COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Belgium is a highly developed and stable democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Belgium for additional information on the U.S.-Belgium relationship.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Belgium, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. By registering with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements, and help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Brussels, Belgium
27 Boulevard du Régent (the Consular Section is at 25 Boulevard du Régent)
Telephone: 011-32-2-811-4000 (available 24/7)
Consular Section Fax: 011-32-2-811-4546
General email: USCitizenBrussels@state.gov
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Visit the Embassy of Belgium website for the most current visa information. If you need additional information about entry requirements, including visas for employment or study in Belgium, you can contact the Embassy of Belgium at 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 333-6900, fax (202) 338-4960; or the Belgian Consulate General in Atlanta, Los Angeles, or New York. Detailed contact information can be found on the Embassy of Belgium website.
Belgium is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter Belgium for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. For additional details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Belgium.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Belgium has been largely free of major terrorist incidents. As with other countries in the Schengen area, Belgium maintains open borders with its neighbors, allowing the possibility of terrorist operatives entering/exiting the country with anonymity. Belgian law enforcement and security officials, in close cooperation with neighboring countries, maintain an effective anti-terrorism effort and a welcoming environment for tourism and business.
Prior police approval is required for all public demonstrations in Belgium, and police are present to ensure adequate security for participants and passers-by. Nonetheless, spontaneous demonstrations do take place in Belgium from time to time in response to world events or local developments. Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable. You should avoid them if at all possible. Be alert and aware of your surroundings, and pay attention to what the local news media have to say. In general, larger public demonstrations are announced on the Demonstration Notices page within the U.S. Embassy Brussels website.
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CRIME: Although Belgium remains relatively free of violent crime, low-level street crime such as muggings, purse snatchings, and pickpocketing is common, particularly in major cities. Thieves loiter in transportation hubs like the Metro (subway) and train stations, notably the Gare du Midi, the primary international train hub in Brussels. They take advantage of disoriented or distracted travelers and watch for people who put their luggage down and are inattentive for even a moment. Be particularly vigilant in these areas. Keep your eyes on your belongings. On trains, don’t place valuables on overhead racks.
Thieves often operate in teams. Once they identify a target, they cause a distraction. One way to do this is to create a random commotion, such as by dropping money, cell phones, or other objects on the ground. Another way is by bumping into or shoving the target, especially in crowds. Still another common method is for an accomplice to get the target’s attention by speaking to that person or asking to sign a petition while the partner carries out the theft. Be alert to distractions.
Thieves also operate in restaurants, bars, and hotels. Take appropriate caution in these locations. Don’t sit next to doors where thieves can reach in and grab a bag that is placed on a chair or on the floor next to it. Exercise good security and safety practices when selecting and checking into hotels. Ensure that rooms have door and window locks. When possible, select a room above the ground and first floors.
Another problem is theft from vehicles. Do not leave anything visible that might attract a thief, even while you are driving. Items left on the passenger front seat of a car are particularly vulnerable. Always drive with your windows up and the doors locked. Thieves will sometimes position themselves at traffic lights to scan for valuables in stopped cars. If they see a purse or other valuables, they break in and steal the item before you have time to react. If doors are locked, thieves may smash the window to steal. Use parking garages when possible, as they are generally more secure than street parking. When a parking garage is not available, look for a spot near a street light.
There have been instances of small groups of young men who prey on unwary tourists, usually at night in the Brussels Metro. These thieves typically seek small, high-value items such as smart phones and MP3 players. You should carry only a minimum amount of cash, credit cards, and necessary personal identification (see Special Circumstances, below, for acceptable forms of identification). We advise against wearing expensive jewelry and watches.
Confidence artists have victimized U.S. citizens around the world, including in Belgium. A common scam involves an Internet friend or partner who is reported to have been detained by immigration authorities in Belgium en route to the U.S. and will not be released unless additional funds are paid to the “traveler” for Belgian customs fees. In every case, these reports have been determined to be confidence schemes. Several U.S. citizens have lost tens of thousands of dollars in such scams. Funds transferred in response to such offers can rarely be recovered. Information on fraud schemes can be found on the Department of State's International Financial Scams brochure. Although the scammers are pretending to be distressed American travelers stranded in Belgium, it is important to realize that the scammers are, in fact, most likely not in Belgium. The point of the scam is to make the American target believe that the message is coming from Belgium, when it is really coming from another country. American citizens in the United States who have been victimized by Internet crime should report it to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. American citizens present in Belgium who have been victimized should contact the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels (Tel 011-32-2-811-4057). Depending on the circumstances, the Regional Security Office can then direct you to the appropriate Belgian, U.S., or international law enforcement agency.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Belgium is 101 for emergencies requiring police assistance. For all other emergencies, please dial 112.
