Besides renaissance-themed streets, lots of museums and a multi-cultural atmosphere, one of the best things about Belgium not talked about quite as much is its incredible standard of education. An incredible standard of education and relatively affordable tuition makes Belgian universities stand out in the world. In fact, foreign students coming to Belgium to study is one of the biggest sources of immigration. If you fall in this demographic, that is, you wish to study in Belgium, you definitely need a Belgium Student Visa.
Our aim with this article is to educate you on what a student visa is in Belgium. We will cover the required documents you need to secure one, what factors qualify you for one, and what you stand to gain by getting one. Therefore, I urge you to read attentively; maybe one day, when you grace the halls of KU Leuven, Antwerp University, Ghent University, or any of their ilk, you will find the info we provide here useful enough.
What is a Belgium Student Visa?
A Belgium student visa is a document approved by the Belgian embassy that allows foreign nationals to come study in tertiary institutions in Belgium. This document is obtainable by citizens of any country at all who have gained provisional admission into approved learning institutions in Belgium.
However, those students whose countries fall in the Schengen Area, EU, EFTA, EEA, or any of the countries with a visa-free agreement with Schengen do not need to get a visa. Find out if your country needs a visa to visit Belgium.
Belgium is a multicultural country; the 3 major languages spoken in Belgium include; Dutch, French, and German. There is also a reasonable number of people who speak English and Spanish as their 2nd language. Hence, wherever you come from, you will likely be right at home in Belgium. The environment is friendly to immigrants of a whole spectrum of cultures.
Requirements for Belgium Student Visa
Like any other Belgium Visa, the Belgium Student Visa has a lot of requirements. These documents help the embassy assess your eligibility and determine whether or not to approve your visa. Therefore, you should take every last one of these requirements seriously. Each one is just as important as the last (unless this article clearly states otherwise).
We will look at the requirements under three sections; general, language, and financial requirements.
#1. Application Form for Student Visa
Surely, there is not application form without an actual application form. Hence, this might be the first among equals for the Belgian student visa requirements. In the application form, you have to fill in all of your primary and travel info, from name and date of birth to type of visa and marital status.
Ensure you fill your form properly and very legibly. If possible, use block letters as those are far easier to read than regular letters.
#2. Passport-Sized Photograph
You must also provide two passport-sized photos of yourself as part of your application documents for a Belgium student visa. Furthermore, these passports will only be accepted if they meet the necessary Schengen Visa Passport requirements. The said requirements include recent, background colour, dimensions, etc.
#3. Medical Requirements
Students who wish to travel to Belgium for studies need to present a medical certificate, showing their medical history; from allergies to tendencies, and a recent travel check-up. Therefore, the Belgian embassy can decide if the student is worth it and fit to travel.
In addition, you must also present a proof of health insurance that covers the period of your studies.
#4. Cover Letter
Your cover letter should state “study” as your purpose of travel. Furthermore, you will need to explain why you want to study in Belgium, what school and programme of study you were accepted into. It wouldn’t also hurt to chip in what value you think you can add to the Belgian society and how studying there could help your plans for the future.
#5. Admission Letter
Here, you will present your letter of provisional admission or any other proof that you have been accepted into the institution. If this proof comes in the form of an email from them, you will print it out and make copies of it for the visa application.
#6. National Passport
Your national passport is an identity document you will get from your country. This document identifies you as a foreign national in Belgium and bears your visa approval stamp. Hence, this is another must-bring document in your Belgium student visa application.
For your national passport to be valid, it must be no older than 10 years, and must have an expiry date that extends well beyond the length of the programme you’ve been admitted to study. Furthermore, it must have two blank pages, one of which will contain the affixed “Visa approved” sticker if you are successful.
#7. Police Report
If you want to apply for a Belgium student visa and are above 21 years of age, and you’ve been admitted to study in Belgium, you’ll also need to present a police report showing your criminal records. This document will help the embassy decide whether or not you’re likely to be of good conduct in Belgium. Even more importantly, it shows them you have no ongoing criminal case that prevents you from leaving your country.
