Pictogram Freedom-seeker


Pictogram Freedom-seeker

CHercheur.euse de liberté

Pictogram Homeless person


Pictogram Asylum seeker


Pictogram Asylum seeker

Demandeur.euse.s de protection internationale

Pictogram Refugee


Pictogram Refugee


Pictogram Professional


Pictogram Professional



The commissioner general for refugees and stateless persons (CGRS/CGRA)

The Office of the Commissioner-General for Refugees and Stateless Persons is an independent Belgian federal institution that examines every application for international protection individually and without prejudice. The CGRS will then assess applications for asylum and will check whether asylum should be granted to applicants because of fear:

  • Persecution because of your nationality, ethnic origin, religion, political opinion or because you are a member of a particular social group
  • War or violence
  • Torture or degrading or inhuman treatment.

This means that the CGRS is impartial and nobody can say to the CGRS which decisions it has to take.

Waiting time for the second interview

The CGRS will invite you at least once for an interview. You may have to wait a long time for your invitation to this interview. The date of your asylum application does not determine the order in which the CGRS invites applicants for their interview. It is therefore possible that applicants who filed their application after you will be interviewed before you.

The waiting time depends on several factors. The CGRS can only start the assessment when the IO (DVZ/OE) has sent your file. The CGRS tries to plan the interview within four months after receiving the file. For applicants coming from a safe country of origin or residing in a closed centre, this delay will be shorter. Due to an increase in the number of asylum applications, there may be a backlog and takes more than one year or in some cases even two years.

If you have any special needs and you did not mention this during your first interview at the Immigration Office, be sure to inform the CGRS. Ask your lawyer or social worker for help.

Lawyer (legal assistance)

From the start or any stage of any types of asylum procedures, you can ask for a lawyer to assist you. The asylum procedure is extremely complex and it is very important that you obtain specialist help as soon as you can. It is also important that your lawyer has a good command of the asylum procedure’s language (Dutch or French).

This legal assistance is free of charge if you do not have enough financial means. However, some applicants would rather to pay personally to their lawyer.

Having a lawyer is not an obligation but it would be very helpful because the procedures for obtaining a residence permit in Belgium are sometimes complicated. You have right to request for another lawyer, if you think you are not feeling comfortable with him/her. Pay attention that at the Dutch side, the pro deo lawyer might refuse the succession by another lawyer.

How to find a lawyer

Finding a lawyer is possible by one of the following ways: 

  1. introduction by a person or a supporting organisation 
  2. introduction by a social assistant
  3. asking from the Legal Aid Office (Bureau Juridische Bijstand/Bureau D’aide Juridique) at Regentschapsstraat/Rue de la Regence 63, 1000 Brussels. 

If your annex 26 and orange card/aneex 35 are in Dutch go to floor -1, for French go to floor +1.

But there are also French speaking lawyers who can handle cases in Dutch and the other way around.

Lawyer’s responsibilities

  • Giving advice about the procedures (asylum and eventually other procedures) 
  • Helping applicants to prepare for theirs interviews
  • Helping applicants to structure his/her story and to order the facts chronologically
  • Attending the main interview at the CGRS and if they are not able to attend the interview, make sure that the person is attended by a colleague – the lawyer is not supposed to intervene during the interview (except if there is a problem) and can make his comments at the end of the interview 
  • Attending in the interview in CGRS and possibly adding comments at the end for about 10 minutes.
  • Asking to look into the applicant’s file and request copies of the notes of interview in at IBZ if the applicant did not receive them.
  • Making appeal specially against negative decision within 8 working days.  A lawyer may refuse to make an appeal against a negative decision but if this is the case, the applicant has the option to request an advice by another lawyer.

You may have several meetings with your lawyer. However, it is only possible for maximum three times to get free tickets from your reception centre to meet lawyer. You are also allowed to have a free call to your lawyer from the centre in necessary times. You will receive a letter showing you are resident of the centre from the procedure office to deliver to your lawyer in your first meeting. 

