I always wanted to rant about the commune of Brussels 1000.
When you decide to reside in any location in Belgium you are obliged to visit the local commune – a kind of citizens bureau that deals with the day-to-day life of the people living on a specific neighborhood.
In the commune you will register yourself in order to inform the authorities that you will be living in a flat or house in the area. The process is a bit weird when your are not used to it and quite bureaucratic.
When I moved with my girlfriend we were not married (now we are legal partners hehe!). She came as a Brazilian and I came as Belgian (yeah, I think I never mentioned that but I have double nationality). In both cases the process begins with registering yourself. When we first moved our commune was 1050 Ixelles – a neighbourhood in the south of Brussels.
I had to visit the Belgian citizens commune and she had to visit the foreigners building. All necessary documents are presented. This varies from commune to commune and there is no logic behind what it required. It depends on the phase of the moon.
The registration is recorded in the system and the commune sends the local police officer to verify if you indeed live on the given address. No real instructions are given. Sometimes the police officer will just check if your name is on the door bell. Other times the police officer will want to verify if you indeed live in the place by scrutinizing the place. There is no timeframe for that … it can be 5 days or 15 days. The visit might happen anytime – it can be on a saturday afternoon as on a monday morning. Once the police officer is satisfied with your existence in the given address the process will be concluded and you will be given a resident card.
In Ixelles, the commune was borderline efficient and the people were reasonably nice. The process went fine and we lived happily there for 3 years in our little studio. Every year my girlfriend need to renew her permit as she is non-European and the process would re-start.
As time passed we decided to move to a bigger apartment. We found this lovely place in Brussels 1000 – the central commune of Brussels, near the main shopping street and the Grand Place. The place was exactly what we wanted and we decided to rent it.
I learned a lesson that I will never forget: ALWAYS check the commune infra-structure before deciding where you will be living.
Brussels 1000 commune is a zoo. The registration for Belgian nationals takes place on the second floor and lines are long – fortunately the number of people working are also many. The problem concerns my girlfriend who is not Belgian.
The registration for foreigners takes place on another smaller floor. Brussels 1000 is one of the communes in Brussels with the largest number of foreigners. In order to register you are expected to arrive there early in the morning. If you arrive one hour before opening time (8:00 AM), you can expect to get a token with a number between 50 and 60. Timewise this means losing the whole morning as there are not enough people working and some citizens will have problematic cases that will take hours to solve (no exaggeration!) Imagine having to go through this every year!
What irritates me the most and really boils my nerves is the infra-structure of the place. It is small. There is not enough seating for everyone. There is no priority for families with children. The cherry on the cake is the thick glasses between the citizen and the commune employee.
In the Belgian people commune there is no glass divider and you speak to a person eye to eye. In the foreign people commune there is a thick glass. In order to have a conversation you have to bow and speak under the divider. This is ridiculous and I did complain to a prejudice group that, of course, answered that the communes can do whatever they want.
It is not only me who had problems with Brussels 1000. I had some colleagues that also decided to live in the center of Brussels and where affected by their complete incompetence. Documents being lost, delays on permits and wrong information are common. As a good public service there is no complaint department or real responsible for anything.
Recently my friend Christopher Selmes returned to live in Belgium from the UK. He decided to live in Stockel after a terrible Brussels 1000 experience. He said that the difference is huge. In less than 1 week everything was solved without waste of time and incompetence. My friend Felipe lives in the Etterbeck commune and he also does not complaint of the service. You can even set up appointments in order to know what time to do your visit.
I will never live again in Brussels 1000. I love the area and I love living in the center, but the service provided by the commune is unacceptable. If you are moving to Brussels, my MOST IMPORTANT TIP is to visit the commune before renting your apartment and checking their service in order to avoid the problems I faced on Brussels 1000.