Residence permit



Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen

On 28 April 2016, the Parliament adopted a new law to shorten the duration of the right to residence for recognised refugees from an unlimited time to 5 years.1 The previous provision allowed refugees to obtain the right to residence for an unlimited time, but status could be revoked within the first 10 years after the asylum application or even after in some cases (see section on Cessation and review of status). Under the new provision the residence right for recognised refugees is limited to 5 years, then to become unlimited unless the CGRS would decide cessation or revocation of the status according to Article 55/3 or 55/3/1 of the Aliens Act.  Upon recognition, refugees receive an electronic “A card” valid for 5 years from the moment of the asylum application.2 After these 5 years they can receive an electronic B card.

Persons granted subsidiary protection are only entitled to a right to residence for a limited time. Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection receive a residence right for one year. Unless the Aliens Office is convinced the situation motivating the status has changed, the residence right will be renewed after the first year and then after two years again. Five years after the asylum application, the subsidiary protection beneficiary received an unlimited right to residence, unless the CGRS would decide cessation or revocation of the status according to Article 55/5 or 55/5/1 of the Aliens Act.3 Persons with subsidiary protection status receive an electronic “A card” valid for one year, renewable for two years twice. Upon receiving the right to residence for unlimited time the beneficiary receives an electronic B card.4

Once a person is recognised as a refugee, he or she can get registered in the Aliens Register at the commune and receives a residence permit (A card). This does not happen automatically, however; the refugee has to present the certificate of the CGRS stating he or she has been recognised. Due to the administrative burden on the CGRS during the increase in asylum applications in the second half of 2015, a substantial backlog in issuing those certificates was created. At times, the waiting period took up to 3 months or even longer, while recognised refugees are only allowed to stay in reception centres for 2 more months after recognition (see section on Housing). Many refugees could not register at the commune and thus receive their residence card. This led to problems with renting a place of residence and getting access to certain social welfare rights. By the end of 2016, these problems seem to have been resolved.

If subsidiary protection status is granted, however, the Aliens Office itself gives instructions to the commune to register the person in the Aliens Register and issue the residence permit, which is an electronic A card in this situation.

Renewal of the residence card has to be demanded at the commune between the 45th and 30th day before its expiration date. When applied for in time, but the Aliens Office cannot timely prolong the card, a paper document temporarily covering the right to residence is issued by the commune, named an Annex 15.5


  • 1. Article 49 Aliens Act.
  • 2. Article 76 Royal Decree 1981.
  • 3. Article 49/2(2)(3) Aliens Act.
  • 4. Article 77 Royal Decree 1981.
  • 5. Article 33 Royal Decree 1981.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti