Record numbers of individuals received Belgian nationality in 2023, boosted by eased integration processes, with the highest figures since 2001.

In 2023, the highest number of people acquired Belgian nationality since 2001 when a new law sped up the process. Around 54,813 people became Belgian nationals last year, mostly after an integration process, provisional data from Belgium’s statistics office Statbel delivered, based on information from the National Register.

While the statistics will not be officially verified until June this year, it is already apparent that this is the highest number since 2001. “The number of acquisitions of Belgian nationality according to origin is highly based on the number of people of non-Belgian nationality living in Belgium, who could therefore potentially acquire Belgian nationality,” Statbel’s spokesperson emphasized.

The main standard for those wishing to become a Belgian national is being lived in the country for five or ten years, relying on the applicant’s employment position. With over 5,250 new Belgians, Morocco persisted to be the leading country of origin by a specific margin. But migration from the European Union’s most contemporary Member States also recreated an important role.

Already in 2022, the number of people devoting for and acquiring citizenship in the country reached the highest level in two decades. The latest statistics indicate a total of 48,482 non-Belgian people obtained Belgian nationality in that year. This also signified the first time since 2002 that the annual number surpassed 45,000.

In September 2023, it already became evident that the 2022 record would drop. Then, in October, no more irregular than 5,000 people became Belgian nationals in just one month. The initial figures show that, compared to 2022, an expansion of more than 13% was recorded, but the record data seen during the early 21st-century peak will probably not be surpassed.

In 2001, around 62,994 people became Belgian nationals following the introduction of the “snel-Belg” law on 1 March 2000, presented under the Verhofstadt government.

This amended certain conditions in the nationality law and sought to make access to Belgian nationality more comfortable for foreigners by reducing the number of integration conditions. In 2000 itself, this already resulted in 61,990 people being given Belgian nationality, up from just 24,202 in 1999.

However, this legislation was superseded about a decade ago by stricter conditions for social and economic integration such as evidence of language skills and legal residence for at least five years. For non-EU citizens reaching Flanders, an integration approach and test are mandatory.

The increase in the number of people gaining Belgian citizenship means that more newcomers have now met these prerequisites. However given that it takes time to fulfill the criteria, the peak witnessed in recent months is likely connected to the exceptional influx of refugees and migrants who were given asylum in 2015 and 2016. If they operated full-time they would now have achieved the crucial five-year mark to apply for citizenship.

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