In order to receive family/child benefits, you must meet certain age and study requirements. Here you’ll find more information about the “Growth Package” scheme (Groeipakket in Dutch) for students whose main residence is in Flanders. Students who live in Brussels should contact their child benefit provider for more information because they fall under different legislation. The legislation of the Brussels-Capital Region will soon be published on the “centen voor studenten” website.

What are the requirements for receiving a family allowance?

You are eligible for a family allowance until you are 25. There is one condition, however: you must have enrolled on a programme worth at least 27 study credits. This includes day and evening courses. The type of contract (degree, credit or exam contract) you are studying with is not important. Exemption and transfer study credits are not taken into account in the 27 study credit rule.  
 
In principle, you should never have a problem if you are a full-time student. If you have enrolled as a part-time student, meaning that you are only completing part of the course and will not reach 27 study credits, you may have a problem. In that case, you may consider adding other (optional) modules to your programme in order to reach the minimum number of credits. 

Is the date of enrolment important?

The date of enrolment is used to determine the beginning of your entitlement to a family allowance. 

  • If you have enrolled by 30 November at the latest, on a course worth at least 27 study credits, then you will receive a family allowance for the entire academic year.
     
  • If you enrol by 30 November but your course is worth fewer than 27 study credits, you will still not be entitled to a family allowance. If you can enrol for other courses later in the year and then have at least 27 study credits, you will be entitled to retroactive family allowance starting from the beginning of the academic year.
     
  • If you enrol only after 30 November and have at least 27 study credits then you will be entitled to a family allowance starting the month of your enrolment.

Special regulations for students in a diploma year (change took effect on 1.1.2019)

The following regulations applied until 1.1.2019: The minimum requirement of 27 credits doesn't apply to students in a diploma year who still have to submit a thesis or final dissertation (Master or Bachelor dissertation) or complete an internship and the corresponding internship report, either in combination with other programme components or not. In that case, you can take advantage of an exception and still receive child benefits, despite being enrolled for less than 27 credits. Child benefits will then be paid up to and including the month in which your thesis, dissertation or internship report is submitted. Students can only use this exception once, unless they enrol in a different programme. Students in a diploma year who enrol for less than 27 credits will receive a letter in the post with a reply card for indicating whether they are completing a thesis, final dissertation or internship report during that academic year. If this is not the case, they are not entitled to child benefits. Students who only enrol for regular programme components worth less than 27 credits therefore receive no child benefits, unless they are allowed to enrol in extra programme components. Enrolling in extra components is only possible with the permission of the study coordinators and may have consequences in other areas (e.g. tuition fees and your learning account). Please discuss this with your faculty’s study programme counsellor.

As of 1.1.2019, new regulations apply to students in a diploma year. Students in a diploma year who enrol for less than 27 credits will retain their child benefits throughout the entire diploma year, unless they stop studying early (in which case the rules for school-leavers apply). This applies to one diploma year per training cycle. In other words, the rule can be applied several times, e.g. in a Bachelor programme and then in a Master programme, and is not limited to one Bachelor and one Master programme. The additional requirement of the Bachelor or Master dissertation or internship report no longer applies. This exception doesn't apply to bridging and preparatory programmes or to advanced programmes (e.g. Advanced Master and postgraduate programmes). Students taking those programmes must enrol for at least 27 credits to retain their child benefits.

The new rules apply from 1.1.2019. If you’re enrolled for less than 27 credits at the start of the academic year 2019-2020 and you’re not entitled to child benefits as a student because you don’t have a Bachelor or Master dissertation or internship report in your study programme, you’ll only be entitled to child benefits again from 1.1.2020 onwards, based on the new regulations.

Working as a student whilst receiving child benefits (change took effect on 1.1.2019)

In some cases, you may lose your child benefits if you combine studying with a job. As a student, there are limits to how long you may work. The number of working hours is checked against your social security declaration. The type of contract (student work or ordinary contract) did not used to be a factor. This changed on 1.1.2019.

Regulations until 1.1.2019: During the summer holidays (July, August and September) between two academic years, you may work without limitations. During the academic year and during your last summer holiday, you may work a maximum of 240 hours per quarter. If you exceed this limit, you’ll lose your child benefits for the three months of the corresponding quarter.

From 1.1.2019, the 240-hour limit no longer applies. A student job with reduced social security contributions (lasting a maximum of 475 hours per calendar year) no longer counts with regards to child benefits. Work performed with a social security contribution of 13.07% is also exempt if you work less than 80 hours per month. If you’re self-employed as a main occupation, you’re not entitled to child benefits. However, self-employed students retain their child benefits.

The university no longer fills out documents or issues study certificates for a family allowance

You do not have to submit a study certificate from your university to (continue to) receive a family allowance. The family allowance fund will automatically receive all the data about your enrolment via the higher education database. 

You return to university after having interrupted your studies

Students who return to university after having interrupted their studies must contact their family allowance fund and re-apply for a family allowance. 

