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Welcome to Belgium: Chatbot-based guide alleviates the headaches of immigration

09:10 22/09/2020

Immigration procedures for Belgium are about as complex as the country itself. With its free chatbot-based guide Immi, the company Relocation Belgium helps applicants on their way, operating across Brussels, Flanders and the periphery of the capital.

Starting an immigration procedure for Belgium, especially when the applicant is non-European, is like disappearing into a black hole. Paperwork is complicated, procedures are slow and they frequently lack transparency.

And then there’s the labyrinth nature of the country itself. For instance, a single permit application needs to be approved twice: first the region (Brussels, Flanders or Wallonia) where the applicant will work, then the federal state of Belgium.

“You’re not even taking into account the many exceptions you have to deal with, and the procedural differences between the three regions”, says Deborah Loones, CEO of Ghent-based immigration and relocation service provider Relocation Belgium.

“The procedures behind these combined permits are a headache to navigate, even for experienced HR professionals who predominantly deal with them on behalf of a foreign employee who wants to relocate. The rules and administration are so complex they scare people off hiring internationally, ” she adds.

Immi, the immigration chatbot

That’s why her company developed Immi, a digital immigration consultant who guides applicants through the first steps of the procedure. It’s a free chatbot-based service, accessible from both a laptop and a smartphone. The tool is designed to help applicants navigate their way through all the paperwork via a natural conversation, whether it be for a single permit, work permit or EU blue card.

The service provides quick, hassle-free answers, delivered in a user-friendly way. Thanks to this approach, only the documents, visas and permits relevant to the applicant’s situation are dealt with. 

Says Loones: “I wanted to create a tool which takes the barrier away from recruiting internationally.  We lose potential because we are afraid of the paperwork that is involved. In our competitive world, this is unacceptable. You’re guided through the scenario that applies to you by means of simple questions and answers. That element alone eliminates much of the hassle. Of course, you won’t be able to complete the entire procedure on Immi; at a certain point, you’ll need tailored assistance in completing the procedures. But it pushes you in the right direction, and might even point you to potential obstacles along the way.”

Free tool

Loones founded Relocation Belgium in 2006, after her own six-year stint as an expat in the US. The company wields a personal approach to the procedure: all Relocation Belgium professionals have international experience, so they know the hassle of moving to Belgium through their personal experience. Four of them work at the office in Ghent, seven more visit expats in the field to help them manage the procedure. Loones consciously chose to work with a small, close-knit team for a more direct approach. That way, the Immi bot and Relocation Belgium’s personal services complement each other; the former removes hesitations in taking the first step, the latter offers a service catered to the personal needs of the expatriate.

“But I want to remind people that Immi isn’t strictly tied to our services”, she says. “It’s a free tool, available for anyone to try. If a user wants to proceed with an application, and thinks he needs our personal assistance, we’ll first send an offer, and will only proceed with our service after acceptance.”

Relocation Belgium

Chatbot Immi