Belgium – Doctors

Belgium mapBelgium with its about 11 million inhabitants is located at the very heart of Europe. Its vibrant international capital Brussels is also the political centre of the European Union, home of the European Commission and second home of the European Parliament. The city is a true ethnic and cultural “melting pot”. In the northern region of Flanders people speak Dutch (Flemish), whereas French is spoken in the southern region of Wallonia and – mostly – in Brussels. Over the last years foreign medical students and doctors have been immigrating in growing numbers from the neighbours France and the Netherlands, and from Greece, Italy, Spain and Romania.

How to become a doctor

The basic medical training in Belgium takes nowadays six years. It consists of a Bachelor’s (first three years) and a Master’s degree. Medical faculties are located in Antwerp, Brussels, Diepenbeek, Gent, Leuven, Liege, Mons and Namur. As in many other countries, the access to study places is highly competitive. The length of subsequent postgraduate training depends on the medical specialty chosen. To work as a medical doctor, a licence to practice medicine needs to be obtained from the Federal Public Service; registration with the Ordre des médecins is also required.

Hurdles for foreign doctors

EU/EEA/Swiss doctors benefit from automatic recognition of their medical qualifications obtained in these countries under EU Directive 2005/36/EC. Applications should be addressed to the Federal Public Service (SPF Santé Publique). Non-EU nationals qualified in EU/EEA/Switzerland are treated alike. Other special cases may apply.

For non-EU diplomas the Flemish Community (ministère de la “Vlaamse gemeenschap”) or French Community (ministère de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles) is responsible for the assessment of their equivalence, depending on where you intend on working. This process may be quite time-consuming and require completion of additional medical studies by the applicant. Following confirmation of equivalence the doctor needs to go back to the Federal Public Service in order to request a licence to practice medicine.

Following formal recognition / confirmation of equivalence the doctor needs to turn to the competent local branch (conseil provincial) of the Ordre des médecins in order to be included in its Tableau de l’Ordre. The recognition of foreign medical specialties is subject to a separate subsequent process. For most up-to-date information it is advised to contact the Ordre des médecins.

Proficiency in Dutch and/or French – depending on location – is normally a must for medical work. For non-EU doctors the language checks are part of the equivalence assessment procedure.

Furthermore, additional immigration requirements (work and residence permit / visa) normally apply to non-EU doctors.

Further info