Immigration updates: family reunification application processing, increased enforcement

29 Jul 16

BELGIUM

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Belgium has extended the processing time for family reunification applications for family members of non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss nationals to a maximum of 15 months. Belgium has also indicated that it will be stricter about enforcing certain immigration infringements that may result in fines of €200.

What does the change mean? The change in processing times will likely impact refugees the most. It is not expected to have a major impact on family reunification applications from family members of work permit holders because their applications will continue to be prioritized. As for the stricter enforcement, foreign nationals – including EU/EEA and Swiss nationals – should also be sure to follow applicable entry, leave, notification or registration requirements in order to avoid fines.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Who is affected: Non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss family reunification applications; foreign nationals intending to enter, leave or reside in Belgium.
  • Impact on processing times: Maximum processing times have been extended from 12 to 15 months for non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss applicants, but, as described above, the change is not expected to have a major impact on family reunification applications from family members of work permit holders.
  • Business impact: Businesses should take note of the increased processing times and stricter enforcement of immigration infringements and advise employees accordingly.

Background: The processing time for family reunification applications from family members of non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss nationals was increased this month from 12 months (six months plus the possibility of two three-month extensions for complex files) to 15 months (nine months plus the possibility of two three-month extensions for complex files). The change affects any application that was either pending on or filed after July 8. The increase in processing times is at least partially due to an increased workload in the federal immigration office, and will likely impact refugees the most.

An increase in enforcement, meanwhile, is anticipated for certain immigration violations, for which authorities have indicated they will more aggressively issue €200 fines.

To that end, EU/EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members in Belgium for a short stay (i.e., less than three months) must remember to notify municipal authorities within 10 business days of arriving in Belgium. Those who stay in a hotel are exempt. EU/EEA and Swiss nationals in Belgium for a long-term stay (i.e., more than three months) must register with municipal authorities, receive an application for a residence permit and submit a residence permit application by the applicable deadline (within three months). Other violations that may result in €200 fines include entering or leaving Belgium outside of established checkpoints or outside of regular hours; entering Belgium with either invalid or expired IDs or passports, when an ID or passport is required; and failure to apply for a permanent residence permit type F+ before the expiration date on a current residence permit type F.

BAL Analysis: The change in processing times will have a limited impact on family members of those working in Belgium because family members of work permit holders will continue to have their family reunification applications prioritized. The €200 fines are a reminder that nationals of all countries must be sure to follow all applicable immigration rules and regulations, including avoiding violations that are generally considered minor infractions.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Belgium. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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