Explore Europe through the beautiful country of Belgium. Although relatively small geographically, Belgium has a big role to play as home to the headquarters of both NATO and the European Union. Experience the student community in your neighborhood of four major universities, and visualize your future as you cross paths with global business and political leaders in the cosmopolitan city of Brussels. Although both French and Dutch are spoken in Brussels, you can easily make friends and network, as many of the residents speak English. Indulge in Belgium's culinary treats including waffles, fries, beer and chocolate.



Languages Spoken:

Dutch, French

Education System

HIGHER EDUCATION

Education in Belgium is mandatory from the ages of six to 18. Higher education is regulated and financed by two Belgian communities: the Flemish community and the French community. German-speaking students typically enroll in French schools or in schools in Germany. The Belgian government also regulates tuition fees for higher education institutions, maintaining accessibility and affordability in the higher education system. All students with a secondary school diploma have access to higher education in Belgium.

As of the adoption of the Bologna process, higher education in Belgium is organized according to the bachelor's/master's system. Bachelor's degrees correspond to three years of full-time study, and master's programs are an additional one or two years of full-time study. There are two main types of institutions that offer higher education programs. Universities offer academic bachelor's, master's and post-graduate degrees such as Ph.Ds. Colleges (Hogescholen in Dutch, or Hautes Ecoles in French) specialize in professional training and offer academic and professional bachelor's and master's programs.

Higher education institutions in Belgium operate on a full-fledged credit system based on ECTS (European Credit Transfer System). Each course that a student takes counts for at least three ECTS credits, with each credit representing 25 to 30 hours of a student’s workload. Courses are independent building blocks in which students may enroll according to their own preferences and timetable, with due consideration for the semester system and evaluations. A traditional full-time course schedule consists of about 60 ECTS credits per year.

Most exams are graded on a 20-point scale, or in specific cases on a pass/fail scale. A student with a score of at least 10/20 (or a passing mark) obtains credit for that course, according to the number of ECTS points associated with the course. International students are normally asked to maintain an average above 12. A score of 20 is rarely awarded.

Visa and Residency

VISAS AND RESIDENCY

If you have yet to obtain a current passport, please do so immediately. Your host may request a copy of your passport by a certain deadline (for visa or admission purposes) and failure to meet this deadline could have serious consequences. Travelers studying in Belgium for longer than 90 days must acquire a student visa from their local consulate. The student visa requirements for Belgium are extensive, and students should begin preparing their applications as soon as they have accepted their program placement. Please note that the following instructions are for U.S. citizens applying for a Belgian student visa. If you are not a U.S. citizen please check with the Belgian Embassy in your home country regarding their specific requirements. 

U.S. citizens can apply for their Belgian student visa in person or by mail, and may only submit their visa application to the Consulate with juristicion over their region. Please note that the Consulates General in Los Angeles and New York require that you schedule an appointment prior to an in-person visit and these visa appointments can fill up several months in advance. If you intend to submit your application via mail please be sure to read the special instuctions at the bottom of this page. 

I. IF YOU APPLY IN PERSON: 

 

1. Passport valid for 15 months beyond the end of your program

2. Two originalvisa application forms duly completed, dated and signed.

3. Language form (in FrenchDutch or German); Choose one of the forms and indicate your language preference (or no preference). The option you choose will be used by the Belgian Home Office to communicate its decision regarding your visa application. There is no English version of this document. Please retain a copy for your records.

A. Indicate your name: full name as it appears on your passport (nom du demandeur, naam visumaanvrager, Name Visumbewerber) 
B. Number of the file will be indicated by this office (numéro du dossier - dossiernummer - Aktenzeichen) 
C. Indicate in what language you wish your file to be handled:

i. have no preference (geen voorkeur, pas de preference, keiner Sprache den Vorzug) 
ii. prefer French (français, Frans, französischer Sprache) 
iii. prefer Dutch (néerlandais, Nederlands, niederländischer Sprache) 
iv. prefer German (allemand, Duits, deutscher Sprache)

D. Date the form NOTE: be sure to format DAY MONTH YEAR (NOT: MONTH, DAY, YEAR) 
E. Sign the form (no need to notarize it)

4. Two recent passport pictures, signed on the back.

5. A nationwide criminal history record (FBI Identification Record) obtained from the FBI CJIS Division (Record Request, 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, WV 26306), dated within six months of your date of application for the visa. Please provide one original and two copies. No authentication (apostille) is required.

