Right to permanent residence of EU citizens and their family members
EU citizens and their family members acquire a right of permanent residence after five years of continuous residence in Belgium in accordance with the European rules of free movement of persons. This may be an independent right of residence (e.g. as an EU worker, EU self-employed person, EU student or EU possessor of sufficient means of subsistence) or a right of residence based on family reunification with an EU citizen. Furthermore, family members who are not EU citizens must also prove that during this period they have been living in a joint household with the EU citizen that they had previously joined.
Calculating the required time period:
The five-year period is calculated from the date of your application for a registration certificate (Annexes 19 and/or 19ter). However, there are certain circumstances where your stay in Belgium may be interrupted, without this affecting the calculation of your continuous residence.
This includes the following situations:
- short-term absences not exceeding six months a year
- longer-term absences in order to fulfil military obligations
- absence for a maximum of 12 consecutive months for important reasons such as pregnancy and childbirth, serious illness, study or vocational training
- posting to work abroad
As an exception to the principle of five years continuous residence, in certain situations, a right to permanent residence can be granted to economically active EU citizens (employed or self-employed) and their family members earlier.
This includes the following situations:
- the economically active EU citizen stops working as a result of permanent incapacity to work and has resided in Belgium continuously for more than two years, or the incapacity to work results from an accident at work or occupational disease entitling him or her to receive Belgian benefit payments.
- the economically active EU citizen has reached the statutory retirement age at the time he or she stops working or stops working as a result of taking early retirement and he or she has worked in Belgium during the last year and resided in Belgium continuously for a total of more than three years.
- the economically active EU citizen dies during his or her working life and, at the time of death, was continuously resident in Belgium for two years, or his or her death was the result of an accident at work or occupational disease.
If, as an economically active EU citizen, you were involuntarily unemployed during certain periods and the competent authorities have found this to be the case, those periods will nevertheless be regarded as periods of employment.
EU citizens and family members who are EU citizens automatically acquire the right to permanent residence as soon as they fulfil the conditions of continuous residence in Belgium. If you wish, you can have your right to permanent residence recognised by the municipality of your place of residence. You will then receive a ‘document certifying your right to permanent residence’. To receive that document, you must submit an application for a document certifying your right to permanent residence (in the form of an Annex 22) and submit all the documents in support of your application. If you meet the conditions for the right to permanent residence, the municipality will transfer your file to the Belgian Immigration Office, which will make a final decision within five months.
If your application is approved or if a decision has not been made within the five-month period, you will receive a ‘document certifying your right to permanent residence’ in the form of a paper Annex 8bis. If you wish, you can also obtain an electronic version of that same document in the form of an E+ card. The card is valid for five years. Once you have acquired permanent residence, you will be registered in the population register.
Family members who are not EU citizens acquire the right to permanent residence if they meet the conditions of continuous residence and joint household. Contrary to the EU citizen they join, they must have their right to permanent residence certified. To do this, you must apply to the municipality of your place of residence before your electronic F card (or paper Annex 9) expires and submit an application for a document certifying permanent residence (in the form of an Annex 22). If you report to the municipality after your current residence card has expired, you may incur an administrative fine of EUR 200.
When applying for a permanent residence card as the family member of an EU citizen (Annex 22), you must submit all documents proving that you meet the conditions for the right to permanent residence. As a third-country family member, you must also submit all evidence showing that during your stay in Belgium you were in a joint household with the EU citizen you had previously joined.
There are a number of exceptions to the condition of a joint household:
- if the EU citizen who you joined has died and you have resided in Belgium as the family member of an EU citizen for at least one year, or
- if your relationship with the EU citizen has ended due to divorce, annulment of marriage or termination of partnership
In those situations, you may be granted the right to permanent residence, provided that you meet the legal requirements and that you provide proof that you are employed or self-employed in Belgium or that you and your family have sufficient means of subsistence to avoid having to rely on the social security system in Belgium during your stay and that you have health insurance or that there is one family member who meets all these conditions.
If your application is approved or if the Belgian Immigration Office does not make a decision within the five-month period, you will receive a ‘permanent residence card for the family member of an EU citizen’ in the form of a paper Annex 9bis. If you wish, you can also obtain an electronic version of that same document in the form of an F+ card. The card is valid for five years. Once you have acquired permanent residence, you will be registered in the population register.
Online application procedure:
Certain municipalities allow you to apply online for your document or residence card certifying permanent residence. You can find more information on the website of the municipality where you are residing.
infodesk [at] ibz.fgov.be