A person may apply for Belgian citizenship or long-term residence in Belgium if he / she has lived in Belgium for five continuous years.
After this period of time of living in Belgium, EU/EEA/Swiss nationals acquire permanent residence automatically, whereas the non-EU/EEA citizens should apply for it.
A holder of a Blue Card from another EU-member state, who has lived elsewhere in the EU for a five-year period, is also eligible for long-term residence in Belgium.
This person may also apply for Belgian nationality.
Long-term residence allows staying in Belgium indefinitely under the same conditions and enjoying the same rights and benefits as Belgian nationals.
This means that this person has:
- an access to employment,
- rights for education, recognition of qualifications, grants;
- welfare benefits and social assistance;
- freedom of association.
Citizenship provides for the same privileges listed above but it also allows leaving Belgium for long periods of time without losing the status. When it comes to long-term residence, if a resident leaves for longer than two years, he loses his status.
Citizens and long-term residents have the right to take part in different types of elections.
In order to apply for long-term residence in Belgium, EU/EEA and Swiss citizens and family members should go to the local municipal offices in order to obtain the documents, either a paper document with unlimited validity or in the electronic format called the E+ card, which lasts for five years and is renewable.
Family members from non-EU/EEA or Switzerland can get an F+ card.
A non-EE/EEA citizen may obtain long-term residence status after five years of uninterrupted stay in Belgium. He must be able to provide evidence of a regular livelihood or sufficient income, as well as adequate health insurance.
To obtain the long-term residence permit, it is necessary to apply at the local municipal offices that will refer the application onto the Immigration Office.
If the application is successful then the applicant will be given the ‘long-term residence-EC’, which is available in electronic format as the ‘D card’. This permit is valid for five years and is renewable.
Now let’s focus on the acquisition of nationality.
‘Naturalisation’ is granted by the Belgian government only in exceptional circumstances. Most commonly the Belgian nationality is granted by making a ‘declaration of acquisition’.
Various circumstances can be taken into account (marriage to a Belgian, legal residence, applicant´s child is born in Belgium).
There are also some conditions that the applicant should meet. The applicant must prove that he has been living in Belgium for five years, is able to speak one of the three main languages and that he is socially and economically integrated.
If someone wants to acquire citizenship through marriage to a Belgian national, he or she must have been living with him/her for three years. The requirement of language knowledge and uninterrupted living remains the same.
If someone has taken on Belgian nationality he or she can still keep their original nationality; the Belgian authorities do not require renouncing the previous citizenship.