The Belgian “Commission for financial assistance to victims of intentional acts of violence” provides financial compensation, under specific circumstances, for victims of crime and for those who have suffered injuries and consequent loss caused by such incidents. The Commission also provides for dependents or immediate family members of homicide victims. For more information, contact the Commission by phone at 32 2 542-7208; 32 2 542-7218; 32 2 542-7224; 32 2 542-7229, or 32 2 542-7244; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com ; or visit the Ministry website (French, Dutch, and German only).
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Belgium, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own, and criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For instance, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Belgium, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Persons violating Belgian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Belgium are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Belgium, you have the right to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. Embassy of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the Embassy.
Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Belgian law requires that everyone carry official identification at all times. This ID must be displayed upon request to any Belgian police official. U.S. citizens who are not residents of Belgium will need to present a U.S. passport.While most monetary transactions are available (cash, credit cards), U.S. money orders cannot be negotiated in Belgium. Personal checks may only be cleared through a bank at which a person holds an account, and clearance can take two to four weeks. Banks and exchange facilities may refuse U.S. dollar denominations of $50 and $100 if they are not equipped with devices to identify counterfeit currency. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are widespread in Belgium and accept most U.S. ATM cards for fund withdrawals. If you want to purchase Euros, you are likely to find a more favorable exchange rate at banks than at money exchange facilities located at tourist locations, train stations, and airports.
Non-EU citizens visiting Belgium and staying in a private residence must register with local Commune authorities within three days of their arrival. You must request any change in visa or resident status through Commune authorities. You must complete any such request prior to the expiration of the current status. You should note that given the substantial requirements to change status, it is very difficult to do so within the 90 days permitted to remain in Belgium without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program.
Business visitor and employee registration requirement: Non-Belgian employees and self-employed persons or their employees who carry out short-term assignments in Belgium must declare these activities in advance. This mandatory "Limosa" declaration applies to: (1) Employees and apprentices who come to Belgium to execute certain temporary work and who, because of the nature of their short term assignment, are not subject to the Belgian social security system; (2) Self-employed individuals and self-employed apprentices who come to work in Belgium temporarily, irrespective of whether they are subject to the Belgian social security system. For more information, please see the Limosa website. For more information about working in Belgium, please visit the website of the Belgian Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Belgium, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Although Belgian law requires that any new building with public or community space has to be accessible for persons with disabilities, many existing buildings as well as public transportation systems are less adapted to individuals with disabilities. General information on the accessibility of tourist accommodations, public transportation, museums, etc. can be found on the Belgian Tourist Office's website.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: High-quality medical facilities are widely available in Belgium. The large university hospitals can handle almost every medical problem. Hospitals may not necessarily have staff members who are fluent in English. The Embassy's Consular Section maintains a list of English-speaking doctors. Equivalents for most, but not all, U.S. medications are available through local pharmacies with a prescription from a Belgian physician. Travelers to Belgium are encouraged to bring a sufficient supply of prescription medications for the duration of their stay.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You cannot assume your U.S.-based insurance will provide coverage when you travel abroad. Find out BEFORE you travel. Ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t provide coverage when you travel abroad, we strongly recommend you purchase another policy for your trip. There are a wide variety of policies available. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Belgium, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
Belgium’s road network is generally well built and maintained, but you may occasionally encounter potholes, even on principal roads. Sufficient lighting exists on major highways, but on rural roads it is often insufficient or nonexistent. Belgian rules for right-of-way differ from those in the U.S., and new drivers should thoroughly understand these rules before driving in Belgium. For instance, traffic coming from the right generally has priority at uncontrolled intersections, even if coming from a smaller street. The maximum speed limit on Belgian highways is 120 kilometers (72 miles) per hour, but is not always posted. The maximum speed in urban areas is normally 50 km (30 miles) per hour, but in central Brussels it is 30 km (19 miles) per hour. While Belgian authorities strictly enforce speed limits, many Belgians still drive significantly faster than the posted limit. Claiming ignorance may not prevent you getting a significant fine for speeding, and your vehicle may be impounded if you can’t pay the fine on the spot. Belgian police also conduct breath analysis checks for alcohol use, particularly at night and during major holidays. The legal limit for operating a motor vehicle is .05 percent blood alcohol content.
Roadside assistance and information on road conditions are available in English from Touring Mobilis, tel: 02 286-3040. Belgian police will also provide information on road conditions, tel: 02-642-6666. Emergency services are efficient and responsive. For police emergencies, dial 101 by phone within Belgium. For all other emergencies, dial 112. For more information, please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Also, we suggest that you visit the websites of the Belgian Tourism Office and the national authority responsible for road safety.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Belgium’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Belgium’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Belgium dated December 12, 2011 to update all sections.