Applying for Belgian citizenship or permanent residency

Applying for Belgian citizenship or permanent residency

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Find out when you can apply for Belgian citizenship or long-term residence in Belgium, and the conditions and processes for applying.

Once you have resided in Belgium for five years and if you plan to live in Belgium long term, you may be eligible to apply for either Belgian citizenship or permanent residency. Different conditions apply to qualify for either permanent residency or Belgian citizenship, although both types of permits offer similar benefits. Find out whether you are eligible to get Belgian citizenship or Belgian permanent residency.

This guide answers some important questions:


Brexit: is now the time to apply for Belgian citizenship?

As Belgium allows dual citizenship, British citizens who qualify might consider applying for Belgian citizenship to maintain access to living in the Eureopean Union (EU). However, no changes will be made to the freedom of movement of British citizens to Belgium until the UK's exit is negiotiated, estimated to take a minimum of two years after the UK evokes 'Article 50' to begins the proceedings.

Who can get Belgian citizenship or permanent residence?

After five years of uninterrupted living in Belgium, citizens from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland acquire permanent residence automatically. Non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens are also eligible after five years but must submit an application with their local municipality for permanent residence. If you hold a Blue Card from another EU-member state, and have lived elsewhere in the EU, this can count towards your five-year period.

An 'uninterrupted' period is defined as that you have resided legally and continuously in Belgium during the five years preceding your application, without having left the Belgian territory for a continuous period of more than six months. In addition, you cannot have been absent from Belgium more than one year in total, meanng the combination of all your trips abroad cannot exceed one year in the five-year period.

After five to 10 years, both EU and non-EU residents in Belgium can apply for Belgian nationality, although a strict set of conditions must be met.

Permanent residence or Belgian citizenship?

In general, permanent residence (residency card types B, C, D E+ and F+ explained below) allows you to stay in Belgium indefinitely, working or otherwise, under similar conditions and enjoying similar rights and benefits as Belgian nationals.

These include:

  • open access to employment, conditions of employment and working conditions;
  • right to education, recognition of qualifications, grants;
  • welfare benefits;
  • social assistance;
  • freedom of association and union membership.


Citizenship gives you all the above but you can also leave Belgium for periods of time without losing your status, while with permanent residence, if you leave for longer than one/two years, you lose your status. Plus, Belgian citizenship can help you get the sense of belonging to a nation and a community.

Both citizens and permanent residents have the right to vote in different types of elections, as well as those who swear allegiance to the Belgian constitution.

In recent years, however, the citizenship requirements have become stricter with increasing integration and language conditions, therefore fewer people are actually managing to become Belgian citizens.

Belgian citizenship and permanent residency

Which types of Belgian permanent residency exist?

If you have resided in Belgium for an uninterrupted period of five years, you will typically qualify for Belgian permanent residency. There are several types of permanent residency under Belgian immigration legislation, depending on your situation and nationality.

Only EU/EEA/Swiss nationals and family members can obtain the E+ and F+ cards. The B, C and D cards only apply to third country (non-EU) nationals.

Find out which type of permanent residency applies to you:

The right to unlimited stay: Electronic residence card type B
Any third-country national (non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens) who has resided legally and continuously in Belgium for five years on the basis of employment is entitled to an electronic residence card type B. Holders of this residence card type are registered in the foreigner’s registry.

Family members of Belgian and EU nationals are also eligible for this type of permanent residence after five years of legal and continuous residency in Belgium, which also entitles them to unlimited stay in Belgium.

The B permit allows you to be absent from the Belgian territory for a period of one continuous year. As long as you do not exceed the one-year period outside of Belgium, you are entitled to return to Belgium and you keep your residency right.

The right to establishment: Electronic residence card type C
Once you have secured a residence card type B, you can subsequently apply for the right to establishment. Individuals who hold a residence card type C are registered in the civil registry rather than the foreigner’s registry.

The difference between the B and C permits is that after you are registered in the civil registry as a C-permit holder, you are entitled to certain types of social welfare assistance that do not apply to others.

EU long-term residency status: Electronic residence card type D
If you resided legally and continuously in Belgium for five years, you can apply for the EU long-term residency status. To qualify, you must have a monthly minimum income of EUR 793 (plus EUR 264 per dependent), you must be covered by health insurance and you cannot be a risk to public security. Holders of the residence card type D are registered in the civil registry.

