Leaving Belgium and Moving On

Find out how to close bank accounts, end contracts for utilities and insurance, export cars, move pets and notify schools and residency officials when leaving Belgium...

There are a number of areas which need to be considered before departure when leaving Belgium and moving on elsewhere:

  • Embassy
  • Local Authorities
  • Education
  • Housing Issues
  • Health Care and Social Security
  • National Health Care
  • Business and Tax Issues
  • Correspondence
  • Vehicles and Driving
  • Animals
  • Embassy

    Anyone who has registered with their embassy on arrival needs to advise them that they are moving on.

    • British citizens will find information on the government website: Click here
    • For government information for Australians: Click here
    • For information for Canadian citizens: Click here
    • American citizens can refer to the state travel website for general information on registration with the embassy: Click here

    Local Authorities

    The Belgian authorities issue temporary residence permits followed by identity cards. All non-Belgians have to register with their local commune soon after arrival to begin this process. Foreigner identity cards are renewable annually. Therefore, on departure notify the commune and surrender these cards. If this cannot be done in person, notification may be given in writing and one person may do this on behalf of the household. The authorities request that they are notified no later than the day prior to final departure.

    Education

    Give schools a reasonable amount of notice of a child's departure. There may be outstanding bills for school fees, transport or meals to be settled.

    On registration at a new school in the new country a parent may be asked for a certificate stating the latest grade passed by the child. Request this from the school when giving notice of departure. Schools will normally be happy to provide a summary of a child's progress and up-to-date test results.

    Leave a forwarding address for any correspondence.

    Housing Issues

    If reserved parking space is needed for the removal lorry on moving day, contact the local commune who will arrange this with the police. It is known as an emplacement de parking.

    Rental contract

    Tenants in Belgium have the right to leave a property at any time as long as three months notice of departure is given and rent is paid during this period. However it is common for leases to contain what is known as a "diplomatic clause". This allows the tenant to terminate the lease at 30 days' notice if they have to move due to work reasons, such as transfer at short notice, or change of employment.

    If moving from a property which was rented for less than three years, an indemnity may be owed to the landlord, which can be up to three month's rent. The tenancy agreement will give details of the notice period.

    A surveyor will need to come and view the property to check its condition and draw up an inventory. This will be compared with the report and inventory which was prepared at the beginning of the rental period. If there is any damage requiring repairs then this must be agreed on between tenant and landlord and paid for out of the deposit which was paid initially.

    Property sale

    Property ownership is not as common in Belgium as in some other European countries. However if there is a property to be sold then this is usually done through an estate agent. Be aware that anyone reselling a property within five years is normally liable for capital gains tax.

    The advertised price in Belgium is considered negotiable, so vendors should be prepared to consider all offers if they need to sell a property quickly.

    Once a purchase price is agreed, the buyer and the vendor sign a sales agreement (compromis de vente), which is usually secured with a non-refundable deposit equal to ten percent of the purchase price.

    There is then a waiting period of up to four months while the buyer obtains the balance of the funds.

    Insurance

    House insurance can be cancelled once a sale is complete and in some circumstances a partial refund may be due. It is best to cancel all insurance in writing and by recorded delivery.

    Utility bills

    As with any house move, there are utility bills to be settled and meters to be read. If meters are not outside, access to the property will be required. Leave a forwarding address with all the companies involved.

    Most utility companies in Belgium will accept notification by telephone, online or by visiting the local branch (antennes provinciales/de provinciale loketten) in person. If visiting an agency, take an identity document, such as the residence permit or a passport and the last bill received from the supplier.

    Electricity and Gas: Deregulation of gas and electricity means that there are a number of suppliers in Belgium. Contact the supplier in question and arrange for a meter reading.

    Water: Each region has its own water supplier. Contact the supplier to notify them of the move and ask for a final bill.

    In the Brussels region, the supplier is BIWD/IBDE (Brusselse Intercommunale voor Waterdistributie/Intercommunale Bruxelloise de Distribution d'Eau)

    • For a guide to the procedures involved in obtaining a final bill: Click here (in French or Dutch)

    It will arrange for a representative to call and read the meter or occupants may do this themselves. There is a form on the website to download  for this purpose. Both the current resident and the new owner/tenant have to sign this. It is known as a relevé contradictoire/contradictoire meteropneming.

    Telephone and Internet: Proximus is responsible for the fixed line network.

    To cancel a contract, supply the customer identity number as well as the telephone number so that the final bill can be calculated.

