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Citizenship delays despite ‘quicker’ process

Published on August 10, 2006

10 August 2006

BRUSSELS — An application for Belgian citizenship currently takes 18 months to be processed compared with six to nine months prior to the passing of the accelerated Belgian nationality law.

The citizenship legislation, introduced in March 2000, was designed to simplify and accelerate naturalisation requests. But six years later, neither goal appears to have been attained, newspaper ‘De Morgen’ reported on Thursday.

In the last parliamentary year, some 12,503 requests for citizenship were processed. Almost 6,100 of these were approved, amounting to 48.7 percent.

In the calendar year of 2005, the parliament’s naturalisation commission approved 6,801 citizenship requests or 46.4 percent of the 14,662 requests.

“In 1998, the percentage of granting [citizenship] was 80 percent, but now it is fallen to less than 50 percent. The chance of a positive answer has therefore strongly declined,” Eddy Maes from the lobby group Objectief said.

The increased number of requests can partly explain the percentage, but Objectief also
said stricter regulations used by the naturalisation commission were the main reason.

Suspicions of a fake marriage are the primary reason for naturalisation requests to be denied.

“Every applicant who gains a right of residence in Belgium based on a marriage that does not last more than two years is given an automatic refusal from the commission without any evidence that it was really a fake marriage,” Objectief spokesman Eddy Maes said.

Left-wing Spirit MP Stijn Bex said the two-year minimum period was imposed to ensure that every commission member maintains the same assessment criteria.

The second change since the new law was introduced is that it takes 18 months before a naturalisation request is processed. Maes said it took on average six to nine months prior to the new regulations.

“Thereafter it was 12 months. Since last year, the [Belgian Parliament’s] naturalisation service has been warning applicants that they will have to wait at least 18 months. Often it extends out to two years,” Maes said.

But the naturalisation commission is not at fault. Instead, the institutes that have to issue a recommendation on a request for citizenship — such as the public prosecution office — are said to be delaying the process. 

“We wait for all advice, even if is not available within the legal period. But once every bit of advice is in, the commission works exceptionally swift,” MP Bex said.

Maes was not prepared to criticise the commission either, stressing it has increased the number of its meetings and has worked intensively. “But essentially, the deadlines must be respected,” he said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news