If you want to study in Belgium, you may be required to get a Belgian visa or permit depending on your nationality and situation.Typically, unless you’re from the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, you will need a Belgian student visa to come to Belgium to study, take part in a student exchange, or carry out training if you plan to stay more than three months (90 days).
Before you can apply to get a Belgian student visa, however, you will generally need to be accepted into a course or study programme by a recognised Belgian university or education institution. You can find a list of Belgian universities and application procedures to study in Belgium.
This guide answers some important questions:
- EU/EEA/Swiss students coming to Belgium
- Can you study as a non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen?
- How to apply for a student visa
- Grants and scholarships in Belgium
- After you arrive in Belgium: mandatory registration
- Can your family visit or live with you?
- Can you work as a student?
- Coming to Belgium on student exchange, an internship, or as a researcher
- Getting your foreign qualifications recognised in Belgium
- Information and help on Belgian student visas
EU/EEA and Swiss students have the right to come and study in Belgium without the need for a visa or other permit but should be enrolled at a recognised university or institution of higher education as their main occupation in Belgium, have sufficient funds to cover expenses while studying in Belgium, and have adequate health insurance coverage.
Third-country nationals who want to study in Belgium for a period exceeding 90 days will typically need to obtain a visa D from the competent Belgian embassy in their country of residence before arrival. In principle, you are entitled to a Belgian student visa if you are registered in a study program at an officially recognised institution of higher education in Belgium.
To qualify for a Belgian student visa, students must fulfil the following:
- The studies must be the main occupation of the student during their stay in Belgium;
- The student must have sufficient resources to support themselves during their stay in Belgium;
- The student must be covered by health insurance coverage;
They cannot pose a threat to public security (for example, have no pending criminal cases).
It is important to note that you need to register for a specific study program in Belgium before submitting your visa application. This should either be a complete study program (Bachelor, Master, Manama, etc.) or preparatory studies which will prepare you for further higher education (for example, language classes). As a rule, your studies must be full-time and the main purpose for your residence in Belgium.
Studies at private education institutions might be accepted under certain conditions.
Applying for your student visa and residence permit
Once you have a place, non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals must apply for their visa from the Belgian embassy in their home country. If the course is more than three months long, you’ll need to complete an application form for a long stay in Belgium, and provide certain documents.
For your application, you may be asked to provide:
- A valid passport/travel ID;
- Proof that you have a place at a recognised institution (see options below);
- Copies of educational certificates;
- Details about the course;
- Evidence of sufficient funds to cover your living costs, study, healthcare and repatriation costs (EUR 617 per month for the 2015-2016 study year);
- A medical certificate;
- Proof that you don’t have a criminal record, if you’re older than 21 years.
- They will need to supply documentation proving
- Your relationship (marriage/civil partnership/birth certificates);
- That you have been accepted on a course in Belgium;
- That you have sufficient financial resources;
- That you have somewhere for you all to live in Belgium.
- Evidence that the exchange organisation will be funding your stay in Belgium;
- Information from the organisation about your itinerary;
- If you’re under age according to the law in your home country, a parental consent form.
- Gent University
- Catholic University of Leuven
- Catholic University of Louvain
- Université Libre Bruxelles
- University of Antwerp
- University of Liege
- Vrije University Brussel
- University halls of residence – a room in a student campus varies between 200 and 450 EUR/month.
- Rent/share an apartment – the average price for rent in a one-bedroom apartment is 400 EUR/month (not including the utility costs).
- Home stay – in some Belgian cities, the home stay option can be very expensive, but the usual price is somewhere between 400 and 600 EUR/month for one person, with at least one meal/day included.
- If you will live with your partner and/or child (dren), the price for rent would range from 600 to 850 EUR/month, and in some cases you could pay even more. Utility bills (electricity, water, and internet) would be another 150 EUR/month.
- Books: 35 – 50 EUR/month
- Entertainment: 50 EUR/month
- Insurance/ health care: 30 EUR/month
- View and compare 80 Bachelor programmes in Belgium
- Tips for saving money in Belgium
- When you buy from the supermarket, the cheapest and the ones that offer large discounts are: Lidl, Aldi, Red Market and Colruyt.
- Eat in low budget restaurants; try the Colmar restaurant chain that has ‘all you can eat’ option at low prices.
- Tap water all over Belgium is suitable for drinking, so you don’t have to spend money on bottled water.
- The price for fruit and vegetables changes every season, meaning each fruit and vegetable has the lowest prices according to their natural harvest season.
- Buy second hand books; you can look for announcement boards at your campus, as some students sell their books for good prices. You can also check Stubooks.be, an online platform where students buy and sell their books second hand (available in Dutch only).
- Go for a drink on student nights to benefit from special offers; in the Flemish side, the student nights are on each Thursday.
