Tax hike on residence permit applications for foreigners overturned

Tax hike on residence permit applications for foreigners overturned
Former state secretary of migration's tax hike intended to have dissuasive effects and bring the number of residence applications down. Credit: © Belga

A decree by the former state secretary for migration to increase the fees foreigners pay when applying for a residence permit has been overturned by Belgium's highest administrative court.

The Council of State said the hike, tabled by former state secretary for migration, Flemish nationalist Theo Francken, lacked the legal grounds for its implementation and said it must be rolled back.

"The amount of a fee must be proportional to the cost of the service offered," the council said in an online statement on Monday, adding that this had not been the case.

Introduced in 2015, Francken's tax hike sought to dissuade "improper regularisation requests," by raising the fee a foreign national pays for their residency application to be processed, from €215 to €350, according to De Morgen.

The tax hike was rapidly challenged by a number of human rights and migration and asylum advocacy organisations, who brought it before the Council of State.

Hitting back at the decision, Francken said the roll back of the tax hike sent a "totally wrong signal," and would fail to tackle the flood of applications submitted by "pro bono lawyers."

In response to Francken, a representative of the Order of the Flemish Bar told the Flemish outlet the Council's job was to analyse the legality of a decision, and that "the only signal" sent out was that the former state secretary had "not done his job properly."

"If you admit that lawyers who do their duty are "traders in vain hope," then [you] do not understand anything about the foundations of the rule of law."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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