TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Newcomer Online Registration
2. Documents Required to Bring When Declaring Legal Cohabitation
3. Stadhuis Keeping My Visit Record For 1.5 Years
4. Signing Legal Cohabitation Agreement
5. Informed of Police Visit after Legal Cohabitation Declaration
6. No Problem Going for Holiday before Receiving Orange Card
7. Call to Districtshuis Deurne
Declare the Legal Cohabitation within 8 Days Upon Arrival in Belgium
A newcomer has to declare their arrival to the commune within eight days of arrival in Belgium. The acceptable timeline to declare a legal cohabitation is within three months. In whatever way, the fastest way to speed up the cohabitation visa process is to sign the legal cohabitation contract officially when declaring your arrival at the same time.
Please ask to sign the legal cohabitation agreement if you want the police to come to your place quickly. Otherwise, the police would not come if not for the sake of legal cohabitation. How long does it take to get the Orange Card? It is about 2 to 3 months’ time under normal circumstances. Therefore, sign the legal cohabitation agreement as soon as possible once you arrive.
The declaration of the legal cohabitation must not exceed three months. Note that it is also the duration limit of the Schengen short stay visa. Then, the Orange Card might come effectively within three months before your travel visa expires.
Newcomer Online Registration
I arrived in Belgium on 14 July 2016. My partner made an appointment online one week before going to Districtshuis Antwerpen the next day (15 July 2016) after my arrival in Belgium. From my opinion and experience, the advantage of having an online registration is time-saving. You have the option to make an appointment as early as possible.
It also prevents people from sitting on the file and delaying the cohabitation visa process if you go in person. The online registration creates a record which many admin staffs monitor and send emails. Therefore, the follow-up is close. I received emails from different people for the past few months. The handling of my case was speedy.
- If you are residing in Antwerp, you or your partner can register for you as a newcomer in the Stad Antwerpen website before arriving in Belgium.
- To make an appointment for declaring a legal cohabitation, select “Huwelijk en Samenwonen (Marriage and Cohabitation)” as an option for the appointment.
Not all communes provide this registration service online after I run through random checks for some cities. It would be a good idea to make the appointment before the foreigner comes over to Belgium to speed up the process.
Documents Required to Bring When Declaring Legal Cohabitation
I brought along my passport, Certificate of Celibacy and my Health Insurance. The lady at the counter made a copy of my passport. She was searching for the Visa C sticker on my passport by flipping the pages many times. I told her that it was not necessary for Singaporeans to apply for Schengen Travel Visa.
She asked to see the original copy of Certificate of Celibacy to prove that I was not married. I gave her the duplicate copy and she returned me back the original copy. She did not ask for the Health Insurance at this stage. When I made an enquiry in the Districtshuis in 2014, the staff asked me for the Health Insurance.
All communes that I know of ask for the Certificate of Celibacy on the spot when declaring a legal cohabitation. Make sure to have the certificate translated by a sworn translator if the copy is not in English, French, Dutch or German language by that time. English is not an official language in Belgium but the authority accepts it.
Stadhuis Keeping My Visit Record For 1.5 Years
I was shocked when suddenly, she whipped out the cohabitation questionnaire dated 9 December 2014. Two years ago, I enquired about the legal cohabitation procedure. But, my partner and I had no intention to go through it yet. The Stadhuis gave me a questionnaire at that time to fill up.
It was astonishing that they had stored my record for so long especially when I came to Belgium as a tourist. During the enquiry in 2014, the staff took my passport and key inside the system. I thought it was just a routine administration and think nothing much of that.
From the moment I laid my eyes on the backdated questionnaire, I knew it was in my favour without planning this in advance. It counted as 1.5 years contributed to the number of years of knowing each other. Remember that a couple has to prove to the authority that they know each other for two years.
It is a very critical component to judge the durability of the relationship. Many cohabitation visa applications were not successful because they were not able to prove the 2-years period. Leaving this 1.5 years record behind was the best proof. It was no wonder that they had processed my case so quickly in the end.
Tip: Make an appointment to go the Stadhuis if you are in Belgium for a holiday. Make an enquiry about the cohabitation visa procedure even if no intention to sign the legal cohabitation agreement yet. The idea is to get the commune to key in your passport number inside the system and leave a trail behind. When you decide to apply for the cohabitation visa later, the personal particular on the commune database may come handy. Just like it happened to me.
Signing Legal Cohabitation Agreement
The lady asked my boyfriend to fill up the questionnaire (in Dutch) on how we met and maintained our relationship. Click on the link to find out what are the ten simple questions on the survey form. I have translated them into English.
After which, both my partner and I signed a Declaration of Legal Cohabitation contract (Verklaring Wettelijke Samenwoning). It is a statement to declare that we wish to live together at the same residential address.
The signing of the agreement did not imply an approval of the cohabitation instantly. The Stadhuis collected back the legal cohabitation contract. I received it five weeks later by post after the Gemeentehuis approved on 16 August 2016.
Informed of Police Visit after Legal Cohabitation Declaration
The lady informed us that she would arrange for the Police to come and investigate. She did not mention whether the Police would contact us or we had to make the first contact. This police procedure is to make sure that the relationship is not fake. Moreover, it is a national concern in Belgium over the years especially in Antwerp where the hits were the highest.
Thanks to these people who made the application for legal cohabitation difficult over the past few years:-
In 2011, there was a decline in fake marriages after some intervention. There were rejections of 4,964 marriage application as a possibility of sham marriages. The statistic was the lowest reported as compared to the previous years.
Rejected applicants were Moroccans, Turkish, Algerians and Tunisians believe in trying to obtain the Belgian Nationality by getting married. They found an easier way out by applying for legal cohabitation as the checks were less demanding. Antwerp was one of the target city back then.
No Problem Going for Holiday before Receiving Orange Card
We mentioned going to France the next day for a 3-weeks holiday and would return to Belgium around July/August. It was not a problem to travel within the first 90 days of the visa. We worried that the police would come when we were not in Belgium.
The lady gave us a contact number to call. She said that we might need to make an appointment to go down to Districtshuis Deurne. It is the Foreigners’ Office in Antwerp and deals with aliens and issues relating to immigration and visa in Antwerp. The whole process at the Districtshuis Antwerpen lasted approximately 30 minutes.
Call to Districtshuis Deurne
After the declaration of legal cohabitation, my boyfriend called the telephone number immediately. The person over the phone said we did not have to go to Deurne Foreigners’ Office at this stage. We just had to send an email to them detailing about how we met, maintained our relationship over the years and showed proof of our relationship.
If the relationship requires further verification after our document submission, they would call us for an interview. In the meanwhile, the person gave us an email address to send all the information over. Email seemed to be the preferred communication method in Antwerp unless one has a problem to do that.
Get ready the Certificate of Celibacy, passport, Belgian eID on the day on declaring the cohabitation visa. All communes want the Single Status Certificate before they can proceed further. Get it translated into the language of the city where you stay if it is not in Dutch, French, German or English.