Brits in Belgium: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Belgian Citizenship Law

Brits in Belgium: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Belgian Citizenship Law

*updated October 2018*

According to one poll, Belgian citizenship is in the top 15 coolest citizenships to hold in the world …

But that’s not the only reason to apply…

With Brexit looming, British citizens wanting to preserve their rights to live, work and retire anywhere in the EU should strongly consider applying for Belgian citizenship.

Usually, British citizens who have been living in Belgium for five years or more are usually eligible to naturalise as Belgian citizens by the process of “declaration”.

You will want to take particular care that you provide all the necessary documents needed for your application.

Here’s what to look out for to minimise the chances of having your application turned down:

  • Make sure that you hold the correct residence card. If you’re an EU official, unfortunately your special identity card will often not be accepted. The first thing you need to do is apply for an E+card after five years of residence, so you can apply on that basis.
  • Make sure you have held a residence card for the entire past five years. If there are any gaps in your residence, you will need to submit a legal opinion explaining how your gaps in residence should not affect your application. As regards the five-year qualifying period for EU civil servants, the good news is that several Belgian courts have in recent years ruled that special ID card must be accepted; the bad news is that you are likely to have to make an appeal to court to have your special ID card accepted.
  • Make sure you meet the conditions regarding your economic participation in Belgium. This generally means you need to have worked for 468 in the past five years, or you paid social security contributions as a self-employed person for at least six terms in the past five years. If you have reached retirement age or are disabled, you may be eligible for a waiver. If you’re an EU official, that’s going to be particularly tricky to demonstrate, although there is very recent case law that states that employment in the EU civil service must be taken into account. If this is your situation, it is strongly recommended you obtain legal advice to help with your application.
  • Make sure you meet the conditions regarding your social integration in Belgium. This usually means you can show you worked here for a continuous period of five years, or you have been awarded a higher education degree by a recognised institution in Belgium, or you have undertaken a professional training course of at least 400 hours with a recognised institution in Belgium, or you have undertaken an integration course with a recognised institution in Belgium. You can also demonstrate this by having worked in Belgium for five years.
  • Make sure you can demonstrate knowledge of French, Dutch or German. Usually you can do this by obtaining a certificate of aptitude at level A2 or above or showing you obtained a higher education degree in Belgium by a recognised institution in Belgium.

If you don’t meet all the above requirements, there may still be a possibility for you to apply for citizenship after having lived in Belgium for ten years and can prove that you are engaged in social and economic activities in Belgium. You are more likely to be successful in making you case if you get a legal opinion in support of your application.

As a last resort you may apply for a discretionary grant of Belgian citizen through the parliamentary process of “naturalisation”. However, for this you are going to need legal advice to help you build a convincing case.

There are also specific rules apply for children born in Belgium.

Should you wish to discuss your individual situation further, please do not hesitate to contact us.

You can also book a face-to-face consultation with us by Skype at any time.

Are you ready for Brexit?

It has now been over 18 months since the UK voted to withdraw from the EU.

Following the end of phase 1 of the negotiations, we are starting to get some idea of what the future will hold for those who will be directly affected by Brexit.

Will you be affected by Brexit?

Whether you are a European citizen living in the UK or a British citizen living in an EU country, unfortunately there is no way around it, you are going to be affected by Brexit.

How you are going to be affected will not only depend on how long you’ve been living in the country and your present occupation, but this will also depend on factors such as where you might have studied or where you might have obtained your driving licence.

How will you be affected by Brexit?

Here is a checklist of a few things to consider doing now, so you can prepare yourself for Brexit:

-as a European citizen living in the UK or a British citizen living in an EU country, you should apply for a residence or permanent residence document now so you can prove you were living in another country before 29 March 2019;

-as a European citizen living in the UK or a British citizen living in an EU country, you should consider applying for naturalisation in the country where you now live;

-as a European citizen living in the UK or a British citizen living in an EU country, if you obtained your degree in another country, you should apply for formal recognition of your degree now and in any case before 29 March 2019;

-as a European citizen living in the UK or a British citizen living in an EU country, if you obtained a driving licence in another country, you should exchange your driving licence for a local one now and in any case before 29 March 2019;

-if you have a company established in the UK and you trade with the EU or you have a company established in an EU country and you trade with the UK, you should set up a sister company in the UK or EU before 29 March 2019;

-if you have a non-profit organisation established in the UK and you engage in activities in the EU or you have a non-profit organisation established in an EU country and you engage in activities in the UK, you should set up a sister non-profit organisation in the UK or EU before 29 March 2019.

Should you wish to discuss your individual situation further, please do not hesitate to contact us.

You can also book a face-to-face consultation with us by Skype at any time.

 

 

Welcome to the website of Valcke & Associates.

We are a law firm specialising in European law.

We provide services to individuals and companies on all aspects of European law.

Our firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and registered with the Brussels Bar (Ordre français du Barreau de Bruxelles) as well as the Palermo Bar in Italy (Consiglio dell’Ordine degli Avvocati di Palermo).