Due to a technical legislative mistake the Belgian Official Gazette published again on 8 February 2017 (it was also published on 26 January) the text regarding the Act imposing the ‘newcomers statement’ and the obligation to prove integration.
The newcomers statement concerns the statement whereby the signer pledges to respect and comply with the values and standards of our society. It will be required for visa D / residence permit applications for non-EEA nationals who wish to reside in Belgium for more than 90 days. Work permit or professional card holders and their family members are not excluded in this Law and as such will have to comply with this obligation. In case the statement is not signed the application becomes inadmissible.
The obligation to sign the declaration will only be effective as from the day on which a Royal Decree will lay down its layout, translation and procedures governing its signature. The Council of State required that first a Cooperation Agreement still is to be concluded with the different regions as they are competent for integration policy. It is to expected that this still will take some time and therefore it will still take several more months for the actual application of the newcomers statement.
The obligation to prove integration will be applicable as from 18 February. This means that at the moment of a future residence permit extension request for non-EEA nationals who obtained their visa D/residence permit after 18 February proof of integration will/can be requested. This means that we will only feel the impact hereof at the moment of filing the request for extension of a residence permit in 2018. It will not be applicable to non-EEA nationals who already obtained their visa D / residence permit before 18 February. Work permit or professional card holders and their family members are not excluded in this Law and as such will have to comply with this obligation.
In case the Foreigners Office would evaluate not sufficient proof of integration is demonstrated the non-EEA national could be denied further residence in Belgium. For work permit or professional card holders the impact would be rather limited as one of the criteria to prove integration is the professional activity as such. For their family members however, but also in general for other categories of residents, the practice of the Foreigners Office will need to make clear which supportive documents it will require to prove the ‘efforts for integration’.
Several categories of foreigners are exempted from the above obligations, being EEA nationals (as well as their non-EEA family members), non-EEA nationals of less than 18 year, Turkish work permit holders, non-EEA students, recognised refugees, long term residents coming from an other EU country with second residence in Belgium.