Tag Archives: removals to belgium

British Expats in Belgium – basic information about living in Belgium after you relocation

When you move to live in Belgium, you will need to get the administrative forms completed, insurance arranged, car details sorted out – all the little things that go to living anywhere. And when that is done – then it’s time to start really living and enjoying yourself. This article describes how British expats in Belgium live.

The best chance of a happy family life is to move to Belgium. Belgium was ranked the top place to live by expats, in a major survey on expats lifestyle. Britain came last of the 14 countries represented.

Maybe you are one of the millions of families in the UK struggling to make ends meet.  Bills get bigger, traffic gets more congested, good school are hard to find and even the weather seems set against you at times.  Although living in Belgium isn’t cheap – and biannual trips across the Channel to a British supermarket are well worth while, there are many advantages. And it is still cheaper than Britain for some things, like petrol.

The children seem safer, and they stay children for longer. It isn’t hard to find excellent schools – and, of course, the children also become fluent in French or Dutch – quite possibly in both languages. And in the holidays there are week-long “schools” where the children learn crafts or play sports – even young children can really enjoy them as they are geared to the relevant age. Sometimes your children might get very tired – it can’t always be easy to spend the day speaking French or Dutch and come home to an English speaking family. (more…)

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How to get social insurance in Belgium after you move from the UK

One of the very first things you need to do when you move to Belgium, is to get your social security card. You must register with a Mutuelle (French) or Ziekenfonds (Dutch) to think about getting social insurance in Belgium.

The Belgian health insurance and social security system is administered by the mutuelles/ziekenfonds. They will issue your SIS (Social Information System) card, a microchip card which carries all your details.

You will need this SIS card every time you visit the doctor or pharmacist. You pay a proportion of the fee and the society the rest. The amount will be decided by your society, and you can contribute more to get extra benefits.

Both you and your employer must make contributions to your social security and health insurance through the mutuelle/ziekenfonds. This amount is set by the Belgian government.

State Pensions

The UK basic state pension is payable in Belgium. If you live but have not worked in Belgium, claim your UK state pension by contacting the International Pension Centre 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 (IPC). The application form will be in French, Dutch or German. Your claim will then be passed to the International Pension Centre (IPC), and they are likely to reject your claim if you apply directly.

You may find this web site helpful – http://www.brussels.angloinformation.com. It explains the system in English!

Moving to Belgium after you receive a UK state pension

If you are a pensioner, relocating to Belgium from the UK, you should inform the IPC of the changes to your circumstances. This will prevent problems with your pension payments, and help you access healthcare in Belgium. UK pension credit is not payable in Belgium. (more…)

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Driving in Belgium – basic information for people who moved from UK to Belgium

After you move to Belgium, you will probably want or need to drive. Driving in Belgium varies from the pleasant, well maintained rural roads to the nightmare traffic jams around the major cities, and extensive roadworks – not so different from Britain. However, there are some physical and administrative differences you will need to accommodate.

To start with your British driving license will suffice – but it is a good idea to obtain a European license as soon as possible – it’s easier if you have to deal with police. The local town hall will issue you with one for a small fee. You will need your official ID Card, your complete British license  plus two passport type photographs, and the fee in cash. If you are a pensioner and approaching the age of 70, in Britain you have to renew your license very three years – not so in Belgium, your new license will last 11 years.

You will also need to register your vehicle with the VRA before you can legally drive it on the roads.

It is obligatory to have at least third party insurance – and to have it in the vehicle.

Driving in Belgium

When you move to Belgium you will find that driving is very similar to Britain – with one notable exception – “Priority from the right”. This may crop up often when least expected. On main roads you will notice yellow diamond signs, this means you have priority, but when the yellow diamond has a black line through it – beware, traffic may suddenly emerge from the right. And, of course, you drive on the right!

I have noticed that drivers tend cut corners and roundabouts can be baffling. (more…)

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Life in the Biggest Belgium Cities after moving from UK

Belgium is a small country, but do not let the small size fool you as this place definitely has a lot to offer for a potential expat. It is essentially a great place to live in and to get around, especially as the English language is commonly spoken here.  Quite apart from that, there are many interesting Belgium cities that you will surely love to explore.

