Guidance

Living in Belgium

Information British citizens moving to or living in Belgium need to know, including guidance on residency, healthcare and driving.

This guide sets out essential information for British citizens about moving to or living in Belgium. Read about how our consulate in Belgium can help.

This information is provided as a guide only. You should obtain definitive information from the Belgian authorities. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is not liable for any inaccuracies in this information.

Read general guidance on moving or retiring abroad.

To stay up to date:

If you were living in Belgium before 1 January 2021

Some parts of this guide only apply if you were living in Belgium since before 1 January 2021. These are indicated with sub-headings.

You should also read our Living in Europe page for detailed guidance about citizens’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Coronavirus

You should follow the advice of the Belgian Government and your local authority. You can also read our Belgium travel advice.

For information on getting a COVID-19 vaccine as a UK national in Belgium see our coronavirus travel advice.

Visas and residency

Residency

If you were resident in Belgium before 1 January 2021, you must apply for the new residence card (‘M’ card) by 31 December 2021. This residence card is for UK nationals and their UK or non-EU family members who have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Read the Office for Foreigner’s guidance for detailed information on the application process.

Note that residency is separate to citizenship.

If you have an ‘E’ or ‘E+’ card

You should have received a letter from the Belgian State Secretary for Asylum and Migration about the new residence card (‘M’ card). If you did not receive the letter, and think you should have, contact your local municipality (‘commune’ in French, ‘gemeente’ in Dutch).

Your local municipality will get in touch with you directly to outline the application process. You must follow the steps and deadlines outlined by your municipality, as these may differ locally.

You will need to provide a criminal record extract. The extract can be from the UK, Belgium or another country where you lived prior to Belgium. The UK extract can be issued by either DBS or ACRO. A Belgian extract (‘extrait de casier judiciaire’/’uittreksel uit het strafregister’) can be obtained from your local municipality.

You must apply for the ‘M’ card by 31 December 2021. If your application is successful, your ‘M’ card will be valid for 5 years. If you already have permanent residency, your ‘M’ card will reference this and will be valid for 10 years.

If you do not have an E or E+ card

If you started the process of registering your residency at your local municipality (commune/gemeente) before 1 January 2021, but have not completed it, you will not have an ‘E’ or ‘E+’ card. Your residency application will still be assessed under both previous EU rules and the new requirements for the ‘M’ card.

In line with previous EU rules, you may have to provide:

  • 4 passport-sized photos
  • originals and copies of your passport
  • the lease for your apartment or house
  • documents proving you can support yourself in Belgium, such as your employment contract or proof of your pension
  • proof of health insurance

You will also need to provide a criminal record extract (see above).

The police will verify your address by making a house call. If you’re not at home, the officer will leave a card giving you an appointment at your local police station.

Once your address has been verified, you’ll get a statement of registration and you can apply for an electronic residence card. This is valid for 5 years and costs around €20.

You must inform your local municipality (commune/gemeente) if your circumstances change. For example, tell them if you move home or change your marital status, so that registration can be kept up-to-date. This applies to everyone in your household.

Read the Belgian government’s guidance on residency rights.

Special ID card holders

If you were resident in Belgium on a special ID card (‘P’ or ‘S’ card) before 1 January 2021, you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. You can choose to register with your commune/gemeente and obtain the new ‘M’ residency card at any time.

Read the Belgian government’s guidance on special ID holders.

Moving to Belgium

Check the entry requirements for Belgium and read the Belgian government’s guidance on residency documents.

Passports and travel

You can apply for or renew your British passport in Belgium.

Check the Belgium travel advice for passport validity requirements.

Always carry your passport when travelling within the Schengen area. If you have citizenship of an EU / European Free Trade Area (EFTA) country, in addition to your British citizenship, you should enter and leave Belgium using your EU / EFTA passport.

If you stay in Belgium with a residence permit or long stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit for the Schengen area.

If you visit other Schengen area countries outside Belgium, make sure you do not exceed the visa-free 90 days in any 180-day period. You are responsible for counting how long you stay under the Schengen visa waiver, and you must comply with its conditions.

Different rules apply to EU countries that are not part of the Schengen area. Check each country’s travel advice page for information on entry requirements.

As a non-EEA national, different border checks will apply when travelling to other EU or Schengen area countries. You may have to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing.

If you were living in Belgium before 1 January 2021

When you travel, especially within the Schengen area, carry your residence card (‘M’ card) or frontier worker permit (‘N’ card) issued under the Withdrawal Agreement, in addition to your valid passport.

You must proactively show your residence document, or other evidence of residence status, if you are asked to show your passport at border control. If you have applied for, but not yet received, your residence card, carry your certificate of application (“annexe/bijlage” 56 or 57).

If you have not yet applied for a residence card, you should carry evidence that you are resident in Belgium. This could include a tenancy agreement or a utility bill in your name, dating from 2020.

