TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. What is an Orange Card?
2. Validity and Extension
3. No News is Good News
4. Purposes of Orange Card
5. How Long Does It Take to Receive the Orange Card after Arriving in Belgium?
6. Is it Illegal to Stay in Belgium after the Visa Expires and Orange Card not Received Yet?
7. Can I Travel with Orange Card?
8. Suggestions to Reduce Travelling Risk
9. Return Visa (Terugkeervisum) – Exceptional Cases to Leave Belgium
10. When Can I Travel Out of Belgium?
11. Can I Study Dutch and Attend Integration Courses with Orange Card?
12. Can I Work with Orange Card?
• Working with Orange Card and Annexe/Bijlage 19ter
13. What is Annex 19ter?
• Bijlage 19ter Listed Cohabitation Documents Requirement
Orange Card Belgium: How Long It Takes? Can I Work and Travel? What is Bijlage 19ter? (Hint: Working)
What is an Orange Card for Cohabitation in Belgium?
Orange Card Belgium is an informal name for the official term of ‘Certificate of Registration – Model A.’ The Dutch name is ‘Attest van Immatriculatie’ and ‘Attestation d’Immatriculation’ in French. The Orange Card is a type of residence permit that entitles the holder to a temporary stay in Belgium. The residence permit is also known as “Titre de Séjour” in French.
The foreign partner must file for a ‘Certificate of Registration’ to the commune within three months of entering Belgium. Thus, one has to sign a legal cohabitation contract as soon as possible. Preferably, within eight days upon arrival in Belgium. The rest of the procedures will follow suit after a declaration of legal cohabitation.
The Orange Card will have a National number. Correspondingly, it bears the same numbers as the F Card which is the Belgian Identification Card. The annoying part of getting the Orange Card is that the holder cannot travel out of Belgium officially including travel within the Schengen countries. As a result, one feels at times like a “prisoner in Belgium”.
Orange Card Validity and Extension
The validity of the Orange card can range from 3 to 6 months depending on the reasons for the issue. For the purpose of declaring a legal cohabitation, an Orange card is valid for six months. During this period, the foreign partner will get a reply from the immigration office through the commune. They will know if they can get a permanent residence permit (F Card) after submitting all the relevant documents.
You must fulfil all the criteria of a family reunification stipulated by the Belgian Immigration Office. Additionally, all the submitted documents are duly completed. Then, you should receive the Orange Card in time. In exceptional cases which the authority requires more time to take a decision, they will inform you by writing. They reserve the right to extend the Orange Card twice for another three months.
No News is Good News
Within the six month waiting period of the Orange Card, the municipal will inform the applicant of one of the followings below: –
- They give you an appointment date on/after your Orange Card expiry date by email or letter. It will state that you have to bring photo and money. The content might not indicate clearly (like mine) that they have already approved your F Card.
- There will be an extension of the Orange Card due to more time needed to make a decision.
- The authority rejects the F-Card application and provides you with the reason for the cohabitation visa refusal.
Other Purposes of Orange Card in Belgium other than Family Reunification
Other than for the purpose of family reunification and waiting for the cohabitation visa, there are several other reasons for issuing an Orange Card.
- People with medical reason such as a serious illness that impede movement
- Victims of human trafficking
- Unaccompanied minors
- Asylum seekers
- Students pending for entrance examination result to enter into a higher academic institution
To clarify doubts of those people who have yet come to Belgium. The Orange Card Belgium is not a replacement of the Schengen Type C Travel Visa. They have no relationship. It is still obligatory to apply for a Schengen Visa if the passport holder has no exemption from the application.
One will receive the Orange Card in 2 to 3 months’ time after arriving in Belgium, especially in Antwerp. Some of my friends in Antwerp receive the Orange Card in the mentioned timeline. That is on condition that the cohabitation declaration process starts early and goes smoothly.
Lately, I have read more and more cases where people were issued Orange Card 5 to 6 months later and had very tough police procedures with a translator provided and grilling session during the interviews.
How Long Does It Take to Receive the Orange Card after Arrival in Belgium?
It is the most common question that people want to know. I took two months (21.09.2016) to receive the Orange Card after arriving in Belgium (15.07.2016). For some others, they receive the Orange Card 4 or 6 months later. Yes, by that time, their three months passport visa/visa-free would have expired by then.
