Number of Brits applying for European citizenship on the increase

Published:  23 Jun at 6 PM
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Statistics are showing a considerable increase in the number of Britons applying to become Belgian nationals.

Figures released last Friday by the Belgian Statistical Office show 1381 Britons became Belgian nationals in 2017, with the total number of applications increasing tenfold since the Brexit referendum. The majority of applicants have been living permanently and working in Belgium for many years and are looking to acquire Belgian nationality due to the uncertainty surrounding their rights post-Brexit.

The process involves submitting an application to their local municipal office along with a payment of €150. Applicants also need to prove legal residence in Belgium for a minimum of five years and demonstrate they’re socially integrated, usually by showing they’re working in the country. Britons awarded Belgian nationality are allowed to keep their British citizenship. Many UK expatriates in Belgium are employed in Brussels on EU postings.

It’s not just Brits who’re queuing to get a second passport, as the numbers of EU citizens applying for British citizenship have also soared since the referendum. Three times as many applied in 2017’s first quarter than had done so in the same period in 2016. Numbers of French applicants have quadrupled to 848 from 208, with German applications rising from 163 to 832 and Spanish applications hitting 463 from 124. Polish applications saw the strongest increase, form 728 to 1937.

Many applicants are either working in UK or married to UK citizens, with one French national having lived in the UK with her British husband for 17 years. She told the media she’d applied for permanent residence after the Brexit vote, and would later apply for UK citizenship. When asked about her motivation, she said the referendum result had put pressure on her to be able to prove her right to continue living with her husband in the UK, adding she’d felt betrayed by the country she’d learned to love.

Another French expat living in London echoed her words, saying Brexit had increased his urgency as regards getting British nationality. He added he want to continue living and working in London without having the fear of deportation hanging over him. For many EU expats living in the UK, the cost of the application is proving a burden, as the fee is £1,282 plus a £200 fee for required tests and £80 for the citizenship ceremony. Registering a child under 18 years old costs £973, giving a total cost for, say, a European woman married to a British man with a child not born in the UK a massive £2,535.
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