Brussels sees surge in nationality requests from British residents


Several municipalities in Brussels have seen a surge in the number of UK citizens requesting Belgian nationality, following the decision of British voters to leave the European Union

‘This is unheard of’

The UK’s departure from the European Union has yet to be officially started, but British residents in Brussels are wasting no time in looking into the possibility of becoming Belgian citizens in order to remain within the EU.

Elsene is the Brussels municipality with the most British residents (1,535). Delphine Bourgeois, city councillor in charge of European affairs, said that Brexit was “a sorry affair” and that the council was “very sensitive to the disappointment” of British residents. “For the British who have lived here a long time, this is unthinkable,” she said. “Some people have the feeling they have lost a family member.”

Elsene has received about a dozen requests for naturalisation and some 30 requests for information.

At the same time, Bourgeois said, the circumstances have offered the council an opportunity to emphasise its European conviction, with the creation of an Advice Council on European matters, which will organise thematic evenings and working groups.

The town hall in Sint-Pieters-Woluwe (pictured), meanwhile, a municipality with 800 UK residents, has reported 14 requests for citizenship. Ukkel, where 802 British are resident, has received 11. “This is unheard of,” said Ukkel councillor for population Boris Dilles.

“On Friday alone we had 10 or so British residents who wanted to know about nationality,” said Bernard Guillaume, responsible for civil status in Schaarbeek. In Etterbeek, the municipality closest to the European quarter, the numbers were greater. “On Friday there were about 20, but in recent months we’ve had at least one person a day inquiring about the procedure,” said an official.

Brussels-City, the largest municipality in the region, has received eight applications from its 1,300 British residents.

Many of those who request it are likely to obtain Belgian nationality. Conditions include residence for five years, financial independence, social integration and knowledge of one of the three national languages.

Photo: Ben2/Wikimedia