Where to apply and what documents to provide?
Your family members who wish to join you in Belgium must submit an application for a D visa for family reunification at the Belgian embassy or consulate competent for their country of residence or origin abroad. Except in exceptional cases, they must present themselves and explain in person the reason for and context of their application.
- Where to submit your appliction?
- The documents to attach to the file
- Legalization and translation of documents
- Adequate housing, health insurance and sufficient, stable and regular means of subsistence
- A valid travel document (national passport or equivalent)
- The visa application form (duly completed and signed) and recent identity photos
- The birth certificate
- For your spouse
- For your registered partner
- For minor children
- For children aged 18 or over with a disability
- A copy of your residence permit in Belgium and a copy of the certificate of refugee status, the decision granting you refugee status or subsidiary protection status
- A medical certificate no more than 6 months old, obtained from a physician designated by the Belgian embassy or consulate
- An extract from the criminal record or an equivalent document, if your family member is aged 18 or over
- The consent from the person abroad who is exercising jointly the custody, to settle with the partner in Belgium.
- The court decision granting sole custody to the parent in Belgium.
- The death certificate of the other parent abroad.
- The divorce certificate of the parent in Belgium and of the parent abroad.
- your family member has been authorized to reside in Belgium for more than 3 months already;
- your family member has been authorized to reside in Belgium for maximum 3 months and:
- comes from a country whose citizens are exempted from the requirement to obtain a visa; or
- has a residence permit from a EU-country allowing him/her to circulate within the European Union; or
- is a minor child; or
- is the mother or father of an unaccompanied minor benefiting from refugee status or subsidiary protection; or
- has a valid visa in view of marriage or legal cohabitation and the marriage or legal cohabitation is concluded before the date on which the validity of the visa expires.
- the signature on the foreign document is not that of the competent official;
- the signatory is not competent;
- the stamp or seal is false, falsified or not in common use;
- the document has been drawn up in a foreign language not understood by the diplomatic staff in question;
- the presented document is considered as being contrary to Belgian public order.
- If the Belgian authorities refuse to legalize the document, the applicant must be informed in writing and the decision to refuse the legalization must contain the following items:
- a formal and sufficient justification (this means the legal and factual circumstances justifying the refusal);
- the possibilities to appeal against the refusal.
- If a Belgian authority refuses to recognize the validity of a foreign authentic document or if two Belgian authorities have divergent opinions on this matter, an appeal may be lodged before the competent court of first instance (art. 23 and 27 of the Code of Private International Law).
- either an attestation from the mutual benefit association to which you are affiliated, confirming the possibility of affiliating your family members once they arrive in Belgium;
- or proof that you have taken out private health insurance covering the risks in Belgium for yourself and your family (minimum length: 3 months – minimum coverage: 30.000 €). You do not have to pay for the latter private insurance policy before receiving the decision granting the visa.
As a general rule, family members who wish to join you in Belgium should submit their application at the Belgian embassy or consulate competent for their country of residence or origin abroad. If they are already in Belgium, they may only exceptionally submit their application at the municipal authorities of their place of residence.
If there is no Belgian embassy or consulate in the country where they reside, they must contact the competent Belgian diplomatic post for the country in question (www.diplomatie.belgium.be).
When you have received recognized refugee or subsidiary protection status in Belgium, your family members can submit their visa application at any diplomatic post that is authorized to issue long stay visas. This applies to every nationality, except for Somali nationals (since 1 January 2019 all Somalis need to apply at the diplomatic post in Nairobi), and for any standard family reunification application, as well as for a humanitarian visa application.
In most cases, applications will be collected by external service providers as VFS or TLS.
The application will then be transferred to the Immigration Office in Belgium.
The Belgian embassies and consulates are diplomatic posts. They are responsible for receiving visa applications for family reunification. The list of Belgian diplomatic posts abroad is available on the website of the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs.
Most diplomatic posts work with external service providers as VFS or TLS to collect the application and to issue the visa. Through the website mentioned above, you can find the website of the external service provider for more information on how to submit an application and how to make an appointment. For most diplomatic posts and exernal service providers, visa forms will need to be filled out online, and sometimes the appointment will also need to be made online.
Every family member has to provide the following documents to the embassy:
If a person is unable to obtain a passport (for instance when he/she is not in his/her country of origin or when he/she cannot go to his his/ her embassy in the country of residence), the Belgian authorities may exceptionally, in certain cases, issue a “laissez-passer”. A “laissez- passer” is a temporary travel document which allows your family member to travel to Belgium. Purely material aspects (the cost of the document, distance to be travelled in order to obtain it etc.) are not considered to be factors rendering it impossible to obtain a passport.