Tips for LGBTQIA+ individuals:
  • Try to contact LGBT organisations to introduce you some specialist lawyer in the field of LGBT.
  • You may ask your assistant in the reception renters to help you finding a suitable lawyer.
  • If you feel uncomfortable with your lawyer, immediately ask for your assistant to help you to change it to match lawyer.

Gather documents and evidence

Use the waiting time between the first and second interview to gather all documents that prove who you are and where you come from such as your passport or identity card or any other documents prove your identity, such as your parents’ identity documents or a military booklet. Gather all documents that show why you cannot return to your country, for example legal documents. 

Present documents that deal with your personal situation no general information about your country. You can be assured that the CGRS is aware of the situation in your country. If you cannot present any documents, you will have to explain the reason for this during your interview at the CGRS.

If you do not have any documents, explain the reasons for this during the interview. Do not have any documents forged or do not have any false documents made because this may have a negative influence on the assessment of your asylum application.

Do not have any documents forged or do not have any false documents made, because this may lead to a rejection of your application.

The CGRS will safely keep the documents you present.  You can ask them back at any time during the procedure.

Tips for LGBTQIA+ individuals:

The documents would be helpful for LGBTQI+ people are: 

  • Any evidence supporting your story, any photos, videos, legal letter, hospital documents and so on. 
  • Any certificates from LGBTQIA+ organisations which are organizing activities as participants or volunteers.
  • Any supporting letters from LGBTQIA+ organisations/groups knowing you well.

The second long interview

The second interview takes place at the CGRS: Rue Ernest Blerot 39, 1070 Brussels. 

The CGRS will send the letter of invitation by mail to your address or by carrier to your reception centre. Your lawyer will receive a copy of the letter asl well. If serious reasons prevent you from coming to the interview, you must inform the CGRS and justify your absence with a certificate as soon as possible helping by your lawyer or social worker.

The protection officer

The protection officer will ask you questions in order to assess your application. He/she is specialized in your region of origin and regularly receives training to improve their expertise and knowledge. 

The interpreter

If you said during your first interview at the Immigration Office that you need an interpreter, an interpreter will attend the interview at the CGRS and provide a literal translation of everything that is being said during the interview. The interpreter is neutral and impartial. This means that the interpreter cannot tell anyone what you told during the interview. The interpreter is not involved in taking a decision, and is not allowed to inquire about it.

If you have problems understanding the interpreter, you have to say so during the interview.

The lawyer

Your lawyer’s presence at the interview is not required. The interview will take place even if your lawyer cannot be present. However, your lawyer can request a copy of the notes of the interview, so that he knows what happened. He/she may talk to support you at the end of the interview. 

The trusted person

You can also ask to be assisted by a trusted person. A trusted person is someone who professionally specializes in assisting persons or in refugee law, for example a social worker, representative of NGOs with knowledge of asylum matters, a psychologist or a therapist. Relatives or friends cannot assist as trusted persons. The trusted person must be authorized by the CGRS to attend the interview.

Interview duration and content

The interview takes on average three to four hours but can be longer or shorter. A break is planned after about one and a half hours. You can always ask for a break yourself if you need one. 

During the second interview, you will be asked emotionally might be difficult questions about the problems you had in your country. You need to be honest and tell what happened to you personally clearly. Do not look for a fake story which you think will enhance your chances of obtaining asylum. 

The second interview is the most important moment in the asylum procedure. During this interview, the CGRS protection officer will ask you questions about:

  • Who you are;
  • Where you come from;
  • What your life was like in your country;
  • How you travelled to Belgium;
  • Your documents;
  • Why you left your country;
  • Why you cannot return to your country.

Tell your own experiences and story and why you cannot or do not want to return to your country. Do not tell another story or something that is suggested to you, but tell what happened to you personally. During the interview, the credibility of your story will be assessed. Therefore, it is important that you offer a clear and complete view into your real situation.

Whatever you tell during the interview will be treated confidentially. This means that the CGRS will not share this information with anybody even like the authorities of your country of origin or the persons who persecute you or even with your family members. 

Every applicant is interviewed individually. If you arrived in Belgium with your partner or your parents, they may be invited to their interview on the same day as you, but you will be interviewed separately. You can say what you have to say in total freedom. What you say will not be shared with your relatives if you do not want this.

