coronavirus international

Family reunions in Belgium and Coronavirus: travel permits for couples

Due to Covid-19, restrictions prohibiting non-essential travel have been implemented (Article 21 of Ministerial Order of 28/10/2020 introducing emergency measures to limit the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus).

It is important to note that this restriction does not apply to :

  • nationals of member states of the European Union and the Schengen area (therefore not to Belgians); 
  • other foreign nationals in possession of a valid residence permit issued by a Schengen area state or a valid type D visa;
  • family members of the above.

These restrictions also do not apply to travellers (subject to completion of the Public Health Passenger Locator Form, if necessary, and to compliance with potential health measures taken by Belgium - such as quarantining and testing - which can be checked via the website https://www.info-coronavirus.be/fr/):

  • departing from another Schengen area state;
  • departing from the United Kingdom (until 31/12/20), Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus (EU states that are not in the Schengen area). However, these travellers must have the required documents for entry;
  • departing from a country considered safe by Belgium (information via:  https://www.info-coronavirus.be/fr/)

Apart from the above, there is often flexibility as to what may be considered an essential journey, including specific circumstances where departure from a foreign country is permitted. 

In practice, travellers may be able to appeal to the authorities.

A list of acceptable reasons to travel can be found on the website www.dofi.fgov.be. This list should not be considered exhaustive in our opinion.

Those who require a visa before entry to the Schengen area can obtain one for long or short stays in Belgium from the relevant diplomatic or consular offices.

However, even with a short stay visa or visa waiver, it is still currently necessary, on arrival at the Schengen area border, to be able to:

  • prove the essential nature of the trip on the basis of documents held by the traveller (e.g. Marriage certificate, plane ticket as proof of transit, diplomatic passport, etc.);
  • or present an “essential travel certificate”. To obtain this document, the traveller must explain in full and precise details the essential reason for their travel to the Belgian diplomatic or consular office. Higher quality documents are more likely to be accepted.

For long stays (more than 90 days), this certification is not necessary if travellers obtain or possess a type D visa issued by a Belgian diplomatic or consular office after 18/03/20. (Assuming no issues are anticipated in other transit countries).

With a long stay visa (e.g. for a family reunion) issued before 18/03/20 –  i.e. the beginning of the pandemic –  application for an essential travel certificate remains a necessary formality. In this case partners are required to prove that they meet one of the following conditions:

  • They have lived together for six months in Belgium or abroad;
  • They have been in a relationship for at least one year and have been together physically on at least two occasions, each of at least 20 days’ duration. In the event that a visit had to be cancelled due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, proof that a visit was planned may be considered for the second visit;
  • They have a child together.

Céline Verbrouck
Attorney
Founder ALTEA