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Below is my personal experience with the Cohabitation Visa process
Things to note:
- I am a citizen of the Philippines (considered a 3rd world country in the world of visas)
- I arrived in Belgium with a Cohabitation (Type C) Visa, obtained from the Belgian Embassy of the Philippines
- I declared cohabitation in the city of Antwerp in August 2018
- My boyfriend and I have been in a relationship for 5 years
- My boyfriend is a Belgian national
May 8th, 2018 | Cohabitation visa application in Manila
Applied for Cohabitation Visa (Type C) at the Belgian Embassy in Manila, Philippines via VFS.
July 10th, 2018 | Visa approval
After 2 months, my visa and passport were ready for pick up at VFS Manila.
August 1st, 2018 | Arrival in Belgium
Finally reunited with my love after 10 months of being apart.
August 2nd, 2018 | Declaration of arrival
When I got my passport back, it was stamped with the words, "Report to local city hall within 8 days." We made an appointment with the Loket Vreemdelingenzaken (Office of Foreign Affairs) of Antwerp online via the city hall website. We got an email back immediately with an appointment date for the same day. We drove to Deurne to the Loket Vreemdelingenzaken. I was given my Aankomstverklaring (Arrival Statement). I used this paper to open up a savings account with KBC and to enrol in Dutch classes while waiting for my Orange Card. We were then told that I needed to make another appointment to declare legal cohabitation.
August 3rd, 2018 | Set appointment for declaring cohabitation
We made another appointment via the city hall website. We received an email saying my appointment was set for the 9th of August. Also in the email were documents we needed to bring to the appointment.
August 3rd, 2018 | Opened an account with KBC
I was able to open a current account with KBC using my Aankomstverklaring (Arrival Statement).
August 9th, 2018 | Declaration of legal cohabitation
We went to Stadsloket Antwerpen to declare legal cohabitation. We filled out a questionnaire that contained questions about our relationship. We then signed the Verklaring van wettelijke samenwoning (Declaration of Legal Cohabitation), which was then going to be either approved or denied by the city. We were also given a dossier number in case we wanted to follow up on our application. We were told that we needed to send the Vreemdelingenzaken of Antwerp proof of our relationship via email (photos, passport stamps, visas, etc). Lastly, we were advised that a police officer was going to visit our apartment within the week.
August 13th, 2018 | First police visit
The agent passed by around 10am on a Monday. He simply asked to see my passport and my partner's Belgian ID card. No other questions asked. He told us to call the Vreemdelingenzaken to advise them that he had already passed by, which we did promptly.
August 14th, 2018 | Emailed proof of relationship
I sent an email to the Vreemdelingenzaken containing proof of my 5-year relationship with Belgian boyfriend. I sent links of my Google Drive folders and the Google Photo album where I stored and organized all our files and pictures.
August 23rd, 2018 | Appointment at Atlas
I went to Atlas in Antwerp to enrol in Dutch classes. They signed me up for an intensive language course with Encora, the largest centre for adult education in the city. I was able to enrol in Dutch classes because I had an Aankomstverklaring (Arrival Statement). Those with an Orange Card or a residence card only pay 10 Euros per module, but since I had neither, I had to pay the full price of 82 Euros per module.
August 23rd, 2018 | Postponement of cohabitation registration
Received a letter by post saying, "Uitsel registratie wettelijke samenwoning;" They were postponing to October 9 my registration into the national register because they needed to carry out further research.
August 24th, 2018 | Email requesting payment of €200
Received an email from Vreemdelingenzaken asking for a marriage certificate and for me to pay a fee of €200, along with other documents. I was very confused because my boyfriend and I were not getting married (yet!!!). I emailed back saying we were actually applying for legal cohabitation and that our declaration was not yet registered in the national register.
August 27-29th, 2018 | Trip to Paris
After the police visit, I emailed the Belgian Immigration Office if I was allowed to travel to other Schengen territories with my Type C Visa. They promptly replied, "As long as your visa is still valid and that you don’t leave the Schengen territory, you can travel without any problems." So we hopped on a bus and visited my favorite city in the world!
September 3rd, 2018 | First day of Dutch classes
Started with the intensive Dutch module 1.1 at Encora (4 days a week).
October 9th, 2018 | Legal cohabitation has been registered
2 months after our declaration of legal cohabitation, we received a letter by post saying our declaration had been registered in the national register. I also got back our registered Verklaring van wettelijke samenwoning (Declaration of Legal Cohabitation). I immediately emailed this to the Vreemdelingenzaken and sent them proof that we had already paid the €200 fee along with the other documents they requested (proof sufficient means of existence of my Belgian partner, proof of health insurance of my partner, and registered rental contract or title deed).
November 5th, 2018 | Family reunification residence request appointment e-mail received
One month passed and I heard nothing from the Vreemdelingenzaken. They usually reply to emails after 2 weeks, so I called them every 2 weeks to follow up. The second time I called, they said they finally had an appointment date for me. They emailed me the appointment date for my family reunification residence request, which was set for December 28th (which meant I needed to wait another 8 weeks!!!). I replied to their email to clarify what I needed to bring for my appointment (but never got a response).
