Friday, 23 July 2021

⑦ Legalisation of Documents: Certificate of Celibacy and Birth Certificate + Sworn Translator

What is Legalisation?

Legalisation is a process of checking the origin of the document and certifying it to be authentic for use in a foreign country. Depending on the legalisation treaty agreement between Belgium, the country involved and the type of documents concerned, it will determine whether the applicant requires legalisation or an apostille.

In Belgium, civil status certificate such as the birth certificate, death certificate, marriage certificate and divorce certificate need to go through the process of legalisation for use in declaring a legal cohabitation.

I grouped the Certificate of Celibacy and Birth Certificate in the same blog post as both documents require legalization. Submit the legalised documents within 6 months of issue. If the submission exceeds six months, an applicant has to offer an explanation to the Authority.

Make a quick check at the Belgian Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. It will tell you if the document in your country needs legalisation.


How to Legalise Documents in Your Country?

Please do not reverse the procedures below as it is not an option which action goes first. The legalisation process is the same regardless of the country.

  1. Bring the documents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have them authenticated with a stamp first.
  2. Then, go to the Embassy of Belgium to legalise the document. 

The legalisation at the Belgian Embassy cost €20 per copy and payable in cash upon submitting the documents. If you legalise them in your country, you pay the amount in your local currency after the currency conversion. The endorsement in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is chargeable too at a small fee.

What is an Apostille?

It is a certificate of 15 cm pasted onto another document and embossed with a government seal. The top of the certificate indicates the word “APOSTILLE”. The bottom fields provide the certificate number and the relevant information. No further legalisation is necessary when the document bears an apostille stamp for overseas use. A picture tells a thousand word. Click to see a sample image of an apostille.

Sworn Translators in Belgium

If the official document is not drawn up in these four languages – Dutch, French, German and English, a sworn translator has to translate to the language used by the region where one resides. One can do the translation in his country, Belgium or use an online service. Personal experience: Sworn translation done in Europe might be more expensive than in one’s country.

A sworn translator is one who takes an oath to the court of law. A sworn translation is a legalised document performed according to the legal requirement. It has to represent a true and accurate interpretation of the original certificate. Here is a list of sworn translators in Belgium that can perform the sworn translations in various languages.

If you are already in Belgium and have a choice, choose a sworn translator close to where you live or work. You may have to show the sworn translator the original copy of the document for verification.

The important document might get lost in the post. We want to avoid it especially when the copy such as the birth certificate is impossible to get in Belgium. The processing time is also faster if you can meet the person rather than using traditional mail.

Certificate of Celibacy

There are a few names for this certificate – Unmarried Certificate / Marital Status Certificate / Single Status Certificate / Single Status Affidavit / Certificate of No Record of Marriage / Certificate of No Impediment etc.

Well, they all mean the same thing. That is to prove that one is single and unmarried. The Belgian State requires the foreign applicant to be unmarried. He/She must also not link with any registered partnership when declaring a legal cohabitation.

Every municipality will ask for this Certificate of Celibacy which reflects a “No Record” of marriage before declaring a legal cohabitation. The commune will take the duplicate copy and pass you back the original copy after verification.

Divorcees ought to produce a Divorce Certificate. For widow/widower, submit the death certificate of the former spouse. Do not forget to legalise these certificates too.

Birth Certificate Extract

The Embassy of Belgium in Singapore advised me to bring along a Birth Certificate Extract to Belgium. The commune did not ask me for my birth certificate throughout the process. However, there are many people out there who have to produce a Birth Certificate. The best bet is to bring this copy with you to Belgium.

Check with your Embassy in Belgium whether you can get this Birth Certificate or Certificate of Celibacy in Belgium. That is if you are not planning to bring them along or do not already have them in Belgium.

Usually, one can only obtain an extract of the Birth certificate in the home country. Try and bring them from your country before coming over to Belgium. Consequently, you can avoid the risk of not getting one when the commune asks for it.

I stayed in France for one year in 2014 under a student visa. I made a mistake by not bringing the Birth Certificate with me to France. Confidently,  I felt having a passport was good enough for everything. In France, the emphasis to submit a Birth Certificate for buying national health insurance is strict and non-negotiable.

I stayed in two different cities, Nantes and Paris and tried my luck at three different insurance offices. I was hoping that someone would close one eye and let me buy the national health insurances. Foolishly, I ended up not being able to purchase the national health insurance in France for the whole year.

What if I do not have a Birth Certificate and not able to get one in my country?

In this instance, the partner residing in Belgium can check with the commune whether a birth certificate is necessary for submission. Ask for an alternative solution before the foreign partner comes to Belgium.

Another method is to send an email to the Belgian Immigration Office (and commune) to receive a reply to the question. I sent an email to the Belgian Immigration Office in 2014. They did reply me back.

Having a reply in black and white is better than getting different answers verbally from people working in the commune or other unreliable sources. The foreign partner can also seek assistance from their town council in their country to give a letter of verification or any other official document that can help them.

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 fascinating Belgium from the eyes of an expat.


  1. Thanks for this great post.

    I am in the process of divorce but separated from my ex-wife more than 2 years ago. The divorce took a long time! During that time I met my girlfriend whom I love and want to live with me. She is in Mexico now, but she was doing 1 year of PhD in Louvain La Neuve. I am in Bruxelles since August 2017. We know each other and got together since October 2017, which is basically 17 months by now (March 2019).

    She has a ticket to come back in July which would be 20 months. She can travel as a tourist, live with me for 3 months, and then go back to Mexico to apply after the 24 months of the relationship or can we request the cohabitation here in Ixelles?

    I went to Mexico once and stayed with her for 26 days. In May, I will go back and stay 15 days more, which is 41 days together. When she was living in Brussels, she also lived with me 2 weeks before leaving her apartment and moved back to Mexico.

    We want marriage but not just for the fact of living with me, so we don’t want to rush into a marriage just for the sake of it. What’s the best way to proceed from here?

    • Hi Luis, if the relationship is short of a few months, it should not matter that much. You can apply for cohabitation when she arrives. Marriage is something which shouldn’t be rushed. You can put the remark that both of you want marriage as part of the document submission when you go through the family reunification procedure. That will say that you are serious with each other. Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the great post! Am trying to do a legal cohabitation with my partner in Ixelles and just wanted to add to the requirements. All documents have to be in Dutch or French. And the legalised documents like the birth certificate and celibacy proof can’t be more than 2 months old.

    • Hi Tania,

      There are two points that you have mentioned which I will clarify: –

      1) All documents submitted can be drafted in 3 official languages – French, Dutch, German plus English. Although English is not an official language in Belgium, it can be accepted. All my submitted official documents are in English, and I have not faced any problem.

      2) Legalised documents like the Birth Certificate and the Certificate of Celibacy has to be submitted within 6 months from the date of issue, including the Certificate of Good Conduct and not within 2 months as the validity is too short.

      Now, I have the keywords bold in the article as others may have overlooked it. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