You receive an allowance or benefits

If you have another primary status (employee, unemployed, etc.) and you receive an allowance or benefits as a result of this status (jobseeker's allowance, tideover allowance, career break allowance, etc.) then you are no longer entitled to a family allowance.

A social allowance which is the consequence of legal work (e.g. a sickness allowance or an allowance following a workplace accident) does not affect your right to a family allowance.
 
Receiving an allowance from the Public Centre for Social Welfare (OCMW) does not prevent you from claiming a family allowance either. You will also receive a family allowance if you are self-employed and do not have to pay any social security contributions. 

Information for school-leavers and/or graduates (change took effect on 1.1.2019)

If you’re a school-leaver in a ‘vocational development phase’ (Dutch: beroepsinschakelingstijd), you’ll receive child benefits for a maximum of 12 months, provided that you don’t earn more than a certain amount per month. This also remains the case after 1.1.2019. School-leavers retain their right to child benefits for a maximum period of 12 months. Registering as a jobseeker is no longer a prerequisite. In addition, the starting date of the 12-month period for graduates moves from 1 August to 1 October. Students who stop studying early or graduate before the end of the academic year retain their right to child benefits as school-leavers, starting from the first day of the month following the month in which they stopped their studies or educational activities. This 12-month period becomes a 'credit' that can be used in different periods, but may never exceed the total of 12 months. This is important for students who interrupt their studies and resume them later. After finishing the resumed studies, they won’t receive child benefits for 12 months if they have already used up a number of months of the 'credit' during the interruption. The employment limit for school-leavers also changed on 1.1.2019. School-leavers retain their right to child benefits provided they work less than 80 hours per month. Until 1.1.2019, a gross income limit of €541.09 per month applied. If this is more favourable, students who drop out during academic year 2018-2019 may choose to remain in the income limit scheme (= transitional arrangement).

Information for international students who have children (change took effect on 1.1.2019)

Students who don’t have a job or who only have a limited income and are raising children in Belgium used to be able to benefit from an additional safety net: the guaranteed family allowance. This allowance has been discontinued. As of 1.1.2019, the right to child benefits applies to all children who are legally residing in Belgium, including children of recognised refugees. More information will follow at a later date. 

International students who received a residence permit based on their studies are not entitled to child benefits themselves, but may receive it for their children if those children live in Flanders. If the student has the right to receive child benefits in his/her country of origin, then the country of origin should pay first. This will always be investigated in advance. If the Belgian child benefits are higher, the amount may be topped up.

Information for sick students (change took effect on 1.1.2019)

Regulations until 1.1.2019: If you become seriously ill during the academic year and you cannot remain enrolled for at least 27 credits or you’re forced to unenrol, you’ll no longer receive child benefits as a student. However, you may be able to retain your child benefits in a different capacity: the capacity of a child with a medical condition. In that case, the Federal Public Service for Social Security will carry out an investigation into your physical and mental incapacity and the consequences of your condition. If all the requirements are met, you’re entitled to child benefits and in certain cases to an additional benefit until the age of 21. Afterwards, you can apply for an income replacement for people with a disability. You can apply for the status of child with a medical condition via your child benefit provider. These students don’t have to enrol for a minimum of 27 credits to be entitled to child benefits. After the age of 21, child benefits are no longer granted to people in this situation. Because of the procedural and age conditions for child benefits as a child with a medical condition, more and more students are applying for a different scheme: the scheme for young jobseekers who are unable to register as jobseekers due to their medical condition (= scheme for sick school-leavers). This scheme stipulates that school-leavers who become ill or are hospitalised and cannot register as jobseekers in time due to because of their ‘unavailability’ for the labour market will still receive child benefits as job-seeking school-leavers. The medical condition must be proven by a doctor's certificate. You are required to register as a jobseeker within five working days after the end of the illness. If this requirement is not met, the right to child benefits for the previous period of illness will be lost and the child benefits that have already been granted will be claimed back. If registration as a jobseeker is not possible within 5 working days due to ‘force majeure’ (death) or changed circumstances (resumption of studies with entitlement to child benefits: 17 hours in non-higher education or a minimum of 27 credits in higher education, starting a job), the benefits received won’t be claimed back. The rules for sick school-leavers can also be invoked if you have to reduce your study programme to less than 27 credits due to your condition. If you become sick during the summer holidays, preventing you from enrolling for 27 credits in the new academic year or from registering as a jobseeker, you can retain your child benefits if you’re recognised as a 'child with a medical condition' by the FPS for Social Security (see above) or as a 'sick school-leaver' (see above). The medical certificate that you provide to your child benefit provider must show that you became ill during the holidays.Regulations as of 1.1.2019: Students no longer have to rely on the scheme for sick school-leavers. There is a specific scheme for sick students. Keep in mind that those who were covered by the sick school-leavers scheme on 31.12.2018 remain covered by that scheme. The requirement to register as a jobseeker after the period of illness no longer applies.

Contact

Please contact Social Services if you have any questions about studying and the consequences for your child benefits.

Take a look at the centen voor studenten website for more information on this topic.

International students who have questions about child benefits or who wish to submit an application should contact the relevant government department via http://www.groeipakket.be/contact