UK expats in Belgium rush to claim citizenship

Published:  3 Aug at 6 PM
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The demand for Belgian citizenship has exploded since the Brexit result, with UK expats desperate to stay in their jobs.

At present, the small country of Belgium is home to some 24,000 British citizens, the majority of whom work in Brussels with NATO or EU institutions. Since the referendum result was announced, expats are seen standing in early morning lines outside the capital’s information offices. All are desperate to obtain Belgian citizenship.

Similar offices in other Belgian cities are experiencing the same trend, with officials saying they’d rarely been asked for citizenship requirements before Brexit. Requirements include proof of having lived and worked in Belgium for at least five years and the ability to speak either German, Dutch or French, Belgium’s official languages.

One Brussels expat who, with his family, lives in the capital, has begun the application process as he thinks the consequences of Britain’s leaving the EU will be disastrous. He’s concerned about his childrens’ futures should he be forced to return to the UK, and knows a good number of people who are making the same decision.

Since the referendum, Google searches on the subject of moves overseas have soared to an unprecedented level. UK citizens seem to have adopted the ‘anywhere is better than here’ mentality, with Canada, already popular as a destination for Americans should Trump win the presidency, also high on Brit lists.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the Green Party is calling for the German government to fast-track citizenship applications from resident Brits determined not to move back to the UK. In a letter to Angela Merkel, the Greens urged the government to reduce the number of years’ residency necessary for citizenship applications. During the last 16 years, over 5,000 Britons have been granted citizenship, with an eight-year stay the norm before consideration of an application.

The rules are slightly different for those married to German nationals and include a three-year stay, whilst those who have contributed to German life must wait for six years before applying. The Greens’ letter noted that over 107,000 Britons with their families are living in Germany, ranging from researchers and entrepreneurs to key workers in German businesses.
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