Residence permit for non-EU/EEA graduates (‘search year’)

Are you a non-EU/EEA student, and do you want to look for a job or set up your own business in Belgium after graduating? 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 who are studying in Belgium
    You meet all the conditions below:
    • You studied in Belgium.
    • You have a valid residence card (A card).
    • Your residence status is ‘student'.
    • You obtained a graduate, bachelor or master degree or doctorate at a Belgian institution of higher education in the past academic year.
  • Non-EU/EEA students who stayed in Belgium
    You meet all the conditions below:
    • You stayed in Belgium with a mobility programme (e.g. Erasmus Mundus).
    • You obtained a Belgian or foreign degree in the past academic year.

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

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

They have unlimited access to the Belgian labour market.

When to apply?

  • Students without mobility programme
    At the latest 15 days before your residence permit expires.
  • Students with mobility programme
    • If you graduate abroad
      Submit your application to the Belgian embassy at the latest 3 months after you graduate.
    • If you graduate 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

You attach the following documents 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)
    • An ‘annex 32
    • Sufficient own income (e.g. a work contract)
    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, no more than 6 months old
  • Proof of having obtained a degree at a Belgian institution of higher education (diploma or certificate)
For 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

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.

Found a job within the year?

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

How to apply for residence status 'migrant worker'?

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

Professor Van Overstraetenplein 1
3000 Leuven

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