Copy of the interview

During the interview, the protection officer will write everything down in a report. You can ask to have a copy of this report, during the interview or within two days after the interview. Ask your lawyer to help you with this. You will receive the copy in the language of your asylum procedure (Dutch or French). You can check the notes with your lawyer, and/or an interpreter and suggest corrections or additions.

In the personal interview at CGRS, the applicant will explain why he left his/her country of origin.

The interview at the CGRS (CGRA/CGVS) is a very important stage in your procedure for international protection. During this interview, you explain in detail why you left home and why you are applying for protection in Belgium. It is important to tell the truth!

If necessary, an interpreter will translate the questions of the official from the CGRS. He or she will also translate your answers. The interpreter is appointed by the CGRS and must respect the secrecy of this interview.

We advise you to prepare for your interview, with the help of your lawyer, your social worker, or an association. Prepare all documents that can be used as proof. During the interview, the official of the CGRS will ask you questions. The interview may last several hours. 

You must tell the truth and do everything you can to prove your identity, your origin, and your journey to Belgium. If you have given false information at any stage of the procedure (e.g. about your identity or background), there is still time to tell the truth during the interview. It's in your interest.

If you have received documents that are not yet in your dossier, you can forward them to the CGRS or bring them with you to the interview.

If, after this interview, the CGRS needs to question you again, it will send you a new invitation.

The official of the CGRS will take notes while you talk. You have the right to receive a copy of these notes, to check with your lawyer to see if what is being noted is correct.

Tips for LGBTQIA+ individuals:
  • Avoid giving general information about LGBTQIA+ life and situation in your country. Focus of your own story. 
  • They do not expect you show your very private photos and videos. 
  • You won’t be asked very private questions like your role in bed and so on. 
  • Focus on your romantic parts of your story instead of sexual one during your interview.
  • If you feel uncomfortable talking about a question or a specific part of your story, you need to inform interviewer. 
  • Try to focus on crises, danger and reasons obliged you to leave your country.
  • Ask your lawyer to send all the documents and evidence before going to CGRS. Take a copy with yourself to the interview session.
  • Ask to stop immediately the interview if you feel your interpreter is homophobic or do not translating well your declarations.

Making a decision

the applicant can also do this by himself during the interview or until 2 working days after the interview- once the applicant has received a copy of the notes, he has 8 working days to send his comments to the CGRS)

After the interview, you will return to the reception centre or your place of residence. Meanwhile, the protection officer will analyse all the information necessary for a decision. The waiting time for a decision varies. The CGRS aims at taking a decision within two months after the interview, unless further analysis is necessary. An applicant from your country who arrived later than you in Belgium may nevertheless get a decision earlier. This is not a reason to worry. Every application for asylum is different and is examined individually. The CGRS is aware that a long waiting time is a cause of uncertainty and stress. It does everything to take a decision as quickly as possible.

  • How does the CGRS take a decision?
  • After the second interview, the CGRS will first examine the credibility of your declarations and documents:
  • Is the information you gave during the interview correct?
  • Are the documents genuine?
  • Are your declarations credible, whether about your origin or about the problems you faced?

If your declarations and documents are credible, the CGRS will check whether your case comes under the Geneva Refugee Convention, in other words you have to fear persecution because of your nationality, ethnic origin, religion, political opinion or because you are a member of a particular social group. Moreover, you cannot or do not want to appeal to the protection of the country of which you possess the nationality or the country where you used to live.

If you cannot be granted refugee status, the CGRS will examine if you may receive subsidiary protection. This will be the case when you run a risk of serious harm in your country because of death penalty or execution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or indiscriminate violence because of war.

The CGRS assesses every application individually objectively and impartially, according to Belgian, European and international legal norms. When assessing your application, the CGRS takes into account your profile (age, background, level of education, gender…). If the CGRS considers that you need protection, you will obtain a protection status.

Two types of decision give right to asylum and a stay in Belgium:

  • Refugee status
  • Subsidiary protection status.

The CGRS takes a decision of refusal if you cannot be granted refugee status nor subsidiary protection status.

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