Holders of the D permit are allowed to leave the Belgian territory for a maximum period of six continuous years if they remain in the EU during that period. In addition, the D permit-holder is allowed to leave the EU for 12 consecutive months without losing their residency right.

If you hold a Belgian Blue card, you will also be eligible for long-term residence after five years of uninterrupted stay in Belgium and be able to obtain the D card as above. However, if you have lived in other EU member states on the basis of a Blue Card, these years can also be taken into account for the calculation of the five-year period, as long as you spent the two years preceding the application in Belgium.

The main difference between the D permit and the B and C permits is that the D-card is recognised in other EU members states. Being classed as an 'EU long-term resident'  allows you to initiate a residency procedure in another EU member state without needing to obtain a visa first.

Right to durable stay for EU nationals: Electronic residency card type E+
After five years of uninterrupted living in Belgium, EU/EEA/Swiss nationals acquire this type of permanent residency automatically. Holders of the residence card type E+ are registered in the civil registry.

Right to durable stay for family members of EU nationals: Electronic residency card type F+
After five years’ uninterrupted living in Belgium, family members of EU nationals acquire this type of permanent residency automatically. Holders of the residence card type F+ are registered in the civil registry.

Please note that these types of permanent residency are also available to other categories of foreign nationals than those listed here. This list is limited to the most common types.

How to apply for permanent residency in Belgium

EU/EEA and Swiss citizens and family members
EU/EEA and Swiss citizens acquire permanent residence automatically after five years of uninterrupted stay in Belgium. However, if you want to obtain the electronic version of your residence card (E+ card), then you have to go to your local municipal office (find your local commune in Belgium); the card is valid for five years and is renewable. Family members from non-EU/EEA or Switzerland can get an F+ card, also valid for five years and renewable.

Non EU/EEA/Swiss citizens
If you’re a non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen, you must always file a specific application for permanent residency at your local municipal office (find your local commune in Belgium). Your application will be sent to the Federal Immigration Office for review. If your application is successful then you’ll be given the relevant residence card. These permits are valid for five years and are renewable.

Applying for Belgian citizenship

The standard procedure for acquiring Belgian nationality is via a ‘nationality declaration’, although a number of options exist. The declaration is based on one of the grounds prescribed in the legislation, such as marriage to a Belgian national, legal residence, or parent of a child born in Belgium. Each of these grounds is linked to a strict set of eligibility criteria.

These conditions include, among others, legal residence of between five and 10 years in Belgium. For example, to acquire citizenship through residence you must have been living in Belgium for five years, be able to prove that you speak one of the three main languages and that you are socially and economically integrated – such as by taking an integration course or having worked in Belgium for the past five years. Even if you want to acquire citizenship through marriage to a Belgian national, you must have been living together for three years, still fulfil the five-year residence requirement and also have knowledge of one of the three main languages.

To start the process, you should file your application at the Belgian town hall of your place of residence; your Belgian municipality will inform you on what documents you need for your individual situation. After submission, it takes in principle four months to obtain a decision on your file, although some foreigners have reported longer waiting times. See here for a list of addresses and contact details.

When preparing your paperwork, documents should be originals or certified copies, and less than six months old. They also need to be translated into the language of the municipality where you apply (either Dutch, French or German), using a sworn translator.

Dual nationality

If you receive Belgian nationality, you can typically keep your original nationality; the Belgian authorities do not require you to renounce your citizenship from your home country. However, your country of origin may do, so you will need to check.

More information

For detailed information on acquisition of nationality, see Belgian non-profit Objectif (in French or Dutch so use a web translator if necessary), which has up-to-date information on procedures and documentation. The Belgian Ministry of Foreign affairs also provides some details on naturalisation. You can contact Expatica's Ask the Expert free service, Objectif or the Belgian Foreign Ministry to ask questions. For information on Belgium's electronic identity cards, see eID.

 

Expatica / Updated by immigration lawyer Evelyne Van der Elst, Fragomen Worldwide

The information given here is for general guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country.

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Updated 2016.

