If you know anything about Belgium, is that they make the best watches, the most delicious chocolate and the best beer barley can offer.
But you probably didn’t know that a lot of international students choose this European country for their Master’s degrees, after considering the tuition fees, the geographical location and the amalgam of cultures.
If you wish to study here, though, you should take into account the whole application process. Luckily for you, we are here to help.
Prepare to apply
First things first: check the scholarships in Belgium. You have a lot to choose from and the chance that one of them be perfect for you is great. You can also check out the Studyportals Scholarship to get some help on financing your studies abroad.
Also, like any country, check the VISA requirements. Although you may be free to come here if you’re an EU/EEA student, it won’t matter where you come from for your residence permit and your application documents.
For example, since 2008, all students from China had to obtain a special certificate from the Centre of Academic Assessment from Beijing to be added to their VISA file.
And, since we mentioned the application process…
Where to apply for a Belgian Master’s degree?
There is a website, StudyInBelgium.be, that will be your general guide through your application. When we say general, we mean it: the information provided here is so basic, you expect it to listen to Taylor Swift on repeat.
If you want to apply, you can go on this list of Belgian Master’s programmes and access one of them. This will take you directly to its official page and you will see the details and the checklists you need for the complete application.
Language requirements for a Belgian university application
Most courses in Belgium are either in French or in English. Like always, each page has more information about the grade and the proficiency tests they will accept.
Usually, for English, the tests accepted are:
- C1 Advanced
For French, you will have to:
- take a language proficiency test upon arrival
- or submit a certificate, proving your language level (FLE)
For foreign students, the universities organise special French courses, so if you wish to learn while you’re there, you should be covered. You can find more information directly on the StudyInBelgium website, so don’t forget to check it out before departing.
Required application documents
General application documents
You will probably get tired of hearing this, but always check the website for your programme of choice!
Some of the requirements are basic, like having a Bachelor’s before applying for a Master’s (duh!), and that you must submit all your documents in either English, French or Dutch, but other requirements will be completely up to the university or will depend on your country of origin.
Some of the basic documents required also include your:
- Passport picture
- Bachelor’s degree transcripts
- Proof of language proficiency
- But, like always, RESEARCH!
Specific entry requirements
Some universities or Master’s programmes will require you to submit:
- A motivation letter
- A reference letter
Like always, the number of characters or the number of reference letters may vary, so be prepared and follow the document checklist you will be given like it’s your own personal Manifesto.
Also, take care: some programmes may require students who can afford to pay for themselves for their international experience, including accommodation, living costs, tuition fees. Check out a brief guide for Belgian living costs and consider it before applying to a Master’s degree.
University application deadlines for Belgium
In Belgium, some deadlines are dependent on your VISA status. Some of the rough deadlines you will need to take into account and mark on your calendar are:
- start of March: Application deadline for students who need a visa
- start of June: Application deadline for students who DO NOT need a visa
- October: Autumn semester starts
- Mid-January – late-January: 1st semester exams
- Mid-February: Spring semester starts
- Mid-June – late-June: 2nd semester exams
- July – September: Summer Holiday
Final steps after receiving your acceptance letter
After being accepted, you have to actually enrol. Yes, it seems redundant, but if you don’t officially occupy your place in the Master’s programme, you will be left on the outside, looking in, sad, in the rain, with raindrops masking your tears.
Anyway, to be properly enrolled, you will have to:
- Pay the tuition fee
- Actually send the proper documentation
When you land in Belgium, you will also have to pay a visit ASAP to the university, so you could finalise the process and party care-free, before starting your semester.
But don’t party too hard: after you get the enrolment certificate, you have to go and obtain a residency permit. This should happen 8 days after you arrive in Belgium, so the schedule is pretty tight.
Also, on a more serious note, you should get all the contact details for your country’s diplomatic missions in Belgium. They will help you if you have any problems or just feel lonely in a new place.
EU/EEA and Swiss students have the right to study in Belgium without the need for a visa or other permit. However, you must be enrolled at a university or institution of higher education in Belgium, have sufficient funds to cover expenses, and have adequate health insurance coverage.
Third-country nationals who want to study in Belgium for a period exceeding 90 days typically need to obtain a visa D from the competent Belgian embassy in their country of residence before arrival. In principle, you can get a Belgian student visa if you’re following a study program at an officially recognized institution of higher education in Belgium.
To qualify for a Belgian student visa, students must fulfill the following:
- the studies must be the main occupation of the student during their stay in Belgium;
- the student must have sufficient resources to support themself during their stay in Belgium;
- the student must have health insurance coverage;
- they cannot pose a threat to public security (for example, have no pending criminal cases).
It is important to note that you need to register for a specific study program in Belgium before submitting your visa application. This should either be a complete study program (e.g., Bachelor, Master, Manama) or preparatory studies that prepare you for further higher education (e.g., language classes). As a rule, your studies must be full-time and the main purpose for your residence in Belgium.
