For easy reading and comprehension, I have backdated the individual blog post according to the event dates in 2016. Thus, it is useful if you want to estimate the number of days from one event to the other.
Black Card: Cohabitation Visa Matters
Yellow Card: Things that one can do after collecting the Orange Card
09.12.2014 First Visit to Antwerp Commune for Cohabitation Visa Enquiry
In December 2014, while having a holiday in Belgium, I took the opportunity to make an appointment in “Districtshuis Antwerpen”. I wanted to ask for some information about the cohabitation visa before going back to my country. I did not apply for the procedure at that time. Some other names of Districtshuis are Commune / Stadhuis / Gemeentehuis / District / City Hall / Town Hall.
01.04.2016 Submission of Formal Obligation by Belgian Partner
I was in Singapore while my Belgian boyfriend went to Antwerp Stadhuis to submit the Formal Obligation Form (Bijlage / Annexe 3bis). The form is a pledge of financial support for going to Belgium. Moreover, it is important for the foreign partner to hold it in Europe arrival airport with a one-way ticket.
The authority only accepts certain official documents issued within the last six months when applying for a cohabitation visa. Hence, I want to get them closer to my date of departure to Belgium on 14 July 2016. Three relevant examples are Certificate of Celibacy to prove that I was single, No Criminal Record and a Medical Certificate.
25.05.2016 Legalisation of Documents
I visited the Embassy of Belgium in Singapore. They advised me to bring along my Birth Certificate Extract. Usually, one can only obtain it in one’s home country. All official documents from Singapore have to be legalised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) first. Then, the Belgium Embassy in Singapore will endorse it again.
I requested a Letter of Introduction in applying for my Certificate of Clearance (COC) with the Singapore Police Force. The Embassy rejected my request as I forgot to bring my passport. They asked me to come back again as the passport is essential for verification.
27.06.2016 Endorsement from Embassy of Belgium in Singapore
Singapore MFA endorsed my Certificate of Celibacy and my Birth Certificate Extract for SGD $10 (€6) per copy. The Embassy of Belgium in Singapore legalised them for SGD $32 (€20) per copy. I submitted my passport to complete the request for the Letter of Introduction. The State Police will need the letter to process the Certificate of Clearance. I went back the next day again to collect all three documents.
I applied for my Certificate of Good Conduct online. A few days later, I went to the police station to take my fingerprints as part of the procedure. I received the certificate on the spot. For me, the commune did not ask for this certificate but I submitted it anyway. What happens if they ask for this certificate and you are already in Belgium without it?
04.07.2016 Online Purchase of Health Insurance
I purchased my health insurance online from Pacific Prime with a 6-months coverage starting from the departure date in July. Similar to the Certificate of Celibacy, this is an important document that every commune will ask for.
10.07.2016 No Intention to Bring the Medical Certificate
A medical certificate is essential for people who need to apply for a Schengen Visa to declare a legal cohabitation. Since I have visa-free entry to Europe, I decided to take the risk by not doing a health checkup in Singapore. One could always do it in Belgium if the commune requests it. No, the commune did not ask me for it eventually.
My boyfriend registered me as a newcomer one day before my arrival in Belgium. He did it on the website of Stad Antwerpen. I was not sure whether this step was necessary or would speed up the process. My cohabitation visa process in Antwerp was indeed smooth and fast. Or, maybe our six years old relationship was the prime factor behind it.
14.07.2016 Arrival in Belgium
One has to declare their arrival in Belgium within 8 days at the commune. My partner made an online appointment one week in advance so we could go to the Stadhuis the next day.
15.07.2016 Declaring of Legal Cohabitation
I declared my arrival and signed the cohabitation contract at the same time. Declare the legal cohabitation as soon as possible for the police to come to your place early. On the other hand, it was shocking when the staff whipped out the same document dated 2014. I made an enquiry over there 1.5 years ago. Remember you have to prove to the authority that you know each other for two years. Such a record was the best proof.
16.07.2016 Holiday in France
I went to South France for a 16-days holiday with my boyfriend until 31 July 2016. At this stage, you are allowed to travel out of Belgium because the 90-days Schengen Visa is still valid.
During my holiday in France, I received two letters sent by Gemeentehuis, Stad Antwerpen dated 18 July. It was three days after I signed the Legal Cohabitation agreement. Are you curious to read the contents of the two letters?
22.07.2016 Email Received after Registration of Newcomer
I received an email from Stad Antwerpen requesting me to submit the following documents. We have to pay €160 to their bank account after my boyfriend registered me as a newcomer online. You will read about the cohabitation legal requirements here.
04.08.2016 First Submission: Proof of Relationship
I had my holiday in France until 31 July 2016. The documents submission was four days later after working on an impressionable presentation format. My 6-years proof of relationship took me a lot of pain to prepare. I wanted to ensure that the presentation of the text, documents and photos were linking the story well. They should not be a chunk of the mess to the reader. I sent my proof of relationship to two different email addresses.