Is it Illegal to Stay in Belgium after the Visa Expires and the Orange Card not Received Yet?
So, it is considered illegal to stay in Belgium? When one still has not received the Orange Card within the first three months of arrival? As long as one has declared the legal cohabitation in the commune in 90 days, it should not be considered illegal to stay.
However, I have read about a case where the police came to someone’s house to serve a notice to leave Belgium within 30 days as she had overstayed 90 days (visa-free). After clarifying with the Gemeentehuis, the notice to leave Belgium was withdrawn.
After all, the commune should also be responsible for issuing the Orange Card on time. If they do not, one should not be penalised for being an ‘illegal immigrant’. I have a friend who had this problem. The commune did not issue her an Orange Card during the first three months. The Stadhuis told her she could continue to stay while the investigation process run.
Can I Travel with Orange Card?
With an Orange Card, technically, you are NOT allowed to travel out of Belgium. The Orange Card grants you a temporary stay in Belgium and not in Schengen Zone when your 3-month travel visa expires. The Stadhuis had confirmed this statement to be true on the day of collecting my Orange Card.
On the same wavelength, bear in mind with the visa expiry, one cannot travel out of Belgium anyway. That is the 90/180 Days Schengen rule. Under a tourist visa, no one can stay in any Schengen Area for more than 90 days in 6 months’ time unless there are other supporting travel documents to do so. You have already stayed in Belgium for 90 days or more.
Do Not Take the Risk!
After all, you have waited this long to get the Orange Card. Therefore, let’s not succumb to the travelling temptation and take the risk. Moreover, there are many beautiful cities in Belgium worth exploring. Have you been travelling to other regions and cities? I take this as the best opportunity to travel more in Belgium. You can always travel out of Belgium at a later date once you get the residence permit F Card.
Exiting out and re-entry in Belgium are entirely the responsibility and risk of the Orange card owner. One cannot foresee incidents and accidents while travelling out of Belgium. These unpredictable circumstances may put you into a complicated situation later. As the old saying goes, you can do anything you want but don’t get caught. You have been warned.
Tip: Within the first three months of your arrival, travel out of Belgium and have as much holiday as you want during this period. Then, you will not feel regretful and unhappy when you receive the Orange Card later. Henceforth, you will feel grounded in Belgium for at least six months or more.
Suggestions to Reduce Travelling Risk
Since there is no border control in the Schengen Area, some people would naturally take the risk. There are others who travel out of Belgium with success. It is just a matter of luck. If you decide to take the risk, here are some suggestions to reduce it.
- Take a train, bus or paid carpool trips such as blablacar to your destination to and fro.
- Avoid taking a plane including departing from neighbouring airports in France and the Netherlands.
- The Customs Officer may check your passport and the date of your last entry when you come back.
- This sentence is particularly true for Asian women as they get checks often for overstaying.
- Again, Schengen rule reminder: shall not exceed a stay of 90 days continuously out of 180 days > You have already stayed in Belgium for (more than) three months.
- If you receive the Orange Card within three months of your travel visa, depart from any Schengen country and arrive in London later. Then from London, take a train, bus or paid carpool trip back to Belgium.
- If you receive the Orange Card after three months (say on the 5th month), depart and arrive at London airport. Then from London, take a train, bus or paid carpool back to Belgium.
- Exiting the Schengen Area at this stage (after three months) indicate that you have already overstayed in the zone.
- Exiting out is not too much of a problem comparing to re-entering Schengen Zone.
Important: Although the United Kingdom is not part of the Schengen Area, the Customs Officers in the London Airport do check on the passports for overstaying in Europe. The above suggestions are solely my opinion for risk takers with some understanding of how the Schengen system operates. I cannot guarantee that my method would be 100% safe. I reiterate again that it is a matter of luck for getting caught.
Return Visa (Terugkeervisum) – Exceptional Cases to Travel out of Belgium with Orange Card
Travelling out of Belgium with an Orange Card is not allowed in principle. There are always cases where people want to leave Belgium due to a particular reason before receiving their residence permit. The authority may grant permission to travel out of Belgium with a Return Visa while holding an Orange Card only in exceptional circumstances.
Examples are medical, family or business-related reasons. In the events when a family member is seriously ill or has passed away, these are valid grounds for leaving Belgium. One also has to produce proof to the commune before they would grant you the Return Visa (Terugkeervisum) or otherwise known as Re-Entry Visa to leave Belgium.
