Deciding whether or not to come back to Belgium wasn’t hard - as the months passed we realized that we really wanted to be together. We hadn’t made any plans or promises when I went back home, we always said “Let’s see what happens”. And what happened was that 3 months later he was visiting Brazil and it became obvious that I would return to Belgium. How? When? We had no clue.
|Rio de Janeiro, Brazil|
At first I thought I would just visit, keep the long distance relationship going, take things slowly in order to be really, really sure before taking such a step. Who was I kidding? I knew, my family knew, all our friends knew that I would stay here. Voor altijd. I got those familiar conflicting feelings of being afraid nothing would work and being certain we would figure things out. However, the biggest conflict I had to sort out in my heart was: I am abandoning my family. I felt like I had already been so absent and missed so much of their lives and that I absolutely had to be there with them. I thought about it all the time (and still do) and I understood that 1. I didn’t have to be physically present to be part of their lives; 2. If I lived in another city or state in Brazil, for example, I would see them a few times a year or less; 3. I wouldn’t be happy if I stayed. They started talking about my leaving even before I did. They gave us their absolute support and that made things a lot easier.
I got a job and started saving as much as I could and researching any possible way of living legally in Belgium. My first idea was to find a job as an English teacher and apply for a work visa. I believed it would work - there are dozens of language schools in Brussels and other major cities and I trusted my skills and experience. I wrote ALL the schools I found but only a few of them replied saying that (my words) they wouldn’t hire a non-native speaker (I could rant about it on another post) and that they wouldn’t go through the trouble of applying for a work permit and bringing an instructor from abroad. I was frustrated, but I understood.
I considered applying for a student visa but I wasn’t sure what to study and I would much rather work, since I intended to build a life here. There was always the “easy way” – getting married, but I didn’t want to base that decision on visa issues. Boy, sometimes I wish I had European ascendants so that I could get a passport!
Finally, after a lot of research and considering the requirements, we decided to apply for a cohabitation visa (I’ll write all about it when the process is over. One thing you have to know: it takes TIME!). We found a lot of incomplete and conflicting information; we wrote the municipal administration, the Belgian Consulate in Brazil, the Immigration office and friends who had gone through the same and we are still learning on the go.
I finished the semester at the English school I was working, packed my bags and flew off on Christmas night (you know, cheaper tickets). We drove home under heavy rain (so cliché, Belgium!) and had an amazing Christmas dinner with gift exchange. Sometimes I looked around and couldn’t believe I was here again but on the other hand it felt like I had never left. I saw my friends again, went to my favorite bars, met new people, met his whole family and started getting used to living with his parents and brother. It’s been fun and full of love and support.
I visited my host family, hugged and kissed and squeeeezed the kids. My host mom said: “It’s like you were here yesterday” and we had an epic moment when the past, current and future (Brazilian) Au Pairs had dinner with the family.
We spent New Year’s Eve in Vienna. It was great to have some time alone and catch up and it was fun because neither of us had ever been there.
|Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria|
When we returned we immediately started putting our file together and visiting the town hall. Many declarations, translations and a couple of fees later, we signed the application and started the waiting game (it can take up to six months for them to give us a response). It really IS a waiting game for me, because while he works I stay home trying to keep sane and trying – once again – to figure out what to do with my precious life.
Useful official links:
Belgian Immigration Office: https://dofi.ibz.be/sites/dvzoe/index.html
Foreign Affairs: http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/
Belgian Embassies and Consulates abroad: http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/services/embassies_and_consulates/belgian_embassies_and_consulates_abroad/
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