Living in Belgium
What UK and Belgian benefits are available to Britons living in Belgium, and information on driving regulations in Belgium.
If you are a British citizen or British subject with right of abode in the UK, you do not require a visa to enter Belgium. Other British nationals should confirm the current entry requirements with their nearest Belgian Embassy.
A valid British passport must be held for entry to and exit from Belgium as a visitor. There is no minimum passport validity requirement but you should ensure that your passport is valid for the duration of your visit. You must also carry proof of identity at all times.
Apply for residency
For residency it is mandatory to register at your local commune (town hall) within 8 days of your arrival. The registration procedure is the same throughout Belgium, however each individual commune has their own way of implementing it. While the process is straightforward, it can take some time and you might need certain certificates from the consulate.
First you will need to go to your local commune, if you don’t speak French or Dutch it would be advised to take someone who does with you. When you do go along to the commune, you should bring:
- 4 passport-sized photos; originals and copies of your passport
- your contract of your apartment/house
- documents proving you will be able to support yourself in Belgium, such as your contract from your employer or pension papers proving your entitlement and proof of health insurance (this is mandatory - see below)
You will need to pay a required fee of around €20.
Afterwards you may be given further forms for you or/and your employer to complete and return.
Once the commune has all the required documentation, the police will verify your address by making a house call. This usually happens within 1 - 2 weeks of your visit to the commune. If you’re not at home when a police officer calls, the officer will leave a card giving you an appointment at your local police station.
Once the police have verified your address, your residence card (this is not a valid travel document) should be issued in four weeks.
You will be sent either a letter inviting you to come to your commune to collect your residence card or the police will deliver the card to your address.
You will initially be issued with a temporary residence card, which is valid for three months. A permanent residents card will be granted once you have joined the Belgian social security system by registering with a mutuelle (French)/ Ziekenfonds (Dutch).
Health insurance and social security
In Belgium you do not automatically get a social security card when you start working. You must first register with a Mutuelle (French)/Ziekenfonds (Dutch).
The Belgian health insurance and social security system is administered by the several mutuelles/ziekenfonds, which are linked to the various political parties (Liberal, Neutral, Christian, and Socialist).
You are free to choose one that best suits your needs. Once you are a paying member of a mutuelle/ziekenfonds you will receive your SIS (Social Information System) card, a microchip card which carries all your details.
When you visit a doctor or pharmacist, you will have to pay the required amount first. You will be given a receipt which you should submit to your mutuelle/ziekenfonds for reimbursement. The amount you will be reimbursed depends on the health services provided. You should check with your mutuelle/ziekenfonds to see what services are covered by your insurance.
Both you and your employer must make contributions to your social security and health insurance through the mutuelle/ziekenfonds. The amount you have to pay is set by the Belgian government.
This is the list of the various mutuelles/ziekenfonds to which you can subscribe:
- Union des mutualité libérales
- Mutualité Neutre de Bruxelles
- Mutualité Chrétienne
- Mutualité Socialiste
- Union Nationale des Mutualités Libres
The UK basic state pension is payable in Belgium.
The state pension changed in April 2010. More people now qualify for a full basic state pension. Find out about the most important changes and what they mean to you.
To find out when you reach State Pension age, use the State Pension Age Calculator.
If you live but have not worked in Belgium, you should claim your UK state pension by contacting the International Pension Centre in the UK by telephone: +44 (0)191 218 7777.
However, if you live and have worked at some point in Belgium you must apply for your UK state pension via the RVP-ONP or Belgian National Pension Office. Be aware that the application form is only available in French, Dutch and German. AngloINFO Brussels explains the system in English.
Your claim will then be passed by RVP-ONP, the Belgian National Pension Office, to the International Pension Centre (IPC) . Please note, your claim for a UK state pension may be rejected if you apply directly to the International Pension Centre but have worked and made contributions in Belgium.
Moving to Belgium once in receipt of a UK state pension
If you are in receipt of a UK old age state pension, request an S1 form (previously E121) from the Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999. If you are in receipt of an exportable DWP benefit you can request an S1 form from the office which pays your exportable benefit. It is your responsibility to keep the Overseas Healthcare Team or office which pays your exportable DWP benefit up to date with any changes in circumstances which may affect your entitlement to an S1 (E121). When received, register the S1 form with your local Social Assistance office, before you register with your local GP surgery and obtain a medical card.
Entitlement to a Belgian retirement pension
After working in more than one European Economic Area country, it is possible for your contributions from each one to be taken into account when calculating your pension or benefit. You must therefore give as much information as possible about your working life when you apply.
For information on how and when to claim your Belgian retirement pension or how your contributions in the UK can contribute toward your entitlement to a Belgian retirement pension, contact your local social security provider.
Contact the Belgian National Pension Office RVP-ONP for further information.
You may also be thinking about paying voluntary contributions to top up your pension entitlement in either country. For further information on paying voluntary contributions in the UK, contact HM Revenues & Customs. For Belgium, contact the company who is providing your social security/health cover.
Life certificates for UK state pensions
If you have received a life certificate from the UK Pension Service it is important that you reply as quickly as possible otherwise your benefit may be stopped. You’ll need to get it signed by a ‘witness’ and send it back, as instructed on the form.
Check the list of people who can witness a life certificate. This is now the same as the list of people who can ‘countersign’ a passport photo, although they don’t need to live in the UK, or have a British or Irish passport.