Belgium is divided in 2 ethnic regions – the French speaking Wallonia and the Dutch speaking Flanders. An imaginary line (east-west) is divides them bisecting the country south of Brussels, which is a separate region and bilingual, both French and Dutch are the official languages here – and many people also speak English. Though it’s a political issue for Belgians, for expats and travelers, it is of little importance.

So don’t think about the politics and focus more on the abundance of culture, beautiful Belgium cities, great towns, and historic places you will find everywhere. Visit Brussels, the self proclaimed Europe capital which is the main headquarters of NATO and European Union. There are the wonderful masterpieces in the art galleries and museums not to mention the ever popular dinosaur exhibition – a great draw for children and adults alike.  Belgium also has an excellent reputation for delicious foods and drinks. Beer, chocolate, sausages and waffles seem to be everywhere.

Where to Live in Belgium?

If you really want to emigrate to Belgium, then, one of the most important considerations for you to think about is which part of the country would you fit in best. Would you find the French speaking parts easier? Do you want to be involved in large expatriate communities, or would you prefer to be in the countryside? Fortunately, there are plenty of great Belgium cities for you to choose from.


Brussels is indeed one of the ‘must see’ destinations of Europe. With the place’s central location, Brussels is conveniently accessible by high speed rail or by air from nearby countries. A place considered as international metropolis, Brussels is a true mosaic of cultures, traditions, and languages. (more…)

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Advice before you relocate from UK – Facts about Belgium

Belgium is a small country situated at the cross roads of Western Europe.

Belgium became an independent country in 1831. Leopold 1st ascended the throne on 21st July – and we still celebrate with a national holiday on that date. The flag has three vertical stripes: black, yellow and red.

With an area of 30,528 sq km to support a population of 11,035,948 (according to the 2012 census), it gives it an average density of 361.5 people per sq km. As 97% of the population live in the cities, the rural areas are pleasantly dotted with small, often attractive, villages. Of a total population of 11million just under 2 million live in Brussels with nearly another million in Antwerp.

There are 66.5 kms of sandy coastline on the North Sea, and borders with the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. The northern part is flat and fairly industrialised, the central part has pleasant rolling hills and in the south are the wooded mountains of the Ardennes. The highest point at Botrange is 694 metres. The River Meuse crosses Belgium West to East, with the towns of Namur in the west and Liege in the east. The capital, Brussels is well north of this, with Antwerp, the second largest city near the coast. (more…)

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Language in Belgium – prepare yourself before you relocate from UK

Which Language do they speak in Belgium?

For a small country, whose motto is ‘Strength in Unity’, Belgium is a bit of anomaly. It has three official languages, Dutch, French and German, and four official language districts. But written into the constitution, is the freedom to speak whatever language you wish. How did this come about? So, which language in Belgium should you use?

In 1962, four language areas were delineated according to prevalent language use.

In the northern area, Flanders, where about 60% of the population live, Dutch is the official language. South of an East-west line, dividing the country south of Brussels, in the Walloon area, French is the official language. This leaves a small area in the east where German takes precedent. Finally, Brussels, an island in the Dutch speaking Flemish area, is officially bi-lingual, French and Dutch.

But many Belgians speak at least two languages, Dutch and French being most common, although English is also widely spoken in the urban areas.

Why is Brussels bilingual?

Historically, Brussels is Dutch speaking, but in the mid 19th century, when Belgium became independent, French was chosen as the national language. French became the language of the courts, administration, culture and the army. However, there were just too many Dutch speaking nationals in this area, so when Belgium was divided into the four language zones, Brussels became bilingual, as did the 19 municipalities bordering Brussels.

Why do the Flemish people around Brussels protect their Dutch language?

Located around Brussels are 19 municipalities, where the local populations are encouraged to speak Dutch. Here, there has been a big influx of French speaking nationals and also foreigners. To protect their Dutch language in these areas, measures have been taken to encourage the use of Dutch and to discourage the use of other languages. The local authorities use Dutch, traders are encouraged to work and advertise in Dutch, street sign are in Dutch, although tourist information centres, and the airport are allowed to use the three national languages as well as English. (more…)

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Moving to Belgium with Pets – advice for people relocating from UK

Belgium is a country where you can find skilled and experienced vets, so you need not worry about bringing your pets across to live with you. However – you do have to prepare yourself before moving to Belgium with pets.

Initial Preparation

Your first action should be a visit to your local vet, to discuss your pets’ needs. They will have the most recent rules and regulations, and help you make the right decisions, and ensure your paperwork is correct.

