Welcome at the VUB

The webpage 'International Staff' contains necessary information regarding your preparation to work and live in Belgium. It is divided in different subjects:

  • Immigration and visa: what are the necessary and legal steps to take when planning on travelling to and living in Belgium;
  • Work permit: what are the legal obligations to be able to work in Belgium;
  • Residence permit: what should you do when arriving in Brussels/Belgium at the place you will be residing;
  • Social security and taxes: information regarding the Belgian social security system and taxes;
  • Bank account: why and how to open a bank account in Belgium;
  • Healthcare: insurance and obligations regarding health care matters.

In case of further questions, click on the contact tile and get in touch with our team HR international.

Get in touch with our team HR international

Create an HR-case with your question. You can direct it to the team HR International within your text. You can also mail us: mens_en_organisatie@vub.be.



Once your faculty and/or supervisor has confirmed your hiring as a staff member or grant holder, you can start planning your departure to Belgium. First thing on the agenda: the visa formalities. Whether or not you have to apply for a work/study and entry visa depends on your nationality.

If you are a national of a Member State of the European Union or Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland (EEA+ nationals) you may travel to Belgium with an international passport or identity card. You do not need to apply for a visa.

You only need to be in the possession of a valid international passport or national identity card. On arrival, you will have to register at the town hall of the municipality in which you will be residing.

You must start the visa application at the Belgian diplomatic mission or embassy in your country of nationality or current country of residence. In most cases, the first contacts, inquiries and submission of documents occur online.

The dates on the visa stamp are the dates between which you are allowed to arrive to Belgium.

The standard visa regulation depends on the duration of your stay. This can be a short or long stay.

Short stay (maximum of 90 days)

If you are planning to stay 90 days or less, your stay is defined as a short stay. In case of a short stay, please contact team HR International via the contact tile below.

Long stay (more than 90 days)

After you receive your official confirmation of your employment or studies at the VUB and once you have received the formal documents needed for your visa, you can start applying for your visa. The application process will depend on the type of contract you will have.

Your type of contract or grant will determine how the administrative formalities of your immigration procedure will unfold:

International PhD students who are mandatory enrolled at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel as PhD students will have to apply for a visa type D as students. PhD students, funded by the VUB, need to be enrolled as student trough the student administration.

Although procedures may differ from one embassy to another, the basic requirements for visa applications are:

  • Application form (issued by Belgian federal government);
  • Copy of a valid (at least for 6 months after arrival in Belgium) international passport;
  • Certificate of admission or Conditional Letter of Acceptance (issued by the VUB Students’ Administration). Admission is granted upon approval by faculty. This procedure is initiated by the supervisor within the faculty. You will also be required to initiate your student pre-registration and submit all necessary documents;
  • PhD-scholarship contract (which serves as proof of financial means of subsistence). This contract is issued by the VUB Personnel Department (P&O);
  • Medical certificate. If you are already residing in Belgium or another EU-country, you might be exempt;
  • Certificate conforming the lack of criminal record (issued by the competent authorities in country of origin or current country of residence);
  • Administrative fees waiver (issued by VUB Personnel Department (P&O));
  • Engagement regarding health insurance coverage (issued by VUB Personnel Department (P&O)).

Self-funded PhD students follow a different procedure. For more information, please contact international.relations@vub.be.

Research staff with an employment contract or a postdoctoral grant contract the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and for whom the Vrije Universiteit Brussel had drafted a hosting agreement will have to apply for a visa type D as researcher.

