Published on: 9 June 2023
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French student in Belgium: available financial aid
Studying in Belgium is an option chosen by many French students. What budget should you plan for? How do you find housing? What financial aid is available?
Belgium is a welcoming country for French students. It is true that it is a neighboring country, therefore accessible, where moreover a large part of the population speaks French. The best conditions are met to pursue graduate education there.
What budget is required to study in Belgium?
To live comfortably in Belgium, one should budget for around 1,000 € per month (12,000 € per year). This budget includes housing, food, healthcare and other day-to-day expenses.
At the time of registration with the municipality (a mandatory formality for stays over three months), it is required to justify a minimum income of 604 € per month.
The registration at university
The fees at universities in Belgium have a specific name: the minerval (minervals in plural). The amount of this minerval varies from one institution to another, but it represents an average of 1000 € across the country. However, foreign students may be entitled to an exemption or reduction.
Requesting a diploma equivalence
To access French-speaking higher education in Belgium, it is mandatory to have an equivalence of the French baccalaureate. This document must be requested from the Equivalency Service of the French Community of Belgium before July 15th preceding the September enrollment. Obtaining this diploma equivalence incurs a fee of around 200 €.
What financial aids are available for studying in Belgium and how to obtain them?
There are numerous funding schemes available for French nationals who wish to pursue graduate education abroad, particularly in Belgium.
International mobility allowance
The French Ministry of Higher Education and Research offers an international mobility allowance of 400€ per month for French students (or nationals of one of the 27 European Union countries) who wish to pursue higher education in one of the 46 member countries of the Council of Europe.
This scholarship is granted based on social criteria comparable to those used in France for CROUS scholarships. Students must be enrolled in a higher education institution recognized by the EU and follow full-time studies there for at least one year. It is the institutions that select the students who will benefit from this aid.
The allowance will be paid for a minimum of two months and up to nine consecutive months. The terms and conditions for awarding higher education scholarships are specified on the website of the Ministry of National Education.
French government ministries, notably the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, occasionally offer assistance to French students who wish to pursue their studies abroad, particularly in Belgium.
Aid from CROUS
CROUS does not abandon its students when they go abroad. Various types of funding may be available. For Belgium, the reference CROUS is that of Lille Nord Pas-de-Calais. It is therefore worthwhile to keep your DSE, student social file, up-to-date.
The European Union and the Erasmus+ scholarship
Erasmus+ is a program deployed at the European level to support actions in the fields of education, vocational training, youth programs, and recently in sports. It allows students and young people under the age of thirty to stay in a foreign country to gain skills and improve their employability.
The www.erasmusplus.fr website provides all the information needed to apply for an Erasmus+ scholarship.
The ECTS system
In order to harmonize higher education and learning across Europe, the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits were created in 1989. This is a system that allows students to earn credits throughout their graduate education studies across Union countries. It is a kind of measuring unit that allows the value of a foreign diploma to be evaluated in any country.
Credits are awarded based on several criteria related to the courses taken: class hours, workload, skills to be acquired, etc. This system is therefore open to French students who pursue their higher education studies in Belgium. It is explained in detail (and in French) on the European Education Area website.
Aid coming from Belgium
When enrolling in a Belgian university, foreign students can request financial aid from the social service of their institution. Depending on the student's situation, the registration fees (minerval) can be reduced and financial assistance granted.
Master's students and doctoral researchers can obtain scholarships by consulting the website www.studyinbelgium.be (in French).
Find your accommodation in Belgium
Finding accommodation in Belgium, especially in the major French-speaking cities (Brussels, Charleroi, Liege, Namur, etc.), is neither more nor less complicated than in France. However, the regulations are different across the border. French students must familiarize themselves with these specificities and vocabulary when searching for accommodation in Belgium.
Traditionally, students in Belgium settle in a 'kot', small-sized housing. The kot can be individual but also collective. It remains the preference of students for its affordable price, as in Belgium, there are no housing allowances.
Whatever the type of housing occupied, a lease or rental agreement must be signed with the landlord, which includes the duration of the lease, the amount of rent, and the possibilities of early termination.
Within the first month after moving in, for a lease longer than three months, the tenant must register with the local town hall.
The social services of universities can help foreign students find housing near the institution. Other websites like www.logement.wallonie.be, www.logement.brussels, https://www.vlaanderen.be, www.belgium.be, www.bruxelles.be, or www.bruxelles-j.be also allow students to find accommodation in Belgium.
What formalities are required for foreign residents in Belgium?
It is recommended for French students who settle in Belgium to register at the Consulate General of France in Brussels, a step that will facilitate future formalities, including the renewal of identity documents or voting procedures during French elections.
The household composition
When a student enrolls at a university in Belgium, they are frequently asked to provide a household composition. This is a document that lists the names of people living in the same housing. It must be requested from the municipality of residence and the service is often paid.
The population register
When a student settles in a municipality of Belgium for a stay of more than three months, they must register as soon as possible with the population register through the foreigners' service of the town hall. If the registration has not been done, the Belgian administration can demand the tax on secondary residences at the full rate, calculating it pro rata to the time of occupancy of the accommodation.
The tax on secondary residences
At the time of registration with the population register, the foreign student must inquire about the tax on secondary or non-primary residences. They may be exempted from it or see this tax reduced to a minimum.
The European resident card
The student who declares their stay can also request a European resident card. This E-Card is valid for five years and facilitates many procedures in Belgium, particularly for opening a bank account, subscribing to a mutual insurance company, and obtaining reimbursements for medical care. Although Belgians abusively refer to it as an identity card, it is indeed a residence permit and does not replace the French identity card.
The Belgian health insurance
The French student has the option to register for health insurance in order to benefit from reimbursements for medical expenses. Belgians use the term 'mutuelle' for all types of coverage, whether it is for the general regime or the complementary regime. Visit the website www.socialsecurity.be for more information.
What formalities are required regarding France?
The tax declaration
In order to declare their income to the French tax authorities, the student abroad must obtain information from the last tax center they contacted before leaving. The tax service will provide the necessary information for the declaration.
The social security
Before leaving abroad, especially to Belgium, the French student must inquire with their mutuelle and student social security about healthcare coverage and reimbursements. They must obtain the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in order to be covered in all European Union countries. This card can be requested online on the Ameli website.