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.