To prove your acceptance at a recognised institution, you can provide one of the following:
The official confirmation of registration for the program;
An attestation which indicates you have access to the anticipated studies. The attestation must clarify the conditions that you need to complete your registration upon arrival in Belgium and must be issued by the relevant educational institution;
Proof of your registration for the entrance examinations.
You may also be asked to provide a letter outlining why you have chosen your particular course, why you want to study in Belgium and how this will benefit you. Additionally, you may also be asked to show some language proficiency in the language the course will be taught in, often by showing that you’ve taken a language course.
You may need to have your foreign documents translated into German, French or Dutch by a sworn translator, and legalised or carrying an apostil stamp. More information is detailed in Immigrate world’s complete guide to Belgian visas and permits, and by the Belgian Foreign Ministry.
Study grants and scholarships in Belgium
You may be eligible for financial assistance for studying in Belgium. Belgium’s Foreign Ministry supplies details of grants and scholarships to study in Belgium.
After you arrive in Belgium: residence permit and registration
Within eight days of your arrival to Belgium, you must visit your local municipal administration offices/town hall (maison communale/gemeentehuis) to request your residence permit and be registered on the foreigner’s population register. To find the details of your local town hall, you’ll need to contact the commune in which you’re living.
If you were not yet enrolled or registered in your study program at the time of filing your visa application, you must provide proof of registration as soon as possible; you can enrol on your course at the university or educational institution after you arrive, and ask for an enrolment certificate. You should present this when you visit the local municipal administration offices/town hall (maison communale/gemeentehuis) to get your residence permit.
Your non-EU/EEA/Swiss spouse or registered partner and dependent children can accompany you and can apply for a visa and residence permit from the Belgian embassy.
Working in Belgium while you’re a student
If you’re a foreign student enrolled at a Belgian educational institution and have a valid residence permit you can work up to 20 hours a week during term time, as long as it does not interfere with your studies. You will need to get a written fixed term contract from your employer, which is known as a ‘student employment contract’, and a type C work permit .
Otherwise, you can work during official university holidays without the need for a Belgian work permit.
Coming to Belgium on a student exchange
If you’re coming to Belgium on a student exchange through an organisation or scheme like WEP (World Education Programme) or AFS Intercultural Programs, when you apply for your visa, you’ll need certain documents.
These can include:
Coming to Belgium as a researcher
In principle, researchers or guest lecturers have to follow the standard immigration rules regarding visas (see Immigrate worlds guide to Belgian visas and permits) and work permits
Under certain conditions, scientific researches and fellowship holders (PhD and post-doctoral) are exempt from requiring a Belgian work permit. However, they may still need a visa and residence permit to cover their stay in Belgium. Scientific researchers will typically first need to sign a hosting agreement with a research organisation (contact the research organisation for more details).
Researches may find study and grant opportunities with the Belgian Science Policy Office.
Coming to Belgium as an intern or trainee
You can come to Belgium to take on an internship after your studies if you’re aged between 18 and 30, and the company will need to apply for a work permit on your behalf .The internship or training cannot exceed one year, must be full-time and you must be paid the legal minimum wage.
Authenticating your foreign qualifications
In some cases, you may be asked for an ‘equivalence statement’ to show how your educational qualifications obtained in your home country relate to Belgian qualifications. If you already have a higher education qualification and want to come to Belgium to continue your studies, the university is usually responsible for establishing equivalencies.
For more information and equivalence applications, you can also see the Equivalence Service (Wallonia), NARIC in Flanders and the Ministry for the German-Speaking community.
If you come from a country signed up to the Bologna Process you will have your educational qualifications recognised in Belgium.
Why Study in Belgium as an International Student ?
You can study in English, but also Practise French, Flemish (Dutch) & German
The question you should really be asking is, why shouldn’t you be studying in Belgium? Aside from its gorgeous historic monuments, castles, cobblestone architecture, beautiful art work, delectable food (including chocolate) and festivals, there are so many more draws to this European country.
Not only does Belgium have three native languages, but the people there are also quite fluent in English (making the transition easy for many people who speak English as a first or second language). Belgians are also known to be very friendly – which is always a huge plus when you are just arriving somewhere new! Fun facts set aside; Belgium is widely known as the heart of Europe and a hub for international networking. It is located in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, according to TopStudyBelgium.be. International students in Belgium will certainly be enriched with a well-rounded and cultured educational experience.
Higher Education System
The education system in the federal state of Belgium is unique in that the geographical boundaries are determined by linguistics. Belgium’s educational structure consists of three regions including the Flemish (Dutch), French and German-speaking communities. Higher education, however, is organized by the French and Flemish communities.
Belgium operates under the Bologna System, which essentially improves the quality of education and creates an easier process for students when switching from European countries, according to CareerNews24.com. (Note: ECTS stands for European Credit Transfer System).
