Number of 'new Belgians' at highest level in 20 years
The number of people acquiring Belgian nationality is peaking. This is already clear from the provisional figures for 2022. In the first 11 months of last year, 43,956 people acquired Belgian nationality. For the whole of 2021, the figure was 38,342.
In fact, with almost 44,000 acquisitions of Belgian nationality, the highest level has been reached since 2000-2002. At that time, the acquisition of Belgian nationality was made much easier by the so-called 'Snel-Belgwet' ('Accelerated Belgian nationality law').
The law allowed non-Belgians to acquire Belgian nationality automatically after seven years of residence. In addition, the 'Snel-Belgwet' made the procedures more accessible and abolished the previous investigations into the applicant's desire to integrate.
Although a stricter nationality law has been in force since 1 January 2013, it has not affected the number of citizenships acquired. In 2002, when the impact of the 'Snel-Belgwet' was still undeniable, there were 46,423 'new Belgians'. With an average of some 4,000 acquisitions of citizenship per month, the final result for 2022 is likely to exceed that of 2002.
Plea for tighter regulation
According to the Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Belang, which requested the figures for 2022, citizenship should only be granted to people who have lived here legally and continuously for at least ten years. Furthermore, they may not have committed any criminal offences. In addition, they must swear an oath of allegiance, make an active economic contribution to our society and pass a citizenship test, which tests their knowledge of the regional language.
Last month, the Flemish Christian democratic party CD&V also tabled a bill in parliament to make obtaining Belgian citizenship conditional on passing a compulsory test in one of Belgium's three national languages: Dutch, French or German. Similar tests already exist in the Netherlands, France and Germany.
Currently, people living in Belgium can obtain Belgian citizenship if they have legally resided in the country for five or ten years and can provide proof of economic participation and social integration.
© BELGA PHOTO SISKA GREMMELPREZ