Belgium’s Brits are starting to receive a pre-Brexit Christmas present from the interior ministry, as an official document explaining their rights after the transition period ends starts to show up in people’s letterboxes.
The letter, signed by state secretary for migration Sammy Mahdi, sets out the key information on the rights of British expats in Belgium from the end of the year, and what has to be done. These include details on the new residency “M” card for “beneficiaries of the Withdrawal agreement,” and how travel will be impacted.
The M card
This new card will be required by all UK nationals and their family members and can be applied for at their local commune from 1 January 2021.
“Belgium has opted for an extended application period lasting until 31st December 2021 in order to make sure you have sufficient time to submit your application,” the letter reads. “During this period, the rights of UK nationals living in Belgium before the end of the transition period, and their family members, are protected.”
The new residence document will be valid for 5 years, after which it can be renewed, or an application can be made for permanent residency. Those who already have permanent residency will be entitled to an M card which mentions it, and is valid for 10 years before renewal.
Current residence cards (E/E+/F/F+) will continue to be valid until 31 March 2022, pending submission and decision on the M card.
Travelling outside of Belgium
From January Brits will be required to use the “ALL PASSPORTS” lane when travelling but will be provided with the same entry rights as before after presenting the proper documents. These are:
- A valid ID
- A certificate of application or a valid electronic card for beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement (M/N card)
Until 31st December 2021, former residence cards can also be used to prove a person is covered by the agreement, but after the date, only a certificate of application or a new card will be accepted.
These letters, also written in English, have been appearing in post boxes over the past days, but can also be found here.
This news comes after months of uncertainty, with many Brits turning to social media for help with understanding what is going on. One such group – Brexit and the Belgian Brits (BABBS) – will continue to be on hand to help navigate the changing residency requirements imposed by Brexit.
“We are in touch with the Belgian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the UK FCO for info and advocacy but it is up to the Belgian government to coordinate,” admin Emma Woodford told The Brussels Times.
If anyone does not receive the letter, “We advise them to get in touch with UK embassy,” she added.
Further information on Brexit and Belgium can be found here.
The Brussels Times