Belgium grants citizenship to 55,000 foreigners in 2023, highest in two decades

Almost 55,000 foreigners acquired Belgian nationality in 2023, mostly after an integration process. It is the first time since the early 2000s, when the "fast-track Belgian law" caused a peak, that more than 50,000 foreigners became Belgians in a single year, De Tijd reports on Wednesday.

More than 54,800 people acquired Belgian nationality in 2023, according to preliminary figures from statistics agency Statbel. Compared to 2022, there was an increase of more than 13 per cent. This was the third consecutive year to see a year-on-year increase.

A total of 14,340 people came from another EU country, while 40,473 came from European countries outside the EU or elsewhere. With more than 5,250 people, Morocco remained the leading country of origin. Syria follows in second place with 3,711, ahead of Romania (3,440), Afghanistan (2,514) and Italy (2,070). New Belgians from Turkey, Poland, Iraq, DRC and the Netherlands complete the top 10 in 2023.

Stricter requirements

The number of new Belgians in 2023 is the highest since 2001, one year after the introduction of the "fast-track Belgian law", which created a faster procedure to obtain citizenship and reduced the integration requirements. More than 60,000 foreigners were granted Belgian citizenship in 2000 and 2001.

This legislation was later discarded and replaced by stricter requirements on social and economic integration. These include proof of language skills and legal residence for at least five years. The recent increase in the number of citizenship changes indicates that more newcomers meet these conditions after following an integration trajectory.

The peak in recent years is likely linked to the exceptionally large influx of refugees and migrants in 2015 and 2016. Almost a decade later, the necessary integration period is over in many of these cases. However, migration from the EU's newest member states also plays an important role. The number of new Belgians who previously held a nationality of an EU country rose more sharply (17 per cent) than the overall figure.



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