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Thursday, 23 November 2017

⑲ Long-Awaited F Card Triumph: Belgian eID Procedure

F Card: Belgian eID Procedure

What is F and F+ Card?

The F Card (Appendix 9) is issued to family members of third-country nationals in Belgium based on the right to family reunification with a Belgian or EU citizen after the approval of their residence application. The F Card is valid for five years. Subsequently, one can apply for a permanent residence permit (F+ Card) before the F Card expires. Or perhaps a Belgian citizenship if an applicant meets all the criteria.

If the application of the F+ Card (Appendix 9a Stay Decision) is not successful, the F Card would be extended for another five years. The holder of the F Card is in the Foreigners’ Register whereas the F+ Card is in the Population Register.


» How Long Does It Take to Receive the Residence Permit – F Card?

An Orange Card is valid for six months. The commune will request you to submit all relevant documents for their consideration during the first three months of the Orange Card validity. Following which, the Immigration Office in Brussels will take a decision whether you will get an approval of the F Card before the end date of the Orange Card.

You will receive a notification within the next few weeks after submitting the required cohabitation documents. In fact, most people that I know of in Antwerp received a positive reply within 6 weeks of receiving after submitting a complete file to the consulate. I received a favourable response by email less than three weeks after my cohabitation documents submission.

My F Card appointment date was on 21 March 2017. One month before collection, Districtshuis postponed the date to 22 March. On that day, I realised that I had to go back exactly three weeks later to collect my Belgian eID on 12 April. Back then, I signed my legal cohabitation contract on 15 July 2016. Nearly nine months of waiting.


» No News of F Card is Good News

In case you receive no reply from the Gemeentehuis about the status of your F Card towards the end of your Orange Card period, do not worry. On the contrary, this is a piece of good news for you. The Belgian Immigration has granted your stay in Belgium if you do not receive any letter of rejection during these six months. You will receive an appointment requesting you to go down to the commune to make an eID (Electronic Identity Documents) after six months. The reply is a confirmation of your cohabitation visa approval.


Things to Bring for Applying F Card

What to Bring for Registration of your Belgian eID? The process requires two appointments. Bring the following documents below: –

First Appointment

1. Orange Card
2. National Passport
3. 1 x Passport Sized Photograph

 Second Appointment

4. Temporary Paper Identity Card
5. Letter for New PIN and PUK Code
6. €20.70 (for F Card)

In some other cities, the Registry Office may ask for additional documents to be submitted such as the Annexe/Bijlage 19ter.


F Card Procedure

» No Belgian eID Collection on First Appointment

On the first appointment in Gemeentehuis, do not expect to collect your F Card on the same day. The staff will ask you to come back to pick up the eID after three weeks. It is crucial to know for those who are planning to travel out of Belgium immediately after they have a confirmed appointment date for their eID.

Add another three weeks of F Card processing time after the 6-months validity period of the Orange Card.

The estimated time is 30 minutes at the counter while the eID registration process takes place. You hand over the counter staff Item No. 1 to 3 above.


» Passport-Sized Photograph

Take note that the passport photo should have a neutral facial expression and cannot expose any teeth. I handed the same photo used for my Orange Card showing me smiling and exposing my teeth. Consequently, the staff in Districtshuis Deurne told me that the machine would reject the photo once it detected the teeth. I did not have other photos with me then.

Fortunately, there was a machine booth available where I could take instant coloured passport photos for less than €10. One tip is to bring more variety of passport-sized photographs if you are not sure whether it would be of acceptable standard. Alternatively, you can take more coins to make instant photos at the Districtshuis. Refer to the guideline for a quality photo requirement by FPS.


» Temporary Paper Identification

The staff will collect back your Orange Card and replace it with a Temporary Paper Identification to use for the next three weeks. He will screen your photo in the system and later attach it on the paper ID.


» Can you travel with a Temporary Paper Identity during the three weeks of waiting for your F Card?

The staff strongly advised the applicant to travel only after the collection of the Belgian eID. If any unforeseen circumstance happens while one travels out of Belgium, the Belgian Immigration would be contacted. Hmm, we would not want that to happen. So, try and make plans for your travel only after collecting your F Card.


» PIN and PUK Code of Belgian eID

Within one week after the first appointment in Gemeentehuis, you will receive a letter with the PIN and PUK sent to your house. On the second visit, the Registry Office will take this letter and ask you for a new 4-digit PIN code of your choice. The PUK number is required when one forgets the PIN code. Therefore, store the information carefully for avoiding the inconvenience to reset the PIN code in the Registry Office.


