COVID-19: New Zealanders in Belgium - Frequently asked questions
This information addresses some of the frequently asked questions we're receiving from New Zealanders travelling or living in Belgium.
Where to find information about COVID-19 in Belgium and New Zealand
For up-to-date guidance on the Belgian Government's COVID-19 response, please refer to info-coronavirus.be (external link).
For up-to-date guidance on the New Zealand Government's COVID-19 response, please refer to the SafeTravel website (external link).
For up-to-date advice for New Zealanders overseas, please refer to the Advice for New Zealanders overseas (external link) page on the SafeTravel website.
The following information covers:
- General travel advice
- Travelling to New Zealand
- Other frequently asked travel questions - New Zealanders in Belgium
- Belgian nationals in New Zealand – how to get assistance
- Belgian Health Ministry advice
- Consular assistance
New Zealanders should refer to the SafeTravel (external link) website for travel advisory updates. We encourage all New Zealanders living and travelling overseas to register on SafeTravel (external link) so that we can relay important information to you if the situation changes where you are.
We currently advise that you do not travel overseas at this time. Transport and transit options to return to New Zealand have reduced significantly. Even booked flights might be cancelled.
We recognise that not all New Zealanders who want to return home are able to do so. New Zealanders who cannot return home for the time being should take steps to stay safety where they are.
The Government is committed to helping New Zealanders overseas where we can, but the international situation is complex and changing quickly, and some things are out of our control.
Flights across the world are significantly reducing in capacity and the ability to transit through other countries and territories is reducing due to COVID-19 border restrictions.
Most flight routes back to New Zealand have ceased, and even booked travel is being disrupted. Assisted departure flights should not be relied upon to get home.
For details on countries and territories which have COVID-19 related border restrictions affecting foreign nationals, including travellers in transit, please check the International Air Transport Association (IATA) (external link) website before you travel. The IATA website is being continually updated.
If you choose to remain travelling (that is, away from where you normally live) despite our advice, the ability of the New Zealand Government to provide consular assistance may be limited due to restrictions on movement and other services.
If you are able to get a flight home to New Zealand, please refer to the Covid19.govt.nz website (external link) for the latest information on arriving in New Zealand and self-isolation.
Make sure you also read the frequently asked questions below for important information about:
- What are the best routes for getting back to New Zealand from Belgium?
- What do I need to know if I’m transiting through Australia back to New Zealand?
New Zealanders should refer to the SafeTravel website (external link) for travel advisory updates. We encourage all? New Zealanders living and travelling overseas to register on SafeTravel (external link) so that we can relay important information to you if the situation changes where you are.
Belgian travellers (who are not New Zealand citizens, permanent residents or immediate family) should follow the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs guidance (external link) against non-essential international travel as of 17 March 2020. You should also refer to the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' country-by-country Travel Advice (external link).
Your travel insurance may be affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 in your country of destination and the level of our travel advice (external link) for that country, especially if we advise against travel to that destination.
My flight has been cancelled/changed, what should I do?
We strongly recommend contacting your airline, travel agent or travel insurance provider immediately for the latest information.
Flights across the world are significantly reducing in capacity and the ability to transit through other countries and territories is reducing due to COVID-19 border restrictions. Most flight routes back to New Zealand have ceased, and even booked travel is being disrupted.
For details on countries and territories which have COVID-19 related border restrictions affecting foreign nationals, including travellers in transit, please check the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website (external link) before you travel. The IATA website is being continually updated.
What are the best routes for getting back to New Zealand from Belgium?
We are aware that the options for returning to New Zealand are now extremely limited. Almost all flights have ceased, and even booked travel is being disrupted.
At the time of writing, there are still options available to fly to New Zealand from Europe. However, we are aware that seats can be difficult to secure, prices may be high, and availability could change at any time. The situation is now at a point where the best option for many expatriate New Zealanders is may be to stay where you are and follow the instructions of the Belgian authorities.
The Government is committed to helping New Zealanders overseas where we can. The international situation is complex and changing quickly, and some things are out of our control. Assisted departure flights should not be relied upon to get home.
What do I need to know if I’m transiting through Australia back to New Zealand?
We are aware that most of the commercial flights available all transit through Australia and therefore you MUST complete relevant transit exemptions prior to travel, which at a minimum will require New Zealand citizens receiving an exemption from relevant State authorities’ quarantine requirements (for example, from the New South Wales government for flights to Sydney and Victoria government for flights to Melbourne (additional exemptions are required for New Zealand Permanent Residents).
We urge New Zealanders travelling via Australia to monitor transit requirements set out by the Australian Government, see the AustraliaHome Affairs website (external link) for more information and consult with your travel agent and/or airline on transit requirements.
Please note Australia has different levels of government with different responsibilities. The Federal Government is responsible for immigration, and the state/territory governments are responsible for health. Most states/territories have implemented mandatory quarantine for arriving international travellers (usually 14 days).
Wherever possible, passengers should plan to arrive and complete their transit in Australia within an 8 hour same day transit window. However, we understand that this transit window may not be possible due to the timing of flights. If you require transit through Australia that is between 8-72 hours, you must apply for an exemption from the appropriate State Government where the airport you are transiting is located. It is passengers’ responsibility to apply for these transit exemptions prior to travelling and we recommend you do so at the earliest possible opportunity using the links below. Any passenger who is transiting for longer than 72 hours must adhere to Australia’s 14 day mandatory quarantine.
• If you are transiting in Sydney, please complete an application for an exemption through this NSW authority online portal (external link).
• If you are transiting in Melbourne, an exemption is not required however you must adhere to go into mandatory quarantine at a Melbourne hotel until the time of the departing flight. More information is available on the Victoria State Government website (external link).
