How to Move to Belgium in 12 Easy Steps

Moving can be pretty stressful. But you don't have to worry about forgetting anything with our checklist for moving to Belgium.


8 minute read
Updated on 12 Apr 2024

Moving to Belgium? We can imagine it can be a lot to process. So much paperwork to arrange and appointments to make … in other words, things can get pretty stressful. But don’t worry, we’re here to make sure it all goes smoothly!

How to move to Belgium

To make your dream of living in Belgium come true, you need to know where to start.

That’s where our checklist will come in handy. We’ll guide you through the whole process so that you don’t forget a thing!

Here's how you move to Belgium:

  1. Learn the basics about Belgium.
  2. Check if moving to Belgium is a good idea for your needs.
  3. Figure out where you want to live.
  4. Prepare a budget that fits the cost of living.
  5. Find out the requirements to become a Belgian resident.
  6. Translate and legalise documents.
  7. Search for housing in Belgium.
  8. Get your plane tickets.
  9. Apply for health insurance.
  10. Wrap up and cancel your rent.
  11. Register in the City Office and apply for your Belgian ID.
  12. Open a Belgian bank account.

1. Learn the basics about Belgium

It's not all waffles and fries. When it comes to Belgium, getting to know the cultural nuances is essential. Not having a basic understanding of the linguistic and political split might be considered rude. So let’s have a quick Belgium 101!

Languages in Belgium

Belgium is divided into 3 regions, each with their official languages:

In Flanders in the north, people speak Dutch. Because there are certain differences in vocabulary and pronunciation, it's often referred to as Flemish. But most Dutch will have no issue understanding it!

To make things more complicated, the language is further divided into dialects. You may hear Brabantian, West Flemish, East Flemish, and Limburgish across Flanders!

The Wallonia region lies in southern Belgium and its official language is French. But to the east of Wallonia, you’ll find the German-speaking Community which makes up only 1% of the Belgian population.

Then there’s the Brussels-Capital Region. While the linguistic division is pretty clear in most of the regions, Brussels is sort of a unicorn. You’ll come across bilingual signs and hear a mix of French and Flemish in the air since both languages are official here.

Approximately 60% of the Belgian population speaks Flemish, making it the most spoken language in Belgium.

Belgian culture

Not only language but culture and architecture also change depending on which part of Belgium you are in. The national ideology in Belgium is rooted in ethnicity rather than the country’s administrative borders.

But at the risk of generalising, here’re a few traits of Belgian culture that are helpful to know:

  • Belgian people are quite reserved, calm and modest. They’re generally egalitarian, though the Walloon culture tends to be more hierarchical and formal compared to the informal Flemish.
  • Walloonians are more emotionally expressive and indirect than the emotionally reserved and straightforward Flemish. The French prefer to have some small talk before discussing serious matters, while the Flemish get straight down to business.
  • Belgians value their privacy, so generally avoid asking very personal questions when you don’t know a person well.
  • Belgians are all about hard work and discipline. Especially in Flanders and Brussels, people are very serious about planning. Their calendars are full for weeks ahead, so you should make appointments in advance even with your friends. And don’t be late, punctuality is key in Belgium!
  • Belgians respect rules in general. You won’t see a Belgian crossing a road at a red light!
  • Sundays are the days to unwind. Many stores are closed and employees must be paid double when working on Sundays. But luckily the opportunities for Sunday shopping are increasing, especially in larger cities like Brussels.
  • Especially when in Brussels, be on the safe side and start conversations in English rather than Flemish or French.

Belgian government

Belgium is a constitutional monarchy, where executive power is in the hands of the government.

It’s divided into 3 levels:

Federal government: in charge of national issues of defence, foreign affairs, social security and public health as well as promoting equal rights and opportunities among citizens.

Community government: controls matters of language use and is involved in the governance of education, individual welfare, social assistance programs, and some areas of healthcare.

Regional government: responsible for the regional infrastructure such as planning, energy, employment, mobility and environmental sustainability.

Thanks to the linguistic division, the government system of Belgium is pretty complex. The fact that these completely different cultures live under the same roof has been causing a lot of tension and a political divide. Wallonia and Brussels tend to support left-wing and green politicians, while Flanders favours the right-wing views.

Belgian climate

Belgium is notorious for its weather. Get ready to experience all 4 seasons in 1 single day! That's why it’s a good idea to always have a weather app in your pocket. For example, some popular choices include Buienrader, Meteo and weawow.

In Brussels, the average yearly temperature is 10 °C (50 °F). The mean minimum and maximum temperatures reach 0 °C (32 °F ) in January and 22 °C (71 °F) in July.

2. Check if moving to Belgium is a good idea for your needs

Whether you wish to immigrate to Belgium to work or study, make sure that you’re familiar with the opportunities in your field.

