Belgian nationality law
Belgian citizenship is based on a mixture of the principles of jus sanguinis and jus soli. In other words, both place of birth and Belgian parentage are relevant for determining whether a person is a Belgian citizen. It is regulated by the Code of Belgian Nationality.
|Belgian Citizenship Act|
|Parliament of Belgium|
|Enacted by||Government of Belgium|
|Status: Current legislation|
In some circumstances citizenship is granted to children born in Belgium to non-Belgian parents; however, this is not the case in which the parents are temporary or short-term visitors.
Birth in Belgium
A person born in Belgium (to non-Belgian parents) is a Belgian citizen if that person:
- holds no other nationality at the time of birth (i.e., is stateless) OR;
- loses any other nationality before turning 18 OR;
- has a parent who was born in Belgium and who has lived in Belgium for at least five years during the last 10 years OR;
- is adopted (while under 18) by a parent holding another nationality who was born in Belgium and who has had their main place of residence in Belgium for five years during the 10-year period before the adoption takes effect.
- has two parents or adoptive parents born abroad who submitted a declaration before that person's twelfth birthday requesting that the person be granted Belgian nationality. Belgium must have been the parents' main place of residence during the 10 years preceding the declaration, and the person must have lived in Belgium since birth.
Effectively this means that:
- the children of long-resident immigrants can acquire Belgian citizenship
- the Grandchildren of immigrants to Belgium are normally Belgian by birth
Birth to a Belgian parent
Access to Belgian citizenship depends on one's date of birth:
Before 1 January 1967
Belgian citizenship is acquired by:
- the legitimate child of a father who is a Belgian citizen OR;
- a person born outside wedlock who was acknowledged by one's mother who is a Belgian citizen, at least until being acknowledged by one's father (if happening before majority age : 21 years old). That person is definitely Belgian after one's majority if no change occurred.
1 January 1967 to 31 December 1984
Belgian citizenship is acquired by:
- birth in Belgium to a Belgian citizen OR;
- birth outside Belgium where the person is the legitimate child of a father who is a Belgian citizen OR;
- birth outside Belgium to a mother who is a Belgian citizen and who was born in Belgium or in Belgian Congo before 30 June 1960 or in Rwanda or Burundi before 1 July 1962.
On or after 1 January 1985
Belgian citizenship is acquired by:
- birth in Belgium to a Belgian citizen OR;
- One was born abroad AND:
- 1. the Belgian parent was born in Belgium or in Belgian Congo before 30 June 1960 or in Rwanda or Burundi before 1 July 1962 OR;
- 2. the Belgian parent was born abroad and makes a declaration, within a period of five years following the child's birth, requesting that he be granted Belgian nationality. This declaration (declaration d'attribution/toekenningsverklaring) must be submitted to the Belgian embassy or consulate in the main place of residence of the Belgian parent abroad, or the registrar in the parent's municipality (if the parent lives in Belgium). Belgian nationality is obtained on the date upon which the declaration is made.
Where a person is born outside Belgium and the Belgian parent who was born abroad does not submit a "déclaration d'attribution/toekenningsverklaring" within a period of five years following the child's birth, a late declaration is allowed provided the child does not have another. If the child risks becoming stateless due to the other parent not being able to transfer their nationality, or the country of birth not granting nationality, the child will acquire Belgian nationality automatically. If the child then acquires another nationality before age 18, Belgian nationality is lost.
Naturalisation as a Belgian citizen
Before January 1 of 2013 (when modifications to the Belgium Nationality Code entered into force) after three years of legal residence in Belgium any person aged 18 or more years, could apply for a naturalisation. Since 1 of January 2013, naturalisation has only been granted as an exceptional act resulting in appreciation that the applicant possesses exceptional merits in the fields of sport, culture, or science. No residence period is formally required.
The process of "declaration of nationality" is essentially a form of naturalisation without formality.
Belgian citizenship by declaration
Unlike naturalisation (a privilege), declaration of Belgian citizenship is a right of those legal aliens who respond to certain criteria defined in Nationality Code of Belgium.
From the age of 18 a person can obtain Belgian nationality by signing a nationality declaration if that person meets one of the following criteria:
- born in Belgium and with main place of residence in Belgium, without any interruptions since birth OR;
- a declaration may be made by a foreigner who is the parent of a Belgian child OR;
- one is married to a Belgian citizen and has been living together during the past three years and provided the foreign spouse has legally resided in Belgium for five years OR;
- if one has resided in Belgium for five years provided the person is handicapped, invalid, or retired OR;
- a former Belgian citizen who lost citizenship other than by forfeiture OR;
- the person has had a main place of residence in Belgium for at least ten years and has an unlimited residence permit or authorisation to settle in Belgium BUT;
- the person has had a main place of residence in Belgium for at least five years BUT at most 10 years, and as worked for a minimum of 468 days or payments of social security contributions (minimum 6 trimesters/18 Months/2 Years)
The integration requirement applies to all the previous criteria except those who were born in Belgium and those who are handicapped, invalid, or retired. Being integrated is defined as knowing one of the three national languages and being duly 'socially integrated' and 'economically active'.