    • Notify Proximus by telephone or the website

    Anyone using a different operator for calls will need to contact them as well.

    Television: As most of Belgium is served by cable television it will also be necessary to contact the supplier and notify them of the move as well as settling any outstanding charges.

    Health Care and Social Security

    Any private health insurance cover which has been in force may need changing or cancelling. Ensure that health insurance remains valid until arrival in the new country of residence.

    Anyone who has received dental or medical treatment while in Belgium should ask for records to be forwarded to their new practitioner.

    If a person has been working and paying social security contributions or receiving any benefits it will be necessary to inform the relevant authorities.

    • For contact details of the main social security funds in Belgium: Click here
    • For contact details of the health insurance funds: Click here

    National Health Care

    There is a Public Social Welfare Centre (CPAS/OMCW) present in each municipality. Find them in the Yellow Pages.

    • For the National Office for Social Security website: Click here

    Family benefits (such as child benefit) are paid by L’Office national d’allocations familiales pour travailleurs salariés/Rijksdienst voor Kinderbijslag voor Werknemers (ONAFTS/RKW) so it may also need to be notified of a move.

    • For the ONAFTS/RKW website: Click here (in German, Dutch or French)

    A person who has been paying into a pension fund (state and/or private) may need to arrange for benefits to be transferred.

    Business and Tax Issues

    Banking

    A Belgian bank account should be kept open for a short period to settle final bills (in Euros). Any direct debits in place should be cancelled.

    Many banks allow clients to close accounts and change addresses online. If this service is not available, accounts should be closed in person or by sending a letter via registered mail.

    Credit card companies will also need to be notified of a new address for statements.

    Tax

    In some cases, tax refunds may be due following emigration. As circumstances vary, only limited information is available.

    For example, the main property tax (onroerende voorheffing/précompte immobilier, OV/PI) is paid by property owners, not tenants. It is billed annually to whoever is the owner of the property on 1 January of the year of the tax. If the property is sold, the old and new owner can agree that the sale agreement stipulates that the tax is shared by them on a pro-rata basis, but this is not law.

    Income tax: For anyone who has been paying tax in Belgium, the local tax office will need to be notified of the move. There may be a tax liability for a proportion of the current year which will need to be settled.

    • To find out more about paying taxes and the possibility of refunds, see the Belgian government's website: Click here
    • Or see the Belgian Federal Ministry of Finance website: Click here

    Correspondence

    Mail can be forwarded to an address outside of Belgium for four months at a cost. The forwarding period can then be extended for four additional months if necessary, for an extra fee.

    To take advantage of this service, give a few weeks notice and fill in a form available from the post office or online. Proof of identity and details of the new address are required when presenting the completed form at the post office.

    Vehicles and Driving

    Registration (Immatriculation/Inschrijving) of all vehicles in Belgium is the responsibility of the Direction des Immatriculations des Véhicules/Dienst voor Inschrijving van de Voertuigen (DIV). The main administration office is in Brussels but there are regional offices throughout the country.

    • For full contact information and further details: Click here (in French)

    In theory, cars displaying Belgian plates need to be re-registered as soon as possible after departure. The Belgian authorities ask that they are notified of a new address within 15 days so that the car registration certificate (inschrijvingsbewijs/certificate d'immatriculation) can be changed by the police section of the municipality administration office. If leaving the country permanently then the registration needs to be cancelled.

    Once a vehicle is re-registered outside Belgium, the number plate (which in Belgium belongs to the individual not the car) must be surrendered. This means physically returning the number plate to the authorities.

    • For further information from the DIV: Click here

    Animals

    Depending on the destination, some animals may require a period of quarantine. Their move will almost certainly require documentation and possible additional vaccinations or similar medical treatment.

    Most domestic pets require documentation before they can travel. The EU pet passport covers dogs, cats and ferrets for movement within Europe, and the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS) allows qualifying domestic pets to travel to and from the UK without a period of quarantine. Local vets can provide information and documentation.

    Travelling to other EU destinations with pets with passports (cats, dogs and ferrets) is relatively straightforward, relocating to a non-EU country may be more complicated. Contact the Embassy in the new country of residence for up-to-date information.

    The Belgian authorities ask that departing dog owners contact the central database for pet information if they have micro-chipped animals which they have registered in the country.

    As a general rule, animals have to travel in approved containers and by approved routes. Be aware that sudden outbreaks of diseases (such as avian flu) can affect pet travel. Embassy websites are also good sources of information of information.

    Further Information