Studies at private education institutions might be accepted under certain conditions.
Applying for your student visa in Belgium
Once you have a place, non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals must apply for their visa from the Belgian embassy in their home country. If the course is longer than three months, you’ll need to complete an application form for a long stay in Belgium, and provide certain documents.
For your application, you may have to provide items such as:
- a valid passport/travel ID;
- proof that you have a place at a recognized institution (see options below);
- copies of educational certificates;
- details about the course;
- evidence of sufficient funds to cover your living costs, study, healthcare and repatriation costs (€617 per month for the 2015-2016 study year);
- a medical certificate;
- proof that you don’t have a criminal record if you’re older than 21.
To prove your acceptance at a recognized institution, you can provide one of the following:
- the official confirmation of registration for the program;
- an attestation which indicates you have access to the anticipated studies. The attestation must clarify the conditions that you need to complete your registration upon arrival in Belgium and must be issued by the relevant educational institution;
- proof of your registration for the entrance examinations.
You may also be asked to provide a letter outlining why you have chosen your particular course, why you want to study in Belgium and how this will benefit you. Additionally, you may also be asked to show some language proficiency in the language the course will be taught in, often by showing that you’ve taken a language course.
You may need to have your foreign documents translated into German, French, or Dutch by a sworn translator. The documents must also be legalized or carrying an apostille stamp. More information is available in Expatica’s complete guide to Belgian visas and permits, and also from the Belgian Foreign Ministry.
Study grants and scholarships in Belgium
You may be eligible for financial assistance for studying in Belgium. Belgium’s Foreign Ministry supplies details of grants and scholarships to study in Belgium.
After you arrive in Belgium: residence permit and registration
Within eight days of arriving in Belgium, you must visit your local municipality (maison communale/gemeentehuis) to request your residence permit. The municipality then registers you on the foreigner’s population register. To find the details of your local town hall, you must contact the commune in which you’re living; click here for a full list of communes.
If you’re not yet enrolled or registered in your study program at the time of filing your visa application, you must provide proof of registration as soon as possible; you can enroll in your course at the university or educational institution after you arrive, and ask for an enrolment certificate. You should present this when you visit the local municipal administration offices/town hall (maison communale/gemeentehuis) to get your residence permit.
Your non-EU/EEA/Swiss spouse or registered partner and dependent children can accompany you and can apply for a visa and residence permit from the Belgian embassy.
They will need to supply documentation proving:
- your relationship (marriage/civil partnership/birth certificates);
- you’re accepted to a program in Belgium;
- that you have sufficient financial resources;
- that you have somewhere for you all to live in Belgium.
You can also read more about moving to Belgium to join a relative or spouse.
Working in Belgium while you’re a student
If you’re a foreign student enrolled at a Belgian educational institution and have a valid residence permit you can work up to 20 hours a week during term time, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your studies. You need a written fixed-term student employment contract from your employer and a type C work permit (see our guide to working in Belgium).
Otherwise, you can work during official university holidays without the need for a Belgian work permit.
How to Study in Belgium for International Students
Located at the heart of western Europe is Belgium, which is the current seat of the European Union and NATO. Truly a diverse and beautiful country, it is a place governed by three national languages – Flemish, German, and French.
As the home of 11.35 million people, Belgium is also the safe haven of almost 45,000 international students. Being the gateway to many other European countries, Belgium offers a quality education at a surprisingly affordable price. With this perfect combination, more and more foreign students are considering this European nation for their higher education studies.
Plan to Meet the Cost of Studying in Belgium
Bachelor’s and master’s degrees usually cost about $937 to $4,712 (EUR 835 to 4,200) a year. Doctorate degrees, on the other hand, only cost about $937 (EUR 835) for the first year and $56 (EUR 50) for the succeeding years.
While tuition is cheap, the cost of living in Belgium can be quite expensive, ranging from $841 to $1,234 (EUR 770 to 1,100) a month. This is enough to cover the basic necessities, which include accommodation ($224 to $785, or EUR 200 to 700), transport ($22 or EUR 20 monthly pass), and meals ($9 to $18 or EUR 8 to 16 a day).
Planning your finances ahead of time is critical for international students wishing to study in Belgium. So, make sure to prepare ahead.
Meet the General Application Requirements of Belgium Universities
Belgium has 3 official languages – French, Dutch, and German. Any of these may be used as the language of instruction in most institutions.
General Language Requirements (Undergraduate)
Most bachelor’s degrees are taught in Dutch or French. As such, you need to demonstrate intermediate proficiency (B1/B2) of the language.
For French-speaking universities, applicants need to take a French proficiency exam upon registration. You may be exempted from this as long as you have a certificate that proves your knowledge of the French language.
