Integration efforts new condition to maintain residence permit
Today a new law enters (partly) into force inserting a general residence condition into the Immigration Act. The Immigration Office can now put an end to a residence permit if the person cannot put forward provable integration efforts.
The implications of the new Law of 18 December 2016 are twofold. (1) On the one hand it inserts a general residence condition into the Immigration Act: the person needs to provide evidence of his willingness to integrate into society. If the person does not do a ‘reasonable effort’ to integrate, the Immigration Office can put an end to its permit to stay. This condition enters into force as of today: foreigners applying for a residence permit after 25 January 2017 will need to fulfill this condition.
(2) Another aspect of the Law – which was much discussed in public debate – implies that a person who applies for a residence permit in Belgium needs to sign a declaration indicating that he or she “understands the fundamental values and norms of society and will act accordingly”. It is commonly referred to as the ‘newcomers declaration’. Signing this declaration will be a condition of admissibility for the residence permit.
This second part of the new Law (the newcomers declaration) does not yet enter into force. In contrast to immigration, integration is not a federal competence. Therefore an official cooperation agreement needs to be put in place with the Communities and the Regions.
These two new conditions are however not applicable to a number of categories, like persons asking for or with an international protection status, EU citizens, students, and certain family migrants. Also minors, sick and protected persons are exempted.