• Integration Requirements Introduced for Third-Country Nationals
  • March 13, 2017
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • Third-country nationals and their dependents applying for an initial long stay visa or residence permit on or after February 18, 2017 will be required to sign a statement affirming that they understand the fundamental values and norms of Belgian society and will act accordingly. Upon renewal of their visa or residence permit, authorities will require that the third-country national prove that they have integrated into Belgian society, which would require presentation of specific evidence.

    Signed Statement Requirement

    Third-country nationals and their dependents applying for an initial long stay visa or a residence permit on or after February 18 will be required to sign a statement affirming that they understand the fundamental values and norms of Belgian society and will act accordingly. Applications without this statement will be rejected.

    Subsequent legislation is expected to provide further details on this requirement.

    Renewal Process Requirements

    At the time of renewal of their visa or permit, third-country nationals will be required to present proof of one of the following factors:
    • Completion of an approved integration course;
    • Signing up for a local language course or providing a certificate of a completed course;
    • Working in Belgium;
    • Studying in Belgium; or
    • Participating in non-profit associations in Belgium.
    In assessing integration efforts, authorities will also consider a third-country national’s family ties, the social and cultural ties with their country of origin and the duration of their residency in Belgium.

    Immigration authorities can cancel a foreign national’s residency rights if they determine that a foreign national has not met the above integration efforts.

    Exemptions

    The law provides several exemptions such as refugees and their family members, stateless nationals and students.

    What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals

    Third-country nationals should be prepared to sign a statement on integration upon applying for a work visa or residence permit. 
    Although third-country nationals working in Belgium will most likely not encounter issues proving their integration efforts, dependents of residence permit holders could face difficulties if they cannot prove that they meet the integration requirements.

    Renewal applicants will be informed by their immigration professional about the requirement to prove their integration efforts.

    It remains to be seen how the immigration authorities will apply the integration conditions in practice.