The nationality declaration can only be signed in front of the registrar in the applicant's municipality in Belgium. This declaration cannot be approved by a Belgian embassy or consulate.
Opting for Belgian nationality between 18 and 22 years of age
Effective January 1, 2013, the option procedure was abolished by the Act of 4 December 2012.
A person aged between 18 and 22 can sign a declaration indicating opting for Belgian nationality if that person meets one of the following criteria:
- born in Belgium OR;
- born abroad and one of the person's adoptive parents is a Belgian citizen at the time the declaration opting for Belgian nationality is made OR;
- born abroad and one of the person's parents or adoptive parents was a Belgian citizen when the person was born OR;
- born abroad and with a main place of residence in Belgium with the person's parents or adoptive parents for at least one year before the child turned six.
All applicants must also meet the following criteria:
- main place of residence must have been in Belgium during the 12-month period preceding the declaration; and
- main place of residence in Belgium either between the ages of 14 and 18 or for a period of at least nine years. The applicant is exempt from these latter two criteria if one the person's parents or adoptive parents was a Belgian citizen or had previously held Belgian citizenship at the time of the persons's birth.
Residence abroad can be equated with residence in Belgium if one can prove that one has genuine ties with Belgium.
Belgian citizenship by marriage
Belgian citizenship by adoption
From 1 January 1988, children adopted by Belgian citizens generally acquire Belgian citizenship on the same basis as those born to Belgian citizens. Different rules apply for adoptions completed prior to 1988.
Loss of Belgian citizenship
A person at least 18 years old who voluntarily obtained another nationality before 9 June 2007 automatically lost their Belgian nationality. A person at least 18 years old who voluntarily obtained the nationality of Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain or the United Kingdom between 9 June 2007 and 28 April 2008 automatically lost their Belgian nationality. A person who voluntarily obtains another nationality after 28 April 2008 will no longer lose their Belgian nationality, regardless of the nationality acquired. It is also possible to lose Belgian citizenship in the following circumstances
A Belgian citizen born outside Belgium on or after 1 January 1967 will lose Belgian citizenship at age 28 if:
- between the ages of 18 and 28, the person's main place of residence was not in Belgium AND;
- the person holds one or more other nationalities AND;
- the person has not made a déclaration de conservation/behoudsverklaring (declaration stating ones intention to retain Belgian nationality) between the ages of 18 and 28.
Previously, to avoid losing ones Belgian nationality a person not only had to make a déclaration de conservation/behoudsverklaring between the ages of 18 and 28, it also had to be made again every 10 years.
A Belgian citizen aged 18 and over may renounce Belgian citizenship by declaration lodged with the Belgian authorities.
A child under 18 will lose Belgian citizenship if a responsible parent loses Belgian citizenship. Exceptions include cases where:
- the child is stateless
- the other parent remains a Belgian citizen
Children aged under 18 also lose Belgian citizenship if adopted by a non-Belgian, and the child acquires another nationality upon adoption. An exception applies if one of the adoptive parents is a Belgian citizen.
A child who has acquired Belgian citizenship on the grounds of being stateless, who acquires another nationality before age 18, loses Belgian citizenship.
Deprivation of Belgian citizenship
Belgian nationality can be withdrawn (déclaration de déchéance/vervallensverklaring) if a person has acquired Belgian citizenship through one of the provisions for those with non-Belgian parents AND the person is "in serious breach" of his or her obligations as a Belgian citizen.
Resumption of Belgian citizenship
A former Belgian citizen (other than a person deprived of citizenship) may resume Belgian citizenship by declaration after a 12-month period of residence and have an unlimited stay in Belgium, which means a B, C, D, E, E+, F or F+ card is required. Residence abroad can be equated with residence in Belgium if the person can prove genuine ties with Belgium.
The conditions under which the person lost his Belgian nationality and the reasons for wishing to regain it will be taken into account.
Children aged under 18 automatically acquire Belgian citizenship if a responsible parent resumes Belgian citizenship.
Since 28 April 2008, Belgian law permits all Belgian nationals to voluntarily obtain any other nationality without losing their Belgian nationality (unless the law about the other newly acquired citizenship or nationality requires the loss).
Citizenship of the European Union
Because Belgium forms part of the European Union, Belgian citizens are also citizens of the European Union under European Union law and thus enjoy rights of free movement and have the right to vote in elections for the European Parliament. When in a non-EU country where there is no Belgian embassy, Belgian citizens have the right to get consular protection from the embassy of any other EU country present in that country. Belgian citizens can live and work in any country within the EU as a result of the right of free movement and residence granted in Article 21 of the EU Treaty.
Travel freedom of Belgian citizens
Visa requirements for Belgian citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of Belgium. In 2015, Belgian citizens had visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 170 countries and territories, ranking the Belgian passport 4th in the world according to the Visa Restrictions Index.
The Belgian nationality is ranked fourteenth in Nationality Index (QNI). This index differs from the Visa Restrictions Index, which focuses on external factors including travel freedom. The QNI considers, in addition, to travel freedom on internal factors such as peace & stability, economic strength, and human development as well.
- Naturalisations: FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
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- Belgium Today, Vol. 12, Issue 1 Archived September 29, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
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