Relationship of convenience

Don't be a victim of a marriage of convenience or forced relationship

A marriage of convenience (also known as a sham marriage), a legal cohabitation of convenience or a forced marriage? What can I do?

Were you confronted with a possible relationship of convenience? This brochure will help you avoid becoming a victim of such a relationship, which is punishable by law.

However, if the damage has already been done, this page also provides all the necessary information on available help.

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The holiday marriage

Holiday love: real love or a scam?

On holidays, it sometimes happens that someone falls in love with a person from the holiday country. However, the love is not always mutual. The foreign partner sometimes has other priorities, specifically obtaining residence documents in Belgium. The partner may lie about his or her feelings.

Stop and think about your relationship before taking the big step and getting married. A few questions can help here.

  • Why does my new partner want to get married so soon?
  • Why is it that a much younger person wishes to marry me?
  • Is my partner willing to accept big social and cultural differences?
  • Does my partner have the same plans for the future?
  • Do I really know my new partner well enough?
  • Do I actually want to get married?

The foreign marriage

You got married abroad and the visa has already been applied for.

  • You can contact the Belgian embassy or consulate where the visa for family reunification has been applied for.
  • You can notify the Immigration Office via schijnrelaties [at] ibz.fgov.be
  • You can report your concerns to the local Immigration Department/Population Department or the Civil Affairs Department.
  • You can file a complaint at the Police Department or the Public Prosecutor's Office.

A marriage proposal (or legal cohabitation) in Belgium with a partner in precarious or illegal residence

Think carefully.

Take time to evaluate your relationship and think carefully before you take the big step and get married. These questions can help you make a decision:

  • Why does my new partner want to get married soon?
  • Why is it that a much younger person wishes to marry me?
  • Is my partner willing to accept significant social and cultural differences?
  • Does my partner have the same future plans?
  • Do I really know my new partner well enough?
  • Do I actually want to get married?
  • Are there any doubts? I can consult a social organization or the police.

The marriage (or legal cohabitation) already took place in Belgium

What can I do?

 

You are married or entered into a legal cohabitation in Belgium and an application for family reunification/residency has been submitted to the municipality/city.

  • You can notify the Immigration Office of the Federal Public Service Home Affairs by e-mail at schijnrelaties [at] ibz.fgov.be 
  • You can communicate your concerns through the Population Department/Civil Affairs Department or civil registrar of your municipality/city.
  • You can file a complaint at your local police station.
  • You can contact a lawyer.

Forced marriage or forced legal cohabitation

You are/were forced to marry or legally cohabit through threats or violence

  • Is someone forcing you to enter into a marriage with a foreign partner?
  • Does your family or your environment control your actions?
  • Are you forbidden to have contact with certain people?

If you are not yet married, but you feel threatened or forced to marry, you should contact the police or the Public Prosecutor's Office as soon as possible. You have the right to choose your own partner. A forced marriage is a serious crime. It is also advisable to notify the Immigration Office and the municipality, especially if you are about to depart abroad.

If you are already married and this marriage was clearly concluded against your will, it is called a forced marriage/legal cohabitation.

  • You can contact a social organization such as the CAW (Centre General Welfare) for a listening ear and help (https://www.caw.be (page only available in Dutch))
  • You can file a complaint at your local police station.
  • You can report the forced marriage to the municipal Immigration Service / Population Department or the Civil Affairs Department.
  • You can notify the Immigration Office of the Federal Public Service Home Affairs by mail at schijnrelaties [at] ibz.fgov.be.
  • You can file a complaint at the Public Prosecutor's Office.
  • You can complain to the examining magistrate with civil action, but know that you will have to pay a deposit.
  • You can consult a lawyer.

Marriage and legal cohabitation of convenience: what is it and what can I do about it?

A union for the sole purpose of obtaining a residence benefit.

  • Has your partner's behavior changed since you got married or cohabited?
  • Was your partner in an illegal or precarious residence situation before marriage or legal cohabitation?
  • Is your partner no longer interested in the relationship shortly after obtaining the residence documents?
  • Is your partner more interested in his/her visa family reunification or his/her residence document than in you or the relationship?

If the answer is positive more than once, you may be a victim of a relationship of convenience. Do not hesitate to take steps to fight this injustice! You are a victim of a crime.

As a victim of a marriage / legal cohabitation of convenience or forced marriage, you may be struggling with various feelings such as shame, humiliation, failure, anger or fear.

Not infrequently, this situation also leaves you with financial problems and puts you under physical and psychological stress. The perpetrator and cause of this situation is your partner who saw the relationship only as a means of obtaining a residence permit

Is it punishable?

  • Your complaint of marriage of convenience may result in the revocation of the residence documents of the partner who deceived you.
  • The Public Prosecutor’s Office may demand an annulment of your marriage/legal cohabitation in court. Your partner's Belgian nationality may possibly be revoked.
  • The partner who abused the relationship may also be sentenced to a fine and imprisonment.

What can I do?

You are married
You are legally living together in Belgium
You got married abroad and your partner has arrived in Belgium

  • You can contact a social organization such as the CAW (Centre General Welfare) for a listening ear and help (https://www.caw.be (page only available in Dutch)).
  • You can file a complaint at the local police.
  • You can report your concerns to the Immigration Department in your municipality, the Population Department or the Civil Affairs Department.
  • You can notify the Immigration Office, Federal Public Service Home Affairs, by email schijnrelaties [at] ibz.fgov.be.
  • You can file a complaint at the Public Prosecutor's Office.
  • You can complain to the examining magistrate with civil action, but know that you will have to pay a bail.
  • You can consult a lawyer.

Contact info: see further on this page

It is essential to notify the Immigration or Population Department in your municipality when your partner has left the family home.

Can I help others?

Do you personally know someone who is victim of a marriage/ cohabitation of convenience or who was forced to marry or cohabit?

Do you suspect that someone close to you is or may be a victim of a relationship of convenience or forced marriage?

You can report this to the local Police Department, the Immigration Department, the Public Prosecutor's Office or the City Council where the victim lives. If you have doubts about the sincerity of the relationship, speak to a confidant of a social organization or the school's confidential advisor. These people are there to listen to you and help you. You will find contact details further on in the brochure.

At the Immigration Office, you can report the situation anonymously by email at schijnrelaties [at] ibz.fgov.be

Who can help me?

 

  • The Unit of the Immigration Office, who investigates relationships of convenience, can be reached by email at schijnrelaties [at] ibz.fgov.beIf you wish, the unit will handle your notification of a marriage or cohabitation of convenience anonymously.
  • You can also contact the Immigration Office's Infodesk by phone at 02/488.80.00 or contact us by post at the following address:

 

Dienst Vreemdelingenzaken
Cel schijnrelaties
Pachecolaan 44
1000 Brussel