1. Country Overview
Immigration has been at the center of the political stage in Belgium.
In December, the Prime Minister resigned after government collapses in a dispute over the signing of the UN migration pact. The right-wing Flemish party (N-VA) left the government after the PM refused its demand to drop his support for the migration pact, and secured parliamentary approval to go ahead and sign the pact on 10 December.
A political scandal arose when it was revealed that 1,502 Syrians had been granted humanitarian visas for cash through intermediaries.
2. Legislative Changes
A number of EU directives have not yet been transposed into Belgian law (ICT Directive 2014/66; Seasonal Workers Directive 2014/36) or have only been partially transposed (“Students and Researchers” Directive 2016/801).
On 19 July 2018, the EU Commission referred Belgium to the European Court of Justice for failing to fully implement the Seasonal Workers Directive and addressed a formal notice for failing to implement the Students and Researchers Directive.
3. Immigration for Professional Reasons
On 24 December 2018, the Single Permit Directive was finally transposed into Belgian law with the entry into force of a Cooperation Agreement between the regional and federal governments. As a result, A and C work permits have been abolished. The regional employment authority is responsible for first deciding on whether to grant authorization to work. It then forwards the file to the Aliens Office for a decision on the residence aspect. The applicant is then informed of the final decision.
Highly Skilled Immigration (Blue Card etc.) :
On 1 January 2019, a new decree came into force that applies only in Flanders. We note the following changes with regard to highly skilled workers :
- Extension of the duration of work permits from 1 year to 3 for highly qualified and special profiles;
- Highly qualified personnel under 30 years of age will benefit from a reduced minimum salary (33,494.40 euros in 2019).
A Grand Chamber hearing was held on 24 April 2019 at the ECtHR on an important pending Belgian case concerning a request for a short stay visa by a Syrian family seeking asylum in Belgium (M.N. and Others v. Belgium, no. 3599/18).
On 20 December 2019, the Belgian Council of State suspended a decision from the Secretary of State instituting a quota allowing no more than 50 people per day to apply for asylum.
On 4 April 2019, the Belgian Council of State ruled to suspend Article 13 of a Royal Decree from 22 July 2018 that allowed children to be detained while awaiting deportation. The Royal Decree allowed the government to open family units in closed detention centers, despite strong opposition from civil society and a previous ECtHR ruling sanctioning Belgium for that very practice.
According to Belgian law, a person who was Belgian and lost its citizenship may recover it under certain conditions on the basis of Article 24 of the Nationality Code. On 10 August 2018, the Brussels Court of Appeal held that a person born in the Belgian Congo of native parents between 1908 and 1960 possessed Belgian nationality until the independence of Congo, and therefore is entitled to lodge an application to recover Belgian nationality.
In the wake of Brexit, many UK nationals working for EU institutions under a special stay are applying for Belgian citizenship. There is still significant litigation pending before the courts to decide whether or not they fulfill the conditions of legal stay and work to acquire Belgian nationality. Belgian Courts are currently divided on this matter.
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