British residents in Belgium are calling on the Belgian government to adapt current legal statutes to ensure they will be eligible to apply for citizenship with the new residency “M card” issued as a result of Brexit.
In an open letter sent to Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne, the Brexit and the Belgian Brits Group (BaBBS) drew attention to what they believe to be an “administrative oversight” that has left the “M card” absent from the list of residence documents that qualify for the acquisition of Belgian nationality.
Under the Withdrawal Agreement, all Brits living in Belgium before 31 December 2020 are entitled to apply for an “M card” as proof of their status in Belgium, with many reporting they have already launched the application.
“Despite legislation having been adopted to include M cards among the residence documents accepted as proving the right to work in Belgium, the Royal Decree has not been adapted to include M cards among the residence documents accepted as proving lawful residence for the purposes of acquiring Belgian nationality by declaration,” the letter reads.
The signatories – who represent Brits living in Belgium – explain that while they believe the omission was caused “by accidental oversight rather than a wilful intention,” it does not negate the fact that it could result in those looking to become Belgian being denied the opportunity to do so.
“This is in sharp contrast to the situation of EU citizens and their family members who can apply on the basis of E, E+, F or F+ cards or special identity cards,” the letter adds.
As such, they are seeking a resolution to negate “the potential for discrimination against beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement purely because of the residence document which they hold.”
In response to the letter, the Federal Public Service Justice confirmed to The Brussels Times that new residence statuses have been created for the beneficiaries of the agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU.
“With a view to amending the Royal Decree of 14 January 2013, we are currently examining how proof of legal residence must be presented in the context of acquiring Belgian nationality,” a spokesperson for the ministry said.
“We very much hope that Minister van Quickenbourne will remedy this situation and give British citizens who came to integrate into Belgium under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the right to do so to their fullest capacity,” Emma Woodford, a member BaBBS, told the Brussels Times.
Jules Johnston & Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times