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Thursday, 23 November 2017

⑭ What to Expect from Police Visit: Prepare Mentally to Handle Challenging Questions

Manage Your Expectation of Police Visit for Legal Cohabitation Process

Why is there a Police Visit?

There are a lot of sham marriages that took place since more than ten years ago. Particularly in Antwerp, it has the highest hit rate. The marriage allows the foreign spouse to be eligible for a Belgian citizenship after living in Belgium at least three years through the process of naturalisation.

With an active suppression of fraudulent marriages by legal penalisation and rejecting marriage applications, the figures of scam marriages were significantly reduced after 2009. Rejected marriage applicants turned to cohabitation as the alternative source to stay in Belgium because the process was less stringent.

Of course, these unlawful activities inevitably penalise the future foreign applicants. Consequently, they have a more challenging time to apply for cohabitation visa with their Belgian or European partners.

The police intervention forms part of the mandatory requirement to check if the applicant is indeed residing at the reported address. They inspect the house physically and conduct an interview with the cohabitants.


Definition of ‘Resident’

Anyone planning to stay in Belgium for more than three months is defined as a ‘resident’. It includes people coming to Belgium for the purpose of work, study and family visit. When these group of people declare their arrival to their commune, the police might not come and check on them. Therefore, do not assume that an arrival declaration in Belgium is the same notion as declaring a legal cohabitation officially.


Police Visit after Signing a Legal Cohabitation Agreement

There are incidents that the police never come and visit the cohabitants after they have declared their arrival in Belgium. The following point has to be clear. Firstly, you need to sign a legal cohabitation contract together with your partner at the commune. Then, the police will come only after receiving instruction from the commune to do so.

After the cop visit, they will submit a report. Later, the rest of the legal cohabitation process will follow suit. If the police never come and verify, it is as good as saying that the procedure ‘gets stuck’ in that stage and nothing more could happen. There were others who waited for the police to come but the police never come.

The police upon receiving an instruction from the commune to investigate, the possible scenario can take place below:-

a) The police can come to your place any time without warning – daytime or night time.
b) The police call and make an appointment with you.
c) The police expect you to call and make an appointment with them.

For my situation, on the day of signing the legal cohabitation agreement, the staff at the Stadhuis never said exactly how and when the police were going to come. She just said that the police would come. The message transmitted were not very clear. We did not ask too much either.


What to Expect from a Police Visit?

The below guidelines are what you can expect from a typical police visit  to its worst . Hence, you should be mentally prepared for the scrutinization if that happens.

One or two police officers come to the house. They ensure that the partners are genuinely living together under the same roof as reported to the commune.

He may inspect the house such as the wardrobe to see whether the clothes of the foreign spouse are inside.

He may ask to see some photos or documents as part of the verification process. A good practice is to stand by your laptop or computer.

They may ask several questions which are tough and sensitive. Examples are future family planning, how the couple manage their finance and share household responsibility. Some questions seemed more suited for married couples. But well, the police can ask anything they want to establish the facts.

Many Belgian police officers cannot speak English. They may request a sworn translator for the foreign partner and interview the couple separately. A presence of sworn translator might be a good indication that the police has the intention to ask a lot of questions. Be prepared for a grilling interview.

If the police are not satisfied with the first visit, they will come for a second house visit for further investigation.

Not commonly heard. But, there were instances where the police asked the foreigner to report to the police station to take photo and fingerprints as part of the investigation process.


What If the Police Did Not Come and Visit?

Without taking the initiative to call the police, they will usually come for a house inspection one or two weeks after the couple has signed the legal declaration agreement. The waiting time for a visit can vary since the cohabitation procedure involves the police. They might be busy and have other work priority.

As a reference, the police visit would happen within one month after signing the declaration of legal cohabitation. If the police never contact you for house visit more than two weeks after signing the cohabitation agreement in the commune, consider the follow-up actions. These are rather common to do in Belgium.

  • Check with the police first whether they have received your legal cohabitation file from the commune for the investigation.
    • The police have your file and expect you to call and make an appointment with them. On the other hand, the police may have overlooked your case.
    • The police do not have your file because the commune did not pass it to them.
    • In either circumstance above, the police will give you an answer.
  • Ask the commune again. The file may still be there and not passed to the police yet.
  • Or, there are other complications in your case unknown to you. The police visit will not take place until the commune has settled the issues. In this occurrence, you can only wait and persistently follow up with them until you receive a satisfactory answer. Most times, we feel perplexed and have no idea what is going on. The commune needs some gentle pushing at times to get things work.


The Long Awaited Dreadful Police Visit

» Scenario

I have a friend living in another Flemish city. The police did not come to their place within three months of their legal cohabitation declaration. No concrete reason was given and merely a game of waiting and delaying the process.

The commune said they were investigating her case, but my friend did not submit a single document. As a matter of fact, there was nothing for them to investigate. It was puzzling. There was a lot of asking and pushing for the police visit to happen.

Finally, two police visit took place on the 4th and 5th month after her arrival. The police asked the couple several questions during one of the police interviews. My friend said some questions were rather hard to answer.

Unfortunately, no one knows why some people have to wait that long. Not even if they come from a country that has no ill-association with the immigration problem. Having a visa-free entry to Schengen Area does not help much either.

If you are the lucky one selected to go through tormenting moments of waiting and waiting, the advice is to grit your teeth. Follow up as closely as possible. Nudge them every now and then in person or by email, whichever is the most compelling way to get a swift response. You have been warned in the above circumstances so prepare yourself mentally for the worst to come.

Issuing of the Orange Card is only after the police verification. If you have not received an Orange Card after your visa expires, it is not illegal to stay in Belgium. Provided you have already declared your legal cohabitation to the commune latest by three months of your arrival.


My Police Visit Experience

We went for a 16 days holiday in France immediately the next day after signing the cohabitation contract. In fact, the police came for inspection a few times during that period and could not get us. Eventually, he called my boyfriend on 13 August 2016 to make an appointment.

The police came to our house three days later. It is important to put both my partner and my name on the doorbell and letterbox. The police have to see that we are both living at the same address. I also switched on my laptop to standby. If the police wanted to see some photos or documents as proof of relationship, he did not have to wait. Well, the longer the police stay in the house, the more questions he will ask.

Fortunately for me, the policeman came to our house for just five minutes. He never moved away from the couch to look around our house. Not a single question asked about me or our relationship. We did not talk to each other. He merely told my Belgian partner that he came to check if I was indeed staying in the house. He only checked my passport. We did not sign any document too.


Questions to Ponder for the Police Visit: Opportunity to Know Our Partner Better

Among the whole legal cohabitation process, the police interview is the toughest of all. Think positive. It should not be a fear factor but a golden opportunity to get to know each other better. There is no better time than this moment for getting some answers that you always want to know.

The police interview questions focus on how much the couple know about each other. Suggested questions for asking each other on:

  • likes and dislikes
  • lifestyles such as food, habits, hobbies, travel, places of interest
  • short term and long term plan and goal
  • life value, financial management, family planning, medical history
  • information about their family members, relatives, work
  • intimate and awkward questions like underwears, sleeping position and habits

The last suggestion is not a joke. One indication of a fake relationship is forming a family union in name but without consummation. The police would not hesitate to ask embarrassing questions which the women are usually uncomfortable to answer.

I came across recently a set of 35 questions for a European Family Reunion Visa. The article was written in 2012 by a Nigerian. The interview took place in Nigeria. I thought it was a good idea to share the link so that you can prepare the questions mentally for the police interview in Belgium.


Leave us a comment about your experience with the police visit. Was it an easy or difficult one? What were some of the questions especially the difficult ones?


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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