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When can you declare legal cohabitation in Belgium?

  • 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 and your partner have a durable and stable relationship (3 ways to prove this):
    a. You have lived together uninterruptedly in any country for at least one year, OR
    b. You have a common child together, OR
    c. You have known each other for at least two years. In this case, 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:
    a. Adequate housing for the both of you,
    b. Stable, regular, and sufficient resources available (rule of thumb is net monthly income of 1,505.78 Euros),
    c. Health insurance

Disclaimer: The steps below are from my experience with declaring cohabitation in the city of Antwerp. I am not an expert. Do take into account that the laws and rules might change. Different cities have different procedures. It is best to obtain information from your local city hall.

Useful links:
Immigration Office
Foreign Affairs

The Usual Steps

1. Make inquiries
You or your partner in Belgium should call the local city hall and ask about the requirements in declaring legal cohabitation. Call your home country's Belgian Embassy to find out your options if you plan to declare legal cohabitation in Belgium. Since I'm from the Philippines (considered a 3rd world country), I had to apply for a Cohabitation Visa which is categorized as a Type C Short Stay Visa. Citizens of countries that don't need a Schengen visa can go to Belgium directly without applying for any visas.

Note: Wettelijk samenwonen is the term for legal cohabitation in Dutch, while cohabitation légale is the French term.

Tip: Before every visit to the city hall, write down all the questions you have so you can easily recall them during your appointments. Also take some notes during your appointments so you don't forget anything.

Another tip: City halls in big municipalities (such as Antwerp) have many departments that deal with your cohabitation application separately. These departments don't communicate to each other regarding your application. You might find that one department asks a document from you that another department still has not given you. This is one of the main reasons why I was so confused during my own process.

2. Gather all the documents you will need
Click here to see the list of documents you should bring to Belgium

3. Arrival declaration
Make sure you declare your arrival 8 days within your arrival in Belgium.
Make an appointment with your city hall to register as a newcomer. For Antwerp, this can be done online.

The city hall will provide you with an Aankomstverklaring (Arrival Statement), which you can use to open up a bank account and enrol in Dutch classes.

4. Set up an appointment with your local city hall to declare legal cohabitation
For Antwerp, this can be done via their website. You will then receive your appointment date via email, along with a list of required documents.

5. Prepare documents required for declaring legal cohabitation
a) for both partners, a copy of the passport or Belgian ID card
b) applicant's proof of marital status

  • Are you unmarried? In that case, you must provide proof of unmarried status that is at a maximum 3 months old.
  • Are you from the divorced or widow/widower? Then you must submit proof the dissolution of the marriage or death of your partner and that you are not bound by another marriage or legal cohabitation.
  • This proof must be accompanied by the necessary legalization. In my case, the legalization was done by the Belgian embassy in the Philippines.

c) The civil registrar may also request other documents (example: divorce certificate).

Note: In my appointment email, it was indicated that if my documents are not in Dutch, French, or German, they need to be translated. In my case, my documents were all in English. I came in to my appointment without having my docs translated, and we were not asked to translate any papers.

6. Declaring legal cohabitation at the city hall
In the Antwerp stadsloket, we were given a questionnaire that contained questions about our relationship. The questions were the following (in Dutch):

When and where did you get to know each other? Since when have you been in a relationship? How many times have you been in contact since the start of your relationship? How (calls, texts, internet, personally)? Since when have you lived together? Have you been married? Have you legally cohabited with someone else? Do you have children together/alone? Since when have you been in Belgium?

My partner and I then signed the Verklaring van wettelijke samenwoning (Declaration of Legal Cohabitation), which was then going to be either approved or denied by the city. Your partner needs to be present during this appointment!

In the Antwerp stadsloket, we were told that we needed to send the Vreemdelingenzaken (Office of Foreign Affairs) of Antwerp proof of our relationship via email (photos, passport stamps, visas, etc)

7. Police visit

  • A police agent will pass by just to make sure that you actually live together in the same place
  • Make sure your and your partner's names are on your doorbell
  • Put up framed photos of you and your partner in your home
  • Some people have said that their agent even looked into their cabinets to make sure that the foreign partner's stuff were really there

8. Registration of your cohabitation declaration in the national register

You should receive a letter by post saying whether the city hall decided to register you cohabitation declaration or not. You will also receive the registered Declaration of Legal Cohabitation (Verklaring van wettelijke samenwoning). In my case, it took 2 months for our cohabitation to be registered.

9. Family reunion residence request
Once you receive your registered Declaration of Legal Cohabitation (Verklaring van wettelijke samenwoning), scan it and send a copy to the Loket Vreemdelingenzaken (Office of Foreign Affairs) of your local city hall. You will also need to pay a fee of 200 Euros.

The Vreemdelingenzaken will then set an appointment date for family reunion residence request. This appointment date is usually when you will also be given your Orange Card.
Note: Some applicants in the Brussels region have indicated that upon their request for family reunion residence, they only received the Biljage/Annexe 19ter and got their Orange Card at a much later date.

The Orange Card is a temporary Belgian residence permit. If your partner is a citizen of an EU member state, you are permitted to work with an Orange Card as long as you also have your Biljage/Annexe 19ter (proof of application of a residence card as a family member of an EU citizen). A second police visit might also be arranged prior to release of the Orange Card.

Documents required when going to your appointment date:
Your passport, 2 passport photos, proof of payment of the 200 Euro federal contribution (possibly account statement / deposit certificate + stamp post); registered declaration of legal cohabitation (Verklaring van wettelijke samenwoning).

Documents to be sent within 3 months after appointment (but better if submitted on the day of your appointment):
Proof of at least 2 years of regular meetings prior to the application (can be put in a USB); proof of health insurance of the Belgian partner; registered rental contract or title deed; proof of sufficient and regular resources of your partner.

Important: If your living situation changes in any way (if your partner changes jobs, etc.) do update the city hall as this will greatly affect their decision.

In my case, I received my Orange Card 5 months after declaring our cohabitation at the city hall.

10. Issuance of F Card
The F Card gives the holder a right to stay in Belgium for 5 years. Afterwards, the holder can apply for either an F+ Card (permanent residence permit) or apply for Belgian citizenship.

It takes 6 months for the family reunification request to be granted/denied. If you do not hear anything within 6 months from the city hall, this is actually good news: your request has been granted. Call your city hall exactly 6 months after your reunification request and confirm if your reunification request has been granted.

In some cities, you will be given an appointment date that is set to 6 months after your residence request appointment date, and this appointment is when you will find out whether your request has been granted by the Immigration Office in Brussels.

If the result is positive, you will only be able to get your F Card 3 weeks after the said appointment. The fee is €21 for the F Card. It is possible to expedite the waiting time in case you need to leave Belgium; the fee is €109 to obtain your F Card 3 days after you find out your residence request has been granted.

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