Our firm has started to receive several reports from different sources of British citizens who have been refused an M card despite having arrived in Belgium before 31 December 2020.
An M card is the residence card issued to British citizens and their family members to prove they are beneficiaries of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
So what should you do if your application has been refused?
The first thing to do is not to panic. You are not going to be arrested by the police and deported on a flight back to the UK. You still have a bit of time to re-apply and fix your residence status before the end of the year.
However, you should not be complacent. The worst course of action would be to ignore the decision to refuse your application for an M card. You must instead take action straight away. This is because from 1st January 2022, it will effectively become compulsory for all British citizens to hold the M card in Belgium. Those without an M card after that date are at risk of being found irregularly present in Belgium and liable to removal from Belgium.
A second immediate issue to consider is whether to appeal. There may be several reasons to do so, including the fact that lodging an appeal effectively prevents the Belgian authorities from being able to take any enforcement against you. This becomes particularly important as we approach the end of the application period for M cards on 31 December 2021.
In order to appeal, you will need to lodge proceedings before the Council for Alien Law Litigation within 30 days (30 days – not one month) of having been notified of the decision to refuse to issue you an M card. It is really important to get legal advice as the procedure is highly formalistic and litigants-in-person can easily be caught out by the procedure. Once the 30-day deadline has passed it is no longer possible to appeal.
In most cases your best course of action will be to submit a fresh application. Therefore a final matter to consider is what to do when you re-apply for an M card. It will be important to ensure that new documentation is provided in any new application to prevent a second refusal. For example, it may be that the decision identified a problem with proving your presence in Belgium before 31 December 2021 and therefore any new application would need to provide documentary evidence to address this lack of evidence.
In conclusion, if you are refused an M card, do not worry, you should in most cases be able to resolve the situation. However, in order to minimise the chances of receiving another refusal, you should ideally get legal assistance.
In the event you are affected by a refusal of the Belgian authorities to issue you with an M card, please feel free to contact us for further assistance.