• If you are transiting in Brisbane, you must send an email attaching evidence of confirmed flights from departure point to destination (NZ) along with your full name, date of birth, nationality, passport number, flight date and number, telephone and email address, reason for request (e.g. transit to NZ) to SHECC@health.qld.gov.au.
In addition, New Zealand Permanent Residents with a foreign (including UK) Passport, seeking to transit Australia on return to New Zealand must complete a three stage process in order to travel. It is critical that you complete all three steps well in advance of your departure day – otherwise you may be refused boarding.
1. Seek an exemption from the relevant state government that your flight transits through if required. Each state has slightly varying requirements. Most routes back to New Zealand require a transit through New South Wales (Sydney) or Victoria (Melbourne) and an exemption is not required for Victoria.
2. Seek a 771 Class Transit visa at the Australia Home Affairs website (external link). When applying, the applicant must use a UK address (this can be a hotel or temporary accommodation)
3. Seek an exemption from the Australian federal government. To transit, the Australian Border Force Commissioner will need to grant you an exemption by completing this form (external link).
I am flying back to New Zealand, will I be allowed in under the current border restrictions?
For information regarding border changes, visas and exemptions please read the information on the Immigration New Zealand website (external link) or contact Immigration New Zealand by phone on:
- +64 9 952 1679 (outside New Zealand)
- 0508 225 288 (within New Zealand).
Self isolation on arrival
Check the Covid19.govt.nz website (external link) to find out about the latest information on arriving in New Zealand and self-isolation.
For more information on these updated international arrival procedures visit the NZ Ministry of Health website (external link) and read the passenger arrival factsheet (external link) on managed self-isolation. Further information on self-isolation can be found here (external link).
Will the NZ Embassy/Government provide funds to get New Zealanders home?
As a New Zealand citizen overseas, you have no right or claim to financial assistance from the New Zealand Government.
Refer to the SafeTravel financial difficulties page (external link) for advice if you find yourself in financial difficulties overseas.
When/how will you notify me if the situation gets worse?
New Zealanders travelling or residing off-shore are encouraged to register their details on the SafeTravel website (external link). If you are registered on SafeTravel, you will receive an email advising you of any updates to the travel advisory risk level or significant updates to government advice.
Registering your travel with SafeTravel also means that it will be easier for us to contact you in an emergency and to send you updated advice even before you leave New Zealand.
I can't leave Belgium, what do I do?
If you are unable to return to New Zealand, you should shelter in place and take steps to stay safely where you are. This means following the advice of local authorities, primarily the Belgian Government
For full details of the situation in Belgium, when or/if you can be outside and under what conditions, please consult the Belgium Government's COVID-19 website (external link).
Essential services are still open (food and medical), so we encourage you to:
- make sure you have access to enough medication for longer than usual (ideally up to three weeks)
- keep your family and friends regularly informed of your plans and well-being
- monitor local media for developments, and
- find out how to access health care in case it becomes necessary to do so.
You should also make sure you can access money to cover emergencies and unexpected delays.
New Zealanders facing financial hardship overseas should seek assistance from family or friends or contact their bank in the first instance, otherwise check with your insurance provider to see if they can help.
My Belgian visa will be affected by COVID-19 restrictions, what do I do?
Information about extending your visa can be found on the Belgian Immigration Office website (external link) (in French).
An unofficial translation is provided below for your information:
The Immigration Office recalls that a third-country national prevented from leaving Belgium for reasons of force majeure (quarantine, cancellation of a flight, closure of a border, etc.) can request the authorisation to extend their stay.
To limit travel and contacts, this request can be sent to the commune of residence, by email.
In case of emergency, this request can be sent directly to the Immigration Office, by email, to the address:
- email@example.com (residence in a Dutch municipality), or
- firstname.lastname@example.org (residence in a French-speaking commune).
The applicant must attach the following information and documents:
- Copy of their passport (number and validity, personal data, pages used);
- Copy of their arrival declaration (annex 3 to the royal decree of 08/10/1981);
- Letter explaining why they cannot leave Schengen territory on the scheduled date;
- Documents confirming the impediment;
- Proof of travel health insurance valid for the duration of the desired extension;
- Address of residence in Belgium;
- A valid email address.
The Belgian Immigration Office will send its decision to the applicant by post.
Who can the Embassy help?
Consular services are available to New Zealand citizens outside New Zealand (whether or not they normally live in New Zealand).
New Zealand citizens who also hold citizenship of another country ("dual nationals") may not be entitled to assistance from the New Zealand Government if:
- they entered a country on their non-New Zealand passport, or
- they are in the country of their other nationality.
If you are a Belgian national in New Zealand and are looking for consular assistance please contact the Embassy of Belgium in Canberra, Australia. The Embassy of Belgium in Australia is accredited to New Zealand and offers assistance to Belgian citizens in both countries.
The Embassy has set up a registry of Belgian nationals in New Zealand (external link) to identify those in need of assistance.
If you have fever and/or respiratory problems (such as coughing and breathing difficulties) stay home and call your doctor and report your symptoms. Do not go to the waiting room or the emergency department. The doctor will determine by telephone whether you can stay ill at home or should go to hospital.
You can find a GP that speaks English and request a video consultation here (external link). If you are in Brussels you can phone 1710 to speak to a GP. If you cannot find a GP please contact the emergency service SOS Médecins by phone: +32 2 513 0202.
If you are a New Zealand citizen and require emergency consular assistance please phone:
- +64 99 20 20 20 (outside New Zealand) or
- 0800 30 10 30 (within New Zealand)
However please note this does not include providing tailored advice for any intended travel.
For further information and answers to frequently asked questions see our dedicated COVID-19 information page on the SafeTravel website (external link).