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Expats

If you are moving to Belgium and you are planning to settle in the Brussels-Capital Region, you’ll be delighted to know that Brussels is an international city where you are sure to settle very quickly.
If you are moving to Belgium and you are planning to settle in the Brussels-Capital Region, you’ll be delighted to know that Brussels is an international city where you are sure to settle very quickly. Some say that you need time to grow to love Brussels. But with a bit of curiosity and some patience, you will come to realise it is a great place to live and work.

A multilingual international city

The Brussels-Capital Region is a melting pot of different cultures. There are two official languages (French and Dutch), but English is understood and spoken in many places. And the many international institutions in Brussels attract various foreign communities, so you will also find a wide range of products, media, schools and culture from abroad.

Working in Brussels

Foreign nationals need a valid work permit to work in Belgium, unless they are exempt from it. Many international businesses have offices in Belgium and employment agencies are well geared to expats. You can find more information in  the Working in Brussels section on this website.
If you would like to work for a Belgian employer, you will probably need to speak French, Dutch or both. Various organisations and language schools run language courses.

You have to join a mutual society to claim medical costs (after a qualifying period). It’s generally your employer who takes on the payment of your contributions to the Belgian social security system and your taxes. Visit www.securitesociale.be (FR/NL/DE) to find out what you are entitled to when you work in Belgium.

Practical questions

Newintown.be (FR/NL) is a website for newcomers that answers a lot of questions regarding daily life in Belgium.

Several websites and agencies will be able to help you find a place to live in Brussels. Normally, rental contracts for houses and apartments in Brussels have a duration of 3, 6 or 9 years. You can apply for a reserved parking space for your removals van at the local police station.

You must register at your commune within eight days of arriving in Belgium and apply for a residence permit (don’t forget to take along your photos). Make sure you put your name next to your bell and on your letterbox, because the local police will drop by to check that you really are living where you say you are. After a couple of months the communal administration will ask you to come to pick up your Belgian residence permit.

Coming2Belgium is a website for people wishing to settle in Belgium. This website provides information over their rights to social security.

Something for everyone

There are so many cultural and leisure activities in the Brussels-Capital Region. For a brief introduction, see the cultural pages on this website (museums, films with subtitles, concerts and more). If you wish to stay in contact with your own culture, you may be able to find a cultural centre. And if you would like to immerse yourself in the local community, you can take part in cultural activities or sporting activities close to your home.

Education and training

Belgian education is varied and flexible. You can choose from several official networks (Catholic or community education) and private schools (which do not receive grants), as well as different methods of education (standard, Freinet, Montessori and more). In principle, official education is free at source (with the exception of textbooks) up to and including secondary school education (in Belgium, compulsory schooling continues until 18 years of age). Brussels is also home to several schools serving the international community. And there are many high-quality institutions providing higher education and academic and extracurricular education.

Expat Welcome Desk

The Expat Welcome Desk of the Brussels Commissioner for Europe and International Organisations is a free, independent and public service. It offers administrative assistance to people who settle in the Brussels-Capital Region as part of their activities within and around the European and international organisations.

Belgium for beginners (and non-beginners)

The following books and websites in English provide information on the Belgian system. As an expatriate you can also order a free welcome pack from www.xpats.com.

  • The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Belgian (A. Mason, 2009, Oval Books, 96 p.) – an amusing but true introduction to the Belgians
  • Culture Shock! Belgium (M. Elliot, 2001, Kuperard, 272 p.) – a guide to Belgian customs
  • www.xpats.com: website for expats with practical information, small ads, community pages and news about Belgium
  • Expats in Brussels, a practical guide to settling and living in Brussels
  • AngloInfo Brussels: practical information about Brussels and Belgium for expats
  • The Bulletin: monthly magazine in English for expats in Brussels and Belgium (available in bookshops)
  • www.culturebriefings.com: pre-departure briefing in electronic form for expats coming to Belgium