Applying for Belgian Citizenship
More and more foreign investors have been turning to Belgium as their prime destination for relocation and investment. The country’s citizenship by investment program is one of the easiest and quickest ways to obtain a second citizenship in all of Europe.
How to Become a Belgian Citizen – Step 1
Just like with the majority of countries, in order to become a Belgian citizen a foreign investor must first become a Belgian permanent resident. To do so, the investor must establish strong ties to the nation. An easy way to establish these ties is for the investor to create a commercial enterprise in Belgium.
To start a business, the investor should first deposit at least 20% of the company’s initial startup capital with a Belgian credit institution. By making the deposit, the investor will be able to obtain a government certification confirming that the amount is held in a capital business account and this certification will be useful in attracting other investors to the business.
The capital must be completely and unconditionally subscribed to the business but it does not have to be paid immediately if the investor has tax reasons for wanting to delay the pay-in. However, Belgian law does require that at least one-fifth of the total capital (no less than 6,200 Euros) must be paid.
If the investor wants to remain in business for him or herself, the investor should incorporate a private limited liability company naming the investor as the sole shareholder. In this case, the minimum amount of capital to be paid must be at least 12,400 Euros. (There are exceptions to this requirement, and if an investor is interested in these exceptions it is recommended to speak to an attorney specializing in Belgium business formation).
Next, the investor should present the company’s proposed business plan to a notary and have the company’s deed of incorporation and bylaws signed and notarized. Regardless of the investor’s country of origin, there must be a signed and notarized version of the bylaws that is written in the French, German, or Dutch languages. The business plan must detail the company’s prospective operations and the goods it will sell or the services it will provide, and must also describe why the amount of initial capital is necessary and appropriate for the business. The plan should also demonstrate how the initial capital amount will provide for the business’s operations for at least two years.
The final step in starting a Belgian business is to register the company with the official Register of Legal Entities (RLE) and the social security authorities, and to apply for a company identification number. Once the investor files the company’s deed of incorporation, the business office automatically registers the company with the RLE and the business is given an identification number. Additionally, before the company begins its operations, the investor must register it with Belgium’s social insurance fund. The investor – through the company – must make an annual contribution to this fund. In addition, if the investor hires Belgian employees, it must also register with the Belgian social security administration for salaried workers.
After the company is registered, the investor must ensure that his/her salary from the company will be at least 35,000 Euros per year. Once all of this documentation is in place, the investor can file the application for a permanent resident permit with the Belgian embassy. When the embassy approves the application, the investor and family will receive their permits.
How to Become a Belgian Citizen – Step 2
Many countries require incoming immigrants to hold permanent resident status for several years – from 5 to 12 – before the immigrants can apply for citizenship through a legal process called naturalization. However, Belgium allows investor permanent residents to apply for citizenship after only five years.
The documents requires for the naturalization application are the following: evidence of genuine ties to Belgium (in the form of the company registration) and a declaration of intent to become a Belgian citizen and pledge to uphold the nation’s constitution. Once the application is approved, the investor may apply for a Belgian passport and immediately begin to enjoy the numerous benefits of Belgian nationality which include no taxes on net worth, capital gains, or wealth and the ability to hold two citizenships and thus two passports.