What is the change? The Belgian government has published a new law that requires non-EU nationals who stay in Belgium for more than three months to sign a “newcomers statement” and undergo an audit to prove their integration into Belgian society.

What does the change mean? The law also gives the Foreigners’ Office authority to terminate the right to reside if it finds that a foreigner has not made “reasonable efforts” to integrate.

  • Implementation time frame: Implementation is ongoing for the integration requirement – it took effect for all first-time residence applications filed Jan. 26 and later. The signing of the newcomer statement has not yet taken effect – the text of the newcomer statement has not yet been released.
  • Visas/permits affected: Residence permits.
  • Who is affected: Non-EEA nationals and family members taking residence in Belgium (longer than three months).
  • Business impact: While foreign employees will likely fulfill the integration requirements by virtue of their work in Belgium, their family members may have more difficulty depending on their ties to the community and other factors.
  • Next steps: Forthcoming guidance is expected to clarify how the law will be implemented.

Background: Non-EU migrants applying for residence will be required to sign a newcomers statement as part of their application indicating that they understand the fundamental values and standards of society and that they will act in accordance with those values. They will also be informed that they must submit proof in the future of their integration into Belgian society.

Several categories of foreigners are exempt, including EU/EEA nationals and their family members, students, long-term residents, minors, refugees, victims of trafficking, and foreigners who are seriously ill.

Applicants who refuse to sign the newcomers statement will not be able to submit their residence application, and a foreigner’s right to reside may be revoked for failing to make a “reasonable effort” to integrate. Foreigners who hold a limited-term residence based on the duration of their work permit must prove their willingness to integrate within the initial term of their residence permit or risk denial of renewal of their permit.

Authorities will have discretion to assess foreigners’ integration efforts, taking into account factors such as attendance at an integration course, work in Belgium, study or enrollment in a recognized educational establishment, vocational training, language skills in the language of the place where the foreigner is registered, participation in community life and criminal record. To terminate the right to reside, authorities must consider the nature and strength of the foreigner’s family ties, duration of residence in Belgium and the existence of ties to the country of origin.

BAL Analysis: The Belgian integration requirements for non-European migrants follow similar rules by other EU countries including Italy and France. Foreign employees in Belgium should be aware of the newcomers statement and integration audits as they apply to themselves and their family members.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Belgium. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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