10.08.2016 Email Request for Legal Cohabitation Approval
The email requested the approval letter for the Declaration of Legal Cohabitation (verklaring wettelijke samenwoning) which I did not submit. I emailed them the ‘ontvangstbewijs verklaring wettelijke samenwoning‘ which was the wrong document.
13.08.2016 Police Call Received
The police called my boyfriend informing their visit to our apartment on 16 August 2016 at 8 pm. The police mentioned that they had come to our place several times, but we were always not at home. Thus, they had to call and make an appointment with us. I believe they came during the month of July when we went on a holiday to France
16.08.2016 Police Visit at 8 pm
The police came to our house for less than 5 minutes. One preparation was to put my name on the doorbell and the letterbox to signal my presence. It is also an official requirement to do so. You will not get the Orange Card until the police visit. It is common to know that the police visit happens more than once if they are not satisfied the first time. Consequently, there might be a delay in receiving the Orange Card. What can you do if the police never come and visit?
One email told me that I submitted the wrong document – ontvangstbewijs verklaring wettelijke samenwoning. It was not the “Receipt” of the Declaration of Legal Cohabitation that they want. He asked me to email him the contract once I received it.
In fact, I have not received the letter of approval by post due to a delay. I replied with an official letter “Postponement Registration of Legal Cohabitation” (Uitstel Registratie Wettelijke Samenwoning) received by post not long ago. The letter mentioned that there was a postponement to the registration for legal cohabitation until 15 September 2016.
22.08.2016 Approval of Legal Cohabitation Contract
The Stadhuis replied that according to information in the National Register, my legal cohabitation was approved and registered on 16 August 2016. I was surprised to read this as the letter mentioned the delay in the registration earlier.
25.08.2016 Approval Contract Received
I finally received the official letter by post and quickly emailed it over so they could proceed further.
30.08.2016 Email Request for Legal Cohabitation Approval
I was given an appointment date by email for my Orange card collection. The location was at the Foreigners’ Office, Districtshuis Deurne on 27 September 2016 at 3 pm. I requested a change of date for the Orange Card collection. Most people get the Orange Card closer to the third month of their visa expiry date. Do you want to know the few things to bring for the Orange Card?
31.08.2016 Change of Appointment Date
Thanks to Stad Antwerpen for being accommodative and responding swiftly. They brought forward the appointment date to 21 September at 8 am. I assumed that they squeezed out some time on our requested dates after I explained our situation to them.
21.09.2016 Collection of Orange Card and Annex 19ter
The first obstacle of the Cohabitation Visa process cleared. The receipt of the precious Orange Card together with Bijlage/Annexe 19ter after waiting for two months in Belgium. Feel like I could perform some magic suddenly.
The final step is to resubmit the documents to the Brussels Immigration Department within the first three months of the Orange Card. They will make a decision in issuing the Residence Permit F Card in six months’ period.
21.09.2016 Registration of Civic Integration Programme
The first magical feeling of having a National Number was to proceed to Atlas House in Antwerp to ask about Civic Integration Programme. Inburgering is part of a Civic Integration Programme or Social Integration course. The Dutch language course is another part of its programme. It is compulsory for non-EU residents to undertake this course to avoid paying fines later. The course is heavily subsidised by the Government once you receive the Orange Card. The Atlas House gave an appointment to come back on 7 October @ 9 am for a 3-hour interview.
After having the Orange Card for only four days, I frantically searched for jobs online which were suitable for me. From that day onwards, feeling excited to have the right to work. I started searching for jobs with the keywords “English, Chinese and Mandarin”. I sent my resume to two employment agencies offering a similar contract job found online.
28.09.2016 First Interview with the Employment Agency
One day before, one employment agency, ASAP called me for a job interview. The interim agency was pleased with my interview. She agreed to arrange an interview for me with the prospective employer.
Correspondingly, I also received an email on this date from the second employment agency. They asked me questions that were stated clearly in my CV. Apparently, this agency did not even bother to read my covering/motivation letter. I rejected them politely by saying that I had already accepted the same job offer from another employment agency.
30.09.2016 Enquiry about Driving License
I sent an enquiry to Stad Antwerpen to ask about driver’s license conversion in Belgium. It is possible to convert a driving license with an Orange Card and not wait till the F Card arrives.
01.10.2016 Apply for a Library Card
I register for a public library card with the Orange Card which cost €9.50/year. I go to the library often. So, it makes sense to own one without borrowing or depending on my partner’s card. Other than borrowing books, CDs and DVDs, there are more benefits that one can reap with the library card.
06.10.2016 Open Bank Account with Argenta
I opened a bank account in Belgium with the Orange Card as I have a National Number. Opening a bank account is free. The employers in Belgium pay the salaries using bank transfers. I did it while having some free time. I could buy credits of my Belgium prepaid SIM card with the bank card without popping into the shop. What to expect when opening a new bank account in Belgium with the Orange Card?
