Saturday, 28 March 2020

① Introduction to Legal Cohabitation Visa Survival Series for a Well-Prepared Battle



Introduction – Legal Cohabitation Visa. 

Hello to all the YOUs out there! A very warm welcome to the website, LIVE IN BELGIUM. The creation of this website based on my first-hand experience of the legal cohabitation visa process (living together procedure in Belgium) leading to family reunification. Subsequently, discussions on the lifestyle and topics revolving around Belgium. Let’s walk the journey in Belgium together.



 


Brief Relationship History

My name is MissSJ. I am a Singaporean. My boyfriend is a Belgian with a full-time job. We are currently living in Antwerp, Flemish Region of Flanders.

I knew my Belgian boyfriend since August 2010 through online dating. We first met in Bangkok, Thailand in November 2010 during his summer holiday. In short, we knew each other for six years maintaining a long-distance relationship before declaring a legal cohabitation in Belgium on 15 July 2016.

It took me two months after arrival to get an Orange Card. Following another two months later, the commune approved my residence permit F card. Although the confirmation comes in a short span of four months from the arrival day, I could only receive my F Card after a total duration of eight months. That is also the last day of my Orange Card expiry date in March 2017.

The total time length from arrival in Belgium to receiving your Residence Permit F Card is approximately 9 to 12 months.


Objective of Website

You arrive here because we have many common questions in mind about the process of the cohabitation visa. We have done all our research on some official websites. Undoubtedly, certain requirements baffle us. In spite of the difficulty, make an effort to read the official contents a few rounds to fully digest them.

The “Legal Cohabitation Survival Series for Well-Prepared Battle” is a record of my two years research and actual procedures that happened. Hence, the approach of the discussion is more in-depth tailoring to the subject of declaring a legal cohabitation in Belgium.

I used some “psychological techniques” and reasoning to improve my chance of getting the visa then. Coupled with a smart presentation format that is easy to understand by the municipality, I was ready for the battle.

It would be a nightmare to realise that you forget to bring some essential documents for submission later after arriving in Belgium. To make things worse, you can only obtain those documents in your home country. Hopefully, my step-by-step breakdown on the documents requirement could provide valuable insight and tips to get your cohabitation visa more successfully.

My submission of the documents is only by email. I want to share my cohabitation visa template format with you. There are suggestions to present a more informative draft other than submitting the proof of relationship in a chunk of zipped files.

I did not use USB stick, CD or printed paper. Do note that some communes insist on collecting the hard copies of the documents in an old-fashioned way.  They will not accept anything over emails.

A useful method to understand the cohabitation visa process is to follow the flow of my blogs based on the numbering sequence of my timeline events overview.




Research on Cohabitation Visa Process

Like many people who have partners staying in Belgium, there are a lot of confusion and questions in their mind. Before going to Belgium, I would always search desperately online. Every few others days, I would dig out a new piece of information relating to the cohabitation visa process. I would use many different keywords so that I would not miss out any vital information.

Since a reasonable amount of research on the topic of cohabitation visa was done, I wish to share my knowledge and explain it in the best way to help others reduce the confusion. I highlight that no one is an expert on this subject unless one works for the immigration or related department.

You may have already read a lot about the cohabitation visa process requirements online. The procedures are not the same in every city but the required documents are more or less the same. Even from a similar city, some people took a longer time to get the Orange Card than others. On top of that, they landed up in a more complicated situation.

The commune asked these people to submit more documents and went through more police interviews. Despite all the hassles, no one could give a concrete answer to the repeated procedure. Therefore, take others’ experiences as a guide. You will begin to see the light and note some similarity.


Why is the Procedure So Long and Difficult?

The process is long and nerve-racking, but it is not unfounded. Immigration is a very strict process in almost every country and not just in Belgium. The nation has to control the influx of their immigrants and screen the background of these applicants. You are going to live in Belgium for a long time so have some patience.

If one looks at a bigger picture, a stringent procedure should be in place. It is to prevent fraudulent marriages and cohabitation. The lawbreaker has the upper hand to obtain a Belgian nationality later. Moreover, no one wants to live in a society where every Tom, Dick or Harry can enter into the country and call it “home”. And yes, it is punishable by law to marry or cohabit ‘out of convenience’.

While what you want is simply to be with your loved ones, the authority begs to differ. The long investigation process and proof of relationship submission are for clamping down people with ulterior motives. As a result, they pose a serious immigration problem in Belgium over the years. Consequently, it is natural that the authority conducts a check on us because they do not know our background.


Main Referencing Official Website

The primary referencing website for the process of legal cohabitation is Belgian Immigration Office. Still, a few critical links on the official website are not working. They contain a further explanation of a specific term.

You can find the broken links’ contents and much more information on Belgian Immigration Office French language site. I will provide such links on the appropriate post later. Use a translation tool if you do not understand French.


Cohabitation Documents Requirement

Let’s take a quick look at the documents below before I dissect everything post by post. These are the legal cohabitation visa documents requirements of Belgian Immigration Office (DOFI) on the French language site. A lot of vital information on the English website is down so I have to direct you to the French site or the DOFI Dutch language site if you prefer.


