When we returned to the marriage office to submit our application for legal cohabitation, we were provided with a new list of documents to submit, which included a few surprises:
- I knew I’d need to produce a copy of my lease with a stamp from the Receiver of Registrations to show that the lease had been formally registered with the Ministry of Finance (a legal requirement for all leases in Belgium). But as I’d entered the lease months before Merv’s arrival, the lease was in my name only. I was told I’d now need to have the lease re-registered under both of our names, or at least produce some documentation to prove that the landlord approved of Merv living in the apartment as his primary residence.
- Our single status certificates would need to be translated into French or Dutch by a translator accredited by the City of Brussels. I would need to contact the Federal Justice Department to obtain the list of accredited translators and interpreters, which turned out to be 200 pages long. I contacted a few who were based close by and hired the only one that bothered to reply to my email.
- Just as Merv’s orginal documents had to legalised with an apostille in Australia, the translations too would need to be legalised by the Belgian authorities. Luckily, our translator offered this as part of her services, which saved us a separate trip to the courthouse.
- It turned out that my national registration record listed my civil status as “undetermined’. In order to proceed, this would need to be amended to “single” – this would require queueing at the foreigners office and producing my (translated) single certificate.
Once these aspects of our application were sorted over two weeks later, we returned to the cohabitation office to finally submit our application. Interestingly, they did not ask us to produce any proof of our relationship. We were told that within two weeks a police inspector would make an unscheduled visit to our apartment to verify that we were both living there as a couple, and to ensure that our names were on the doorbell (apparently applications have been knocked back on that basis alone).
Two more weeks after submitting our application for legal cohabitation we received a letter in the post from the police – since we were not home when they made their visit, we’d been convoked to the local police station to produce more identification documents. We arrived within the allocated 2-hour period on the allocated day, only to make an appointment for the police officer to drop by again the following week.
The policeman arrived exactly on time, and recognised Bec from his last visit to verify her address when she first moved in. He checked that our names were on the doorbell and took notes describing the apartment. He asked questions about my family and work situation, and filled in a series of forms that we were both asked to sign before he left.
Two weeks after the police visit, it was up to us to phone the cohabitation office to check that the police report had been received. We would then be given an appointment for our interrogation where we would each be questioned separately about our relationship to determine whether we were genuine candidates for a legal cohabition. We would be taken imediately afterwards to the foreign office (which was located in the same building) with the legal cohabitation papers to (finally) submit the residency application we’d been holding on to since I’d arrived. We were advised that we’d need to set aside half a day for this process. The idea of being interrogated for half a day filled me with dread…