A foreigner who travels to Belgium to visit their family, or to visit the country, or for professional reasons, or to attend or participate in a sporting or cultural event, or for any other reason, must prove with documents that they meet the conditions for entering the Schengen Area.
These entry conditions are stipulated in Article 6 of the Schengen Borders Code.
One of these entry conditions is to be in possession of a valid visa, unless the foreigner is exempt from this requirement, or unless they hold a residence permit that allows for entry without a visa or a national long stay visa (Visa D) that is valid.
A short stay in the Schengen Area cannot exceed 90 days within each 180-day period.
The visa holder must respect this rule. Consequently, a foreigner who travels frequently is advised to count the number of days spent in the Schengen Area during the "mobile" reference period of 180 days that precedes each day of a new stay. The electronic calculator is useful for calculating the allowable length of stay.
In certain circumstances, the extension of a short stay may be granted. This is particularly the case when force majeure prevents you from leaving the Schengen Area on the scheduled date.
All of this information is outlined in the following pages.
The Schengen Area consists of 27 States: Austria (AT), Belgium (BE), Switzerland (CH), Czech Republic (CZ), Germany (DE), Denmark (DK), Estonia (EE), Greece (EL), Spain (ES), Finland (FI), France (FR), Croatia (HR), Hungary (HU), Iceland (IS), Italy (IT), Liechtenstein (LI), Lithuania (LT), Luxembourg (LU), Latvia (LV), Malta (MT), Netherlands (NL), Portugal (PT), Norway (NO), Poland (PL), Sweden (SE), Slovenia (SI), Slovakia (SK)
External borders of the Schengen Area
If you enter the Schengen Area via Belgium, you must pass through one of the following transit points: the airports of Brussels National Airport, Deurne, Ostend, Gosselies, Bierset or Wevelgem, the ports of Antwerp, Ostend, Zeebrugge, Ghent, Nieuwpoort or Blankenberge, or Brussels South station (Eurostar Terminal).
The Immigration Office may impose an administrative fine of 200 euros on the foreigner who does not respect the obligation to enter through one of these crossing points.
Conditions for entering the Schengen Area
The conditions for entering the Schengen Area are set out in Article 6 of Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on a Union Code for the rules governing the movement of people across borders (Schengen Borders Code)
These conditions apply to any foreigner, regardless of whether they are subject to the short stay visa requirement or are exempt from that requirement.
The checks performed by border guards at the external borders is governed by the Schengen Borders Code.
Council Regulation (EC) No. 539/2001 of 15 March 2001 establishes the list of third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and the list of countries whose citizens are exempt from that requirement.
These lists will be published in the Border Control tab.
The list of residence permits issued by Schengen states that allow visa-free entry will also be published in the Border Control (VISA) tab.
The procedure and conditions for issuing Short Stay visas in the Schengen Area are set out in the Visa Code. This means that all Schengen states apply the same rules when examining a visa application. However, a foreigner may not choose the Schengen state that will examine their visa application. They must apply to the Schengen state to which they wish to go (sole destination or principal destination).
The foreigner applying for a visa must prove that they meet the conditions for entering the Schengen Area. They must therefore present a series of documents relating to the purpose of their trip, their accommodation, and the financial and medical coverage for their trip. They must also provide guarantees of return to their country of residence at the end of their stay.
Learn more about the Schengen Area Entry Visa (Visa C) application.
A visa for entry into the Schengen Area generally allows for travel around the territory of all Schengen states.
Please note: a visa does not give any absolute right of entry to the Schengen Area.
The border control guards will also check the entry conditions. If these are not met, entry may be denied. (See Border Control).
The decision to refuse a visa and the reasons for such refusal will be communicated to the applicant, who may lodge an appeal.
Useful information: The European Union has signed an agreement with certain third countries aimed at facilitating the issuing of visas. The nationals of these countries are invited to consult the site of the Belgian embassy competent for this country. On the other hand, the family members of a citizen of the European Union or of a citizen of an associated country benefit from the special provisions, within the limits of and under the conditions set out in Directive 2004/38/EC.
[Article 5 of the Act of 15 December 1980 and Articles 18 and 20 of the Royal Decree of 8 October 1981]
The foreigner who is not staying in a lodging house subject to the legislation on control of travellers must, within three working days of entering Belgium, register with the municipal administration of the place where they are staying, unless they fall under one of the categories of foreigners exempt from this obligation.
The following people are exempt from presenting themselves to the municipal administration:
1° the foreigner admitted to a hospital or similar nursing facility for treatment during a trip in Belgium;
2° the foreigner arrested and detained at a penal institution or at a facility for the protection of society.
The foreigner will receive a "declaration of arrival". [Annex 3 of the Royal Decree of 8 October 1981]
This document is valid for a maximum of 90 days from the date of entry into Belgium, unless the foreigner holds a visa that stipulates a shorter duration.
[Article 33 of the Visa Code]
A foreigner staying in Belgium for a short period of time may not be able to leave the territory of the Schengen states before the end of the period of validity of their visa or the authorised duration of stay.
The Immigration Office may grant an extension to the stay if this foreigner proves, with documents, the existence of serious personal reasons justifying the extension of the stay, or force majeure or humanitarian reasons preventing them from leaving the territory of the Schengen states.
The application for an extension of stay must be submitted to the municipal administration of the place of residence with the following documents:
- a copy of the passport (identifying features, visa, entry and exit stamps);
- a copy of the declaration of arrival, if the foreigner is subject to this obligation (annex 3 of the Royal Decree of 8 October 1981);
- a letter explaining the reasons for requesting the extension of the stay;
- documentation demonstrating the existence of compelling personal reasons, force majeure or humanitarian reasons;
- proof that the applicant has taken out Schengen medical travel insurance valid for the entire duration of the stay, with a minimum coverage of 30,000 euros.
If the Immigration Office grants the extension of stay, there are two options:
- the municipal administration will extend the declaration of arrival; or
- the foreigner will receive an invitation to present themselves, by appointment, at the counter of the Federal Public Service for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, in order to receive a new visa.
The FPS Foreign Affairs counter is located at 27 Rue des Petits Carmes, 1000 Brussels.
It is open, by appointment, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9:30am to 11:30am.
The appointment must be made via e-Appointment (diplomatie.be)
The new visa is free if the extension of the stay is justified by force majeure or humanitarian reasons. However, payment for the new visa (30 euros) is required if the extension of the stay is justified by compelling personal reasons.
[Article 7, first paragraph, 2° of the Act of 15 December 1980]
The Immigration Office will issue an order to leave the territory of the Schengen states to the foreigner who remains in the territory for more than the authorised 90 days, within each 180-day period, or longer than the length of stay authorised by their visa, within the validity period indicated on this (see Reading the visa sticker).
The period given to leave the territory of the Schengen states voluntarily is stated in the document given to the foreigner by the municipal administration.
The foreigner who does not leave the territory of the Schengen states voluntarily within the given time limit runs the risk of being forcibly removed (see Irregular stay).