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Saturday, 23 September 2017

⑪ The Day of Declaring Legal Cohabitation in Stadhuis

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


Conclusion

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.


About Live in Belgium

Hello, my name is MissSJ. I am a Singaporean. I am living with my Belgian partner since July 2016 in a cosmopolitan city, Antwerp. However, I had been travelling to and fro Belgium since 2011 as a tourist. The creation of this blog is to document my new journey in Belgium which I would like to call 'home'. Join me in discovering the fascinating Belgium from the eyes of an expat.

6 comments

  1. Hi,

    I was on your website and read a lot about cohabitation in Belgium. Thank you for putting out a lot of helpful information. We have asked immigration and communes but none of them seems to have clear answers. From your readers and experience, I would just like to ask if you know if it’s possible to declare cohabitation there in Belgium with a Schengen tourist visa. Would it be the same process as the one you went through or do I have to leave once my 90 days are over?

    • Hi Irene,

      You have to declare the legal cohabitation ONLY in Belgium. Yes, you come in with a tourist visa like how you usually travel to Europe.

      When you apply for a legal cohabitation, you have to sign a legal cohabitation contract at the commune with your partner. It is not the same as declaring your arrival in Belgium. Your procedure would be more or less similar to what I have gone through, but the steps might be different.

      Once you sign the legal cohabitation paper within 90 days (the best is within a week asap), you do not have to leave Belgium. On the contrary, you are grounded in Belgium and cannot leave the country.

      If they do not issue you an Orange Card within 90 days after your declaration, you can still stay as long as you are waiting for the result. The authority will ask you to leave Belgium only if your cohabitation visa is rejected.

  2. Hi MissSJ,

    I read lots of useful information on your website about legal cohabitation. Thank you! Still, I have a concern that nobody from the Antwerp district house seems to be able to answer me.

    I am living in Antwerp with my student visa (C card) but is going to expire on 31 Oct. My bf now holds a work permit and has an appointment in early Oct to change his student ID card to work ID card (B card). We want to wait until he has his new ID card to apply for the legal cohabitation. But by that time, it would be almost the end of my student visa.

    Would that be a problem if i apply the legal cohabitation two weeks before my student visa expires? and can i stay in Belgium even the orange card issue after the visa expires?

    or we could provide his work permit while applying the legal cohabitation instead of waiting for the ID card?

    thank you for your kind attention!!!

    Gabriella

    • Hi Gabriella,

      Antwerp District House could not answer your question because they are not from the Immigration Department. They merely verify your Certificate of Celibacy, passport and also carry out the declaration of legal cohabitation. Districtshuis Deurne might be a better choice to send your questions to them. They will take about 5 days to reply back.

      From your comment, I have already spotted a few factors that would affect your chances of getting a cohabitation visa approval.

      1) Yes, it would be a problem to apply for a legal cohabitation nearing your student visa expiry date. I had read a case recently where a lady submitted her request two weeks before the expiry of her work/student visa in Antwerp. The District House rejected the application because the timeline was too short for processing the request.

      2) Does your boyfriend fulfil these two criteria below?

      a) Work continuously for 12 months
      b) Min. income €1,428.32 as of 1.9.2017

      I can read that he did not fulfil criteria 2a) since he has just found a job. The Belgian Immigration is very strict with the income stability. The only possible solution is to get a guarantor in Belgium to pledge for you financially.

      I would suggest you in declaring a legal cohabitation now before it gets too close to your expiry date. The most probable outcome is that you will not get the approval due to not fulfilling criteria 2a) or both. At least, you get to stay in Belgium and be with him.

      The next step is to keep on (re)applying the visa (don’t appeal) until your boyfriend meets criteria 2. I know of people who apply for the visa and stay in Belgium for 2 to 3 years as their partner did not meet the minimum income requirement.

      There is no limit on how many times you can apply for the visa after rejection. You can STAY IN BELGIUM with each application but take note that you cannot travel out of Belgium with an Orange Card all these while.

      Hope my suggestion help and best of luck to you!!

    • Hi MissSJ,

      Thank you so much for your response. Your answer is very clear and I understand it might be a problem for me to get the legal cohabitation at this stage.

      I would apply the legal cohabitation anyway just as you said so that I get to stay with my bf. I will apply the first week of Oct because I am waiting for my certificate of absence of marriage.

      About the criteria, he meets the criteria 2b) but not the 2a). I read the Brussels legal cohabitation website but it did not state the criteria 2a). I wonder it might be because Antwerp and Brussels have different policies over this issue?

      Finally, my sister is married to a Belgian citizen. I am thinking maybe my brother-in-law could be my guarantor. He is a guarantor for my sister already. He has a house under his name and both my bf and I were living in his house for half a year. I am thinking he might need to provide:

      1. his house contract
      2. his three-months payslip
      3. a letter of him stating he will be my financial guarantor

      ** He happens to be a financial guarantor of our rental contract of the flat we are living now in Antwerp

      Look forward to your advice. Thank you!

      Gabriella

      • Hi Gabriella,

        Your situation sounds more hopeful now since you mentioned having a guarantor in Belgium now.

        The minimum income stated inside is nationwide and applies in every city of Belgium. Click on the red link inside What if my Belgian/EU partner does not fulfil the minimum income of €1,428.32 for one year? It will bring you to the French site of Belgian Immigration Office stating the minimum income.

        PS: The minimum income changes every few months in Belgium. Each time it happens, the declared amount will only increase.

        For the Letter of Guarantee, you can provide the Title Deed of the House as an attachment though it is not a requirement. State inside the letter that since he is the owner of the house and can provide accommodation to you and your partner (if necessary). It would ease both your financial burden in terms of housing.

        If you are not going to stay in his house, then he would not need to submit the Title Deed unless he is being asked for the contract later. Provide the following when submitting your brother-in-law’s Letter of Guarantee:-

        1. Last 3 months payslips
        2. Income tax assessment
        3. A document from Government Body stating the gross or net income

        The Letter of Guarantee works even better if it is notarised. Bank statement of your brother-in-law might be required to prove that he has the mean to support you financially.

        Lastly, you can only sign a legal cohabitation agreement when you receive your Certificate of Celibacy. The Districtshuis Antwerpen will collect this copy on the spot. All other documents can wait.

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