Resident formalities - short stay

If you do not hold a valid M-card or Annex 56 (which proves you applied for the M-card), you are allowed to enter Belgium and other Schengen area countries without a visa for a period of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. The 90 days start counting when you enter the Schengen area until the day you depart. You can use the short-stay visa calculator to calculate your days in the Schengen area. All days spent in the Schengen area, irrespective of the purpose of the trip (including tourism, family reasons, and business visits), count towards the maximum 90-day limitation.

For business trips, limited professional activities are permitted and certain formalities might need to be complied with. More details here.

When traveling to Belgium and the rest of the Schengen area, you should carry the following documentation to pass through immigration smoothly:

  • A valid passport, valid for at least three months from the intended departure date from the Schengen area (ideally six months - as this can help to avoid questions or delays at the border) and issued within the last 10 years.
  • Proof of health insurance coverage valid throughout the Schengen area for the duration of your stay.
  • An invitation letter and/or travel itinerary confirming the nature and duration of travel, to be shown upon request so an immigration officer in the destination country can be satisfied that you intend to depart the country at the conclusion of the trip
  • Evidence of sufficient financial means, for example, a credit card or bank statements

EES and ETIAS: big changes coming soon

In 2024, the EU start to introduce its new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) for travel into the Schengen area. The first step will be the Entry/Exit System (EES). These electronic systems will increase scrutiny of travellers' respect for the limitations on short stay visits, such as the 90-day limit within a 180-day period.

  • EES: The Entry/Exist system will be a fully automated IT system registering visitors traveling to and from the EU. The system will replace the manual system of stamping passports. Delayed multiple times, the EES is currently expected to launch in October 2024.
  • ETIAS: The full European Travel Information and Authorization System will follow the EES. This electronic system will monitor and control visitors entering the Schengen area from visa-exempt countries, such as the UK. This travel authorisation system will perform detailed security checks to determine whether a person is allowed in the Schengen area. To receive travel authorisation, travellers will need to complete an ETIAS application online and provide, for example, passport details. They will also have to pay a small application fee. This travel authorisation is not a visa requirement, but rather an additional travel formality much like the USA's ESTA. After many delays, the EU is currently planning to implement ETIAS in 2025.