There are new conditions for eligibility for two types of citizenship and a renewed focus on compliance issues.
The Nationality Act changed drastically effective January 1, 2013. It has become more difficult to obtain Belgian citizenship on the basis of residence, and requests for Belgian citizenship can no longer be filed from abroad. These changes do not apply, in general, to foreigners to whom Belgian citizenship can be attributed, for example, on the basis of their parents' nationality or birth in Belgium. The "old" rules with regard to eligibility and processing continue to apply to applications filed before January 1, 2013.
The following summarizes the new conditions for eligibility for two procedures for obtaining Belgian citizenship:
- The applicant must have an authorized stay in Belgium at the time of the filing of the application. This means that the applicant must be entitled to a residence permit valid for indefinite term or to permanent residence;
- The applicant must be at least 18 years old at the time of the application;
- The applicant must have had, or can offer, exceptional merits for Belgium on scientific, sport, or socio-cultural levels and can thus contribute to the international prestige of Belgium. The merits are now well-defined in the Nationality Act. For example, an athlete can be eligible if he or she meets the international or Belgian selection criteria for a European championship, a world championship or the Olympics, or if he or she is deemed, in the opinion of the relevant sports federation, to provide potential added value for Belgium for qualifiers or the final tournament of a European championship, a world championship or the Olympics;
- The applicant must explain and justify why he or she cannot obtain Belgian citizenship through a declaration of nationality.
Declaration of Nationality
This is possible at the earliest after five years of legal stay in Belgium, combined with the knowledge of one of the three national languages of Belgium, and proof of social integration and economic participation. The Nationality Act includes specific criteria for this social integration and economic participation.
Under the new Nationality Act, the Belgian court can declare citizenship lapsed/revoked in the event of certain criminal convictions or if citizenship was obtained through a marriage that has been annulled as a fake marriage. Contrary to the other new rules, these new rules on loss/lapse/revocation of citizenship are immediately applicable on pending applications as of December 24, 2012.