07.10.2016 Inburgering – Social Integration Course
I had my first profile assessment in Antwerp at Atlas House. The staff explained everything about the Civic Integration programme in Belgium during a one-to-one interview. If one resides in a big city like Antwerp, the Social Integration Course will have many participants. The staff assesses our education level and places us with the right group of people for the class. Expect a waiting list for enrolment in Antwerp. What to expect from the Inburgering Course?
13.10.2016 Second Job Interview with Employing Company
The day came for the actual interview with the prospective company after the employment agency referred me. It was a good experience to know how the job interview was like in Belgium. The interviewers here like giving tests during an interview. Anyway, I got this job for a few weeks on a project basis.
13.10.2016 Dutch Course Registration at Atlas House
The staff at the Atlas House wanted me to go back and choose my Dutch course on this date. My afternoon class session would start four months later unless I opted for the evening course in November. The staff recommended that I went to the library of Atlas House for more Dutch language books and resources.
17.10.2016 Interview with Course Coordinator at Atlas House
I went to the Atlas House for the third time. This time, I had an interview with an assigned Course Coordinator. The person explained his role as a Personal Programme Counsellor. He could offer the course of action to take should we face any difficulty or problem while adjusting to our life in Belgium.
25.10.2016 Another Job Interview for a Full-Time Job
A company called me up for an interview for a full-time job which I had applied for earlier. The Belgian interviewer told me he did mind employing foreigners or whether they speak Dutch or not in Antwerp. It is not a factor for consideration. A motivating sentence to newcomers like us who could not speak Dutch for a start. He also put me through some Mathematics and logic tests after our discussion. It seems like the Belgian employers love giving tests to their potential candidates. I did not land up in this job.
28.10.2016 First Day at Work
C’est incroyable! I had never imagined getting my first taste of job experience in Belgium at such a quick pace without the Dutch language knowledge. I love the engaging exposure to the Belgian work culture. Belgian employees are the happiest in the world according to the Happiness Index. Food for thought: What keeps Belgian employees happy when their tax system is one of the highest in the world?
28.10.2016 Enquiry and Reply for CM Health Insurance
I was curious to know whether I could buy Belgian national health insurance with CM Insurance Fund without having the eID. I sent them an enquiry on 26 October explaining my current situation. They replied a few days later on how I could apply for their insurance.
30.10.2016 Extension of My Health Insurance
My first health insurance bought from Pacific Prime was only six months from 14 July 2016 to 13 January 2017. As a result, it was not enough to cover the Orange Card period till March 2017. I extended it to cover until the end of the Orange Card.
30.10.2016 Final Submission of Documents and Template Format
I took a long time to submit the final files to Stadhuis. The Bijlage 19ter asked for my partner’s 12-months salary payslip. I had to wait as he was not in town. The final document submission was almost the same as the first one submitted except with a few modifications. I added a 12-months payslip, my additional health insurance and the removal of a few documents which the authority already filed. At this final stage, I was waiting to hear the good news of my F Card.
08.11.2016 Request for Health Insurance Certificate of Belgian Partner
I received an email. All my files were received in good order and passed on to the Belgian Immigration Department. My Belgian Partner’s Health Insurance Certificate was missing. The authority expected me to submit his copy of health insurance valid for use in Belgium as well.
10.11.2016 Submission of Health Insurance Certificate of Belgian Partner
My boyfriend went down to CM and retrieved a PDF copy of his health insurance. I submitted this copy to Stadhuis which was the last thing they need from us.
22.03.2017 First Appointment – Residence Permit F Card
Finally, the end of the journey to my cohabitation visa. I thought I would receive my F Card on this day but I was wrong. On the first appointment at Districtshuis Deurne, I submitted one passport-sized photo. I had to come back on 12.04.2017 to collect my Belgian eID.
12.04.2017 Collection of Belgian eID / Cohabitation Visa Denial???
Yes, the Belgian eID is finally in my hand! Looking back, the total time taken to receive the F Card is a total of 9 months!! I signed the legal cohabitation contract on 15.07.2016. For those disappointed souls who had their residence permit denied. Do not despair. Here are some follow-up actions for your denied cohabitation visa recourse.
If you have not arrived in Belgium, are you ready to relocate to Belgium? Emigrating to another country is a major decision in life. Relocating is stressful as there are a lot of things to do and bring. Don’t worry, here is a checklist. I made a record while packing my things before relocation to Belgium for the cohabitation visa process. Use it as a reference and see whether you have missed out on anything important.
I am cordially inviting people who relocate to Belgium for the intention of legal cohabitation. Everyone is free to describe or complain about their cohabitation visa process. The objective is to collate experiences from others based on the cities where they stay. I think It is interesting for others to know one other’s experiences. If you are interested, you can write your story based on the question prompts. Alternatively, you can just answer the questions accordingly. Easy right? Are you interested in being my first guest? 🙂
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.