on sending this to the Philippines, might as well send the original Burgerlijke staat/Etat civil & Samenstelling van het Gezin/Composition de MĂ©nage.
b.) Copy of Belgian ID card or Resident ID card
c.) Family Composition of the sponsor (“Samenstelling van het Gezin / Composition de Ménage”) to be obtained from the partner’s Belgian municipalityd. Recent proof of income of the sponsor (3 last months’ salary slips and last income tax assessment paper from the Finance Department in Belgium)

From the visa applicant
1.) Birth Certificate issued on National Statistics Office (NSO) security paper and authenticated by DFA, to be legalized by the Embassy
Note: First you need to get your birth certificate and then have it authenticated (with a red ribbon) at the DFA. You submit this authenticated document to VFS and they will have the embassy legalize it for you (you pay for the legalization fee at VFS).
2.) Proof of Civil Status
a. If single: Certificate of Non-Appearance in the National Indices of Marriage (CENOMAR) issued on National Statistics Office (NSO) security paper and authenticated by DFA, to be legalized by the Embassy

b. If formerly married and the marriage was held in the Philippines and has been annulled:

  • court judgment of annulment with finality decree authenticated by DFA
  • former marriage certificate with annotation of annulment, issued on National Statistics Office (NSO) security paper and authenticated by DFA, to be legalized by the Embassy

c. If formerly married and the marriage was held in the Philippines but divorced abroad:

  • recognition or validation of the divorce decree by the Philippine court, authenticated by DFA
  • former marriage certificate with annotation of annulment, issued on National Statistics Office (NSO) security paper and authenticated by DFA, to be legalized by the Embassy

d. If formerly married and the marriage was held abroad and divorced abroad:

  • divorce decree issued by the appropriate court in such country, properly legalized by the competent authorities
  • PSA Advisory on marriages authenticated by DFA

e. If widow/widower:

  • death certificate of former husband issued on National Statistics Office (NSO) security paper and authenticated by DFA, to be legalized by the Embassy
  • PSA Advisory on marriages authenticated by DFA

Note: First you need to get your proof of legal status and then have it authenticated (with a red ribbon) at the DFA. You submit this authenticated document to VFS and they will have the embassy legalize it for you (you pay for the legalization fee at VFS).

3.) NBI Clearance (issued not less than 6 months prior to visa application) authenticated by DFA, to be legalized by the Embassy
Note: First you need to get your NBI clearance and then have it authenticated (with a red ribbon) at the DFA. You submit this authenticated document to VFS and they will have the embassy legalize it for you (you pay for the legalization fee at VFS).
4.) Medical Certificate attesting that you are not carrying any of the diseases which might endanger public health, from one of the Embassy’s accredited clinics listed here.
Note: Go to one of the accredited clinics at least 2 weeks before your appointment with VFS, in case the doctor will have findings from your examination. Once your medical certificate is ready for release, the embassy will pick up the document from the clinic. The medical examination is very thorough, be prepared.

From both partners
Proof of the permanent and stable character of the relationship (minimum of 2 years): pictures, letters, mails, telephone bills, money transfers, copies of previous visas and immigration stamps in passports, hotel invoices, airline tickets, signed declarations of friends and relatives, proof of holidays together, etc.

Even the proof of relationship should be lodged in 3 sets (1 original and 2 photocopies). This is why I submitted a total of 13 kilos of papers at VFS. It is also important to keep digital copies of every document, because this will be asked multiple times when you arrive in Belgium and start the cohabitation process.

Click here for ideas on how to organize the proof of your relationship

Note: I believe this is the most important part of the application. Set aside at least a month to gather all the proof you can find. For your original set, you will need to print the photos in color and good quality. Scan the love letters and other sentimental stuff, because none of the proof of your relationship will be returned by the embassy. For the two copy sets, you can photocopy the originals to save on ink and money. As I mentioned before, I submitted 13 kilos of proof– I bought a big filing box at National Bookstore, properly labeled it, and placed all the proof of our relationship inside.

*Tip: 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. If your country has an agreement with Belgium, you will be able to easily convert your foreign license into a Belgian equivalent (the Philippines, for example, has one). More details here.

CFO Sticker

Before you leave the Philippines in view of migrating to be with your foreign partner, Immigration at NAIA will look for your CFO Sticker, which proves that you have attended the guidance & counselling session conducted by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO). All Filipino citizens going abroad as fiancé(e)s, spouses, or partners of foreign nationals are required to attend the CFO's guidance and counseling session in order to secure the Guidance and Counseling Certificate (GCC) and the CFO sticker. You need this certificate to renew or apply for a new passport at the Department of Foreign Affairs. You will also need to present this certificate and the sticker at the Immigration office at NAIA on your day of departure. I have heard stories of people being barred from flying because they did not have the CFO Sticker. You may obtain the CFO sticker by first reserving a slot on the website of CFO. There are sessions in Manila, Cebu, Clark, and Davao. Appointment is not required for visibly pregnant women/pregnant women with medical certificate, minors 12 yo and below, PWDs, and senior citizens (but they still have to register online at cfo.gov.ph/gcp.html.

