Belgium Alert – 3 New Immigration Policies Implemented

Belgium – Immigration Updates – Passenger Name Act, Newcomers Statement, and Integration Obligation

Belgium has implemented new policies that have not yet taken effect.  A passenger name record will be required for all passengers in transport sectors, as well as a mandatory newcomer statement and integration obligations for foreign nationals in an application for a residence permit

Passenger Name Record Act

The implementation of EU Directive 2016/681 of April 27, 2016, the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offenses and serious crime, named the PNR Act, has been published in the Belgian Official Journal of January 25, 2017.

The PNR Act will require all passengers of transport sectors, such as air, sea, trains, and road transport, as well as travel operators and companies to communicate passenger data to the Passenger Information Unit (PIU).  The information will be stored in a passenger database, in which the PIU will analyze the data for security measures.  The data stored in the database will be guaranteed privacy by the PNR Act, with limitations on the purposes to analyze and process data of passengers.

The PNR Act has not taken effect yet as a Royal Decree will determine the effective date for each transport sector and travel operators and companies.


Newcomers Statement and Integration Obligation

A new Act, which imposes integration efforts on some foreigners, who want to reside in Belgium for more than 3 months, has been published in the Belgian Official Journal of January 16, 2017.

There are two aspects: the signing of the “newcomers statement” at the time of the initial residence application, and a future “audit” of integration efforts:

  • The applicant for long term (> 3 months) residence will have to sign a “newcomers statement”, in which he/she acknowledges the following:
    • to understand the fundamental values and standards of society, and
    • to act in accordance with (in French: “agir en conformité avec”/in Dutch: “handelen naar”) these values;
  • Furthermore, the applicant will be informed that he/she will have to submit proof of his/her integration efforts in the future.

The new rules apply to third country (non-EU/EEA) labour migrants, as well as their family members who apply for residence on the basis of family reunification.

Several foreigners are exempt, such as:

  • Recognized refugees or beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and their family members;
  • EU (European Union)/EEA (European Economic Area = EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) citizens and their family members;
  • Students;
  • Victims of human trafficking;
  • Long-term residents (Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003);
  • Minors;
  • Foreigners who are seriously ill.

The obligations and its consequences in the event of non-compliance can be summarized as follows:

  • A refusal to sign the “newcomers statement” will result in an inadmissible residence application;
  • A foreigner who holds a residence permit for limited term (e.g. for labour migrant = duration of work permit + 1 or 3 month(s)) must prove his/her willingness to integrate. This proof must be submitted within the first limited residence term (e.g. for labour migrant = duration of work permit + 1 or 3 month(s)); failure could be a ground for refusal to renew the residence permit;
  • Furthermore, the Minister for Asylum and Migration, or the Foreigners’ Office (federal department in charge of immigration) can terminate the right to reside if the authorities find that the foreigner has not made a “reasonable effort” to integrate.
    • The authorities can ask the foreigner to submit information/evidence.
    • The right to reside can be terminated during the 4 years following the end of the 1st year after the issuance of the limited or unlimited authorization to reside, or following the end of the 1st year after the authorization to reside in Belgium.

The authorities will assess the integration efforts by taking into account the following criteria, listed in the new Act, not limited to the below, as the authorities have discretional decision power:

  • Attend an integration course, organized by the authority competent for the foreigner’s main residence;
  • Working in Belgium as employee, civil servant, or self-employed;
  • Degree, study certificate or evidence of enrolment in a recognized or subsidized educational establishment;
  • Attend a vocational training, recognized by a competent authority;
  • Knowledge of the official language of the place, where the foreigner is registered;
  • No criminal record;
  • Active participation in community life.

If the authorities consider a decision to terminate the right to reside, they must take into account:

  • The nature and the strength of the family ties of the foreigner;
  • The duration of residence in Belgium;
  • The existence of family ties or cultural/social connections with the country of origin.

The “newcomers statement” has not taken effect yet, as the text has not yet been confirmed by the Belgian federal authorities who will have to agree on a text with the French speaking, Flemish and German-speaking communities.

The integration obligation will necessary for all residence applications, filed (not: approved) as of January 26, 2017.

Impact on non-EU/EEA labour migrants and their family members?

Labour migrants may be able to their prove integration efforts due to their work in Belgium.

However, it could be more complicated for their family members.

Though a decision to terminate residence must take into account the nature and the strength of the family ties of the foreigner, the duration of residence in Belgium, and the existence of family ties or cultural/social connections with the country of origin.

Instructions and guidelines from the authorities will clarify on how the new rules will be applied in practice.

Please note that this is general information only and not intended as advice on a specific matter. Please feel free to contact Fakhoury Global Immigration directly with questions exclusive to your situation.  This news alert was prepared using information from Praetica.