The site lists the following as a part of the Bologna system:
A Bachelor’s degree is earned in three years (180 ECTS credits) toward a professional or academic bachelor’s degree. For example, an academic bachelor provides access to earning a Master’s.
A Master’s degree is earned in one to two years (60 or 120 ECTS credits).
According to Angloinfo.com, students studying in Belgium who wish to study medicine, dentistry, arts or engineering sciences may face more firm entrance guidelines and exams than other areas of study. Additionally, there are six universities that offer a full range of subjects. For international students, Brussels is a popular city if you are considering where you in Belgium you’d like to study.
Student Life in Belgium/ Expected Costs
As international students in Belgium, not only will you be surrounded by a multicultural community, but you may even pick up a few languages while living there. However, to really get the most out of your Belgian experience, it is important to have an idea of what the costs will be so you can prepare before arriving. According to StudyInBelgium.be, a student’s monthly budget will be about 850 Euros – which includes books, health care, transportation, food, accommodations and leisure. Though this is one estimate, it is important to realize that your cost of living will depend on the specific program you are associated with, what your standard of living is, and where you choose to study as big cities can be more expensive than smaller towns.
It’s important to contact your school about costs you can expect to pay. For example, many schools in Belgium have registration fees. European students pay about 800 Euros a year, according to CareerNews24.com. Additionally, the minimum accommodation costs range from 200 to 300 Euros each month. One of the great things about education in Belgium, however, is that the government contributes a generous amount financially.
For your reference, some of the most notable universities in Belgium are listed below (as indicated by
Academic Ranking of World Universities):
You will be part of the Top EMBA and MBA Programs
An increasing number of international students and expats are taking advantage of Belgium’s premiere MBA offerings — both traditional and executive. The executive MBA trend in particular has experienced exponential growth, with over 3,500 EMBA programs now offered across the globe. This trend can be seen playing out in Belgium, where international students receive an executive education through full- or part-time studies in management sciences, as well as corporate internships.
Belgium’s reputation as an ideal place for international studies is amplified when it comes to MBAs — particularly in a global economy in which employers are focused on international perspectives. MBA programs in Belgium offer not only great value but also great returns: they present a wide range of employment possibilities in multinational government and non-government sectors, as well as the increased chance of meeting influential people who can help you after graduation both in Brussels and beyond.
An Unbeatable Price Tag
Belgium’s cost of living is low — particularly for students, who are also permitted to work to defray costs. Factor in the premiere higher educational opportunities and strong research culture and international students reap an unparalleled price to quality ratio. With a full one-third of the country’s Ph.D. students hailing from other countries, the result is a vibrant and diverse research community. Besides, Belgium has six of the top 200 universities according to the “QS World University Rankings”
Chocolate, waffles and fries…oh my!
If you haven’t tried Belgian chocolate, you are missing out. Belgium is the world’s number one exporter of chocolate, they know their chocolate! Belgium is also world-famous for waffles with three specific types of Belgian waffles: Liege waffles which are eaten like cookies, Brussels waffles are eaten with toppings such as whipped cream or chocolate, and Galettes waffles are usually eaten for breakfast with jam. It’s also believed that French fries are thought to have been invented in Belgium, and not in France. If you’re studying in Belgium you simply must try them at a restaurant or any one of the street vendors you pass along the way. It’s best if you try them with the Belgian specialty sauce, andalouse.
At the Centre of It All
People from all over the world aspire to study, work and live in the bustling business center of Belgium, due to its central location, tradition as an international trade hub and progressive global focus. Home to countless international institutions and represented by every nation, Belgium offers unparalleled educational and networking opportunities.
Exceptional Quality of Life
Belgium is known for its safety, high quality of life and vibrant culture. From its internationally renowned healthcare to countless culinary delights, Belgium offers countless things to see and do. Architecturally rich cities like Brussels, Antwerp and Belgium are wondrous, while castles, tranquil gardens and historic battlefields provide a different view. For its many student-friendly amenities, Brussels is ranked 38th in the QS “Best Student City Rankings.”
Home Base to Anywhere
Not only does Belgium offer premier public transportation for getting around within the country, it also offers an ideal home base for travel to parts unknown. London, Paris, Amsterdam and many other popular destinations are less than two hours away by train.
COSTS OF STUDYING AND LIVING IN BELGIUM
1. Tuition fees in Belgium
Universities in Belgium charge different tuition fees, depending on each of the three main regions of Belgium, most of them not exceeding 835 EUR/year. If you receive a scholarship, depending on the amount, it can cover your tuition fee and students living on a low budget (including international students) are exempt from paying any fees or the amount of the fees is reduced.
Foreign students from outside the EU pay specific tuition fees, set by ARES (Academy of Research and Higher Education) but they are usually not allowed to exceed five times the amount of the ordinary tuition fees (a total of 4,175 EUR). Tuition fees are usually variable depending on each university and the type of programme, more specifically, the field you choose to study.
