I'm South African and have been living in Switzerland with my Belgian husband for the past 6 years. I currently hold a "family member" residence card for Switzerland, valid for 4 years. We are planning to move to America soon, and my residence card for Switzerland expires in 2019.

I would like to know if it's possible, instead of applying for a Schengen visa for myself each time we would want to enter the EU, to obtain a residence card (valid for several years) or something similar, so as to return with my husband when he visits his family in Belgium. I know it's not possible to receive Belgian citizenship as we would need to reside in Belgium for a number of years, which neither of us wants.

I've been searching but I cannot find a similar situation to mine, as most people are purely wondering about the process to live in Belgium with their Belgian - or even EU - spouse... Applying for visas can be an extremely tedious task especially when you've been doing it since you were 11 (long story :P). So as someone married to an EU citizen, and married for 6 years at that, it is frustrating that it is not easier to travel to the EU (as it is obviously necessary when they have family and friends who reside here) without having to apply for visas each time, which obviously will be the case if we move to the US.

I'm sorry this is so long-winded. Thanks in advance.

1 Answer 1


The best you could hope for would be a Schengen visa with a longer period of validity. They can be issued for up to five years.

To apply for such a visa from Belgium, you may need to pay the regular fee and submit the regular documents. Belgium does not have much information about EU free movement visas on the web pages of its missions to the US. In theory, your husband should be able to qualify for treatment under the free movement rules, because he has been exercising his freedom of movement in Switzerland, but whether Belgium will recognize that is another question.

If Belgium does not recognize it, you can still apply under free movement rules by arranging your plans so that some other Schengen country is the main destination of your first trip. Then you can apply under EU free movement rules at the consulate of that country.

An application under free movement rules will be free of charge and should be evaluated quickly. If you get the visa from another country, you can use it for subsequent trips even if Belgium is your main destination. The biggest problem with this approach might be convincing another country to issue a five-year visa. But since the application is free, it's certainly worth trying.

If you apply to Belgium, you will have a much stronger case for a long-term visa, but you may have to pay the fee and subject yourself to more scrutiny, as mentioned above.

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