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Creating Impression on First Enquiry Visit in Commune for Cohabitation Visa Process
My first visit to the commune in Antwerp was 2014. I was holding a 12-months French Student Visa to study the French language from January to December. On 9 December 2014 when I was in Belgium, my Belgian boyfriend and I took the opportunity to visit the “Districtshuis Antwerpen”.
Over there, I wanted to get more information about legal cohabitation process before returning to my country in January 2015. I knew nothing much about this family reunion visa. So, I did not apply for anything back then. I just wanted to find out more about the cohabitation visa process and have more time for preparation.
Most importantly, I wanted to spend a longer time working in Singapore to save more money before going over to Belgium. Spending the last moment of quality time with my family and close friends is of utmost concern as it denotes a wide geographical separation for a long period.
Legal Cohabitation Questionnaire
At the counter of Antwerp Stadhuis, a lady printed out two pages of documents for us. She took my passport and my boyfriend eID for registration in the system. The document name is “Vragenlijst Wettelijke Samenwoning” which means “Questionnaire Legal Cohabitation”.
The documents consisted of 10 simple questions in Dutch. The translation would be as follow: –
- When do you know each other?
- Where do you get to know each other?
- Since when do you have a relationship?
- How often do you contact each other since the start of your relationship?
- What is the method of communication?
- Since when do you live together?
- Have you been married?
- Have you cohabited legally before?
- Do you have any children?
- Since when are you in Belgium?
Regarding the documents, she told me to bring the Certificate of Celibacy to prove that I was single and also the heath insurance to cover my stay. At that instance, I knew some documents were only obtainable in my country.
Certificate of Celibacy, Birth Certificate Extract and Certificate of Good Conduct were those. She did not mention that the birth certificate was one of them. I presumed that they might ask me for it later, who knows?
When I lived in France that time, a birth certificate is an important document for a foreigner to apply for the national health insurance. Unfortunately, I did not bring it with me there and could not get my health insurance as a result. Henceforth, a lesson learnt. So, I decided to bring my birth certificate with me this time to Belgium.
Make Appointment to Visit Commune during Holiday
If you are visiting your partner in Belgium for a holiday, but have no intention to apply for the cohabitation visa yet, I recommend you to try the same process as me. It is one of the tips for couples who want to apply for the cohabitation visa at a much later time.
Make an appointment in the commune (especially in Antwerp) to get the same document or to ask questions. The purpose is to get your particular registered into the system during the session. Bring your passport and drag your partner along. The record in their database will do you good in future because they are proof to the timeline.
You need to prove at least two years of relationship with your partner if you have not lived with him for a minimum of one year in Belgium or another country previously.
To fast forward the story, my partner and I declared and signed the cohabitation contract in July 2016. The Stadhuis printed out the same document backdated to 9 December 2014! I was shocked as I thought they would give me a fresh copy with a new date.
How To Handle Different Answers From Commune?
The Belgium Embassy in Singapore advised me to email my questions to the commune. They asked me the get the reply in black and white if they offered different answers. When making enquiries at the Stadhuis, do not trust their words 100%.
Different people may give different pieces of advice which may confuse you even more. One would say you can do this and the other one would say no. Their replies also depend on the complexity of the questions that you ask and whether they have understood you correctly.
When in doubt, always refer to the Belgian Immigration Office website although some explanations were not very clear. Some people working in the commune may not know more than what you have read because handling immigration matter is not their speciality unless they work in Foreigners’ Office. In Antwerp, Districtshuis Deurne is the Foreigners’ Office.
The sequence and the processing time for the documents may be different in every city. But, the required documents are more or less quite the same normally. The submission of all these collated documents goes to the Belgium Immigration Office in Brussels. They will take a decision whether they will issue the residence permit F Card eventually.
Not All Documents will be Submitted
The Immigration has laid out a set of official documents required for the cohabitation visa. It is up to the municipal office to ask partially or all the items. I was not asked for my medical certificate, Certificate of Good Conduct and Birth Certificate even though I brought them to Belgium.
I also did not get a health screening done for the medical certificate. It was cheaper to do it in Belgium than in my country, Singapore. If the commune asks for it later, it is never too late to do it in Belgium.