Registering your baby’s birth

Your baby’s birth must be registered within 15 calendar days at the commune in which they were born – not the commune in which you live. For example, if your baby was born in Ixelles hospital, but you live in Schaerbeek, you need to register the birth in Ixelles. In some communes, you can also register the birth at the hospital itself.

Photo by marius badstuber on Unsplash

On this page, you can find out about:

  • practical aspects of registration, e.g. who can register a baby, which documents you will need to bring; and
  • some of the rules about names that may be relevant for your family.

Who can register a birth?

If you and the father / co-parent are:

  • married, either parent can register the birth;
  • not married:
    • the mother can register the birth alone;
    • both the mother and father / co-parent can register the birth together; or
    • the father / co-parent can register the birth alone only if they had established a declaration of ‘parentage’ (‘acte de reconnaissance’ / ‘erkenningakte’) prior to the birth

What documents do we need to bring to register the birth?

You will usually need the following documents with you, though check in advance with your commune to avoid a wasted trip:

  • the declaration of your baby’s birth (‘constat de naissance’ / ‘geboorteverklaring’) – you will receive this from the hospital
  • your identity card(s) or if you are not official ‘residents’ of Belgium, your passport(s)
  • your marriage certificate (if relevant)
  • declaration of ‘parentage’ (if relevant)

In some communes, you may be able to register the birth while you’re still in the maternity unit – check this in advance with your hospital, so that you can have the necessary documents with you.

Are there any rules about names that need to be respected?

While the Belgian government doesn’t interfere too much in how you name your child, there are a few things to take into consideration.

Belgian rules about a baby’s first name

Parent(s) are in theory free to choose their child’s first name. However, Belgian law allows for the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths to reject names in certain cases:

  • when the name may be confusing, e.g. giving a girl what is generally considered to be a boy’s name or vice versa;
  • when it is ‘against the child’s interests’, e.g. because it is offensive or ridiculous;
  • when the name may cause damage to someone else e.g. if an existing family name is used as a first name.

If the Registrar refuses to a certain first name, parents can appeal the decision.

And what about the family name?

In the past, a baby officially took its legal father’s last name if the parents were married – this was the case even if the parents were not living together or were going through divorce proceedings at the time of the birth.

In 2014, Belgium made some major changes to how last names are determined, to offer more equality between the mother and father.

In accordance with the parent(s) wishes, a baby can have, as last name:

  • the father / co-parent’s last name; or
  • the mother’s last name; or
  • a last name composed of both the father / co-parent’s and mother’s last names (limited to one name each). They can choose the order of the names.

The above also applies to adopted children.

What happens next?

The commune in which you register the birth will give/send you at least two birth certificates (‘attestations de naissance’ / ‘geboortebewijzen – these are ‘short’ birth certificates.

If you are part of the Belgian social security system, you will need to send these certificates to:

  • your family allowance fund to trigger the request for monthly family allowance payments – by requesting the birth allowance during pregnancy family allowance payments will be made automatically once the fund receives proof of the birth; and
  • your health insurance fund (‘mutuelle’ / ‘ziekenfonds’) to register your baby as a ‘dependent’ and to so that they can calculate the exact maternity leave entitlement based on your baby’s actual date of birth.

Some communes provide additional certificates free of charge, while others may ask you to pay a fee per additional certificate.

If you:

  • are Belgian residents, a few weeks after the registration, you will receive a notification to tell you that your baby’s identity documents (i.e. Belgian ID card) can be collected from your own commune;
  • are not Belgian residents (e.g. you or your partner work for an organisation such as NATO), you will need to apply for special ID cards via your employer;
  • need to apply for citizenship of another country for your baby, you will also need to request a full birth certificate (‘copie d’acte de naissance’ / ‘Afschrift van een akte – Geboorten / Geboortakten’) from the commune where you register the birth. In most cases, you can request a multilingual versions of the birth certificate (with text in Dutch, French, German and English) which may suffice for many countries – you should be able to receive this for free, and perhaps even via email, depending on your commune.

Can babies who are stillborn or who die shortly after birth be registered?

In the case of stillbirth, you may still have to register your baby’s birth and death. This will depend on when your baby was born. 

Under Belgian law, if a baby is stillborn after a pregnancy that lasted: 

  • less than 180 days, the birth does not need to be registered. If the baby was born between 140 and 180 days, parents who wish to have their baby registered can do so, but are not obliged to;
  • 180 days or more, the birth needs to be registered at the commune in which the baby was born. The commune issues an ‘acte de déclaration d’enfant sans vie’ / ‘akte van levenloze geboorte’ (declaration of stillbirth).

Since a change to legislation on 31 March 2019:

  • a family name can also be given, which was not the case before. 
  • the father of a stillborn baby or the co-parent who is not married to the baby’s mother, or who had not yet signed a declaration of recognition (‘acte de reconaissance’ / ‘erkenningakte’), can declare paternity / co-parentality after the stillbirth, with the mother’s agreement.

If a baby dies before his/her birth has been registered, both the birth and death have to be registered at the commune in which the baby was born. Your local commune will be able to provide you with details of the procedures and documents needed.

More information

For more information, see: (French) or (Dutch)