Rated by numerous international students as an excellent place for studies, Belgium offers a wide multicultural environment and great academic opportunities, as the country has several top universities included in prestigious international rankings.
As a multilingual country with different regions speaking French, Dutch and German, English is also widely spoken in the great cities of Belgium and many university courses are taught in this language.
If you want to study in Belgium, the good news is that not all international students require a student visa. Keep on reading to find out if you need a visa and how you can get it.
Apply to a Belgian university and get your acceptance letter
If you’re still not sure where you want to study in Belgium, you will have to decide before you can start your student visa application process. After being accepted at a university in Belgium, you’ll get an acceptance letter required for the visa application.
The following are some of the most popular disciplines in Belgium:
- Master's degrees in Political Science in Belgium
- Master's degrees in Economics in Belgium
- Master's degrees in Electrical Engineering in Belgium
- Master's degrees in Computer Sciences in Belgium
- Master's degrees in International Business in Belgium
Consider some of the best universities in Belgium:
- University of Leuven
- University of Antwerp
- Ghent University
- University of Liège
- Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
Find out what type of visa you need to study in Belgium
To study in Belgium, international students might need a visa and a residence permit. But how do you know if you need a visa or not? It depends on your nationality and the length of your studies:
- Students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland do NOT need a visa or a residence permit.
- Non-EU/EEA students need to apply for a D visa if they plan to stay in Belgium for 90 days or less. If the length of their studies is longer, they have to apply for the D visa and the follow it with an application for a residence permit.
Analyse study opportunities in each Belgian Community
Belgium uses a federal state structure and is split into 3 Communities:
- Flanders, the Flemish Community where Dutch is the main language
- Wallonia, the French Community where French is the main language
- The German Community, which is a lot smaller and has German as the main language
Each federal state might have differed policies and regulations for international students. Visit the following websites to see if your diploma receives the same recognition in the Flemish, French, or German communities as in your own country.
- Flemish Community and National Academic Recognition Information Centres in the European Union
- French Community
- German Community
We should mention one important exception: students from China have to obtain a certificate from the Academic Evaluation Centre (APS) of the German Embassy in Beijing before being allowed to enrol at a Belgian university or obtaining a student visa.
When and where to apply for the student visa in Belgium?
- Apply for a visa at the local Belgium embassy or consulate in your home country.
- For a long stay study visa/residence permit, it is recommended that you make an appointment at the embassy at least two months before your departure.
- For a short stay visa, make an appointment at least 3 weeks before your departure.
Tips about the visa application in Belgium
- Check the opening hours for handing in a visa application.
- At some embassies/consulates, you can make an appointment online by sending an e-mail at the embassy and upload the required documents. You will receive an answer within the next 2 working days with a confirmation of your appointment.
- Inform the embassy in case you want to cancel or change your appointment.
- The processing of your visa application can take anywhere from a few weeks to over 3 months depending on your nationality, the length of your studies, and how many people apply for a visa. The sooner you start your application, the better.
Language requirements for studying in Belgium
You will have to provide evidence that you have a sufficient knowledge of the language in which your academic course is taught. If you are a native speaker, or if you finished your previous studies in the same language that is used as medium of instruction for your chosen degree, you are exempted from the language requirement.
Accepted certificates based on your chosen language:
Required documents for the visa application in Belgium
- Passport (valid for three months longer than the visa)
- Two original visa application forms
- Acceptance letter from a Belgian university (usually the original document plus two copies)
- Copies of educational certificates
- Cover/motivational letter
- Proof of sufficient financial means to cover all your expenses during an academic year (670 EUR/month)
- A medical certificate
- A certificate of good conduct (or the local equivalent) if you are over 21 (including fingerprinting)
- Visa application fee (70 EUR for short stay visa and 210 EUR for long stay visa)
Additional documents may be requested by the embassy or consulate.
Apply for a work permit in Belgium
You can apply for a work permit (Belgian work permit C – for students) at the regional employment agencies in Belgium.
Any foreign student enrolled at a Belgian university that has a valid residence permit can work up to 20 hours a week outside of school holidays as long as working hours don’t overlap with their classes.
You will need to get a written fixed term contract from your employer, known as a ‘student employment contract’. During holidays, you can work without the need for a permit.
Learn more about Belgian work permits for non-EU/EEA citizens.
Conditions to apply for a residence permit
Within 8 working days after your arrival in Belgium, reach the local municipal administration offices/ town hall (maison communale/gemeentehuis) to register for a residence permit. This residence permit allows you to open a bank account, apply for a work permit and you could also get insurance in Belgium.
In some cases, you can apply for the residence permit at your university and they will help you with the application.
Find other information about visas and permits in Belgium on the official Immigration Office website.