In a judgment that will undoubtedly be welcomed by many, the Belgian Supreme Court (Hof van Cassatie / Cour de Cassation) has ruled that a special identity card can constitute proof of lawful residence for the purposes of EU citizens applying for Belgian nationality by declaration (art. 12bis WBN / art. 12bis CNB).
The judgment relates to persons who had been refused Belgian citizenship on the sole basis that they held a special identity card, which according to the Belgian authorities did not prove lawful residence in Belgium. Our firm has been representing the appellants before the Belgian authorities since the initial application was lodged at municipal level – for further background see our previous post here.
The Court held that the Court of Appeal was wrong in deciding that an applicant for Belgian nationality by declaration should not be considered lawfully resident in Belgium simply because they held a special identity card, which can be used as proof of the exercise of free movement rights which flows directly from EU law.
The Court did not rule on the other grounds of appeal relating to discrimination.
While the case will now go back to a Court of Appeal for a final decision, the ruling has immediate repercussions. All those with a pending appeal should make new submissions to the lower court drawing attention to this ruling and its implications.
Anyone who has been refused in the past should ideally reapply on the basis of holding a special identity card. However, as is always the case, it is advisable to get a lawyer to advise even at the commune level to draw attention to the judgment and its effects.
In the event you are affected by a refusal of the Belgian authorities to grant you Belgian nationality on the basis that you have held a special identity card, please feel free to contact us for further assistance.