Moving to the UK from Belgium

Relocating from Belgium to the UK

Despite Brexit, the UK continues to be a popular destination for Belgian citizens seeking a new place to live, work and study. According to the latest data, around 26,000 Belgian nationals reside in the UK, up from 16,000 in 2008. While Belgium and the UK are only a short distance apart, it is essential to understand the intricacies of moving here to make the process as easy as possible. In this complete guide on moving to the UK from Belgium, we will explain the legal requirements post-Brexit and the cost of living in the UK compared to Belgium and provide a checklist for Belgian nationals relocating to the UK. We will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject of emigrating from Belgium to the UK.

Moving from Belgium to the UK after Brexit

As most Belgians will already know, the UK left the EU at the end of 2020, bringing with it an end to free movement across the channel. EU and EEA nationals who were living in the UK before 11pm GMT on the 31st December 2020 were able to apply for pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). While it is still possible for those who meet the criteria to apply, they must have a valid reason for making a late application.

If you are from Belgium and would like to move to the UK but you were not living here before the end of 2020, you will need to apply for a visa to live here. This is the case whether you wish to live, work, study, or join your family members in the UK.

Thankfully, with the help and guidance of a UK immigration specialist, applying for a visa for yourself and your family can be extremely simple and straightforward.

Moving to the UK from Belgium benefits

One of the biggest benefits of the UK for Belgian nationals is that it is relatively close, making it easy for them to visit family and friends back home. Depending on where you live in the UK, it is possible to leave in the morning and arrive in Belgium for lunch. Putting the ease of access aside, the UK has a strong and vibrant economy with a wide variety of highly skilled and well-paid job opportunities. For Belgian entrepreneurs, the UK makes it easy to set up a new business with minimal administration and ‘red tape’.

Similarly to Belgium, the UK has a rich history and culture and is renowned for its stunning villages, mountains, hills, lakes, and countryside. Many EU nationals are also attracted to the high standard of education available in the UK due to the number of world-renowned schools and universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, St Andrews, and University College London (UCL).

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If you are contemplating a long-term or even permanent move from Belgium to the UK, you will need to ensure that you meet the legal requirements. The following sets out the legal requirements for the most popular visa types sought by Belgians who wish to live, work, set up a business, study, or join family members here:

UK Skilled Worker visa

As a Belgian national, you can apply for a UK Skilled Worker visa to work here for up to 5 years, at which point you will be eligible for permanent settlement and British citizenship after a further year. To make a successful work visa application, you must have a job that is eligible for the occupation. Your job must be with an approved UK employer, and the employer must pay at least the minimum salary requirement of £38,700 per year (or the ‘going rate’ for the type of work you do). You may have a lower salary requirement if you have a PhD, a job on the UK government’s immigration salary list, or are a new entrant to the job market. In addition, you will also need to demonstrate that you meet the English language requirement, typically by passing an English language exam.

UK Student visa

The UK’s Student visa enables nationals of Belgium to study at an approved university, college, or school. You must be at least 16 years old and have an offer of a place on a course with a licensed education provider and sufficient funds to support yourself and pay for your course. Student visa applicants must also be able to speak, read, write and understand English to the required standard.

UK Innovator Founder

If you are planning to set up a new business in the UK, the UK Innovator Founder visa may well meet your needs. One of the biggest benefits of this type of visa is that it provides a faster route to permanent settlement of just 3 years (it normally takes 5 years to secure permanent residency on most visa types).

UK Innovator Founds applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a business idea for a new, unique, viable, and scalable company. They must also have this endorsed by an approved endorsing body in the UK. This visa also has an English language requirement, and applicants must have enough money to support themselves while they establish their business.

The visas outlined in this article represent just some of the many UK visa routes available to Belgian nationals. To understand which visa options are best for you and your family based on your background and plans for the future, it is advisable to speak to an experienced immigration Solicitor.

How to set up your finances in the UK?

Like the EU, the UK has a modern digital banking system, making it easy to open a new account and manage your banking needs. We recommend setting up your new UK bank account when you arrive in the UK because the banks typically require proof of your identity and a permanent UK address.

Once you have arrived in the UK, you will also need to apply for a National Insurance (NI) number before you start work or earn money from your business. Tax is also very simple in the UK. Any tax you owe will be automatically deducted from your salary each month by your employer through the ‘Pay As You Earn’ (PAYE) system. If you are self-employed, you will need to prepare and submit a self-assessment tax return each year. An accountant in the UK can help prepare this for you and answer any of your tax-related questions.

Get in touch with our immigration experts for help with your move to the UK from Belgium

What is the cost of living in the UK?

Overall consumer prices in the UK are on par with Belgium according to the cost of living comparison website Numbeo. The main difference is that rental prices in the UK are typically around 50% more than in Belgium. Bear in mind that the cost of rent varies considerably across the UK, with London and the South East generally being more expensive than other parts of the country. Restaurant prices are slightly lower in the UK by around 7%, and groceries are approximately 2% cheaper here than in Belgium.

