When we registered our wedding at city hall in part 1, we experienced the first challenges in marrying a foreign national in Belgium. Step 2, applying for a marriage visa, only emphasized that complex nature. This second post continues listing our experiences and contains information that isn’t documented anywhere else. Anyone planning to get married to a Thai national in Belgium will save a lot of time and effort, by carefully reading this post.
Before elaborating on the visa application process and the documents involved, I would like to mention an additional matter that presented itself at City Hall. After finalizing the wedding registration, we were asked to appoint a translator for the wedding ceremony, as Khwantippa (my fiancée) does not understand Dutch. The translator is needed to translate the marriage ceremony, but does not need to be certified. Do present yourself with a copy of this person’s Belgian ID (or residency card) and make sure (s)he will be present at the wedding.
Now that we were successfully registered to get married, I needed to collect all Belgian documents Khwantippa would need to apply for the wedding visa at the Belgian embassy in Bangkok. Just to be clear: we would just apply for a visa to get married and are not planning for her to stay here permanently yet. Next year, we will apply for residency, using the reunion of family option. This will be the subject of a future episode.
Another disclaimer seems appropriate, while I am clarifying. This guide lists all measures that we have taken to ensure that the visa application was successful. This explanation is not about the absolute minimum measures to take when applying for a visa. My objective was to list all measures we have taken to ensure that the visa was granted, not list what is strictly required. The minimum documents needed are listed here.
The visa that is needed is a Type-C Schengen Visa for short stay. However, the intention to get married, adds additional requirements.
The documents Khwantippa needed were the following. Practical tip: label these documents with their names in a language your partner understands (English, in our case) to avoid practical problems, later on.
1. Proof of wedding registration
This is the document Belgian city hall provided to certify our wedding had been registered. All steps of the procedure are listed in part 1.
2. Invitation letter
No official guideline for this document exists. I wrote a letter, inviting Khwantippa to get married at the exact date, time and location stated in the registration document. I added personal details, friends we would visit and other activities we would be doing. Just be sincere and complete, and you will be fine. Don’t forget to mention that your partner is welcome to stay in your house. Do yourself a favor, write it in English. This letter is going to be scrutinized by many people, some of whom do not speak Dutch/French.
3. Copies of your ID
Provide three copies of your Belgian identity card. Make sure they feature both the front and the back of the card. Sign all of them by hand, listing your name, surname and the date.
4. Copies of your passport
Include three copies of the page of your International passport that contains your picture and personal details. Sign all of them by hand, listing your name, surname and the date.Copies of visa stamps
5. Copies of visa stamps
Supply copies of all visas and stamps entering Thailand, since you’ve met.
6. Proof of single status (‘Bewijs van Gezinssamenstelling’)
This document is to be obtained at your local city hall and documents that you are indeed single and eligible to get married.
7. Criminal record (‘Bewijs van Goed Gedrag en Zeden’)
Also available from City Hall, this documents your criminal history.
8. Proof of ownership of a residence, or rental agreement
The Kingdom of Belgium expects you to prove that you have a residence. If you own your house/apartment a copy of the title is sufficient. A copy of a rental agreement needs to be certified at City Hall, which takes about a week.
9. Guarantor document – Annex 3 bis (‘Verbintenis tot tenlasteneming’)
This document is a formal declaration that you (the guarantor) will take care of your partner, while she is in the Schengen area. After being completed and signed, this document also needs to be certified by city hall.
10. Proof of sufficient means
Unless the Thai partner can demonstrate adequate income, the Belgian partner needs to provide documents that illustrate sufficient means. To make our case air tight, I provided:
- Last year’s tax declarations
- A copy of my employment contract
- 6 consecutive pay slips
- An illustration of my savings account balance
11. Health insurance
The Thai partner needs to provide proof that she has travel health insurance. The minimum amount covered needs to be EUR 30,000. Do yourself a favor and take care of this yourself, as you assume all responsibility in the Guarantor Document (‘3 bis’). Add two weeks before and after the travel dates and list yourself as beneficiary. The most convenient way to do this is at www.bupa.co.th.
12. Relationship declarations by Belgian friends
Two of our close Belgian friends were happy to provide written testimony about our relationship and how long they’ve known us as a couple. These testimonies included copies of their ID’s and were signed and dated in live ink.