Required Documents:

Documents provided by Vrije Universiteit Brussel 

  • Employment contract or postdoc scholarship contract (also serves as proof of financial means of subsistence) 
  • Hosting agreement 
  • Administrative fees waiver (only for post-doc scholarship holders)
  • Commitment regarding health insurance coverage (only for post-doc scholarship holders)

Documents to be filled out / provided by applicant

  • Application form (official form issued by the Belgian Federal Government) or: online application (if applicable from your country).
  • Copy of a valid (at least for 6 months after arrival in Belgium) international passport
  • Master diploma or PhD certificate (depending of hiring level)
  • Medical certificate
  • Certificate conforming the lack of criminal record (issued by the competent authorities in country of origin or current country of residence)

Other staff categories , such as:

  • Professorial staff (ZAP)
  • Research and teaching assistants (AAP) 
  • Administrative and technical staff (ATP) 
  • Visiting professor  
  • Seconded staff (payroll employer in country of origin)

will receive the visa type D after approval of the single permit (based on the “annex 46” document). Check our page 'Work Permit' for more information regarding the single permit procedure.

Work Permit

Foreign workers who wish to work in Belgium as employees (i.e. working under an employment contract) must hold a work permit. This does not apply to nationals of the Member States of the European Economic Area or Swiss nationals. 

Do you need a work permit?

EEA nationals and Swiss nationals  

EEA nationals and Swiss nationals do not need a work permit to work in Belgium. 

Non-EEA nationals 

Non-EEA nationals normally need a single permit or work permit to work in Belgium. 
Which kind of work permit depends on the staff category under which you are employed at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. For non-EEA nationals who have a B, C, D, F or F+ residence permit or a registration certificate for family reunification with an EU citizen, the right to work is automatically mentioned on their residence card. 

All other staff members without a legal waiver of work permit need a work permit, depending on the duration of the employment and the country of nationality. The procedure for obtaining the work permit / single permit will be coordinated and initiated  by the HR International team of VUB Personnel Department (People & Organisation). They will contact you to request the documents necessary for the application. Keep in mind that the procedure can take up 8 to 16 weeks after submission of a duly completed application file. See below for more information.

  • Professorial staff (ZAP) 
  • Research and teaching assistants (AAP) 
  • Administrative and technical staff (ATP) 
  • Visiting professor 
  • Seconded staff (payroll employer in country of origin)

Please be aware that the work permit or single permit needs to be approved before the staff member can apply for a visa type D at the Belgian diplomatic mission or Visa Application Center!

Doctoral scholarship holders are mandatory enrolled as students at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. They are considered students for the purposes of the entry and residence legislation. See our immigration and visa page for more information.

Research staff who have an employment contract or post-doctoral grant contract will receive a hosting agreement. The hosting agreement will be provided by your file-manager at People and Organisation (HR) and you will need to, as soon as possible, submit this document when applying for a visa type D at the Belgian diplomatic mission or, if you are already legally residing in Belgium, at the town hall of your current residence. See our immigration and visa page for more information regarding the visa.

Single Permit procedure (non-EEA nationals)

Future staff members (VUB-payroll) and visiting staff members (not VUB-payroll) who will be living and working in Belgium for a period longer than three months have to apply for a single permit. This is done by HR International team (People & Organisation). This combined residence and work permit allows non-EEA nationals to reside and work in Belgium. 

Team HR International contacts the new staff member to request the necessary documents for the application for the single permit and applies for the single permit on the applicant’s behalf. 

The single permit application can take quite some time. Expect the procedure to take 10-16 weeks from the date of submission of a duly completed application. The single permit is issued for the maximum period of three years or until the end of the employment period.

Renewal or extension of single permit/work permit

In order to apply for an extension of your residence permit, your work permit or single permit needs to be extended first.  

Please keep in mind that renewal applications can take several months. We recommend that supervisors and faculty (where applicable) start the renewal procedure with People & Organisation (HR)  three to four months before the end date of your current employment contract. 

At present, researchers with a hosting agreement do not yet need a single permit to apply for an extension of their residence permit. Signed employment contract/grant contract and hosting agreement are sufficient to start the renewal of the residence permit. 

Further questions?

Contact Team HR International

Registration at the town hall

Upon arrival in Belgium, you must register at the local municipal office (town or city hall) in your place of residence as soon as possible. All international staff of the VUB – including those from within the European Economic Area – must request a residence permit if they wish to stay in Belgium for more than three months.

