Advocate Jill Troch needs no introduction.
She is an advocate specialising in immigration and has got a thorough, vast and expansive knowledge in immigration law.
Her unique style of approach with intellectual honesty, philosophical attachment and psychological objectivity are well recognized and appreciated.
Here she is being interviewed by Marc Huybrechts (Hon. Consul General of India) and answers questions on passport and visa issues.
MH : Thank you Mrs. Jill Troch for willing to speak to us today, you are an experienced lawyer, you are a lawyer at the Antwerp Bar for a number of years, during all these years you have developed a special skill, a special expertise to law as it relates to foreigners. Now the Hon. Consul General of India in Antwerp on behalf of the Indians here would like to obtain some information as to their status, especially the method how to become a Belgian citizen , how can this be implemented?
I know that the statute on Belgian nationality has been amended over the years. There has been a substantial change recently in the statute on Belgian nationality.
Could you clarify the issue, there has been a recent amendment, if people live here for 5 years they can apply for Belgium citizenship. It is quite different from the 10 years qualification period. Could you briefly explain what the differences are and what are the important points to consider?
JT : So, now the minimum period that people have to have their residency before asking for Belgian nationality is 5 years but there are several conditions to be fulfilled, first of all you need to prove the knowledge of one of the 3 official languages, French, Dutch or German. Besides that you have to prove your integration also and you have to prove that you have been economically active. That can be as an employed person or as a self employed person. These are the 3 main conditions. In the 10 years qualification period you still have to prove your language skills but for the rest you only have to prove that you are either economically active or socialculturally active and there are no really clear requirements in the law as to how to prove all that so you can use any kind of proof whereas after only 5 years of residence the law has provided certain specific ways of proof and attestation.
MH : Can I take you back to the 5 years period, you have to provide the command or the knowledge of the Dutch, French or German language. What kind of test or examination is supposed to be delivered by the applicant before he can prove his familiarity with one of these languages? There is talk about an “A2” level. What exactly is an A2 level ?
JT : In Flanders what they have done is that they refer to the attestations of the official language schools which you can attend in the evening or during the day and where you have at least the diploma for the level 2.2 which that means 2 years of language and that is being accepted as the A2.level There are also a number of other attestations accepted, like if you have followed a professional training for 400 hours ,then you are considered as having met the standards of the A2 level. Also language certificates from VDAB are also accepted as being of the necessary level.
MH : Many Indian children are being educated in the British or American school system, some families send their children to the International school. The education in these schools is in English. When these children have to apply for Belgian citizenship what do they have to prove in order to show their familiarity with the Dutch language?
JT : Children who are minor follow the nationality of the parents. But let us say that they are over 18 when the parents get their nationality, then their grown up children will also have to prove their knowledge of the language. If they don’t have a diploma from a school where the main language is Dutch, French or German, they will have to prove their level from extra courses that they have followed outside the school.
MH : If an Indian citizen is willing to become a Belgian citizen and has been a resident for 8 or 9 years (almost the 10 years period), should he wait for another 1 year to complete the 10 year period. Would it be more easier for him ? What would you advise ?
JT : I think if the person fulfills all the conditions, if he has worked enough days and there is the necessary integration then you can apply right away . If you are denied then you can always apply after 10 years. I think if one is economically active, it proves his integration. Along with the command of the language there is a very good realistic chance that you will get the nationality.
MH : What is the position of the wife or spouse of a Belgian national. Does the wife or spouse automatically get the Belgian nationality or must she/he fulfill the same conditions ?
JT : The conditions are the same for everybody, the only difference is that if you already have a Belgian spouse then you don’t have to prove the economic activity so if the wife for example is not employed or self employed then the husband has to first get the Belgian nationality and then the wife can apply as long as she fulfills the condition of 5 years residency and has the command of any one of the 3 languages Dutch, French or German.
MH : I would like you to clarify the difference between what happens at the City Hall and what happens at the office of the District Attorney. People go with their papers to the city hall, sometimes they are turned away. What can they do if the civil servant there says that his papers are not OK?
JT : The law here is clear, the application must be filed through the City Hall but it is the District Attorney who has to give a negative or positive advice on the nationality, so actually it is up to him him to see if all the conditions are fulfilled and if all the submitted documents are ok. We know that here in Antwerp the City Hall tries to check out that the file is complete which they can do but they may not judge the content of the documents. If they still refuse to accept, then I can only advise you to take a lawyer with you to insist that they accept the documents.
MH : Jill, certain documents have to be filed, one crucial and essential document is of course the birth certificate. Now in my experience as the Hon. Consul General of India I have had cases where the Indians could not come up with a birth certificate because for instance there never was one. There are several cases where it is difficult to get the original birth certificate even if there was one. Earlier you could get the birth certificate replaced by a formal letter issued by the Embassy of India in Brussels, a kind of certification. But I have had cases where even that certificate issued by the Embassy of India was refused. Have you any information on this ?
JT : So we know that the best way of proof is of course the birth certificate coming from the home country legalized and translated by the Belgian Embassy. But for a certain number of countries the Belgian authorities will accept the attestations given by the local embassy, but such an attestation should NOT be based on the declaration of the applicant himself. It is very important that the attestation should not be a “self attestation” but be based on external data.
MH : That is very clear, so the attestation should refer to an external source and must not be a self declaration.
JT : Yes the embassy must confirm that as per their knowledge in their administration the certificate is true.
MH : What is the time length that we can expect to get the nationality, from the moment of filing the documents (assuming the papers are OK) to actually getting the Belgian nationality ?
JT : The City sends the file to the District Attorney and he has a period of 4 months to give an advice. So it is a short procedure. If the advise is positive then the city informs the applicant. If it is negative then the applicant has 15 days to challenge the negative advice in court.
MH : Is this an expensive procedure, must the people expect to pay a lot of money ?
JT : No not much, only the registration which is about € 150 which has to be paid at the city hall. Of course if you go to court and you need legal aid then you have to spend that for yourself.
MH : Is that very expensive ? I mean: is going to court an expensive process?
JT : It depends on how complicated the case is ? Our task is mainly to consult and advice and see that the documents are all in order. Of course if you go to court and you have to go into written conclusions or submissions and if the case has to be argued then of course there are expenses to be counted for.
MH : Well Jill, I thank you for your time and I am sure that this will be very helpful for the Indian residents here in Antwerp.
JT : I am glad to have helped you.