By the time I had all documents available, we were starting to run out of time to start the visa application process. To get documents sent over swiftly, do not (I repeat: DO NOT) use any kind of service provided by the Belgian postal services (Bpost). We have used them on previous occasions and no matter the surcharge you pay, things just don’t move along. When the documents finally arrive in Thailand, they get buried in customs for weeks.
On this occasion, we chose to use DHL Express online shipping. They provide what they promise and even delivered ahead of time, in less than a week.
Once my documents has arrived, Khwantippa needed to collect her share of Thai documents. The list goes on.
13. Hospital health check
14. Criminal record
Khwantippa needed to request the Thai police department to send her criminal record of the previous past years to be made available to the Belgian embassy. The related document is available here.
15. Copies of passport
Just like with my copies, we thought it to be wise to have three copies of international passport available. Once again: signed and dated in live ink.
16. Copies of visas for Belgium
Self-explanatory, but once again: smart to have three signed copies available.
17. Relationship declarations by Thai friends
We had a few Thai friends provide written declarations about our relationship, just like their Belgian counterparts. All dated, signed and with copies of their citizen cards on the same page.
18. Elaborate album illustrating our relationship
Here is where Khwantippa really went above and beyond. She compiled an album documenting our relationship from the start. Pictures of all the time we had spent together, presents, happy occasions and visits to friends and family were included. It contained airplane tickets, emails sent, chat records, hotel registrations, birthday cars, etc.
A very useful tip for Facebook users is the option to download your profile’s full archive. It saves you from painstakingly copy/pasting your chat logs.
19. Ticket reservation
The visa application process contains a bit of a catch-22. One can’t apply for a visa without providing proof of a ticket, and a ticket cannot be used without having visa. No one wants to buy an expensive ticket that might be useless when the visa is denied. Most people solve this by having a travel agency like Easy Ticket provide a reservation that can be cancelled. This implies a cost, or at least the moral obligation to buy the ticket there, later.
There is an even better solution, however. Thai Airways provides the option to buy a ticket online and pay by means of counter service. Counter service implies that the online purchase is finished by paying in cash at a bank. This option generates proof of a reservation, which is cancelled if the payment hasn’t been carried out within 3 office days.
20. Passport pictures
Even though not strictly necessary, it does make sense to have a few pictures available at all time.
After Khwantippa had all these documents available, she scheduled a physical appointment to apply for a short-stay visa for marriage with VFS in Bangkok, online. VFS handles the administration for the Belgian embassy. Booking the appointment generates a document that is needed to gain entrance to the building. After successfully submitting all above documents, an appointment for an interview at the Belgian embassy is scheduled in the next days. Khwantippa specifically requested to tell all readers that a picture is taken afterwards. Please remember to dress appropriately and apply make-up if needed. 🙂
On the day of the appointment, Khwantippa presented herself at the Belgian embassy in a very timely fashion. She was offered the choice between an easy/short or a more elaborate written interview, in English. No need to explain why the elaborate version is the better option, if your partner’s English is up to it. It took her about two hours to finish the questions about our relationship, my personal details and my family. Strangely, no one ever checked if her answers to questions about my favorite colors and pet peeves were accurate.
After the interview, the waiting game starts. All applications are physically sent over to the Department of Foreigner’s Affairs of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the following Friday. It takes about a month for request to appear in the system and be traceable on this link. The Department of Foreigner’s Affairs can also be contacted by phone on this number, in case of questions. The degree of helpfulness highly depends on the person who answers your call, sadly. Some refuse to give more information than is available on the status link, others put some more effort into their answers. I have seen some questions unanswered impolitely by one helpdesk agent, and completely resolved by the next. If you find yourself in the first situation, just hang up and call back immediately, hoping to speak to someone else.
After our request appeared in the system, we had to wait for another month for a positive outcome. A soon as this approval appears in the system, I would suggest to call the Belgian embassy in Bangkok and ask when the visa will be issued and printed. Chances are that months have passed since you started this process and things might have changed over time. We actually received the good news, weeks after the wedding date we had initially in mind. In such cases, the embassy is so kind as to wait with issuing the visa, as long as you provide a ticket reservation for a new date.
Khwantippa’s top tip: any Thai national going through the same process should join this Thai Belgium Facebook group for advice and practical tips in Thai.
Months and 26 documents later we are proud and happy to announce that we are getting married on July 15th, 2017, in Vilvoorde.
The best things in life are worth fighting for.
Khwantippa, thanks for your patience, tenacity and continued belief in our future. Satu, khrab.