We recommend that wherever you’re coming from and whatever you plan to do while you’re in Ghent, you always start by describing your situation to the Infopunt Migratie. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. They will recommend where you should make an appointment and which documents you need to bring with you. You can also call them or drop by in person, but the opening times aren’t that flexible. It’s also better to have a written copy of what you have been advised.
What do I get at the end? The result of this registration process is that you will be issued with a 5-year ‘verblijfskaart’ (residence permit). It works using a chip and PIN system, and contains your details plus a picture of you (like in a passport).
How much will it all cost? The cost of the card is €22.50 in Ghent but it can differ for other authorities around the city. You may also be asked to pay for a translation (into Dutch) of a legal document (like a birth certificate). You can either find a translator yourself (which you will need to pay for yourself). Or use the translation services of the Migratie department (see Where will I need to go? for where to go to set this up).
How long will it take? The process from making your first appointment to receiving your card can take up to 6 months. It’s possible that after 2-3 months you will have already received your rijksregisternummer through the post or on a form. This means you can proceed with setting other things up. At this point, you have completed registration and receiving the card is just a formality.
Who makes the decisions? It can be frustrating, but the civil servants you meet during your registration process may come across as not very helpful. It’s important to remember that unfortunately it’s out of their hands to make decisions about your status. They are merely there to process your application. Expect lots of appointments and paperwork to fill out.
Do I need to speak Dutch? It is easier to go through the registration process if you have some knowledge of Dutch. Most correspondence (forms/letters) are written only in Dutch. However the people you will come face to face with will (in most cases) be able to discuss your situation in English. Or find a Dutch-speaking friend/colleague who is prepared to help you out.
Where will I need to go? If you are registering in the city of Ghent, most of the appointments you will have will take place in the main building of the offices on Woodrow Wilsonplein.
What do I bring? The individual pages under the Registering to live in Ghent section contain examples of the kind of documents you will be asked to present. But as with many things, it can differ from person to person. Our advice is to take everything you have brought with you to Ghent. So even if they haven’t said you need to bring your driver’s licence, birth certificate etc, take it with you anyway. It is not unheard of that they might ask you for something that they hadn’t mentioned before.
Other than paperwork, are there any other checks I should know about? Yes, the most important check is about where you’re living. At some point during your registration process, the police will call around to the address you have provided to verify you actually live there. So be careful when picking a place to live. You must check (with the landlord/estate agent) that you will be able to ‘take domicilie’ there. And make sure your name is clearly visible on the post box/bell. For more information about this, see our guide to finding somewhere to live.