Have you recently completed your studies at the University of Antwerp? Do you wish to find a job here or start your own business in Belgium? The orientation year is applicable to all non-EEA international students who have recently graduated in a Bachelor, Master or PhD programme and have a valid student residence permit.
The official communication by the Belgian Immigration Office can be found here (only in Dutch and French currently).
How to apply
You need to submit your application at the municipality where you have your main residence, at the latest 15 days before the expiry of your residence permit.
The following documents must be submitted with the application:
- a colour copy of a valid international passport
- proof of graduation at a higher education institution in Belgium
- proof of current Belgian health insurance coverage (recent certificate of insurance)
- proof of sufficient financial means
Proof of sufficient financial means: The sufficient financial means for applying for an orientation year is similar to that for a student visa and can be proven on the basis of a new 'Agreement for Acceptance of Financial Responsibility' form (annexe 32) or a blocked account of at least 950 euros per month (amount for 2023, indexed annually). The sufficient means of subsistence can also be proven by an employment contract where the salary covers the total amount required for a blocked account.
Foreign degrees and mobility: If you have obtained your degree at a foreign higher education institution, but have made use of mobility in Belgium (e.g. Erasmus Mundus programme), then you need to submit proof of obtaining a diploma at the higher education institution in the relevant EU Member State and proof that you actually resided in Belgium in the context of the mobility.
Rights and obligations
The orientation year residence permit (A card) is valid for 12 months and cannot be extended. PhD graduates will only be able to apply for an orientation year as long as they have a residence status as a student.
During the orientation year:
- You have unlimited access to the Belgian labour market.
- You are not eligible to apply for Belgian unemployment benefits; applying for any kind of financial support from the Belgian government might result in an earlier and forced ending of your orientation year.
- You must make effective attempts to find work or in the case of setting up your own business, take the necessary steps to comply with all legal obligations in order to exercise an independent professional activity. The government might ask for proof of you either looking for work or setting up a business. In case you are not able to provide any proof, the government may end this temporary residence permit.
- When you have found an employer who wants to employ you, they should submit an application for a single permit for you as soon as possible.
Information about the professional card for foreigners and the steps to take to start a business in Belgium:
Assistance offered by the University of Antwerp
When applying for the orientation year you can count on our assistance in the following areas:
1. Application to the City of Antwerp: If you reside in the City of Antwerp or one of its districts, the university's Residence Permit services can assist in submitting your orientation year request to the Student Desk at the Immigration Office.
Applications for the Orientation year have to be submitted through Mobility Online. Enter your UAntwerp user name and password to login.
Follow the different steps of the workflow in Mobility Online. Once you have finalized the process, the International Relations Office will review your application. When your application is approved by the IRO you will receive a confirmation mail that your file has been forwarded to the Antwerp Immigration Office for further processing.
Note: The head office of Immigration in Brussels gives final approval, a process which takes a considerable amount of time.
IOB graduates need to send their documents to email@example.com.
2. Demonstrating sufficient means of subsistence:
a. Annexe 32 - If you have a sponsor who lives in Belgium, you can submit a legalised Annexe 32 form with essential supporting documentation via the university. This includes:
a colour copy of your sponsor's passport or ID
- The latest tax form of your sponsor if they self employed, otherwise 3 recent payslips if the sponsor is an employee. The minimum net monthly income of the sponsor needs to be 2758 euros (amount for 2023).
If your sponsor lives outside Belgium they will need to contact the local Belgian embassy to process the Annexe 32 form.
b. Blocked account - If Annexe 32 is not an option and a blocked account is required as proof of sufficient financial means, the university can facilitate this service for all its graduates. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the procedure and to request the application form. Do note that the blocked account procedure is similar to that for students, which means that you will need to transfer 11 500 euros to the university's account and 11 400 euros will be paid out to you in installments (handling fee of 100 euros). If needed, a blocked account for a spouse can also be requested at the same time. The combined amount will be 25 200 euros plus the 100 euro handling fee.
IOB graduates can request a blocked account through email@example.com.
3. Certified true copy of your degree: if you require a certified copy of your University of Antwerp issued degree, the diploma office can certify copies for you if you submit them along with the original diploma. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Proof of graduation: If you have finished your studies but not yet received your diploma, you can request a provisional certificate after the deliberation. This certificate is provided by your faculty's student administration office.
Frequently asked questions
Can I start working full time after my application for the orientation year?
The unlimited access to the Belgian labour market will be granted as soon as your application has been filed. This means that you can start working full time with your Annexe 15 document while waiting for the approval of the application and the issuance of the orientation year residence permit. Note however, that the Annexe 15 document will only be issued after expiry of your current student residence card.
Can I receive an Annexe 15 document (with unlimited access to the labour market) immediately after my application for the orientation year has been submitted to the immigration office?
An Annexe 15 document will only be issued after expiry of your student residence card.
Can I work in a neighbouring country of Belgium with the orientation year residence permit?
With a Belgian residence permit for the orientation year, you can only reside, look for a job and/or work in Belgium.
Can I still apply for the orientation year residence permit if I have already found a job?
Yes, that is possible. When your employer requests a single permit for you, it may take 3 months or longer for the single permit to be issued. In the meantime, you if you apply for orientation year, you will have a valid document for residence (the Annexe 15 document or the orientation year residence permit) until you have received your single permit.
Can I apply for the orientation year permit if I have already worked?
No, this is not possible. You can only apply if you have a student residence permit and if you have recently graduated.
Can family members who are here based on family reunification also apply for extension of their residence for one year when their person of reference applies for the orientation year?
Yes, this is possible. The requirements are the same as for family reunification with students. Family members must apply at least one month before expiry date of their current residence permit. The family member (spouse or partner) has unlimited access to the labour market. This is not the case for family reunification with students.
If I graduate in January, do I have to apply for the orientation year immediately, even if I have a valid student residence card until the end of the academic year?
No, you can wait until your current residence card is about to expire. Note however, that with your student residence card you have limited access to the labour market.
Is it possible to present an employee contract as proof of financial means for the orientation year?
It appears that the Federal Immigration Department also accepts a valid employee contract as long as the financial amount covers the minimum required amount for the orientation year period of 12 months.
Researchers who have recently finished their research at the university can apply for the orientation year as researcher to look for a job in Belgium or to start a business. More information about the requirements and the application procedure can be found on the intranet page of the International Staff Office.