If you cannot prove that you are resident in Belgium, you may be asked additional questions at the border to enter the Schengen area, and your passport may be stamped on entry and exit. This will not affect your rights in Belgium.

If you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement you do not need any extra months on your passport to enter or exit EU countries.

Healthcare

Read our guidance on healthcare in Belgium and make sure you are correctly registered for your circumstances.

You must register with a health insurance fund (mutuelle/ziekenfonds) to access the healthcare system if you are resident in Belgium. If you are working, both you and your employer will make contributions to your social security and healthcare system through the mutuelle/ziekenfonds. The amount you have to pay is set by the Belgian government.

When you visit a doctor or pharmacist, you need to pay and then send the receipt to your mutuelle/ziekenfonds. The amount you’ll be refunded depends on the health services covered by your insurance

Read the Belgian government guidance on health and social security entitlements.

If you’re leaving the UK with medicine that contains a controlled drug, check with the embassy about the rules for the country you’re going to before you travel and the NaTHNaC guidance on travelling with medicines.

You should also read guidance on:

Working in Belgium

If you are planning to move to Belgium and work, you may need a visa. Read the Belgian government’s guidance on working in Belgium as a foreign national and how to get a visa.

To apply for a job you may need to provide a:

  • UK police certificate
  • Belgian criminal records certificate (‘extrait de casier judiciaire’/’uittreksel uit het strafregister’), which you can request at your local municipality (commune/gemeente)

Read:

If you were living in Belgium before 1 January 2021

You have the right to work if you applied for an ‘M’ card.

If you live in Belgium and were regularly commuting to work in another EU or EFTA country before 1 January 2021, read our guidance for frontier workers.

If you were posted to Belgium before 1 January 2021, you must apply for a new ‘M’ card to secure your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Professional qualifications

You may need to get your professional qualification recognised if you want to work in a profession that is regulated in Belgium.

Read guidance on:

If you were living in Belgium before 1 January 2021

If the relevant regulator in Belgium officially recognised your professional qualification before 1 January 2021, or you started the recognition process by this date, make sure you understand the terms of your recognition decision. Seek advice from the regulator if needed.

Studying in Belgium

If you plan to study in Belgium, you must meet all visa requirements before you travel.

Contact the relevant higher education provider in Belgium to check what fees you may have to pay.

Read guidance on:

If you were living in Belgium before 1 January 2021

The studying in the European Union guidance includes specific information for those who were already living in Belgium before 1 January 2021.

Money, tax and banking

The UK has a double taxation agreement with Belgium to ensure you do not pay tax on the same income in both countries. Ask the relevant tax authority your questions about double taxation relief.

Existing double taxation arrangements for UK nationals living in Belgium have not changed.

You should get professional advice on paying tax in Belgium.

Read guidance about:

National Insurance

Find out if you need to pay National Insurance in the UK or social security contributions in Belgium.

Declaring your assets

All residents must declare assets outside Belgium, including bank accounts, securities, rights, insurance, annuities and property. The declaration is separate to the annual tax return, and there are severe penalties and criminal charges if you do not comply.

All non-residents have a legal obligation to file an annual Belgian tax return if they receive income, including a pension, from Belgium.

UK banking

Whether UK banks can provide services to customers living in the EEA is a matter of local law and regulation.

Your bank or finance provider should contact you if they need to make any changes to your product or the way they provide it. If you have any concerns about whether you might be affected, contact your provider or seek independent financial advice.

Read the Money and Pension Service guidance on banking, insurance and financial services changes for more information on cross-border banking.

Pensions

Read our guidance on entitlement to UK benefits and pensions while you are living in Belgium.

If you are moving or retiring abroad, you must tell the UK government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax.

Read our State Pension guidance if you have lived in Australia, Canada or New Zealand and you are claiming or waiting to claim your UK State Pension.

If you retire in Belgium, you can claim:

Read the Money and Pension Service’s MoneyHelper guidance on pension and retirement changes for more information on cross-border pensions.

Life certificates for UK State Pensions

If you get a ‘life certificate’ from the UK Pension Service, you must respond as soon as possible - your payments may be suspended if you don’t.

Benefits

Read our guidance on entitlement to UK benefits and pensions while you are living in Belgium.

Tell the UK government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax if you are moving or retiring abroad.

Check which UK benefits you can claim while abroad and how to claim them.

Many income-related benefits such as pension credit and housing benefit cannot be paid to you if you’re abroad for more than 4 weeks.

You may be eligible for Belgian benefits. Find out if you are entitled to Belgian benefits and how to claim them:

You can request proof of the time you’ve worked in the UK from HMRC if you are asked for this.

Accommodation and buying property

Read guidance on how to buy a property in Belgium.

Driving in Belgium

If you are a resident in Belgium, you should exchange your UK licence for a Belgian driving licence.