» F Card Payment and Collection

The cost of the F Card is €20.70. You only make payment upon collection of your F Card on the second appointment date. There is a machine which accepts coins and dollar note up to €5o. Some machine may not be able to accept the new €5o note. Firstly, scan the invoice barcode given by the cashier against the machine reader. Then, make payment. Pass the receipt to the counter and exchange for the eID. The staff will take back the temporary paper identification too.


» Fast Method of Collecting the F Card

If you need to leave Belgium and do not want to wait for three weeks, you can ask for an accelerated procedure to get the eID which will take 2 to 3 days on your first appointment date. It costs €125 to get it done in 3 days time.


Return Visa

There are always cases where people want to leave Belgium due to special reason before receiving their residence permit. Travelling out of Belgium with an Orange Card is not allowed in principal. Some exceptions are events when a family member is seriously ill or has passed away.

The authority grants a Return Visa (Terugkeervisum) or otherwise known as Re-Entry Visa in exceptional cases under a family reunification procedure when an applicant presents a valid proof for leaving. Orange Card is one of the five types of appendix granted for such application. In other words, the Belgian Immigration Office states that: –

If you leave Belgium before the end of the procedure but would return later to continue the process, then you need a re-entry visa. Unless if you are exempt from the visa requirement for short stays in the Schengen area and provided that you do not have stayed 90 days in a period of 180 days in the Schengen Zone.


Bring Forward the F Card Collection Date

Another method to try is to send a request by bringing forward the F Card collection date. I have asked the staff on the day of collecting my F Card whether it was possible to bring the date forward if one has to attend a wedding of a family member. The staff said that it was possible provided that one submits proof of the wedding and the air ticket.

I guess no one would buy an air ticket first without prior approval unless it is an emergency. As I live in Antwerp, that is how the procedure goes to ask a question or to make an appointment to file your application and provide proof.

  1. Go to Stad Antwerpen E-Loket.
  2. Select “Identiteit”.
  3. Then “Identietskaart niet-Belg F vraag (Identity of non-Belgian F question)”.
  4. A small window will appear below. Click on the link – Informatie of afspraak vreemdelingenzaken (Information or foreigner’s appointment).
  5. Select “Ik heb een vraag voor meer informatie” (I have a question for more information).

Alternatively, you can send the request back to the email which you have received the confirmation. The Belgian Immigration website also provides the email address gh.secretariaat@ibz.fgov.be and fax number 02 274 66 56 to send over your exceptional urgent reason to the service reunification. Of course, the request is always subject to their approval. There is no harm trying if you really need to leave.


Travel with F Card

» F Card is not a Travel Document

F Card is a residence permit to prove that you have a right of stay in Belgium. However, it is not a travel document and cannot be used alone when one travels. Nonetheless, if you need to travel out of Belgium, always carry your passport and your residence card with you.


» Travelling within Schengen and Non-Schengen Zone

The F Card holder can travel to all the Schengen Countries freely without a need to apply for an entry visa upon presenting their passport and residence card concurrently at the border control. Even without taking a flight, a non-EU citizen should always make it a point to carry a passport in the event of any check that requires further verification.

On the other hand, an entry visa is required for a non-EU national whose passport does not permit a visa-free entry to a non-Schengen country such as the UK. As the non-EU national is travelling with a Belgian or EU partner, the process of the visa application is quick and free of charge. The Europa website provides a clear scenario of Travel Documents for Non-EU Family Members and various examples in the FAQ.


» Leaving Belgium for More than 3 Months

If you plan to leave Belgium for more than three months for whatsoever reason, one is obliged to inform the commune of where they stay. You can do this online via the website of the Stadhuis or go to the office to report this. There is no need to make an appointment in advance for this purpose.


» How long Can You Travel Out or Leave Belgium with an F Card?

One can travel and leave Belgium for a maximum of one year without losing the residency. As reiterated above, please inform your commune if you are leaving Belgium for more than three months.


Working Abroad with F Card

Can you work outside Belgium with an F Card? What if you find a prospective employment in another European country? I have clarified the last few questions above including this with the Foreigners’ Office. Hence, the reply is the holder of an F Card cannot work abroad. The person must request for a D card and make an appointment to do so. Therefore, if you wish to work in other European countries holding and F Card, please check with your local commune for more detail and whether you are eligible to do that.


Conclusion

Nowadays, one usually has to wait for an average of 8 to 12 months from the day of arriving in Belgium to get the F Card. Therefore, I do not believe one can get the F Card in six months’ time from the date of cohabitation visa submission unless they are converting from a student visa to an F card. The information has been circulating like wildfire on the internet that one can get the F card in six months’ time. On the contrary, indeed it takes more than six months in an entire cohabitation visa procedure. Best of luck to you!


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.

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