Cohabitation Visa in Belgium

This video is an overview of the different type of visa in Belgium – Spousal Visa, Fiance Visa and Cohabitation Visa.

Video Length: 3m 18s


Disclaimer

Copying the style of many websites out there and playing safe, I am a nobody in Belgium. In no way am I associated nor representing on behalf of the relevant departments and authorities discussed. The content is written entirely based on my personal experience, surrounding and research on the official websites in English, French and Dutch. The rules, law and regulation may change anytime without notice. The responsibility lies solely on the individual to get the facts verified again if necessary to suit their circumstances which may be different from mine.

 

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.

10 comments

  1. Hi, what type of visa should I apply for going to Belgium? My boyfriend is an American but working in Belgium.

  2. Hello, first of all, I wanna thank you for sharing your experience. I have a few questions regarding legal cohabitation.

    I’m from Algeria, and I have been living with my Dutch girlfriend for a year and a half. A week ago, we moved to Belgium, and we want to apply for legal cohabitation. My girlfriend has her job in the Netherlands still, but she has sufficient resources to cover our living. My question is, it necessary to have income in Belgium, or it doesn’t matter as long as you have enough resources?

    By the way, we are both young, and there is no age difference between us. We have never been married or cohabitating before. We got all the evidence of our relationship. I’m looking forward to hear from you.

    • Hi Ilyas, I believe you can apply for a cohabitation visa in Belgium because your girlfriend is from Dutch. But before the application, she should first have an address in Belgium, then apply for her permanent residence as an EU citizen before applying for a legal cohabitation for the both of you. For the procedure, you have to check with the commune where you live.

      You do not need to have an income to apply for the legal cohabitation. Your girlfriend should be earning €1,505.78 nett/month and has worked continuously for 12 months. Please check out this article on her her requirements and solutions if she does not fulfil the minimum wage required to apply for an F Card for you.

  3. Hi, can I apply for cohabitation while holding an au pair visa? I have known my boyfriend for less than a year and is currently staying with him. What are the chances of getting my cohabitation approved as I hope to stay longer in Belgium to be with him.

    • Hi Natt,

      You can apply for legal cohabitation while holding an au pair visa. You also have to change your residing address to that of your boyfriend.

      However, as you have not met the 1-year mark of living together with him, you have a high risk of getting your cohabitation visa rejected. Since you have expressed your intention to stay longer, after the first rejection, you can reapply the cohabitation visa the second time and continue staying in Belgium until you get your Belgian residence card.

      By that time, you would have likely lived together with him for 1 year. When the cohabitation visa process is running, you can stay in Belgium even when your au pair visa has expired. Note that you cannot apply cohabitation close to your au pair expiry date because the authority can reject your application.

      Do you also have your Certificate of Celibacy (and your Birth Certificate) with you? Both must be legalised and usually obtainable only in your home country. Moreover, the Certificate of Celibacy is usually the first submission to the Stadhuis.

      Alternatively, consider marriage as an option if you do not have the number of years together. Still, you need to have the relevant documents with you as mentioned in the last paragraph.

      • Thank you for the answer. I have other questions.

        When I apply for the legal cohabitation, will I get an orange card? And can I work here?

        And what should I say to them if I don’t want them to know my intention to stay here longer?

        I don’t have any document with me at all. So I have to ask my family in Thailand to do it for me and send them to me here, don’t I?

        About the marriage, we don’t have any plan about that yet since we’ve been together for a short time, we wanna work out on this cohabitation first. So marriage case is dropped from now.

        Thank you in advance
        Natt

        • Hi Natt,

          You will get an Orange Card while waiting for the final decision. You can work if your partner is a Belgian or EU citizen after receiving it.

          You do not have to tell them about your intention. Isn’t being with your boyfriend the reason for making you stay?

          You can try to ask your family to send you the documents in Thailand. I am not sure how it works in your country and whether the authority allows others to collect and legalise the documents on your behalf.

          • How long will it take to receive the final decision?

            So while I’m waiting for an orange card, can I still work here?

            Do you know where I can make an appointment and ask for my case?

            And thank you so much for replying my messages. Even though I try to read your case and some others who asked you questions, I still don’t get it yet and have a lot of questions about this application.

            Thank you.
            Natt

            • You will get a final decision from the Immigration Office within 6 months after you receive your Orange Card. However before that, after you declare a legal cohabitation, it can take another 3 to 6 months to receive your Orange Card.

              The total time length for the cohabitation process is between 9 to 12 months after signing the cohabitation paper. It can be even longer in some cases.

              I presume you can continue working while holding an au pair visa. After your working visa ends, you may not be able to work. You need to double-check with the Stadhuis on this.

              You make an appointment in the Stadhuis / Districthuis / Gemeentehuis of where your boyfriend lives. Get him to make an appointment. He will know how to do it online or in person.

              Ask him to go with you if you do not speak the local language. Not every staff there is willing or can speak English. Also, if you go alone, they may not want to entertain you too much.

              It is not easy to understand the cohabitation procedure in one read be it from the official website or blogs from other people’s experiences. Sometimes, you have to repeat the reading several times over the months to get it.

              Here is my cohabitation visa timeline for your reference. The dates will tell you how one event leads to another. You may not get the same step, but the overall process is more or less the same.

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