Benefits in Belgium
UK Benefits which you must apply for before leaving the UK
UK Benefits which you can apply for after leaving the UK
- Contribution-based Incapacity Benefit/Employment Support Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance (Care Component)
- Attendance Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Bereavement Allowance
- Maternity Allowance
- UK Child Benefit
Non-exportable UK benefits
The following benefits are for people who are ordinarily resident in the UK and under no circumstances are they available in Belgium:
- pension credit
- council tax benefit
- income support
- housing benefit
- means-tested incapacity benefit/employment support allowance
Remember – if you are in receipt of benefits, it’s an offence not to tell the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) if your circumstances change, for example:
- you are going to live or are currently living in Belgium
- you get married, or if you separate, divorce or are widowed
- you start work, increase your earnings or your savings
If you don’t tell the DWP it could mean prosecution, imprisonment and even the confiscation of your home and possessions.
For more details visit the benefit theft website.
Belgian contribution-based benefits
Working and paying contributions in Belgium gives you entitlement to a number of Belgian social security benefits. These benefits include unemployment benefit, and permanent and temporary incapacity benefit. Note that paying contributions as a self-employed worker does give you entitlement to unemployment benefit in Belgium.
If you have worked in Belgium but have been told that you do not have entitlement to Belgian social security benefits as you have not paid enough national insurance contributions, you must make sure you declare the contributions you have made in the UK. They can be used to make up any entitlement as though they were paid in Belgium. Also make sure that, as for any benefit application, you apply in writing.
The Federal Public Service (FPS) Social security published the English-language brochure Everything you have always wanted to know about social security.
Belgian unemployment benefit
You should apply for unemployment benefit in Belgium if you have been working there and paying contributions. Ask at your local commune for further information.
You should also state any previous periods of contributions in the UK. You can prove previous periods of contribution in the UK by filling out a CA3916 and applying for a statement of National Insurance contributions from HM Revenue & Customs to assist unemployment benefit claims.
Belgian disability benefit
You should apply for incapacity benefit in Belgium if you have been working there and paying contributions. Consult the Social Assistance Centre (CPAS/OMCW) in your municipality for more information and to apply.
You should also state any previous periods of contributions in the UK. You can prove previous periods of contribution in the UK by filling out a CA3916 and applying for a statement of National Insurance contributions from HM Revenue & Customs to assist Sickness Benefit claims.
Belgian means-tested benefits
Non-contributory invalidity pension
You may be eligible to receive this Belgian benefit if you meet the following criteria
- are aged 18 to 65 when you make your claim
- have been resident in Belgium for at least 5 years, of which 2 must be immediately prior to your date of claim
- are affected by a disability or illness
- have a low income
Consult the Social Assistance Centre (CPAS/OMCW) in your municipality for more information and to apply.
Britain has a double taxation agreement with Belgium to ensure people do not pay tax on the same income in both countries. In accordance with Belgian and international law, all residents in Belgium (nationals and non-nationals alike) are required to declare assets or groups of assets held outside Belgium. Assets may include bank accounts, securities, rights, insurance, annuities, property etc. The declaration is a separate exercise to the annual tax return.
Severe penalties for incorrect, incomplete or late reporting can be incurred and the legislation also means that criminal charges can be brought in the case of non-compliance. The requirement and potential penalties are in line with standard international tax practice.
Taxation is a complex issue and it is strongly recommended that professional advice is sought.
Driving licences and vehicles
Importing your UK-registered vehicle from the UK to Belgium
If you spend longer than six months of the year in Belgium with your UK-registered car, Belgian law says you must register your vehicle with the Belgian authorities. For information on how to do this consult the vehicle registration service.
UK-registered vehicles being driven in Belgium must comply with all UK requirements for road tax, MOT and third-party insurance covering the full time period the vehicle is used in Belgium, up to the six- month limit.
Driving in Belgium
- the minimum age required to drive is 18 years
- it is advised to at least register you UK licence with your local commune (Town Hall): this is because if your licence is lost/stolen/destroyed they will have proof that you held a UK licence which will help you in the process of replacing it with a Belgian licence
- you can alternately change you UK licence to a Belgian licence at your local commune (Town Hall)
- please remember that your photo on a UK licence needs to be renewed every 10 years: this cannot be done if you live abroad and your commune (Town Hall) will need proof that you are still entitled to drive before they can issue you with a Belgian licence in replacement
- if you ever need proof of your entitlement to drive you will need to apply for a Certificate of Entitlement from the DVLA
Belgium motor insurance regulations
Belgian insurance regulations differ from those in the UK. It is important to check carefully what cover your policy provides.
Documents you should carry in the car
When driving in Belgium, if stopped by the police you would need the following:
- driving licence
- car papers
- insurance paper
- MOT/Control technique (older than 4 years) paper
- ID document (ie passport) and them of your passengers
If you receive a traffic fine while driving in Belgium (eg for speeding/parking incorrectly) you might be asked to pay on the spot. Be completely sure of the identity of the person before you hand the money over. Offer to give proof of address and ask if it is possible for the fine to be sent to you instead.
If you dispute a fine you have incurred and wish to appeal, this will clearly be marked on the document that you receive through the post. If it is an on the spot fine ask the officer politely how you would be able to appeal against the fine.
Please note that this information is provided as a guide only. Definitive information should be obtained from the Belgian authorities.
Published: 15 May 2013
Updated: 19 July 2013
- Updated life certificate instructions for UK state pensions.
- First published.