In some cases, family members who are recognized as refugees in a third country, can obtain a travel document for refugees (1951 Convention).
The visa application form (duly completed and signed) and recent identity photos. Most of the time, the visa forms need to be filled out online through Visa On Web
At the time of the introduction of the visa application, the embassy or external service provider collects the visa “handling fee”. This is the cost that the embassy requires for each visa application for family reunification, and amounts to the equivalent, in local currency, of €180 per person. The cost of the legalization sometimes still needs to be added. This cost should not be confused with the administrative fee (rate 1 September 2019: €358) required since the 2 March 2015, for the processing of certain long stay (D) visa applications, by the Immigration Office. (By judgments No 245.403 and No 245.404 of 11 September 2019, the royal decrees of 16 February 2015 and 14 February 2017 on the administrative contribution were annulled. The Immigration Department is still requesting the payment of the administrative contribution. However, it is possible to recover the unduly paid contribution.)
If you have received the recognized refugee or subsidiary protection status in Belgium, your family members who introduce an application based on Article 10, are exempted from such administrative fee. Your family members need to then prove your particular status at the embassy or external service provider. This exemption does not count for applications based on Article 9 of the Law of 15 December 1980 (humanitarian visa), unless for minor applicants, since they are always exempted from this fee.
It often happens that refugees are unable to provide a birth certificate or that the one provided is not recognized by the Belgian authorities. In that case, the Immigration Office will usually ask for a DNA test to be carried out (see further).
For the children born to you and your spouse/partner and for the children of only one of the spouses/partners: a certificate to prove that the child is unmarried, if according to the national legislation of the country of origin the child has reached the marriageable age.For the children of only one of the spouses/partners, depending on the individual situation:
A medical certificate issued by a physician recognized by the Belgian embassy or the consulate, attesting that the family member does not sufffer from a disease that might endanger public health.
A medical certificate no more than 6 months old, obtained from a physician certified by the Belgian embassy or consulate
This certificate must establish that your family member does not suffer from a disease which might endanger public health in Belgium.
The above-mentioned documents are the basic documents to be submitted in any case. The Belgian authorities may request additional documents. All original documents are kept for the duration of the application process. On request and after verification of the authenticity, a travel document can be be returned to your family member. At the end of the application process, all documents will be returned to your family members. Only a copy of the documents is kept in the archives of the diplomatic post.
In addition to these documents, your family members have to provide evidence of sufficient housing, health insurance and sufficient, stable and regular means of subsistence when this is legally required.
The visa application form, as well as the standard forms for medical and health insurance certificates, can be downloaded in French, Dutch and English from the website of the Immigration Office. They are also available at the embassy.
If it concerns documents with changeable facts (extract from the judicial records, proof that the child is unmarried, etc.), in principle, the document needs to be as recent as possible and no more than 6 months old before the application. For documents related to unchangeable facts (e.g. birth certificate) this is less important
If a person is unable to obtain a document and can justify this, the embassy can still decide to send the incomplete file to the Immigration Office in Belgium. The matter should be raised with the competent diplomatic post (email@example.com).
Your family member who is already in Belgium, can apply for family reuni cation at the municipal authorities of his/her place of residence only in the following cases (art. 12bis § 1 of the Law of 15 December 1980):
If your family member does not find himself/herself in one of the above-mentioned situations, he/she can only apply for family reunification to the municipal authorities if there are “exceptional circumstances” which prevent him/her from returning to his/her country of origin to apply for a visa. If your family member has been granted a C visa for another reason (for instance family or friend’s visit, tourism), an application for family reuni cation cannot be submitted to the municipal authorities, unless there are “exceptional circumstances” preventing a return to the country of origin. In practice, “exceptional circumstances” are only accepted exceptionally.
All foreign authentic documents that you submit with your application for family reunification (authentic certificates or legal decisions) must in principle be legalized by the foreign authorities who issued the documents, as well as by the Belgian authorities (embassy or consulate), except when the simplified “apostille” procedure is applied. The legalization must take place before the recognition of the documents, in accordance with Article 30 of the Code of Private International Law (except when the simplified “apostille” procedure is applied).