Non EEA-nationals

Within eight days after your arrival in Belgium, you must initiate the process of registration at the municipality in which you reside. 

After requesting an appointment with the Foreigners’ Desk of your municipality, you will be invited to submit the required documents and to present in person for the formalities regarding your Belgian residence card. The municipality will let you know in advance which documents must be presented. In general you should bring:  

  • Your national identification card or copy of a valid (at least for 6 months after arrival in Belgium) international passport; 
  • Your accommodation lease; 
  • One passport-type photo; 
  • Your employment contract/grant agreement with the university; 
  • Annex 46 (in case of single permit procedure). 

In the days that follow, the local police will visit you at your residence to verify your address. You will then be invited to the municipality with documents specified by the municipal service in order to complete the registration process.

When the municipal authority completes the registration process, you will receive your Belgian residence card.


Immigration legislation stipulates that registration at the municipality of residence is required within three months after your arrival in Belgium. We do advise registering as soon as possible. You must register at the local municipality in which you reside. Keep in mind the Brussels area contains 19 different municipalities, with each a different town hall. This can be done by making an appointment online to go to your local municipality. In the days that follow, the police will visit you at your residence to verify your address. 

Social security

Belgium has a very extensive social security system. Foreign nationals legally working or studying and residing in Belgium are entitled to certain allowances and social services.   

PhD students and postdoctoral grant holders with a grant contract, as well as researchers and professors with an employment contract are subject to social security contributions, which are deducted at the source and payable to the Belgian National Social Security Office (ONSS).

Each month the employer pays a considerable amount on top of your salary into the social security fund. The employee also contributes a proportion of his/her gross salary in social security contributions.

Taxes in Belgium

International staff with an employment contract must complete an individual tax return if, on 1 January of the tax year in question, they:

  • are included in the National Register;
  • have their domicile or centre of financial interest in Belgium;
  • are not exempt from the requirement to submit a tax return.

Individual tax returns must be submitted annually to the department specified on the tax return.

Grant holders (PhD students and postdoctoral researchers) are not liable to income tax as individuals. Contact People & Organisation for more information about tax exemption conditions for grant holders.

Bank account

When you start living and working or studying in Belgium, it is important to open a Belgian bank account as soon as possible. Before leaving your home country, you can check whether your bank has a local counterpart in Belgium, which might be advantageous. As opening an account can take several days, arriving with sufficient funds in cash to cover your first expenses is necessary.    

Opening an account requires the following documents: 

  • passport or identification card; 
  • proof of residence in Belgium (a lease contract with Belgian address); 
  • an employment or grant agreement. 

Be advised that certain banks also request proof of registration with the municipality . An initial notification of arrival to the municipality is not sufficient.   

Payments in Belgium are generally made by electronic debit card or credit card.

If necessary, or pending the opening of a bank account with a Belgian bank, the salary can be paid to a foreign account number. This is only possible for countries belonging to the SEPA zone. If the bank account number does not belong to one of the countries in the SEPA zone, employees must wait for the payment of their wages until they have a Belgian bank account number.


Health insurance is of the utmost importance because medical costs may occur unexpectedly and can be very high in Belgium.  

International staff must join a health insurance scheme (the so-called ‘mutuelle’ or ‘mutualité’ in French or “ziekenfonds” in Dutch) as soon as possible after arrival. These schemes reimburse the cost of medical care (either in full or in part depending on the type of services provided).

Complementary, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel provides a collective "health care insurance” for its employees and grant holders. This insurance, generally referred to as "hospitalization insurance", covers the following three categories: 

  • Hospitalization costs;
  • Costs related to the outpatient treatment of serious diseases; 
  • Ambulatory care (UZ Brussel and VUB services).

This insurance premium is free of charge for staff members. Optional (paying) affiliation of family members is possible. 


More questions? Get in touch with our Team Compensations and Benefits!

Compensations & Benefits