How to become a real Belgian ?

Stricter legal conditions for obtaining Belgian citizenship.

The 28 June 1984 Code on the Belgian nationality (“the Nationality Code”) determines how Belgian citizenship can be obtained. A stricter version has been adopted and published in the Belgian Official Gazette on 14 December 2012. Major changes will enter into force as from the first of January 2013:

• The possibility to obtain Belgian nationality on the basis of a nationality declaration will be possible in 5 well-defined cases. An applicant can be awarded with Belgian citizenship when proving a legal stay of 5 years in Belgium. In addition, the applicant must provide particular proof of economic participation and social integration.

Social integration can be proven trough:
o a diploma ( a degree of at least a complete secondary education);
o a professional education of at least 400 hours recognised by the Belgian Government;
o Completion of an integration course organised by the local government;
o Evidence proving to have worked in Belgium for at least 5 years immediately prior to submitting the application.

Economic Participation can be proven through:
o Proof of minimum 468 working days in the past 5 years;
o Proof of payment of at least 6 quarterly social security contributions in the past 5 years as a self-employed person in main occupation;

Nowadays, a nationality declaration is possible when legally residing in the country for a period of 7 years, without any further proof of integration or participation is needed.

• The Declaration of choice of nationality is abolished by the new Nationality Code. A foreigner who marries a Belgian national will however still be able to obtain the Belgian nationality if he/she proves a legal stay in Belgium for at least 5 years, of which the spouses have been living together in Belgium for a period of at least 3 years. In addition, the applicant must provide particular proof of his/her social integration.

• Obtaining Belgian citizenship through Naturalisation becomes less easy and can only be taken into consideration when the applicant proves and serves extraordinary merits for Belgium in the field of science, sports or arts and has thereby contributed to Belgium’s international appearance. Furthermore, the applicant must prove that it is not possible to obtain Belgian nationality through a nationality declaration. The condition of a prior legal stay in Belgium for at least 3 years is abolished.

• Furthermore, The new Nationality Act introduces following general novelties:

o An application will no longer be free of charge; the cost will amount to 150 EUR
o A language requirement of either Dutch, French or German is applicable for all types of applications and for each adult applicant;
o The new legislation abolishes the possibility of assimilating a stay abroad to a stay in Belgium. Therefore, it will not be possible anymore to file the application at Belgian embassies or consulates abroad;
o A legal stay in Belgium implies that the applicant must have a residence permit for indefinite term at the time of the filing of the request.

For more information or legal support, please feel free to contact the undersigned.

Caroline De Scheemaecker and Vincent Smits

Sirius Legal