If you don’t have a job offer or university placement yet, this is the time to look for one. If you’re self-employed, check if there’s a demand for your type of activity and whether the regulations and market conditions are favourable to you.

3. Figure out where you want to live in Belgium

If you’ve a job or study opportunity in your pocket, you probably have an idea of where you’re going to live in Belgium. If not, have a good look at the Belgian cities and what they offer in terms of culture, quality of life and work opportunities. The differences between regions are significant and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Some of the popular cities among expats relocating to Belgium include:

4. Prepare a budget that fits the cost of living

Can you afford to live comfortably in Belgium? To figure that out, you should look into the cost of living in your destination and set a realistic budget.

For example, in Brussels, you can live comfortably on around €1,772 per month including rent.

Keep in mind that you might also need to meet certain financial requirements for your visa and residence permit applications.

5. Find out the requirements to become a Belgian resident

Moving to Belgium from another EEA country? Then you’re in luck! You only need to apply for your foreigner’s ID card once you’re there.

If you come from a non-EEA country, things are a tad more complex. Depending on the reason you move to Belgium, you need to prepare a range of documents for your long-stay visa.

In case you plan to work in Belgium, make sure you arrange your work/single permit or a professional card before applying for the visa to enter Belgium.

If you’re going to Belgium to study, a university admission letter and proof of sufficient financial means are some of the things you need to prepare for your student visa application.

We advise you to save the scans of the documents somewhere where you can always access them, such as Google Drive or Dropbox.

6. Translate and legalise documents

While you’re arranging the documents for your visa application, make sure you’ve all your important documents translated into French, Dutch, German or English by a sworn translator and apostilled. These documents might include your diploma, birth and marriage certificates or divorce papers and are needed both for your visa application and residence permit. It takes some time, so start at least 2 months ahead of your trip!

7. Search for housing in Belgium

While your visa application is in the hands of bureaucracy, it’s a perfect moment to start your housing search. Luckily, finding a place in Belgium isn’t as difficult, even in a popular international city like Brussels.

But still, to make sure you find the place of your dreams, the earlier you start the better.

When looking for a house, check out different neighbourhoods and consider the distance to your study or work and public transportation options.

Find the best neighbourhood to live in in Brussels.

If you’re a student on a tight budget, you could consider living in a ’kot.’ That’s a term you’ll hear often when looking for houses in Belgium. It refers to living in a private room in a student house.

Here’s what you can expect from the average rent in Brussels:

Type of accommodationAverage monthly cost
Private room€539

We can imagine it might be scary to sign an agreement before you can have a good look at the place. And fair enough, it happens pretty often that landlords oversell their properties. Luckily, with HousingAnywhere you can be sure that your money is safe until 48 hours after the move-in date. In that time window, you can review your property and notify us if something is wrong with it. If it’s not as advertised, you’ll get a full refund!

No matter where you end up booking, make sure you read your lease agreement thoroughly before signing. Clarify anything you’re not sure about with your landlord and figure out if utilities are included in the monthly price. If they aren’t, you probably need to arrange things like energy and internet yourself.

8. Get your plane tickets

As soon as you decide on your move-in date, book your plane tickets to Belgium. The earlier you book your flights, the less you’ll pay!

9. Apply for health insurance

Every Belgian resident must be covered by health insurance. You can choose whether to get an insurance plan with a private healthcare provider in advance or register with a public health insurance fund upon your arrival in Belgium. Or both!

Keep in mind that if you choose public health insurance, you first need to apply for your Belgian residence permit.

10. Wrap up and cancel your rent

It’s time to wrap things up! A month before leaving your home country, cancel your rental agreement and utilities along with any other local subscriptions such as a travel card or gym membership.

If necessary, arrange for your belongings to be shipped to Belgium and you’re almost there!

11. Register in the City Office and apply for your Belgian ID

Upon your arrival in Belgium, one of the first things you need to do is visit your local City Office (maison communale/gemeentehuis/stadhuis) and register your residence as a foreign national. As a non-EEA citizen, you only have 8 days to do that.

Once you’re registered, you’re a few steps away from getting your very own Belgian ID card!

12. Open a Belgian bank account

The last thing left to do before you can breathe a huge sigh of relief is to open a bank account in a Belgian bank. In fact, you can even do that way earlier in the process, before you arrive in Belgium. But if that wasn’t on top of your priorities then, this is your moment.

Having a local bank account will make your life easier. Especially if you come from a non-EU country, you’ll find this one necessary for paying your rent, utilities, local memberships and taxes.

Ready to move to Belgium?

Believe it or not but we’ve reached the end of your checklist for moving to Belgium. We can hear that sigh of relief!

On that last note, make sure you adjust this list to your individual needs and keep a good eye on it throughout your preparation. You wouldn’t want to forget anything, right?

Now that you know all about how to move to Belgium, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start prepping!

Good luck! Veel geluk! Bonne chance! Viel Glück!

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