With our declaration of legal cohabitation now finalised, and with the end date of the validity of Merv’s 90-day authorisation to remain in Belgium almost upon us, it was time to submit Merv’s application with the foreigners’ office. Since the cohabitation office had moved to a new location and was no longer in the same buidling as the foreigners office, the earlier advice we’d received that we could submit the application on the same day was no longer possible. Making an appointment at the foreigners office was not an option either. We’d need to join the dreaded queue and just hope we’d get to see someone in time.
Luckily our helpful contact at the Foreign Office, Madame M, came to our rescue and scheduled a time for us to see her at the liaison office. Just a few days before Merv’s 90 days were up, we gathered once again his collection of papers and made our way to see Madame. I asked which documents she’d need, and she told us to hand over “your whole life”. Yikes. We submitted every document on every list we’d been provided with, as well extra ones we hadn’t been asked for but which I’d read about on the immigration website – such as a formal letter of invitation for Merv, affiliation records from my health insurance provider, a letter of financial responsbility. We handed her everything one by one, creating a mighty large dossier. “That’s one big file”, she remarked.
It all seemed to be going well until she checked the date on Merv’s medical certificate. While everything was in order on his arrival, the unexpectedly long time it had taken for us to get to this point meant that the the medical certificate was now just over 3 months old, and therefore no longer valid. (It was just as well we’d had the foresight to extend Merv’s travel insurance for an additional 3 months the night before). It also didn’t help that the layout and wording of the certificate did not exactly match the reference document, despite having been provided by an Embassy accredited practitioner, as per the requirements. Merv would need to see a doctor here in Brussels and get a new medical certificate.
To add insult to injury, a new fee had been introduced at the beginning of the month for the processing of all long-stay visa applications. Despite lamenting at this unfortaunate timing, I was eager to pay right away only to be told payment could only be made online to a designated bank account – they could not accept my payment on the spot (!). Instead I’d have to email a copy of the payment confirmation to complete Merv’s dossier in order to start the application review process. It was starting to feel like each step so far was a case of two steps forward, three steps back.
When I submitted my documents to the foreign office I was given an Annexe 41 acknowledging formal receipt of my visa application and granting an extension of my stay in Belgium for a period of up to 6 more months while my case is being considered by the foreign office.
I managed to find an English-speaking doctor not too far from home to issue my new medical certificate and submitted this right away. We had no further response from the foreign office so could only assume that all the paperwork was now in order and my application was in the beginning stages of being processed.
After some weeks we received yet another letter from the police, advising us that an officer would be visiting us in just a few days’ time. The same police officer as last time passed by the apartment again to fill in a new set of forms covering the exact same details as the previous visit. The first report had been for the cohabitation office; this report had been requested by the foreigners office. Once received, we would be called in to the foreigners office once again. We didn’t quite understand what for, but by now had learned that all we could do is follow the process as it unfolded, one step at a time.