Apart from these, the University of Namur advises its foreign applicants to improve their French language skills before starting class. They also have the option to enroll in French language courses during the orientation week or the semester proper.
At Dutch-speaking universities such as the University of Antwerp, international students need to show proof of language proficiency through any of the following:
- One year of Dutch language studies (or equivalent in credits)
- Interuniversity language test Dutch as a foreign language (level C1 for all language-related programs level B2 for all other programs).
- ‘Certificaat Nederlands als Vreemde Taal (CNaVT)’ – ‘Educatief Professioneel
- ‘Staatsexamen Nederlands als tweede taal (NT2) – programme II’
As language requirements vary widely across universities, make sure to check with your schools regarding the complete details.
General Language Requirements (Graduate)
Compared to undergraduate studies, some masters and doctorate degrees are taught in English. At these universities, foreign students need to present either their IELTS or TOEFL results.
At the University of Antwerp, you need to get any of the following minimum scores to be admitted in its English programs:
- TOEFL PBT = 550
- TOEFL CBT = 213
- TOEFL iBT = 80
- IELTS = band 6.5
The university also accepts the ITACE (Interuniversity Test of Academic English for Students).
As for Dutch-taught graduate programs, the above-mentioned requirements apply. However, the scores need to be higher though. At the University of Antwerp, Medicine applicants need to have a C1 score. Other programs, however, may accept a grade of B2.
Meanwhile, in French universities such as the Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles, the minimum level of proficiency is maintained at B2.
As Dutch and French universities have various requirements, always refer to your university’s admission website for the language requirements. To be able to study in Belgium as an international student, it is critical that you meet these language requirements. So, plan ahead!
Application Requirements (Undergraduate)
The primary requirement for undergraduate students is a secondary school certificate (translated to Dutch, French, or English as necessary). Additional requirements may be levied by your university, so you should check with the officer-in-charge for the details.
For example, at the University of Antwerp, you also need to pass a curriculum vitae and motivation letter.
Some degrees also have special requirements. At the same university, Medicine applicants need to pass an admission test. Veterinary medicine hopefuls, on the other hand, have to participate in the ‘ijkingstoets diergeneeskunde’.
A skills test may also be required from students who wish to pursue a degree in music or the arts.
As for French universities, students who wish to pursue an applied sciences course may have to undergo an entrance exam.
Application Requirements (Graduate)
Post-graduate applicants need to submit the following requirements:
- Passport-sized photos
- Bachelor’s diploma
- Transcript of records
In some cases, universities may also request for other documents. At the University of Antwerp, additional requirements include a curriculum vitae and a motivation letter.
Since requirements usually vary according to university/program, always check with your university regarding its complete list of requirements.
Apply to Universities in Belgium
The next step for international students wanting to study in Belgium is applying to Belgium universities. Should you wish to take your undergraduate or graduate studies in Belgium, know that your submission deadline would depend on your visa status.
Belgian universities require non-EU foreign applicants to submit their documents at a much earlier time. Take the case of the University of Antwerp, which has a deadline of early March for the uploading of the electronic requirements. Hard copies, on the other hand, should be sent by the end of May.
Schools such as the University of Antwerp do not charge application fees. However, some institutions do. A good example is the Université Catholique de Louvain, which has an application fee of $94 (EUR 83.50). As the costs vary widely, make sure to check with your university regarding its fees.
As mentioned, deadlines are dependent on your need for a visa. As the visa process takes 3 to 6 months, submitting your requirements early will give you enough time to start in autumn (September to October).
Should you need a visa, as with most applicants, then you need to submit all the requirements by the end of March. If not (as is the case for EU citizens), then you may send your requirements until early June.
At the University of Antwerp, the graduate program deadline is similar to that of undergraduates (March for the electronic copies, May for the hard copies).
Meanwhile, at the Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles, applicants have until the end of April to submit their documents.
With that being said, you need to check your university’s website for the application schedule.
There is no fee for applying to schools such as the University of Antwerp. In some institutions, the application fee will cost you about $56 (EUR 50).
Apply for a Student Visa
If you need to study in Belgium for more than 3 months as an international student, you need to apply for a long-stay visa. This will cost about $224 (EUR 200) for undergraduate and masters students. Doctorate applicants need to pay a higher fee of $393 (EUR 350).
The requirements are as follows:
- Proof of course registration or admission to a university/higher education institution
- Secondary school certificate or Bachelors/Masters diploma and transcript of records
- Proof of grant/financial support
- Medical certificate (negative for TB or other communicable diseases)
- Police certificate from your home country for applicants over the age of 21
Within 8 days of your arrival in Belgium, remember to visit the local municipality to get your residence permit.
Belgium is a place where you can learn well at a reasonable price. With its beautiful attractions and accessibility to other European countries, Belgium proves to be an excellent destination for many foreign students.
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