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32 Comments To This Article

  • Florence posted:

    on 13th September 2016, 18:13:35 - Reply

    Hi everyone, I have few questions, I have a Dutch Nationality and my husband has just a student residence permit and we have together a 4months old baby.
    I have tried to get the MVV for my husband because we want to live together he has just finished his 2rd master degree here in the Nederland, but we really want to move to Belgium in order for him to get his residence permit, but we really do not know how to go about it. We have spoken to an immigration lawyer and he advised us to move to Belgium ,because he thinks it would be easier for us since the IND here is asking me to have a 12months work contract with the salary of 1600 per month.
    Can anyone help us with any information on how and what we need to do. One more thing , He has one year permit here in the Nederland to look for a job.

    THANKS IN ADVANCE!!

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Lincoln posted:

    on 15th July 2016, 11:00:43 - Reply

    I have just visited my Town Hall in Roeselare in Belgium to apply for Belgian nationality and I may be rejected as my Nederlandstaling is poor, but I am an expat from the UK and I wish to rermain in Belgium what should I do in this situation. I hold a E card. are you able to helpme?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • bob posted:

    on 15th June 2016, 19:53:19 - Reply

    Hi, Halid with F card problem i want to hear how it goes after you have address,did you get back your card??
  • nia posted:

    on 29th May 2016, 23:55:33 - Reply

    Hello,

    I have a special ID (because i'm Irish) but I live here since i'm born, I would like to get a belgian id, would anyone know how long it takes ?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • crimson posted:

    on 30th May 2016, 14:28:35 - Reply

    Hi Tanha, my case is very much like yours. What did you do? Did you find any solution? Thanks in advance for your reply.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • JA posted:

    on 19th May 2016, 10:33:57 - Reply

    If you apply for a type D card, then your student years count but only half as much. See the European directive on this.
  • khalidi posted:

    on 24th April 2016, 01:13:58 - Reply

    hi,i need help if someone can help me i was have f card and police took it bcuz i dont have address but now day i have addres it try to ask stadhuis but stadhuis i should wait for brussel did anyone know what should i do please

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Filip posted:

    on 8th April 2016, 03:27:35 - Reply

    " In addition, you cannot have been absent from Belgium more than one year in total, meaning the combination of all your trips abroad cannot exceed one year in the five-year period."

    Does "abroad" mean specifically "outside the EU or Schengen Area? As you know, my passport won't be stamped when I enter other EU countries. Can the authorities only check the days I spent outside the Schengen?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Tanha posted:

    on 27th December 2015, 00:47:54 - Reply

    Hi,

    I was born in Belgium in 1982 to Asian parents. My father worked at the embassy and was transferred back to country when I was 9 months old. I haven't been to Belgium since, apart from a day trip while back-packing through Europe. Currently I am doing a Masters program in the UK.

    What should be my course of action - move & stay in Belgium for 5 years than apply for residence visa or apply for citizenship? If I am to stay for 5 years, what type of visa should I apply for?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • ensi posted:

    on 21st December 2015, 18:09:29 - Reply

    Hello,

    I am working with B card at the moment in the Belgium. I am about to declare my taxes as for 'non resident' expat. Does anyone know if this will have some influence for getting long term residence card after 5 years.

    Thank you

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Ali posted:

    on 8th December 2015, 10:49:53 - Reply

    Hi Raf,
    Time period (you lived in as a student) would not count for long term residence. you have to work (as tax payed job) for consecutive 5 years!
  • Raf posted:

    on 19th November 2015, 19:09:53 - Reply

    Hi, Having stayed for 5 years as a student is eligible to apply for long term residence visa in Belgium? Anyone? cheers

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on Ask the Expert service]

  • Meenakshi posted:

    on 5th November 2015, 13:21:07 - Reply

    If you hold a Blue Card from another EU-member state, and have lived elsewhere in the EU for a five-year period, this will also make you eligible for long-term residence in Belgium. You can also apply for Belgian nationality.


    - Is this true? If I have bluecard from Netherlands and lived in NL for 5 years, Can I get longterm residence in belgium?

  • Confused posted:

    on 20th September 2015, 18:35:30 - Reply

    How can a Dutch (or German) citizen obtain Belgian nationality? I feel the only requirement is to move to Belgium and live there for 5 years.

    Is this correct? Or are there other requirements?

    [Moderator's note: Please post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • Papalla posted:

    on 17th June 2015, 19:26:57 - Reply

    If you hold a Belgian Blue card, you will also be eligible for long-term residence after five years of uninterrupted stay in Belgium and be able to obtain the D card as above. However, if you hold a Blue Card from another EU member state and have lived in that state for five years, you can get long-term residence status in Belgium immediately Is this one still working? I have an F card and then move to Norway i also got the five year card so can i apply for Long term residence?

