‘Explosion’ of Belgian citizenship requests from UK expats after Brexit

© Belga
Belgium has received a surge in citizenship requests from British expats looking for ways to remain in Brussels after Brexit. The UK’s decision to leave the EU has many worried about keeping their jobs in the bloc.

Belgium is currently home to around 24,000 British expats, who mostly work for EU institutions and NATO, which are located in Brussels.

Just to grasp the full extent of the possible hike in citizenship requests – there are a total of 1.3 million British citizens residing in other EU countries. Lines form early in the morning at information offices in Brussels, which is at the center of the surge, as Brits appear willing to wait to find out how to become Belgian citizens.

“It doesn't stop. Some have been queuing up for information since 7.30 this morning,” said the mayor of Brussels’ Ixelles district, Dominique Dufourny. 

READ MORE: ‘I’m a Brit... get me outta here!’ Google searches for new places to live soar in post-Brexit UK

In the last few days, Ixelles alone has seen about 40 people show up to get the documents required to acquire Belgian citizenship. 

Other districts in the city are reporting a similar trend. The suburbs of Uccle and Woluwe Saint Lambert both said they have had around 50 inquiries.
“Normally we rarely have anybody requesting information about citizenship,” said a spokeswoman for Woluwe Saint Lambert. “Since Friday there has been an explosion.”

Belgium requires people to have lived and worked in the country for over five years to be eligible for citizenship. Applicants must also be able to speak one of the state’s official languages: Dutch, French, or German. Unemployed applicants need to have 10 years of Belgian residency and community ties.
One British candidate from Brussels, Dennis Landsbert-Noon, is already in the process of applying. He hopes to remain employed and keep his wife and four children in Belgium.

“I believe that the consequences of Brexit on Britain will be catastrophic in both the short and long term and I do not want to condemn my children to belong solely to a nation that is on the road to ruin,” Landsbert-Noon said, according to Reuters. “I've heard from a lot of people who say they are doing the same thing as well.”

Brexit has caught people off guard, just as it caught the financial markets napping. However, it could take the UK several years to leave the bloc, and negotiations are just beginning.

Britain may also have a general election to look forward to soon, as British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his resignation and plans to step down this fall. His successor may well call a snap election to gain a mandate for their rule.

In the meantime, UK citizens who live in Britain, but voted against Brexit are also questioning their own futures, as well as that of their country. 

In fact, immediately after the referendum results became clear, Google trends showed a spike in “move to Canada” searches in the UK.