Everything to Know About Moving to Belgium from the US


Updated on Jul 17 • 6 minute read

Belgium’s healthcare and education systems alone make moving to Belgium from the US an excellent opportunity for you and your family. Add lower consumer prices, cheaper rent and shorter working hours and you might never want to look back.

Imagine, once you have dual citizenship, you can enjoy all the perks of your American passport plus visa-free access to 186 countries!

So if you’re dreaming of living in Belgium as an American, studying or working here, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, you’ll learn the ins and outs of moving to Belgium from the USA.

Visas and residence permits for Americans moving to Belgium

To move to Belgium from the USA, you must apply for the right residence permit and a long-stay visa to enter the country.

These are the most common types of permits to live in Belgium as an American:

  1. Student Residence Card
  2. Internship Permit
  3. Highly Qualified Worker or Director
  4. EU Blue Card
  5. Professional Card
  6. Belgium Business Residence Program
  7. Permanent Residency
  8. Belgian Citizenship

Since the majority of the residence permits are focused on working expats, you should know that to work in Belgium as a US citizen, you also need to hold a work authorization. When you work for an employer in Belgium, your residence and work permits are combined into a so-called single permit.. But you might know it as a ‘green card.’

Initially, you always get a temporary residence card which you can turn into a permanent permit after 5 years of uninterrupted residence. That way you’ll enjoy similar rights as Belgian nationals. And once you’ve reached a certain level of integration, you can apply for Belgian citizenship.

Applying for a work permit happens before or at the same time as the application for a long-term visa (type D) which you need to enter Belgium. You should always start the visa application at least 3 months before your planned arrival in Belgium. And once you’re in Belgium, you must register with your local town hall to get your residence card.

Student residence card

Who is it for: American citizens who wish to study or perform a PhD research in one of the Belgian universities.

Once you graduate from a Belgian university, you can apply for a search year visa that allows you to work in Belgium without a work permit for 1 year.

Validity: The Belgian student residence permit is valid for 1 or 2 years and can be renewed as long as you’re studying.

Application: To get your visa and residence permit for study purposes, you must meet the following requirements:

  • you have proof of admission to a Belgian university
  • you have sufficient financial means for the length of your studies (€730/month in 2022-2023)

Note that a residence card for study purposes allows you to work no more than 20 hours per week.

Internship permit

Who is it for: For US citizens who’ve found an internship position in Belgium.

Validity: 1 year.

Application: Your employer applies for a single permit on your behalf and it takes up to 4 months to receive a decision.

However, your internship has to meet one of the following requirements:

  1. You’re going to work in a Belgian government department or an international organisation governed by an international treaty (e.g. NATO)
  2. You’re going to work for a private company and
  • you’re younger than 30 years old
  • it’s a full-time internship of less than 1 year
  • you’ve got an internship contract
  • you’ll earn at least the legal minimum allowance (€751 per month in 2022)
  • your internship has a detailed training programme
  • you can prove that your internship is the continuation of your previous study

Highly-qualified worker or director

Who is it for: For highly-educated US citizens moving to Belgium to work as a manager or director.

Validity: Highly-qualified worker or director visa is valid until the end of your contract but with a maximum of 3 years at once. You can renew it as many times as necessary.

Application: Your employer applies for a single permit for you and Belgian authorities have 90 days to make the decision. Once the single permit application is approved, you can apply for your long-stay visa at the Belgian embassy in your place of residence.

To be granted the right to live and work in Belgium as a highly-qualified worker:

  • you must possess a diploma of higher education of at least 3 years from a recognised university
  • your employment contract must be at least 1-year long
  • you earn an annual salary of at least:
    • Brussels and Wallonia regions: €44,097 for managers and €73,570 for directors
    • Flanders: €36,076 (under 30 years old) and €45,096 (over 30 years old)

Keep in mind that this type of visa is tied to a specific employer. So, if you decide to change jobs, your new employer must apply for a new single permit for you.

EU Blue Card

Who is it for: US citizens who’ve secured a high-paid position in a Belgian company.

One of the perks is that after 18 months of working in Belgium with the EU Blue Card, you can continue your employment in another EU member state.

Validity: 1 year with the right of extension.

Application: Similarly to a highly-qualified worker scheme, your employer applies for a single permit for you. Once the permit is granted, you can apply for your long-stay visa to enter Belgium.

Note that the minimum salary requirements for an EU Blue Card are higher than for the highly-qualified worker permit. To qualify for an EU Blue Card you must earn a minimum gross annual salary of €57,019.

Professional card

Who is it for: Americans moving to Belgium from the US to start their own business or work as a freelancer.

Validity: A professional card is usually issued for 2 years to allow you to develop your business or self-employed activity. It can then be extended for up to 5 years at once.

Application: You must apply for a long-stay visa and professional card simultaneously at your local Belgian embassy.

You can apply for this professional card in Belgium if you:

  • can prove that you’re qualified for the profession you wish to pursue
  • show a detailed business plan no longer than 20 pages that demonstrates the value your activity will bring to the region (e.g. job creation, innovative character, useful investments, social or cultural value)

Belgium Business Residence Program (a.k.a. Belgium Golden Visa)

Who is it for: US citizens who wish to invest a significant amount in the Belgian economy.

Validity: 1 year with the right of extension.

Application: Application for this program isn’t as defined as for so-called Golden Visas in other European states. The main requirement for Belgium Business Residence Program is opening a new or developing an existing business in Belgium. But there aren’t any minimum investment requirements and applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. In general terms, you can expect to invest about €350,000 – €500,000 over a 5-year period.

As a US citizen, you must submit a detailed business plan, proof of available funds and an application for a professional card to your local Belgium embassy or consulate.

What’s the difference between the Belgium Residence Program (BRP) and a regular professional card? BRP has no minimum residency requirements, so you’re free to enter and leave Belgium as you please. Moreover, you can easily bring your family to Belgium and they’ll enjoy the same rights as you.

Permanent Residence Permit

Who is it for: US citizens who’ve lived in Belgium for uninterrupted 5 years.

The permanent residence card allows you to live and work in Belgium freely. It also gives you voting rights.

Validity: The permanent residence card is valid for 5 years. After that, you can either renew it or apply for Belgian citizenship.

Application: You must apply for permanent residency at your local town hall.

Belgian citizenship

Who is it for: US citizens who’ve lived in Belgium for some time and are interested in fully integrating into Belgian society. And don’t worry, Belgium allows for a dual nationality and you don’t have to renounce your American citizenship.

Unlike a permanent residence card, Belgian citizenship allows you to leave Belgium for any length of time without losing your status.

Validity: Lifetime.

Application: You can apply for Belgian citizenship either through the House of Representatives or your local town hall. In some municipalities, you can start your application online via their websites.

You can choose one of the 2 paths to acquire Belgian citizenship:

  1. By submitting a nationality declaration if you’ve lived in Belgium for at least 5 years, possess knowledge of 1 of the national languages as well as demonstrate your social integration and participation in the economic life of Belgium. Normally, this application takes 4 months to review.

  2. By applying for naturalisation if you’ve demonstrated exceptional merits in the scientific, sporting or socio-cultural field and can contribute to Belgium’s international influence. In this case, you need to prove you couldn’t acquire Belgian nationality via the nationality declaration. You’ll have to be patient here, the naturalisation process takes at least 2 years.

Now that you’re familiar with the different paths for moving to Belgium from the US, you can start arranging your permit, looking for the best city to live in and work your way through our relocation checklist.

Good luck!

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