November 14th, 2018 | Type C Short Term Visa Expired
Since my short term visa has expired, I am not allowed to leave Belgium until I obtain my F Card (hopefully by July 2019, an 8-month wait). I do not have to worry about being an illegal alien in Belgium because I have already started the process of legal cohabitation.
November 23rd, 2018 | Arranged second police visit
Almost 3 weeks passed and I got no response to my queries, so I called the Vreemdelingenzaken again. One of my questions was if I will receive my Orange Card on my December 28th appointment. The lady on the phone said a second police visit needed to be arranged first before I can receive my Orange Card. She then proceeded to make a request for a police visit. I was shocked. If I had not made this call, the police visit would not have been arranged at all.
November 24th, 2018 | Second police visit
It was the same agent that passed by, but this time at was at 8am on a Saturday morning. Thank goodness the doorbell woke us up. We were so shocked that he visited so soon, at such an early hour, and on a weekend! Again, he only asked to see my passport and my partner's ID card. He just typed some stuff onto his iPad, told us to advise the Vreemdelingenzaken of his visit, and off he went.
November 26th, 2018 | Call with the city hall
I called the Vreemdelingenzaken to advise them that the police already passed by. Back when I received the appointment e-mail for my family reunification residence request, they listed documents that I needed to bring, but some things were vague so I also took this time to get some clarification.
The lady on the phone said that in order to get my Orange Card on the 28th of December, I only needed to bring my registered Verklaring van wettelijke samenwoning (Declaration of Legal Cohabitation), proof of payment of the €200 processing fee, my passport, and 2 passport photos. On the other hand, I had 3 months to send the following supplementary documents: proof of 2 years of regular meetings OR proof of cohabitation 1 year prior to the application (whichever is applicable, documents saved in a USB), proof of health insurance of my Belgian partner, registered rental contract or title deed, and proof of sufficient and regular resources of my partner. I was told that I could already submit these supplementary documents as well if I had them readily available.
December 28th, 2018 | Family reunification residence request: finally received my Orange Card!!!
We drove to Loket Vreemdelingenzaken in Deurne with all my documents in tow. The lady assigned to us asked for to see my passport, my registered Verklaring van wettelijke samenwoning (Declaration of Legal Cohabitation), and proof of payment of the €200 processing fee.
I asked if she needed the supplementary documents (proof of 2 years regular meetings, health insurance of my partner, etc.), and she said she did not need them anymore because my visa (obtained from the Belgian Embassy of the Philippines) had a remark at the bottom saying "BNL 16." This code means the visa was issued with a view to make a declaration of legal cohabitation, in which case the parties concerned no longer have to prove the long term relationship with the city hall.
Afterwards, she asked for 2 passport photos and gave me my Orange Card (finally!!!). She also handed me my Biljage/Annexe 19ter (proof of application of a residence card as a family member of an EU citizen). I was advised by the lady that I could work with my Orange Card, since I was in the process of family reunion with an EU citizen. She also made an appointment for me for June 28th, 2019, which is when I will find out whether my application for residence has been approved or not.
The same day, my boyfriend added me to his insurance plan (he is with Christelijke mutualiteit - CM). He just had to call them and give my rijksregisternummer (which I received when I got my Orange Card). I was already covered by his insurance that same day. Easy!
January 4th, 2019 | Requested to exchange my Philippine driver's license at the city hall
Since the Philippines has an agreement with Belgium, I was able to easily request to have my license converted into a Belgian one.
February 15th, 2019 | Picked up my Belgian driver's license at the city hall
Exactly 6 weeks after my request, I was finally able to pick up my driver's license.
May 28th, 2019 | My first job in Belgium!
On this day, I signed my first contract for a full-time job in Belgium as an accountant. It was an uphill battle trying to find an English-speaking job, but in the end I got it!
June 28th, 2019 | Appointment at the loket vreemdelingenzaken to find out the result of my residence application
Success! At the loket vreemdelingenzaken, they informed me that my application for family reunification was approved! I will finally get my F card...soon. To get the F card, you usually need to wait 3 more weeks after being told your application's approved. I chose to pay the €109 express fee to get my F Card within 3 days after my appointment. They took my orange card and was given a piece of paper, an attest called "Bijlage 15," which would serve as my "identity card" while waiting for the F card, and it also allows me to continue working. I had to send a copy to my employer to keep my residence papers up-to-date.
July 1st, 2019 | Call from loket vreemdelingenzaken regarding F card
After just 1 business day, I got a call saying that my F card was already ready for pick up on July 2nd (the next day).
July 4th, 2019 | Finally got my hands on my F card
I have a job now, so I could not go get my F card on July 2nd. Luckily, the loket vreemdelingenzaken in Deurne, Antwerp is open until 8pm on Thursdays. I just had to surrender my Bijlage 15 to pick up my card. If you don't go for the express option to get the F card, you usually receive a letter in the mail that contains the temporary pin code of your card. Since I went for the express option, I did not receive this via mail. Instead, the letter was with the loket vreemdelingenzaken, and they just activated my card for me. I also told the lady assisting me that I wanted to change the code to a personal one of my choosing. And that was that! No more going back and forth to the loket vreemdelingenzaken...for now. In five years I will need to go back when my F card expires, then I will be eligible to apply for Belgian nationality!
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. 🤓