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Belgium immigration rules stricter for Schengen Exit Visa's

Consult our Agency department in order to clarify and consult you in regard to the below. All exit visa's will be judged individual by the Border control. Since the stricter regime is in force we were able to disembark all crew without a visa on hand, as there are still specific circumstances which are marked as "execptional" by the Border control.


Click here for Full English version of the letter

Click here for Full Dutch version of the letter



According to the principle laid down in the Visa Code2, visas may be issued at the external border only in exceptional cases. Accordingly, as many as possible transiting seafarers must already be in possession of a visa issued by the diplomatic representative.


In practice the number of visas issued at the Belgian border posts has fallen sharply since 2010 as a result of the joint efforts by the Federal Government Department of Foreign Affairs, Immigration Office and the ship's agents. Nevertheless more than 6500 visas are still issued annually at the Belgian border posts.


In March 2016 it was found that the issuance of biometric VIS visas led to significant increases in the waiting times at the Shipping Police entry points. This is a practical problem leading to significant losses of time for the players involved (seafarers, ship's agents, taxi drivers etc.).


I am therefore writing to let you know that this problem can only be avoided by planning for as many visas as possible to be issued beforehand by the diplomatic representations!


Issuance of visas at the Belgian external border posts may be refused unless it can be shown that there are unforeseen and urgent reasons why the seafarer was unable to obtain a visa beforehand. In this connection the border control authority will consult with the Immigration Office3.


Note also in this connection that crew changes with half the crew or the full crew being disembarked and a new half crew or full crew being taken on are considered as being planned by the shipping company and so do not count as "unforeseen." Not only do such operations have a disproportionate impact on the operations of the Federal Police and Shipping Police; since such crew changes are frequent occurrences they can no longer be classified as "exceptional."


You are therefore urgently requested to no longer organise crew changes with more than five seafarers leaving the same ship as a group and all of them applying for a visa at the border crossing post.

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