Who has to present this document? 

  • NOTE: Only ISEP Students 21 years of age or older need to submit an FBI Identification Record as part of their visa application. If you will be under 21 for the full length of your time abroad you do not need to complete this step. 

The FBI offers two methods for requesting your FBI Identification Record or proof that a record does not exist.

Option 1: Submit your request directly to the FBI.

Option 2: Submit to an FBI-approved Channeler, which is a private business that has contracted with the FBI receive the fingerprint submission and relevant data, collect the associated fee(s), electronically forward the fingerprint submission with the necessary information to the FBI CJIS Division for a national criminal history record check, and receive the electronic record check result for dissemination to the individual. Contact each Channeler for processing times.

ONLY FBI CHECKS PRINTED ON TAMPER PROOF PAPER ARE ACCEPTED

 

6. A medical certificate and two copies.

You may choose from a list of physicians affiliated with the Embassy or the Consulate General, or have your family physician complete the medical certificate. 

NOTE: If you choose your family physician the doctor's signature needs to be notarized by a notary public and authenticated by apostille, which is to be obtained from the Secretary of State where the notary public has his/her office. 

The medical document can be issued a maximum 3 months before the date of your application.

7. A  financial support declaration (Dutch form - French form) signed by the applicant’s sponsor (one person only), guaranteeing payment of travel, living, educational, medical and repatriation expenses. This form needs to be completed in the language of the school you will be attending (Dutch or French).

Please note that you have to fill out a copy in ONE language and that you cannot fill out the bilingual copy!

For your convenience, you can find a bilingual copy of this document below.

The sponsor needs to date and sign the financial support declaration document, and add the mention ‘read and approved’ in the language of the form (in French: ‘lu et approuvé’ – in Dutch: ‘gelezen en goedgekeurd’) and join a notarized copy of his/her driver’s license or foreign passport with US visa or permanent resident card. (Suggestion: the financial support declaration can also be signed by the sponsor in front of the visa officer, thus avoiding the presentation of the notarized copy of the driver's license or passport).

The signature legalization fee is: 24 USD

Do not have the sponsor’s signature legalized by a notary public or an Honorary Consul.

Scholars who have a scholarship or grant should submit original proof thereof and two copies.

As proof of solvency, the following documents should be provided by the sponsor who is signing the financial support declaration:

  • W2 form of the last fiscal year (two copies)
  • if applicable, letter of employment stating type and length of contract (two copies)
  • pay slips of the last 3 months (two copies)
  • form 1040 'individual income tax return' (two copies)
  • bank statements of the last 3 months (two copies)

8. An attestation from an academic institution, certifying that the applicant is accepted and/or registered as a regular, full-time student. 

9. Two certified copies of your latest academic transcripts.

10. A self-addressed prepaid envelope if you wish to have your passport and visa sent back to your home address. The Embassy or Consulate General is not responsible for lost items during shipping. 
Remarks: Do not use metered postage (for mailing to the Consulate General in New York only). Please note that the Embassy of Belgium in Washington DC no longer works with FedEx.

11. Fee to be paid at the time of application: 216 USD

The visa application fee is non-refundable.

Please refer to the following table for payment options:

  Cash Certified
Check
Money
Order
Credit Card
Embassy in Washington No Yes Yes Yes
Consulate General in Atlanta No Yes Yes No
Consulate General in Los Angeles No Yes Yes No
Consulate General in New York No Yes Yes No

 
Personal checks are not accepted.

Certified checks and money orders have to be paid to the order of:

  • "the Embassy of Belgium in Washington" if you apply at the Embassy in Washington
  • "the Consulate General of Belgium" if you apply at the Consulate General in Atlanta, Los Angeles or New York.

Incorrect money orders or certified checks will be rejected and returned to the applicant. Processing will only begin once the proper payment is received.

Only at the Embassy in Washington may you pay with Visa or MasterCard.

12. An additional fee is required for applicants 18 and over: 200 EURO or 350 EURO (payment through the bank). For instructions see:  New contribution for visa LONG stay - D.  


