Last year saw a new increase in the number of marriages that were refused because of suspicion that the marriage was arranged simply to obtain residence for one or other of the partners – a so-called marriage of convenience.
In the first nine months of 2019, 186 marriages were refused in the whole of Belgium on suspicion of being marriages of convenience, according to figures released by federal justice minister Koen Geens.
Taken on a year basis, that means a slight increase compared to 2018’s total for 12 months of 237 refusals – 20.6 per month compared to 19.75.
The refusals in 2019 were spread among the three regions: 56 in Brussels, 96 in Flanders and 34 in Wallonia.
“The number of refusals is highest in Flanders, but proportional to the number of cases of marriage where a residence permit is concerned, it was the civil authorities in Wallonia who most often refused a marriage licence,” Geens said.
A marriage of convenience – not to be confused with an arranged marriage – is defined by the Belgian criminal code as one “which regardless of formal declarations of a desire to marry, appears though a variety of circumstances that at least one of the parties has no intention of bringing into being a sustainable living relationship, but only the intention of obtaining an advantage relating to legal residence”.
The suspicion of a marriage of convenience is left to the judgement of the municipal civil servant in charge of registrations. However the law does warn that not every marriage involving someone of another nationality should be regarded as suspicious.
And the same caution should be exercised, the law says, even when one of the parties to the wedding is living in Belgium illegally, or where there is a clear advantage in obtaining a residence permit.