Open a bank account

Why open a Belgian bank account?

To pay your monthly salary or scholarship, the HR Department of Ghent University needs your bank account number. Please inform us as soon as possible about your bank account details to pay your salary. This can be an international bank account number or a Belgian bank account number.

It is not obligated to open a Belgian bank account, but it is advised for a couple of reasons during your stay in Belgium:

  • Your salary or scholarship will be much faster on your bank account. Transferring to international banks still takes several days.
  • Your bank card will be accepted everywhere in Belgium without any problem. Electronic payment is widespread, and even sometimes the only payment method.
  • Grant holders are tax-exempted in Belgium. However, fiscal authorities from other countries still like to tax this grant when it is transferred to a local bank account – as they claim it is received in that country without taxation. To avoid problems it is recommended that a Belgian bank account is opened to proof that your grant is received in Belgium.

What do Belgian bank’s offer?

Some banks allow customers to open bank accounts online and allow foreigners to open a bank account before they arrive in Belgium (the bank must be informed once the residency permit has been issued). Once the account has been opened, it can take up to two weeks to receive the ban card, PIN codes and passwords necessary to manage the account. Bank statements (rekeninguittreksels) are generally sent out monthly or can be consulted online.

With a current account you are able to carry out all standard bank transactions in Belgium. You can also request a credit card but some banks may wait a while to check whether you have sufficient deposits coming into your bank account before issuing you with a credit card.

Most banks offer a variety of packages for a monthly or annual fee, which includes the fees for bank cards, internet banking access, some transactions at ATMs and usually some form of account insurance. For personal advice, withdrawing large amounts of money, printing your bank statements or changing your personal information you will have to go to your ‘home’ bank where you opened your bank account. Withdrawing money or checking your account can be done at any ATM of all banks.

Banks also offer other products such as loans, individual pension plan savings (that also give tax reduction), money investment and insurance packages.

Do you have the right to open a Belgian bank account?

In Belgium, the right to basic banking services is provided for international persons. This service allows basic banking operations such as placing cash on a bank account, take cash out and manage payments. The application to open the bank account is done in writing. The bank can only refuse to provide the basic banking service in specific cases and must inform in writing about the reason.

To obtain the basic banking service, the bank will request personal information such as a name, birthdate and birthplace. The bank may ask the address of the new client, but it is not allowed to deny the basic banking service if only a temporary address, and not a permanent address in Belgium can be provided. The bank may also ask for identification documents, such as valid residence permit or ID card, the applicable annex (f.e. annex 49; 8 ; 15; …) or the certificate of immatriculation, a valid attachment of an ongoing procedure, or any other document that proves the intention to register in Belgium. If the applicant can’t yet provide any document regarding the status and identity in Belgium, the basic banking services need to be provided for a limited time until the correct verification documents can be presented. The temporary verification is done based on the passport, and if applicable, a valid visa.

It is common that the procedures to open a basic banking services work slower than the regular procedure to open a bank account. Banks take time to check if you are allowed to open the bank account. Therefore we advise you to prepare your documentation when you need to open a Belgian bank account before you have obtained or even started the registration procedure for the residence permit.

How to open a Belgian bank account?

In case of a long-term employment at the University of Ghent, it is advisable to open a Belgian bank account. To open a bank account in Belgium, you will need following documents:

  • Passport or Belgian identity card
  • Bank account application form (completed and signed)
  • Banks will request a proof of residency in Belgium.
    • After your first contact with the Immigration services you will receive a temporary residence document or annex.
  • A copy of your rental contract or information on the place where you will live
  • A proof of employment
    • The contract or appointment letter can be provided
  • In some cases, an additional letter from Ghent University is required. This can be found at the download section.

Banks in Ghent

Most banks will have different offices in the city center. They are mostly open between 9 and 12 o’clock in the morning and 14 and 16.30 in the afternoon. Some of the banks offer evening openings after appointment.

More information can be found here or on this website.