The cost of legalization varies from country to country and is your responsibility to pay. (The Royal Decree of 26 December 2015 related to the modification of the rates of the Law of 21 December 2013 on the Consular Code, establishes that the price for legalization by Belgian authorities is 10 euro. In practice 20 euro is asked for each legalized document.)
In principle, the legalization needs to be as recent as possible and not older than 6 months before the introduction of the application.
The legalization request does not need to be done in person. A family member, lawyer, friend, etc. can also present the certificates to the competent authorities.
If it is not possible to legalize your documents, you must have a valid reason and communicate it to the diplomatic post and the Immigration Office.
The purpose of legalization is to authenticate the signature and the status of the person who has issued the document. It does not guarantee the reliability of the content of the document. The civil servant who legalizes the certificates can however determine a shortcoming concerning the content through a comment or remark.
The content of the document will only be validated by the recognition of the document during the processing of the family reunification file.
In addition, foreign authentic documents in a language other than German, English, French or Dutch must be translated by a sworn translator. The translation must be enclosed with the file. The cost of translation also varies from country to country and is your responsibility to pay.
Refusal to legalize foreign authentic documents
Following a circular of the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, the embassy or consulate may refuse to legalize if:
Unless you are exempted from this condition, you must provide evidence that you have “adequate housing” to accommodate your family members who wish to join you in Belgium (art. 10 § 2, par. 2 of the Law of 15 December 1980).
The housing must be adequate and meet the requirements of safety, sanity and habitability for real estate that is rented as a principal residence.
Adequate housing can be proven by submitting a registered rental contract or proof of ownership of the house. However, when the house is condemned, the house is not intended as principal residence, or if the rental contract explicitly provides that the house cannot accommodate the number of persons that want to join you in Belgium, these documents will not be accepted as proof of adequate housing.
Unless you are exempted from this condition, you must provide evidence that you have health insurance covering all medical risks in Belgium for yourself and family members who wish to join you (art. 10 § 2, par. 2 of the Law of 15 December 1980). This proof must be enclosed in your file in the following manner:
Sufficient, stable and regular means of subsistence
Unless you are exempted from this condition, you must provide evidence that you have sufficient, stable and regular means of subsistence to maintain yourself and your family members and to avoid them becoming a burden on the public authorities (art. 10 § 2, par. 3 and 4 of the Law of 15 December 1980).
The means of subsistence must be at least equal to 120% of the living wage (art. 10 § 5, par. 1 of the Law of 15 December 1980). On 1 September 2019, this is €1.505,784 net monthly.
Income from complementary schemes (living wage, supplementary family allowances), financial social aid, family allowances, interim allowances and allowances for professional insertion are not taken into consideration. Unemployment benefits will only be taken into account if you can prove that you are actively looking for work (art. 10 § 5, par. 2 of the Law of 15 December 1980).
When you do not meet this income requirement, the Immigration Office cannot automatically refuse your application. The Immigration Office will assess, on an individual basis and according to the needs of your family, which amount of means of subsistence is necessary to avoid your family becoming a burden on the public authorities. Therefore, it is important to give all useful information and documents concerning your financial situation and the needs of your family (e.g. monthly expenses) to the Immigration Office (art. 12bis § 2, par. 4 of the Law of 15 December 1980).
In addition to the general exemption (see above), the requirement of sufficient, stable and regular means of subsistence does not apply when the application for family reunification only concerns minor children of a beneficiary of international protection or of his/her spouse (also not when the application is introduced after the year following the granting of international protection). (art. 10 § 2, par. 3 of the Law of 15 December 1980).
Exemption from providing evidence of adequate housing, health insurance and sufficient, stable and regular means of subsistence
If your family members submit their application for family reunification within the year following the recognition of your protection status and if your family tie existed before your arrival in Belgium, you do not need to provide evidence of adequate housing, health insurance for you and your family members, nor should you prove that you have sufficient, stable and regular means of subsistence. (art. 10 § 2, par. 3 of the Law of 15 December 1980)
Belgian law thus allows for a more favourable treatment of applications by bene ciaries of international protection. However, if you delay in submitting your application, you will need to submit this proof.
It is thus important for you to start the family reunification process as soon as possible once you have received protection status, to guarantee that the application will be submitted within the year.
For unaccompanied minors with international protection status who wish to be joined by their parents in Belgium, however, proof of adequate housing, health insurance and sufficient, stable and regular means of subsistence are never required. It is irrelevant whether or not the application is submitted within the year following the decision recognizing the refugee status of the minor. (Constitutional Court Decision 95/2008)