Residence permit for non-EU/EEA graduates or for researchers whose research project has been completed (‘search year’)

Are you a non-EU/EEA student or researcher, and do you want to look for a job or set up a business in Belgium after graduating or having completed your research project? In that case, you can apply for a temporary residence permit which gives you one year’s time to do so ('search year’).

For whom?

Non EU/EEA students

  • You did your entire studies in Belgium
    • You studied in Belgium
    • You have a valid Belgian residence card (A card)
    • Your residence status is ‘student’
    • You obtained a graduate, bachelor or master degree or doctorate at a recognised Belgian institution of higher education in the past academic year
  • You stayed in Belgium for part of your studies
    • You stayed in Belgium with a residence permit of another EU member state as part of a mobility programme (e.g. Erasmus Mundus)
    • You obtained a Belgian or foreign degree in the past academic year

Non EU/EEA researchers

  • You conducted your research entirely in Belgium
    • You conducted research in Belgium
    • You have a valid Belgian residence card (A card)
    • You have the residence status ‘researcher’
    • You obtained a certificate from the research institution that the research project has been completed.
  • You resided in Belgium for part of your research
    • You resided in Belgium in the context of research mobility
    • You had a Belgian residence card or a residence permit from another EU member state
    • You completed your research project in Belgium or abroad.

Which individuals are not required to apply for a search year?

  • EU/EEA students or researchers (including Swiss nationals)
  • British nationals with an M-card

They have unlimited access to the Belgian labour market.

When to apply?

Students

  • Students without mobility programme
    At the latest 15 days before your residence permit expires.
  • Students with mobility programme who graduate abroad
    Submit your application to the Belgian embassy, at the latest three months after graduation
  • Students with mobility programme who graduate in Belgium
    Submit your application to the city of Leuven, at the latest 15 days before your residence permit expires.

Researchers

  • Researchers without mobility programme
    At the latest 15 days before your residence permit expires.
  • Researchers with mobility programme who complete their research project abroad
    Submit your application to the Belgian embassy. Do so before your residence permit of the other EU country expires.
  • Researchers with mobility programme who complete their research project in Belgium
    Submit your application to the city of Leuven, at the latest 15 days before your residence permit expires.

How to apply?

1. Gather the documents

Which documents you require depends on your situation:

What is your residence status? *

Documents which you require

Attach them to your application (in pdf format, each document scanned separately and in colour):

  • Valid national passport (biodata page)
  • Valid residence card
  • Proof of valid health insurance: certificate from a Belgian health insurance fund 
  • One of the following, as proof of financial solvency:
    • A blocked account (contact your institution of higher education in this regard)
    • Annex 32
      You must scan the annex 32 with all accompanying documents together as 1 'Proof of financial solvency'.
    • Sufficient own income (e.g. a work contract)
      Attention: If you graduate in June, you can still do a student job until 30 September at the latest. After that you become a regular employee, who pays taxes and social security contributions.
  • 1 passport-size photo, check the requirements
    There is a photo booth in the city hall…
  • Proof of having obtained a degree at a Belgian institution of higher education (diploma or certificate)
AttentionFor students with a mobility programme
If the proof of your degree does not show that you spent part of your mobility programme at a Belgian educational institution, you additionally submit proof of the mobility programme.

Documents which you require

Attach them to your application (in pdf format, each document scanned separately and in colour):

Attention

For researchers with a mobility programme
If the proof of your research institution does not show that you spent part of your mobility programme at a Belgian research institution, you additionally submit proof of the mobility programme.

2. Submit your application

Apply for search year

What happens after your application?

  1. Decision Immigration Office
    If you submit the application on time and in full, the Immigration Office will make a decision within 90 days.
  2. Residence permit
    If your application is approved, you will receive a residence permit which is valid for 12 months from the submission date of your application. It allows you to work without restrictions so as to finance your stay during your search.
AttentionYou may only work without restrictions as a salaried employee. Should you wish to work on a self-employed basis during your search year, you must apply for a professional card.

Found a job within the year?

Then apply for the residence status 'work migrant'. This will allow you to continue living and working in Belgium legally.

How to apply?

Extending search year

You cannot renew this residence permit.

Family members

If your family members with the residence status 'family reunification' want to remain in Belgium during your search year, your financial means must also be sufficient for their stay.

They must apply for renewal of their stay in the usual way.

More info

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