Early on in my trip, I clued you into the greatest evil you will face in Belgium: the registration process. The multiple trips, the random paperwork, the endless lines! All for a card that they will take from you when you leave. You need this card to avoid the risk of getting deported (unlikely, but don’t test your luck) and you need to give it back so you don’t get charged a ton of taxes when you head back to America (100% will happen).
“How hard could it be? I’ve already been through the process once. This should be a piece of cake.”
Ah, I did not learn my lesson the first time.
I’ll admit, this time around the confusion was entirely self-made but it may still be helpful so that you don’t make the same dumb mistakes I did.
I didn’t have to come into the office until after 10 AM one day, a week before my last day, so I decided to head over to the commune. Since it was Tuesday, the line was exceptionally short. I took a number and maybe 20 minutes later, I get called up. I tell the lady I’m there to de-register and she tells me I’m in the wrong commune.
I didn’t even know there was more than one! But she informs me that there is a bigger commune on the end of the street, building 168. I infer that it’s the big, mansion-like building at the top of Fernand-Coq and head that way. I follow the numbers to make sure I’m correct and they are, in fact, increasing. Then, suddenly, I’m on a totally different street with two digit numbers. I’m reminded that Brussels is unplanned and sometimes you will just be on another street without having turned at all.
I whip out my trusty Google Maps app that tells me that the building is just three minutes away. Fantastic! I’ll just pop in and out, no problem. Except that Google Maps, not knowing that there is construction on the street proceeds to take me in circles for about 20 minutes before I give up out of frustration. Defeated, I buy myself some candy and go to work.
The Second Attempt
On Friday, I decide to try again. I confirm that it is in the big mansion and I figure out that there is a path to get in that is concealed by the construction site. I’m awed by how nice the inside of the building is. Despite this, I’m unsure of where to go and the guard at the desk isn’t interested in figuring out why I’m there. I take it upon myself to ask and I’m told that I went into the wrong door and I have to go in through the side entrance. Great.
Through the side entrance, a much less impressive room leads to the correct location for de-registration. I go to take a ticket and, as none of the buttons correspond to my reason for being there, I choose a random one and take a seat. The numbers, for some odd reason, are being called out of order, but some 30 minutes later, I am called up. I explain to the man that I am leaving next Saturday and need to de-register. He lets me know that this would deactivate my pin and they’d take my card, meaning I can’t actually do this until the day before I leave.
No. Please, no.
This time, I buy myself a Belgian waffle and wait for the bus in the rain.
The Final Attempt
I wake up bright and early on Friday, catch the 95 and hoof it up to the commune. I know the way without my phone at this point and I make it in before the crowd of people. I’m called up in about 20 minutes. Everything they ask for, I have on the ready: my card is in hand, I have an ID picture for the file, and I know the answers to all the questions.
After giving all the relevant information, I am done. The man wishes me a safe trip. Success!
A bagel breakfast sandwich is my prize.