Emigrating to the UK from Belgium - Checklist

  • Chat with a UK immigration specialist to discuss your immigration options – we can often provide advice on routes that are not often considered (e.g. the self-sponsorship route).
  • Secure a job offer and a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) before you apply for a work visa.
  • Create a detailed and realistic budget spreadsheet setting out your income and living costs in the UK.
  • Estimate your moving costs, including transport, removal costs, and rent deposit, etc.
  • Research the schools in your preferred area in the UK and check if they have spaces for your children.
  • Where possible, we recommend visiting the UK before you move here. This will allow you to visit your preferred areas, look at property, and visit schools.
  • If you know any Belgians who live in the UK, speak to them for any advice and tips they may have on moving here.
  • EU / UK Driving licence - According to the rules, if you are younger than 67 when you become a resident of the UK, you can drive on your EU licence until you are 70. If you are 67 or older when you become a resident, you can drive on your EU licence for 3 years after that point.

What is a Self-Sponsored Route?

The UK Self-sponsorship allows Belgian nationals to relocate to the UK by setting up their own business and sponsoring themselves. This eliminates the need to apply for jobs and secure employment. We can guide you through the self-sponsorship and ensure that you meet the requirements before submitting your application. The self-sponsorship route also allows Belgian nationals to gain permanent settlement and later British citizenship.

Emigrating to the UK as a non-Belgian national

As a non-Belgian national, you will need to apply for a visa to live in the UK (in the same way as Belgian nationals). The best route for you and your family will depend on your nationality, family connections to the UK, and your intentions in the UK. Please speak to one of our friendly and insightful immigration Solicitors in the UK, who will be able to explain your options and handle the application process for you.

Joining UK Family Members as a Non-Belgian National

To move to the UK and join your partner, spouse, parent, or child as a non-Belgian national, you will need a UK family visa. To qualify, you must have a family member who currently lives in the UK and is a British citizen, a person with permanent settlement, an EU/EEA national who started living in the UK before 1st January 2021 or has refugee status in the UK. The family visa allows holders to gain permanent settlement after 5 years and British citizenship a year later.

FAQ’s

What documents and information do I need to move to the UK?

You will need your current Belgian passport, evidence of a job offer for an eligible job, your visa, and evidence that you have enough funds to support yourself and your immediate family members. Your immigration solicitor will provide you with a list of all the documents that you will need to move to the UK.

How long can a Belgian citizen stay in the UK?

The length of time you can spend in the UK will depend on the type of visa you hold. Belgian nationals can visit the UK for up to 6 months without a visa. Work visas last up to 5 years and provide a route to permanent settlement. Student visas typically last for the duration of the course, but holders can then apply for a Graduate visa to stay in the UK for a further 2 years to find work.

Do Belgian citizens need sponsorship to work in the UK?

Yes, if you wish to apply for a work visa in the UK as a Belgian national, you must be sponsored by a UK employer. Alternatively, you can consider the self-sponsorship route.

What should I consider before moving back to the UK from Belgium?

Here are just some of the considerations before moving back to the UK from Belgium:

  • Employment
  • Banking arrangements
  • Establishing a credit rating
  • Selling your property
  • Tax arrangements - if you have lived in Belgium for more than 5 years, you may need to meet different rules for income and capital gains tax.
  • National insurance and pension - Check whether you will need to ‘top up’ your national insurance contributions so that you are eligible for a UK state pension when you reach retirement age.

Moving from Belgium to the UK requirements

Please see the legal requirements for moving from Belgium to the UK above.

Can you move to the UK from Belgium?

Yes, however, Belgian citizens and their family members require a visa to live in the UK. Please see the visa options explained above.

Are Belgian citizens allowed to work in the UK?

Yes, but you will need a job offer from a sponsoring employer, a certificate of sponsorship, and a work visa granted by the UK Home Office.

Applying for a UK visa from Belgium

As a Belgian national, you can apply for a UK visa online through the UK Home Office website. You will need to complete the application form, pay any required fees, and submit any documents required to support your case. You will also need to meet the requirements for the type of visa you are applying for. An immigration Solicitor in the UK can handle this process for you.

UK entry requirements from Belgium

Please see the legal requirements for moving from Belgium to the UK above.

What is the cost of living in the UK?

Please see the cost of living section above.

Moving Back to the UK from Belgium: Why are British ex-pats leaving Belgium?

Since Brexit and the ending of UK/EU free movement, UK nationals are restricted to the number of days (90 days) they can spend in the EU each year. Others are returning for work opportunities or to be with family members.

A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm with extensive experience with all types of visa applications. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results-focused. For assistance with your visa application or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or at contact us today. We’re here to help!

Moving From Belgium to the UK

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Moving From Belgium to the UK

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