    [Moderator's note: Please post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • MoeZaraket posted:

    on 30th March 2015, 17:51:40 - Reply

    Hi,

    Ive just completed 2 years in belgium having a work B permit ( well just got my 3rd year resident ID). I am wondering whether it will be possible to move to the blue card yet have the period applied retrospectively.. So basically not to loose my last two years yet be given the opportunity to move to other EU countries without the need to start counting to a new residency from Zero. PS: since I move to the country Ive been complying with all the EU card related requirments but I wasnt aware that such card exist.

    Thanks
    Moe
  • iqbal posted:

    on 21st March 2015, 06:17:27 - Reply

    hi
    i have permanent residence permit of spain can u tell can i change it to belgium if i have a job offer there more then one year where i can get the info.
    take care

    [Moderator's note: Please post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • Brigette posted:

    on 7th March 2015, 07:51:59 - Reply

    Hi! I a married to a Belgian for almost 3 yrs. I am wondering if i could apply for a belgian citizenship when we are living in Norway and has been married here.

    [Moderator's note: Please post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • GV posted:

    on 25th December 2014, 01:40:01 - Reply

    Hi. Can someone please advise if really the communes are asking for A2 level language certificate or would integration course certificate be good enough? Integration course certificate is A1 level.. I have even heard that although it states in the new rule but this is not asked if you are living for a long time like 7-8 years in Belgium.. Please advise.. Thank you

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • cecilia posted:

    on 8th November 2014, 18:40:54 - Reply

    For Mr Ron,
    I think it's beat that you.go.to your municipal or city office where you live and ask info about how to obtain Belgian nationality, they gonna give you exact info and lust of what do you need to do and what kind of documents you need to provide, i hope this helps, i also been to the city hall where i live and.asks info about how to acquire Belgian citizenship.

  • Ron posted:

    on 7th October 2014, 11:04:45 - Reply

    Hi There,
    I'm living in Belgium for almost 7 years, I relocated to Belgium as an expert, for the moment I established my own company here in Belgium.
    I'm thinking to apply for Belgian citizenship. is there any company/ group that can assist me to go through this process?
    Btw, I'm living in a Flemish commune.

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

    Many thanks in advance for your reply.

  • Hak posted:

    on 30th August 2014, 10:35:43 - Reply

    What about if i'm married a Belgian? Is there an advantages ?
    Thanks

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • BB WILSON posted:

    on 27th August 2014, 12:51:59 - Reply

    I would like to apply for refugee resisdence in belgium, can you PLEASE help.

    regards
    Bridget

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Yahye posted:

    on 16th May 2014, 21:52:16 - Reply

    hello am a refugee in belgium I have 3 years of residence
    But they gave me one year ago of refugee goes documento
    I can apply citizenship?

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Khalid posted:

    on 16th March 2014, 00:54:40 - Reply

    I have been living here as a refugee for two years when I was given political asylum when can I apply for Belgium nationality?

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • n.jane posted:

    on 10th March 2014, 11:54:50 - Reply

    Nothing is as easy as it seems! I've lived here for almost 10 years and work as a Government employee and my file is still not ready for submission.
  • shon posted:

    on 9th February 2014, 16:40:19 - Reply

    Is the information above still the same and relevant? I heard the law and procedure has changed and only 13 people got Belgian nationality in 2013
  • Hobart Michaels posted:

    on 26th March 2013, 10:07:56 - Reply

    It's true there is no longer an option to apply after three years, however the process after 5 years is more like it use to be at 7 years almost automatic. I also think now you can speak one of the 3 languages but it doesn't have to be the one of the region you live in. Double check this.
  • Creativo posted:

    on 11th March 2013, 14:05:50 - Reply

    This information is no longer valid! The law has changed on 1 January 2013 for all application/cases after that date.
  • Leoewhi posted:

    on 19th November 2012, 19:24:27 - Reply

    As I understand it, this will change as of January 1st, requiring one to be in the country for longer, take a language test in one of the official languages and some financial obligations requirements.
  • Nat posted:

    on 7th November 2012, 15:37:13 - Reply

    Yes , everything is the same yet!
    Only rools for ID are changed scince some years!
  • Elena posted:

    on 7th November 2012, 14:06:32 - Reply

    Is this still available? They announced a month ago that they changed the rules....as far as I know