In true blogger fashion, I’ve gone into full research mode to prepare for my move to Belgium. There is so much information on the web to help anyone organize a move with relative ease. I’ve looked at long stay visa requirements, job ads and, of course, expat blogs to get a sense of the international community in Belgium.
Moving abroad is a heck of a lot easier for me than most because I’ve never really been in one place long enough to set down roots. I only own three pieces of bedroom furniture, my clothes and shoes, quite a few books, and a few kitchen gadgets. And there’s my car, which I just hand over to my parents for their own use (and safekeeping). The trickiest part is getting all the documentation lined up for the visa application. So here is a helpful how-to for those who are like me, indecisive and like to do things on the fly. The following list is full of little tips and tricks I learned from getting all my visa paperwork organized in one short week.
Long-Stay Visa Application Tips
1. Order your Criminal Record Check ASAP. I ordered mine from the RCMP; it’s important to note that the process generally takes a week and it must be ordered from your local detachment (going by the address on your driver’s license). Also, the criminal record check must be picked up in person and can not be picked up by anyone else.
2. Make sure your passport validity has over one year left. To avoid any headaches or an early departure I went to the passport office and ordered a new one. I have a friend who once found out he could not buy a flight from New Delhi to Germany because he had less than 6 months of validity left on his passport. Needless to say, it was a headache for him to search for a Canadian embassy to renew his passport and it resulted in a few unplanned days in New Delhi.
3. Call the embassy and explain your situation. Employees of the embassy often provide illuminating clarification on the often vague descriptions on consulate websites. To ease the confusion of the person on the other line, write down all your questions and take notes on the answers so no stone is left unturned.
4. Get to know your bank. The application needs a bunch of financial information to ensure that the incoming visitor won’t become a welfare moocher. I made sure that my bank statements for the past 3 months were stamped by the bank, to make it über official. Most banks are very helpful, but be aware that there could be some extra costs for services such as money orders.
5. Find a Dr. to sign the medical certificate. I didn’t think this would be a problem but it turned out to be a bit tricky. Since I recently graduated, then hopped on a plane to live in Kenya, I returned to find I was no longer welcome at the University clinic. Turns out it’s tough to find a Physician in Alberta because they are very busy with many patients. If you have a Dr., be sure to call in advance for an appointment. Luckily I found one in the village, booked an appointment for the following week, and after a short 15 minute meeting I was out the door with my signed certificate. The link for the required blank medical form can be found on the consulate website.
6. Travel insurance costs a lot of money. Prepare yourself. Health insurance is worth it, so try not to cheap out.
7. Follow up! If you have a small timeframe to get your passport back, make sure to follow-up with a polite phone call (or email) to the consulate to make sure that things are going smoothly and they have all the information that is needed.
Now that my paperwork is sent off and awaiting approval, the fun research can begin! Through the world of blogs I can find out about what the Belgian fashion trends are, where the great restaurants reside, what the best cell phone plan is, and when the raddest music festivals occur. There are some amazing blogs out there! After cruising through many articles, I must say I’m really looking forward to joining this community. Here are some of my favourites:
CheeseWeb This blog is done by an experienced expat couple from Canada (woo hoo!) and they are full of information on restaurants, European destinations to check out, and all sorts of tricks to settle into Belgium life quickly. They have an up-to-date article on choosing a smart phone mobile plan that I found very helpful. And lots of stunning photos to boot!
Best of Brussels A current guide to everything that is hip in Brussels.
Adventures of a Puertorican Girl in Brussels Gain some keen insight into to the world of marathon running, cooking, and international dating at this feisty blog.
The Petit Four A very cute and well-written blog by Emily, an American girl, who loves travel and beer! She has some hilarious tales about her life in Brussels that are fun to read, such as her adventures in preparing a big Thanksgiving feast for Belgian work friends.
I hope that you enjoy learning about Belgium through these blogs as much as I did!