For information on driving in Belgium, read the guidance on:

When driving in Belgium, always have:

  • your driving licence
  • your car papers
  • your insurance paper
  • your MOT or control technique certificate
  • your passport or ID and those of your passengers

Driving in the UK with a Belgian licence

You can use your Belgian licence in the UK for short visits, or exchange it for a UK licence without taking a test. We will update these pages if there are any changes to the rules, as soon as information is available.

Bringing a UK-registered vehicle to Belgium

Read our guidance on taking a vehicle out of the UK.

If you are registered as a resident in Belgium, you must register your vehicle with the Belgian authorities. You can read the European Union’s guidance on car registration rules and taxes. You may be exempt from some of these taxes. If so you will need certificates of exemption.

Voting

If you have been resident in Belgium for more than 5 years, you can vote in local elections.

To do so, you must:

  • register on the municipal register where you live
  • formally declare your intention to vote and register on the local electoral roll
  • confirm your status every 2 to 5 years to remain registered and be able to vote

You cannot vote in federal or regional elections in Belgium or European Parliament elections.

You may be able to vote in some UK elections. You can:

Births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships

If your child is born in Belgium, you will need to register the birth abroad.

If someone dies in Belgium you can:

Find out how you can get married abroad.

Find out about notarial and documentary services for UK nationals in Belgium.

You may also need:

Pets

If you have a pet passport issued by Belgium or another EU member state, you can use it to travel with your pet to Great Britain and elsewhere in the EU.

A GB-issued EU pet passport is not valid for travel to the EU or Northern Ireland. You should speak to your vet before you travel to get the necessary pet travel documents and ensure you’re compliant with the EU Pet Travel Regulations.

Read guidance on:

Check the rules of the country you’re travelling to for any additional restrictions or requirements before you travel.

Emergencies

You can dial the European emergency number 112 in Belgium for the police, ambulance or fire brigade, or dial:

  • 100 for medical emergency and fire brigade
  • 101 for police
  • 116 000 for missing children

Consult the Belgium emergency numbers.

If you’re the victim of a crime, have been arrested, or are affected by a crisis abroad, contact the British embassy Brussels.

Returning to the UK

Check the COVID-19 travel guidance for entering the UK.

Tell the Belgian and UK authorities if you are returning to the UK permanently.

To move your pension to the UK, contact the International Pension Centre.

Read the guidance on returning to the UK permanently which includes information on, amongst other things, bringing family members, tax and access to services.

If you return to the UK permanently and meet the ordinarily resident test, you’ll be able to access NHS care without charge.

Useful information

Contact us through our web form if you have a specific question on living in Belgium.

Published 15 May 2013
Last updated 9 August 2021 + show all updates
  1. Guidance reviewed for Passports and travel, Healthcare, Working in Belgium, Studying in Belgium, Emergencies, and Returning to the UK sections. Professional qualifications section updated for British citizens who are moving or moved to Belgium after 1 January 2021 and those living there since before 1 January 2021.

  2. Working in Belgium section updated: new guidance for frontier workers

  3. Healthcare section updated including guidance on the S1 form and applying for EHIC and GHIC cards; working in Belgium section updated with link to Department for International Trade (DIT) guidance on working or providing services; and education section updated with information on studying in Belgium and funding eligibility for students, and link to DIT guidance on recognition of professional qualifications.

  4. Coronavirus section updated with a link to guidance on vaccines.

  5. Updated with additional details on how to apply for the new residence card and applying for a Belgian EHIC.

  6. Updated as the transition period ends with new information on how to apply for the new residency card, pet travel and moving to Belgium.

  7. Passports and travel section updated on carrying proof of residence when travelling.

  8. Healthcare section updated on how to apply for a new UK EHIC as a student or S1 holder. Working section updated with information on frontier workers.

  9. Passports and travel section updated to include information on passport validity and entry requirements when travelling to other European countries from January 2021.

  10. Brexit update: includes further details on passport validity, healthcare rights and State Pension uprating if the UK leaves the EU with a deal.

  11. Brexit update: healthcare section updated to reflect transitional arrangements announcement

  12. Brexit update: Pensions section updated to include further details on State Pension uprating.

  13. EU Exit update: added information about passport validity to passport section

  14. EU Exit update: added information on the latest no deal legislation in healthcare, visas and residency, education and driving sections

  15. We have updated the contact details you need to apply for an S1 form.

  16. EU Exit update: Updated information on passports. You must use the checker tool to see if your passport is still valid for your trip.

  17. EU Exit Update: Belgian government draft legislation on UK citizens' rights in a no deal added to the EU Exit section.

  18. EU Exit update: added latest information from the Belgian government about residence rights in the case of a deal or no deal in the EU Exit section.

  19. EU Exit update - Updated information on access to healthcare.

  20. EU Exit update: updated information on pensions and driving

  21. EU Exit update: New information in residency and visa section on draft withdrawal agreement in principle between the UK and EU. Plus information on travelling with pets in Europe in pet section.

  22. Complete revision of guidance to ensure it's up to date and accurate.

  23. Updated life certificate instructions for UK state pensions.

  24. First published.