Cats, dogs and ferrets will need vaccination against rabies – at least 21 days before travelling.

Pet Paperwork

Your pets will need a passport of their own. This will show the rabies vaccinations.

The passport also shows the microchip number and location. Your pet must be micro-chipped, before the rabies vaccination. Our vet suggested I practice finding it, as it could be embarrassing to get to customs officers, and then be unable to locate the chip. Bring the microchip paperwork with you, too.

There is a description of the animal, and, if you want to insert a photograph, there is a space. (more…)

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First Steps after moving from UK to Belgium

Moving to Belgium is reasonably straightforward, provided you obey the regulations described in this article about first steps after moving from UK to Belgium.

Before the Move

A little preparation before the move will make things a lot easier for you when you arrive. Learning at least the rudiments of the local language will be enormously helpful. It is important to assemble all the documents you might need, and it’s quite difficult to find out where to find things in England.

First Stop – your ID card

First stop is the Town Hall, to get your identity card. For this you need:

  • Three good quality passport size photos
  • Proof of identity – passport
  • Proof of residence – even if only temporary
  • Proof of financial viability – letter from your employer or, if on a pension, the last three months bank statements
  • Cash for the fee – about EUR 15

Moving to Belgium - Sunshine in Brussels by Quarsan (Flickr)
Sunshine in Brussels (St. Catherine Church), Belgium, photo courtesy of Quarsan (Flickr)
You will be given a document confirming your registration and payment, but not your card. Before you get that, you will be visited by the police to verify your address. Then you may be given a temporary permit for three months, and then an ID card valid for 5 years. Unlike in the UK you must carry this at all times, and the police can fine you if you do not have it with you.

Then What?

There are other places to visit, for you driving licence, insurances and will. You will also need to register with a doctor and dentist, find a hairdresser you like, join a club or two and get socialising. (more…)

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Belgium Medical Care

Belgium Medical Care

Belgium medical care is extremely good, and easy to access, once you know how. If you need immediate medical care get permission before you go get – form SR2
or SR1 if you have not had time to get permission. These can be obtained from
the European Cross Border healthcare Team NHS England

Fosse House, 6 Smith Way
Grove Park, Enderby
Leicestershire, LE19 1SX

But do check  if they receive your application.

Before you leave the UK

You will make life easier for yourself if you prepare your medical file before leaving the UK.

Your GP will have a summary of your computer records – ask him if you may have a copy. Medical records, by law, are accessible to you.

If these notes cover a few pages, use a marker pen to outline the important milestones, or make a brief summary. Ensure you have list of your medication – and a reasonable supply. Make a copy of these to give your new Belgium doctor. If you take part in any government health schemes, like routine breast examinations, make sure you know when they are next due.

If you have complex hospital notes you can obtain them – it costs £50 at present unless it is within 40 days of being written up when that information is free. Your local PCT is the contact here. You need to take original documents with you to collect them. If you intend to ask for the notes by post, you will need to get you documents verified by a person of standing – which may be easier to do in the UK where you are known. You will need two types of identification from:

  • birth certificate
  • passport
  • driving licence
  • medical card
  • hospital smart card – if applicable.

You also need proof of address – one of the following: (more…)

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Moving to Belgium with a dog

In 2010 over 4,000 people living in 100 different countries were surveyed about their family life by HSBC International, and Belgium came out top of the poll for a great lifestyle, better education for the children, a feeling of greater safety and a more active, outdoor life. Community spirit is high, the social life is good and there are plenty of opportunities.

Belgium was a founder member of the EU in 1952, and is a member of the Schengen Area. The capital is Brussels and the currency is the euro.  There are three regions – Dutch-speaking Flanders (60% population), French-speaking Wallonia in the south and bilingual Brussels. A small German-speaking minority live in the east. The landscape varies from the flat coastal plains with a coastline of 67 km, and the hills and forests of the Ardennes in the south.

Belgium Customs

Although Britain is not a member of the Schengen Area, and therefore customs formalities apply, because we are members of the EU, there is little of consequence to concern the average Briton relocating to Belgium. There are no restrictions on the amount of currency you may bring in; medication must be for personal use only. Alcohol and tobacco are not restricted, although large amounts may be questioned. Coats, fur and leather shoes made from protected animals will need special authorization. (more…)

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