This section is intended for:

(1) third-country nationals applying for initial authorisation to stay to pursue full-time higher education, or a preparatory year for such education, at an institution of higher education in Belgium. This initial application is usually submitted to a Belgian embassy or consulate abroad (visa application).

Read more: 1st authorisation of stay (visa D application, authorisation to stay or change of status)

(2) third-country nationals who have already been authorised to reside in Belgium as students, and who wish to extend their stay to continue these studies (second authorisation to stay and following).

Read more: Renewal of residence permit (2nd authorisation and subsequent)

(3) third-country nationals who, at the end of their higher studies, wish to extend their stay in Belgium in order to seek employment or pursue a self-employed activity (search year).

Read more: Search year


Higher studies means any programme of higher education that concludes with a title, academic degree, diploma or certificate corresponding to level 5, 6, 7 or 8 of the qualification structure as established by one of the three Communities.

Full-time studies means an enrolment in a programme of higher studies that includes at least 54 credits, or an enrolment in a programme of higher studies whose credit balance is lower because the student is in their final year of study or because the student is unable to take a higher number of credits through no fault of their own, or a preparatory year that includes at least 12 credit hours per week during an academic year.

Higher education institution means an institution recognised by the competent authorities that is authorised to organise higher studies and is authorised to issue the corresponding titles, academic degrees, diplomas and certificates.

Preparatory year means a unique year of study, organised by the higher education institution, in order to follow a course of study in preparation for the intended higher studies, either to provide the necessary additional knowledge for subsequent access to the intended higher studies, or to become proficient in one of the national languages, which is also the language in which the intended study will be taught.

PLEASE NOTE: The preparatory year of study usually called the "7th specialisation year" does not meet this definition because this year is organised by secondary education institutions. Therefore, an application for a residence permit that is supported by a certificate of admission or enrolment in a preparatory year issued by a secondary education institution no longer falls within the scope of the provisions of the Act of 15 December 1980 concerning students.

Consequently, it is not recommended to apply for a visa on the basis of a certificate issued by an secondary education institution.

Third-country nationals enrolled at a private higher education institution – that is, an institution not recognised by the competent authority, may apply for an authorisation to stay in Belgium for more than 90 days, but they will not have student status because the diploma or certificate that will be issued at the end of their course will not be recognised.

Subject to student exchange programmes, enrolment in secondary education does not make it possible to obtain authorisation to stay