II. IF YOU WISH TO SEND YOUR APPLICATION BY MAIL the additional requirements apply: 

1. your signature on the application form must be notarized (certified) by a notary public of your place of residence in the U.S.

2. do not send your application documents to an Honorary Consul. The application will be processed by the Embassy or by a Consulate General. Always make sure you mail your application to the competent Embassy or Consulate General.

3. Make sure you have included 2 copies for every original document (except for the application form) in your file. The visa-section requires  one set of original documents and two sets of copies for every long-stay visa-application.

 

The documents listed above are only the basic documents to be submitted. Please check the requirements for the embassy or consulate for your juristiction prior to starting your application, as additional documents may be requested. 

Complete instructions for your student visa application can be found at: http://unitedstates.diplomatie.belgium.be/en/visa-belgium/higher-education-students

The Belgian government also requires that you register yourself at the local city hall within eight days of your arrival. Upon registration, the local authorities will provide you with an identification card documenting your status as a foreign student temporarily residing in Belgium. This document will allow you to enter and leave the country during your stay and will provide the exact duration of your study abroad.

Belgium is a member of the Schengen area. Students should review the important regulations that dictate travel and visas within the Schengen area.

Culture

CULTURE

Communication Styles

Belgian nationals are known to be diplomatic and polite in their communication styles. Negative comments are normally kept to oneself. People in Belgium are also less likely to use large gestures or dramatic changes in intonation when speaking with each other. The typical quiet tone of Belgian speakers helps to convey kindness and sincerity, ultimately creating a welcoming environment for international students.

Greetings

Initial greetings for men and women typically consist of a handshake and direct eye contact. Belgian friends will greet each other with light kisses on the cheek. When men greet women in Belgium, light kisses on the cheek are also normal. However, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to offer a handshake when greeting male friends or acquaintances.

Food

Belgium is universally famous for excellent cuisine. Most restaurant portions are large and of great quality. National specialties include Moules Frites (mussels and french fries), Endives with Bechamel sauce, Ardennes sausages, ham, game, pate and pralines. Students will also enjoy the world renowned Belgian chocolate, waffles and beer.

Bread and potatoes are the traditional staple foods of Belgium. A standard Belgian breakfast consists of toasted or untoasted bread with a variety of spreads, meats or cheeses. Both lunch and dinner typically include pork, chicken or beef, and french fries. Seafood is also quite popular along the coast of the North Sea and mussels are eaten throughout the country. Cooking at restaurants and in the home is traditionally done with butter rather than oil. There is also a high consumption of dairy products among Belgian nationals.

Generally speaking, mealtimes are viewed as an opportunity to socialize with family, friends and neighbors. While dining manners in Belgium are formal, meals are viewed as a time for relaxation and the exchange of ideas.

Source: http://www.everyculture.com/A-Bo/Belgium.html

Family

Family plays a central role in most Belgians’ lives. Many people remain in the town in which they were raised, which helps to establish close relationships between extended family members. Most children in Belgium have a strong sense of loyalty to their parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins. Because Belgian families value privacy in the home, it is a great honor to be invited to an individual’s residence.

Cultural Adjustment

International students are often tempted to spend time with other study abroad participants, especially those from their native country. While it is comforting to make friends with fellow expats, make sure to meet Belgian students and families. Forming relationships with Belgian nationals will undoubtedly contribute to your experience of a lifetime with ISEP.

Language differences may be the largest hurdle for expats in Belgium. ISEP participants are encouraged to meet with French- and Dutch-speaking students to expand their language abilities; many Belgian nationals are ready and willing to form conversation groups with foreign students.

Space and Distance

An arms length of personal space is the norm during conversations. Touching of the arms and shoulders is common during conversations, especially with friends and family.

Population and Religion

Housing approximately 10.5 million people and measuring 30,510 square kilometers, Belgium is the second most densely populated country in Europe. Ethnically, 58% of Belgian citizens are Flemish, 31% are Waloon and 11% are of mixed ancestry. Most people in Belgium describe themselves as Roman Catholic (75%) but do not practice the religion actively. Catholicism is most faithfully practiced in Flanders. 25% of Belgians follow other religions, including Protestantism. (Source: CIA World Factbook)

Daily Life

CULTURE

Communication Styles

Belgian nationals are known to be diplomatic and polite in their communication styles. Negative comments are normally kept to oneself. People in Belgium are also less likely to use large gestures or dramatic changes in intonation when speaking with each other. The typical quiet tone of Belgian speakers helps to convey kindness and sincerity, ultimately creating a welcoming environment for international students.

