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There are four different types of visit, each with its own characteristics. The sending State is required to announce the arrival of foreign VIPs in our country and to send their detailed programme as soon as possible via a verbal note to the Department P2: “Visits and Events Management” (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the Protocol. This information enables us to assess the type of reception required and the security measures to be put in place.
1. State Visits
A State visit is an official visit by a Head of State to Belgium at the invitation of His Majesty the King. A maximum of two incoming State visits are organised every year. The detailed programme is prepared by the Department P2 (Visits and Events management) in close collaboration with the services of the Royal Palace and the Embassy of the Sending State in Brussels.
A State visit lasts between one and three days. It usually comprises an official welcome ceremony and a gala dinner at the Castle of Laeken or the Royal Palace, hosted by Their Majesties the King and Queen. A visit to a Belgian province may be organised.
2. Official Visits
An official visit is a visit by a Head of State or Government at the invitation of the Belgian Prime Minister. A visit by a Minister of Foreign Affairs to his or her Belgian counterpart at the latter's invitation is also considered an official visit. An official visit lasts between one and two days.
The detailed programme is prepared and implemented by the Department P2 in close collaboration with the Embassy of the Sending State in Brussels.
An official visit primarily involves contacts with members of the Belgian government. The Head of State will have an audience with His Majesty the King wherever possible.
Official visits generally comprise an official welcome ceremony, a meeting with the Belgian Prime Minister and an official lunch or dinner hosted by the Prime Minister (or by the Minister of Foreign Affairs for his or her counterpart). A visit to a Belgian province may be organised.
Upon arrival, a Head of State on an official visit is welcomed according to the FPS Foreign Affairs Protocol and the Protocol of the Ministry of National Defence (military guard of honour).
3. Working visits
A working visit is a visit by a foreign VIP at the initiative of the foreign authority. This type of visit usually provides the opportunity for meetings with international organisations headquartered in Brussels. It may also focus solely on bilateral contacts with the Belgian government. The two types of contact are often combined. The visit must be announced via verbal note to the Department P2 (email@example.com) as soon as possible. Any requests for meetings with His Majesty the King, the Prime Minister or the Minister of Foreign Affairs must be sent to the same email address. During a working visit, the Protocol does not organise a reception when the VIP arrives; this is therefore the responsibility of the Embassy. The VIP lounge at Brussels National airport can be provided free of charge by the Protocol of Foreign Affairs for a certain category of senior official. Reservations must be made by the diplomatic missions.
4. Private visits
A private visit consists of a private stay in Belgium. The diplomatic mission may contact the Protocol Directorate (P2) to ensure the security of a Head of State or Government making a private visit to Belgium. Such intervention by the Department P2 presupposes that the Protocol has received the full programme at least three working days in advance to the address: firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no welcome ceremony at the airport.
For more information please refer to the Protocol guide.