Brits third-largest group among over 30,000 new Belgian citizens in 2019
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    Brits third-largest group among over 30,000 new Belgian citizens in 2019

    More than 30,000 people obtained the Belgian nationality in both 2018 and 2019, with a growing number of British applicants knocking Italians out of the third spot by October 2019 already. © Belga

    Over 33,000 people obtained Belgian nationality in 2019, with an increasing number of Brits undertaking naturalisation procedures, featuring prominently alongside Moroccans, Romanians and Poles.

    Provisional 2019 figures released by federal statistics agency Statbel showed that a total of 3,893 naturalisation procedures had been completed in October, bringing up the count of total procedures processed until that point to 33,840.

    That month, the majority of files concerned citizens from Morocco, Romania, Italy, Poland and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Statbel said in an online statement.

    Following a two-year dip in 2014-2015, when the number of procedures dropped to 18,726 and 27,071, respectively, the figures show that the number of naturalisation procedures in Belgium continues to surpass 30,000.

    The largest number of procedures in both 2018 and 2019 came from Moroccan nationals, whose files made up 4,190 applications processed up until October of last year and 4,856 of the 36,200 processed in all of 2018.

    Citizens of other European countries make up the largest group of applicants, accounting for over 13,000 naturalisation procedures completed in both years.

    Brits replace Italians as third-largest group of applicants

    Romanians and Poles have topped the list of applications from other European countries in 2018 and 2019, followed by Bulgarians and Italians as well as a significant number of people from France, Spain and the Netherlands.

    But the figures, which date back to the year 2000, also show a surge in the number of applications submitted by citizens of the United Kingdom.

    The number of applications from British citizens has risen consistently since applications first spiked up from 127 to 506 between 2015 and 2016, following the country’s EU membership referendum.

    Applications from British citizens have remained above the 1,000-mark since they broke past it in 2017, and, by October 2019, had already replaced Italians as the third biggest group of applicants, with 1,403 UK applications already processed.

    Estonians, Austrian and Cypriots are among those to submit the lowest number of requests for Belgian nationality, with only 12, 9 and 3 applications from nationals of those countries processed in 2018.

    The number of applications submitted by Maltese citizens rounded up the bottom of the 2018 list, after not a single citizen from the small island nation became Belgian that year, down from 4 in 2017.

    The statistics further showed that an overwhelming majority of applicants, from all regions, who completed a naturalisation procedure by October 2019 settled in Flanders (18,259), with the second-largest group opting for the Brussels-Capital Region (8,349), with a somewhat smaller group choosing Wallonia (7,235).

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times