Greetings

Initial greetings for men and women typically consist of a handshake and direct eye contact. Belgian friends will greet each other with light kisses on the cheek. When men greet women in Belgium, light kisses on the cheek are also normal. However, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to offer a handshake when greeting male friends or acquaintances.

Food

Belgium is universally famous for excellent cuisine. Most restaurant portions are large and of great quality. National specialties include Moules Frites (mussels and french fries), Endives with Bechamel sauce, Ardennes sausages, ham, game, pate and pralines. Students will also enjoy the world renowned Belgian chocolate, waffles and beer.

Bread and potatoes are the traditional staple foods of Belgium. A standard Belgian breakfast consists of toasted or untoasted bread with a variety of spreads, meats or cheeses. Both lunch and dinner typically include pork, chicken or beef, and french fries. Seafood is also quite popular along the coast of the North Sea and mussels are eaten throughout the country. Cooking at restaurants and in the home is traditionally done with butter rather than oil. There is also a high consumption of dairy products among Belgian nationals.

Generally speaking, mealtimes are viewed as an opportunity to socialize with family, friends and neighbors. While dining manners in Belgium are formal, meals are viewed as a time for relaxation and the exchange of ideas.

Source: http://www.everyculture.com/A-Bo/Belgium.html

Family

Family plays a central role in most Belgians’ lives. Many people remain in the town in which they were raised, which helps to establish close relationships between extended family members. Most children in Belgium have a strong sense of loyalty to their parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins. Because Belgian families value privacy in the home, it is a great honor to be invited to an individual’s residence.

Cultural Adjustment

International students are often tempted to spend time with other study abroad participants, especially those from their native country. While it is comforting to make friends with fellow expats, make sure to meet Belgian students and families. Forming relationships with Belgian nationals will undoubtedly contribute to your experience of a lifetime with ISEP.

Language differences may be the largest hurdle for expats in Belgium. ISEP participants are encouraged to meet with French- and Dutch-speaking students to expand their language abilities; many Belgian nationals are ready and willing to form conversation groups with foreign students.

Space and Distance

An arms length of personal space is the norm during conversations. Touching of the arms and shoulders is common during conversations, especially with friends and family.

Population and Religion

Housing approximately 10.5 million people and measuring 30,510 square kilometers, Belgium is the second most densely populated country in Europe. Ethnically, 58% of Belgian citizens are Flemish, 31% are Waloon and 11% are of mixed ancestry. Most people in Belgium describe themselves as Roman Catholic (75%) but do not practice the religion actively. Catholicism is most faithfully practiced in Flanders. 25% of Belgians follow other religions, including Protestantism. (Source: CIA World Factbook)

Health and Safety

https://www.isepstudyabroad.org/guides-and-tips/health-safety

Currency

MONEY MATTERS

Currency

Belgium uses the euro, which has the same value in all euro-zone countries. There are seven euro notes (5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros) and eight euro coins (one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and one and two euros). One side is standard to all euro coins and the other bears a national emblem of participating countries. Travelers should note that Belgium is still a largely cash based society. Locals generally use cash for small purchases so students should grow accustomed to carrying cash regularly. Major credit cards are widely accepted at top and midrange hotels and restaurants, and in many shops and petrol stations.

Money Changing

Banks are the best place to change money, charging only a small commission on cash or travellers cheques. Banks in Belgium are generally open from 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. to between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. Most banks will also hold hours on Saturday morning. In smaller towns, you may find that banks close for an hour at lunch.

Out of hours, exchange bureaus are also available for changing money. Students should note that exchange bureaus will be significantly more expensive than Belgian banks. Bureaus can be found at most airports and train stations and will be called wisselkantoren in Flemish or bureaux d’échange in French.

ATMs are not widespread around the countryside, but are well populated in city centers and at the main international airports. MasterCard and Visa are generally accepted throughout the country.

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