Belgium is a multi-cultural society; we already know that much. Therefore, it has four languages of instruction; English, Dutch, French, and German. The language requirements state that you must prove proficiency in the language of instruction for your intended course of study. Ensure to confirm the language of instruction for these courses while applying.
However, if you are a native speaker of the said language, or you finished your last degree in that very language, this requirement does not apply to you. For instance, if you finished your first degree with instruction in English, you will not need to provide proof of proficiency if the degree you applied for has English as its instruction language.
If you do not fall into the category above and need to prove proficiency, here are the accepted proficiency exams for the different languages;
- Dutch: Dutch NT2-II Diploma
- French: DALF or DELF
- English: IELTS or TOEFL
- German: DSH or TestDaF
Note, however, that different schools have their own proficiency score requirements. Hence, you should check with your school (and course) to know exactly what score you’re targeting.
The two major financial requirements for a student visa are;
- Application Fee: The application fee for the Belgium student visa is around 180 EUR. However, when you factor in miscellaneous and possible logistics, it’s much safer to budget around 200 EUR for the application procedure.
- Proof of Funds: Living in Belgium is not exactly cheap. Therefore, you will need to prove you have the necessary means to fund your stay in Belgium. That is why, when applying for a Belgium visa, you will need to submit a proof of funds. For students, this should show that you have access to at least 670 EUR per month. It’s okay if you don’t have this money yourself. You can also prove that you have a willing sponsor who can fund it, or a scholarship that will provide it for you.
How to Apply for Belgium Student Visa
Once you have all the application requirements ready, getting your Belgium student visa shouldn’t be too confusing afterwards. The following steps should guide you on what to do;
- Choose a university that offers the course you want to study.
- Apply to the university, pass your interview and get accepted.
- Gather all the documents you need.
- Get the Belgium student visa application form and pay the fee.
- Submit them all documents (including the form) to the embassy. While at it, schedule and interview with them.
- Attend and pass the interview. During the interview, they will test you on your knowledge of Belgium, the school and the course you wish to study.
- Wait for the verdict.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if the Belgian embassy rejects my application?
If the embassy rejects your student visa application, you can do one of two things; appeal the decision or re-apply. If you choose to appeal the decision, you must write a letter to the embassy containing your personal info (name, D.O.B., etc.), the reason your visa was rejected, and the date it was rejected. You must also include and explanation (and possibly evidence) as to why you think reason for rejection was inaccurate.
Can I extend my Belgium student visa?
Yes. In cases where your student visa expires before the end of your programme, you can apply two weeks before the expiry date and request for a renewal. Find the town hall in the city you live and apply there.
Am I permitted to work in Belgium with a student visa?
Yes, you can work in Belgium with a student visa. One of the benefits of holding a Belgium student visa is that it also acts as a part-time work visa and allows you to work 20 hours a week; that is, as long as those hours do not interfere with your academic curriculum.
Additionally, after your studies, your student visa allows you to stay an extra 9 months in Belgium, during which time, you can look for work and request to be transitioned to work permit.
How long does it take to process Belgium student visa?
The Belgium student visa usually takes between 15 and 60 days to process. Therefore, it is advisable that you apply at least 3 months before your proposed travel date. That way, even long delays will be covered.
What do I do after arriving in Belgium?
When you first arrive in Belgium, you need to go apply for a residence permit. The residence permit allows foreign national from non-Schengen visa-free agreement states to live in the Schengen area. Therefore, if you hail from one of the Schengen countries or its visa-free partner states, you do not need a residence permit (unless your program of study exceeds 3 months).
You can get your residence permit at the local administration office in your city. Note that this permit requires yearly renewal for as long as you stay in Belgium.
There are many benefits to studying in Belgium. As we said before, you can live and work there, and learn in some world-best universities while at it. The time you spend in Belgium as a student also counts if you ever wish to apply for citizenship; you kill multiple birds with one stone. So, go ahead; apply for that Belgium student visa today.