It is a requirement under a family reunification procedure. 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.
The Belgian Immigration website also provides the email address firstname.lastname@example.org and fax number 02 274 66 56, to send your urgent exceptional reason to the service reunification. Of course, the request is always subject to approval. There is no harm in trying if there is a need for you to leave.
In fact, attending the wedding of a close relative is one of the most commonly known reasons to leave Belgium. If you are already aware of a significant event date in advance, get an answer from the commune as early as possible. Fill up a form there for the Return Visa application.
If you are not in Belgium yet, get your partner to check with the commune to see if they will allow you to leave Belgium for this particular reason. It will help you plan your schedule better. On the other hand, you can also delay the cohabitation visa process at a later date.
When Can I Travel Out of Belgium?
You can travel out of Belgium when you receive an F Card. It is an eID. The F Card signifies the end of the grounded days in Belgium. The Immigration Department may give their positive reply to you in 6-weeks time following your completed documents submission.
However, the date given to collect the orange card is on the last day of the Orange Card or even later. Inform the commune if you have to go back to your country to attend a function such as a wedding. They may accede to the request and bring forward the eID collection date. There are more rejections than success rates for reasons such as attending a wedding.
Can I Study Dutch and Attend Integration Courses with Orange Card?
As you cannot travel out of Belgium, you must be pretty boring, right? Not necessarily so. You can take advantage of your free time to register for the Civic Integration Programme in your commune with an Orange Card. The programme consists of Inburgering / Social Integration Course and basic Dutch language courses at a subsidised rate which is mandatory for non-EU nationals to take up to beginner level 1.2.
In other communes other than Antwerp, you can go to Huis van Nederlands (House of Dutch) to inquire about your Dutch lessons. Atlas in Antwerp will handle both the mentioned courses above. A programme counsellor who is part of the Civic Integration Programme will assist you throughout this period.
Can I Work with Orange Card?
Yes, you can work with the Orange Card provided that your partner is a Belgian or an EU citizen. You will follow your partner’s right to work in Belgium without the need to apply for another work permit. If your partner is not a European citizen, you cannot work in Belgium with an Orange Card. You have to get a company who is willing to help you apply for a work permit.
I have a Belgian partner. Besides, the commune has confirmed that I can work with the Orange Card on the day of collection. Furthermore, I have also found a contract job two days after collecting my Orange Card. My first working experience in Belgium will confirm the question positively to those doubts of yours.
» Working with Orange Card and Annexe/Bijlage 19ter
Important: Your prospective employer or employment agency will need your Orange Card together with Bijlage/Annexe 19ter (19b) concurrently to process the employment contract.
What is an Annex 19ter?
Bijlage/Annexe 19ter (a.ka. 19b) is the application of a residence card as a family member of a Belgian, EU citizen or Swiss. The person who receives this annexe is a non-EU citizen or third-country national after requesting for family reunification. The issuing of this form with the Orange Card should have the same date with a 6-months validity period.
The Annex 19b will list the documents needed to submit to the authority within the first three months of your Orange Card. The immigration office will then use the remaining time to decide on your right of residence in Belgium. Nevertheless, if you submit all the documents early, you might receive a reply in less than a month after submission. I received a positive reply to my F Card in 17 days.
» Bijlage 19ter Listed Cohabitation Documents Requirement
I received my Bijlage 19ter together with the Orange Card on the same day in September 2016. In other cities, one can receive the two items on separate days. The Bijlage 19ter stated the documents received by the commune from my first submission in August which was one month ago.
They also listed down specifically the final documents required as the last submission to the Belgian Immigration Office. In another word, the file must complete with all the necessary documents and proof of relationship in the filing record.
In fact, the requested documents in my Bijlage 19ter are a repetition of what I submitted in a Cohabitation Visa Template in August. That being so, I resubmitted nearly the same information. I adjusted a few changes in my document template. Like removing out items that the record already had and adding in new information that the Bijlage 19ter requested.
In the new additions, Appendix 19ter specifically wanted my boyfriend’s 12 months payslips and his national health insurance. The Annex 19b also needed my private medical insurance policy and proof of relationship once again. Though I have included them in my last August document submission, it was apparent they were not inside the record.