Fees

During your appointment, you will pay almost ₱9,000 (€150). See breakdown below:

In addition to the visa processing fees, there are other costs you will need to take into account. In total, I paid more than ₱30,000 (€500) for the whole cohabitation visa application process. See breakdown below:

Timeline of my cohabitation visa application

February, 2018 | My partner had to change has domicilie address from Heist to Antwerp (he was born in Heist but he was living in Antwerp) in order to obtain all the required documents from the Antwerp city hall.
March 1, 2018 | My partner registered his Bijlage/Annex 3bis with the Antwerp city hall. He sent the original document to me via UPS, along with his Burgerlijke staat/Etat civil & Samenstelling van het Gezin/Composition de MĂ©nage.
May 2, 2018 | Visited the office of Dr. Peralta to obtain a medical certificate. I was advised to have a dental check-up and get a note from the dentist saying my teeth were healthy.
May 3, 2018 | Received results of medical exam. There were some findings in my file, so I had to do an additional blood test. I was given antibiotics and I was told I needed to come back once I finished the antibiotics to have another blood test.
May 4, 2018 | Filled out the visa application form and set an appointment with VFS via their website.
May 8, 2018 | Submitted my application at the VFS office in person.
May 10, 2018 | Went to the Belgian Embassy in Manila to have my interview about my application and relationship with my partner.
May 11, 2018 | Received an e-mail from VFS saying the Embassy was requesting "Registered proof of lodging of the sponsor in Belgium." I did submit my boyfriend's lease contract on May 8, but apparently it did not have Antwerp's stamp on it. My partner went to the city hall and asked for the lease contract to be stamped. He e-mailed me a copy, and I printed this and sent a 3 hard copies to the VFS office (via courier).
May 20, 2018 | Went to a dentist for a general check up and to have fillings done. The dentist gave me a note saying my teeth were fine.
May 25, 2018 | Went back to Dr. Peralta to re-do blood test. Also gave a note from my dentist which said my teeth had been checked. My 3rd blood test came out fine, they issued a medical certificate which was picked up by the Belgian Embassy.
May 30, 2018 | Received an e-mail from VFS that I could track my application on the Belgian Immigration Office website. I was given a visa file number, but when I tried to track it, the site yielded no results. I had to wait a few weeks before my application was visible on the site.
June 18, 2018 | Went to the Belgian Embassy to "borrow" my passport. I was going on a trip to Tokyo in July and I needed my passport to apply for a tourist visa for Japan.
June 23, 2018 | Upon checking my application's status on the immigration office website, I saw that it said I was missing some documents. I had my boyfriend call the Brussels Immigration Office to ask them what document was missing. They said the lease contract of my boyfriend did not say I was permitted to stay in the apartment. My boyfriend asked his landlord to send an e-mail confirmation that I was allowed to stay in the apartment. My boyfriend forwarded this e-mail to the Immigration Office.

June 27, 2018 | Returned my passport to the Belgian embassy upon getting my Japan tourist visa.
July 2, 2018 | Two months after my application, the decision status on the immigration office finally said "Octroi du visa sur production de pièces complémentaires" (Grant of the visa on production of additional documents). My application was approved! This decision was made on June 27, 2018. I called the embassy to let them know the Brussels Immigration Office granted my visa and to ask what additional documents I needed to present. They told me I needed to send my travel & medical insurance to VFS. They also asked me when I planned to fly to Belgium, so they could use that as the validity start date of my visa.
July 3, 2018 | Received an e-mail from VFS formally requesting me to send 3 copies of my travel & medical insurance. I bought my insurance on this day. I sent 3 copies of my proof of insurance to VFS via courier.
July 4, 2018 | Bought roundtrip tickets to Brussels online.
July 10, 2018 | I received an e-mail from VFS saying my visa & passport were ready for pick up. I went in person to collect my passport. I was also given back the Bijlage/Annexe 3bis, authenticated & legalized birth certificate, authenticated & legalized CENOMAR, authenticated & legalized NBI clearance, and medical certificate.
August 1, 2018 | Arrived in Belgium and finally reunited with my love.
Upon your arrival in Belgium is when the real battle begins. Click here to find out what to do once you arrive in Belgium.

What about you?
Are you thinking about applying? Have you also applied for a cohabitation visa? I would love to hear about your own experience. Don't hesitate to leave a comment down below. 🤓