2. Flemish community
Universities have set a fixed registration fee and a variable fee per credit of study. The registration fee is 62 EUR, while the tuition fee is calculated according to each credit of study (minimum 60 credits per academic year); this means EU students could pay from 42 to 56 EUR/year, while non-EU students can be charged from 42 to 1,500 EUR/year. The varying rate depends on the student’s income, study programme and on whether the student is eligible for a grant/scholarship.
Find out more about higher education in Flanders/Flemish community of Belgium.
3. French community
Tuition fees are set by the regional government and they range from 374 to 840 EUR/year for EU students depending on their income and whether they are eligible for a grant/scholarship.
Non-EU students have to pay higher tuition fees, ranging from 890 to up to 4,175 EUR/year.
4. German community
Tuition fees range from 100 to 600 EUR, although the majority of students pay an average fee of 425 EUR.
5. Living costs in Belgium
Living costs in Belgium are variable, depending on the city you live in, with Brussels, the capital, as the most expensive city in the country. The highest amounts of your budget would be spent on accommodation and if you decide to eat mostly at the restaurant, you should be aware that some of them have expensive prices.
For Brussels, you would need between 870 and 1,050 EUR/month to cover all living expenses, including the accommodation. Typical living costs for students in Bruges range between 720 and 820 EUR/month, while Antwerp has the lowest living costs of all university cities in Belgium (690 – 760 EUR/month).
6. Accommodation in Belgium
Prices for accommodation are in line with the international average (200 – 400 EUR/month) only when it comes to student halls of residence. For the rest of the housing options, especially when it comes to renting an apartment, prices are usually higher than 400 EUR/month.
The main accommodation options for students in Belgium are:
7. Food costs in Belgium
Buying from the supermarket and cooking at home is the cheapest option when it comes to food costs. On average, you would spend around 150 EUR/month for your groceries. However, eating out once in a while is a nice experience and in Belgium is really worth it. A meal in a budget restaurant is between 7 and 12 EUR, and even less in Antwerp, for example.
In Belgium, you can choose from a variety of restaurants or nice places to eat, from ones that serve simple and classic dishes at affordable prices to classy restaurants with rather expensive prices, but where the food is truly more sophisticated.
Try “Frieten” or French Fries from a local “Frituur” restaurant for a small price of 2 EUR. You may think it’s too simple or boring, but French fries actually originate from Belgium , not French and since they are part of the Belgian heritage, you should taste the original ones.
Other Belgian specialties worth tasting include waffles, moules-frites, Boulet au Sauce Lapin (mainly meatballs in rabbit sauce, although it does not contain any rabbit).
With prices between 4 and 16 EUR, you can eat soups, salads, platters of cheese and cold meats and patisserie at Le Pain Quotidien restaurant chain.
Try a fancy restaurant in Brussels, called La Mer du Nord / De Nordsee, serving croquettes aux crevettes, escargots de mer (whelks), fish soup, pickled herring, smoked mackerel and salmon, hot dishes of crab and scallops all at about 6 – 8 EUR.
8. Transportation in Belgium
The easiest and also cheapest ways to travel while living in a Belgian city are trains and buses. A monthly pass for students on public transportation usually costs around 20 EUR/month.
Taxis are rather expensive, meaning you can expect to pay around 25 EUR for inner city trips.
Cycling in big Belgian cities is not recommended due to the fact that there are a few cycle lanes. On the other hand, if you truly are a bike fan, in some cities, you can rent a bike for free. You pay a deposit of around 70 EUR, but it will be repaid when you bring back the bike.
If you plan to rent or travel by car, the price for gas is between 1.39 and 1.60 EUR a litre.
If you want to travel around Belgium, the best way to do that are trains. The system, operated by the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Belges/Belgische Spoorwegen, is one of the best in Europe and fares have low prices. For example, a forty-minute trip from Ghent to Brussels costs 7.50 EUR.
9. Extra costs
Here are a few examples of other expenses while living in Belgium:
10. Scholarships in Belgium
Scholarships for international students in Belgium are offered by some universities, the government, Academy of Research and Higher Education and other Belgian agencies or organisations.
Some of the Belgian universities that offer scholarships are available only for a few degrees and they can also be dedicated only to EU students or only to students that come from Africa, Asia and Latin-America. Some of the higher educational institutions provide Master grants to candidates from developing countries. The scholarship includes an insurance, an allowance of 1,000 EUR/month, an installation fee of 500 EUR and a refund of the yearly tuition fee.
Most grants and loans are for students with exceptional academic achievements and the most prestigious grants are offered by: The Scientific Research Fund, Wallonia-Brussels International, Agence Universities de la Francophone and Belgian Development Agency.
See detailed list of scholarship opportunities in Belgium.