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Brexit concern - should I marry my British partner?


My partner and I have been living together in Belgium for 7 years now. I am Irish and he is British. We both have full-time permanent contracts with Belgian companies. We have become increasingly concerned with the lack of progress for any meaningful deal on Brexit and consequently, what this might mean for my partner’s right to live and work in Belgium after March next year. (I’m not expecting any mass deportations, but I’m still worried about complications arising out of this possible situation).

Although we had not previously been planning to marry, we are now considering doing so in large part due to our concerns that in the case of a no-deal Brexit the rights of British citizens to live and work may be jeopardised.

However, we’re not sure if this will even provide any guarantees in any case. Would anyone know if a non-EU citizen (which he will soon be) is married to an EU citizen (me) there is by marriage a right to live and work in Belgium?

Although he has been living in Belgium for over 7 years, for three years of that he was working in an EU institution which does not ‘count’ for applying for Belgian citizenship (which mandates living in Belgium for at least five years) so that option is out for the moment.

Thank you for any advice!

P.s. I should add that I'm very happy to marry my partner, it just wasn't really on the cards before Brexit :)


You can also consider Legal Cohabitation which would give your partner full entitlement to live and work in Belgium without any specific working permits required. We went through this solution with my non-EU partner and the nationality was never questioned when applying for jobs or renewing residence permits with the local commune.

Legal Cohabitation can be as binding as a normal Marriage but probably a bit easier to arrange or dissolve. In any case it is better to look for an advice from a local Notaire on the subject or have an understanding by reading related info on

Oct 15, 2018 16:02

Staying here will probably just become slightly more complicated from an administrative point of view, just like the tens of thousands of American, Moroccan, Canadian, Turkish, Australian, Russian, Japanese, Korean etc. etc. etc. that all live and work here quite happily without being EU citizens. (I think it's something line 350,000 non EU citizens currently live in Belgium)

Get married if you love your partner and want to be married to them.

Oct 15, 2018 16:55

Whoever told you working for an EU institution doesn't count towards Belgian citizenship is wrong.

By the way, just marrying your partner doesn't mean they'll get Irish citizenship by marriage, you'd also have to go and live in Ireland for a few years.

Oct 15, 2018 18:58

There has been a court case that forced recognition of the EU ID card in nationality cases. Sorry, no link.

Your partner can apply for a "normal" ID card now. Do that. In 5 years time, he can go Belgian.

Getting married to someone you love and want to spend the rest of your life with is great. I highly recommend it.

Make a will. The tax implications alone will make you want to protect each other with at least a co-hab agreement as R has very sensibly suggested.

Oct 15, 2018 22:44

The court case J mentions is, however, consistently being ignored by the Procureur du Roi.

If your partner already has a Belgian residence permit (if he's been here more than 5 years it wll be an E+ card) he should - in principle - be ok after Brexit because he's been here 5 years and therefore will (probably) have permanent residency. If I were him I'd wait the 5 years out and apply for Belgian nationality at that point. It depends on how long he has to go until he hits the 5 years but it doesn't sound as though it's very long to go?

As various people have mentioned, you only acquire Irish nationality through marriage if you then live in Ireland for I think a year? is a very useful with info on applying for BE nationality which it might be worth looking at

Oct 16, 2018 12:27

The court case is a total red herring, as the OP's partner isn't still working for the EU. and will definitely not have a special ID card, and will presumably have an E+ card. if they are working for a company under the Belgian scheme.

As I said, periods spent working for the EU do NOT disqualify you from applying for Belgian nationality.

Oct 16, 2018 21:37

80sbaby - during the seven years you have been in Belgium, has your partner ever had a residence card that was not issued by the local commune in which you live? I.e., at any time during the 7 years did the have special status as an EU fonctionnaire? If not, then the period for which your partner was "working in an EU institution" is no different to him working anywhere else.

Lots of people work for the EU and don't have any status different to anyone else in Belgium.

In fact, he is already "qualified" to stay permanently.

I suppose this means you'll have to ask more questions about why he hasn't married you yet.

Oct 17, 2018 09:08

ANON, he might be already "qualified" to stay permanently but is he going to be "qualified" to work as well?

Did you have a look at the draft law published by France yesterday? I am inclined to think it will be common rule for other Shengen countries (in case of no-deal of course).

1° le droit d'entrée et le droit de séjour en France des ressortissants britanniques
[...] En outre, en cas de retrait du Royaume-Uni de l'Union européenne sans accord, les ressortissants britanniques séjournant actuellement en France et les membres de leur famille se trouveraient en séjour irrégulier faute de disposer d'un des documents de séjour prévus à l'article L. 311-1 du code de l'entrée et du séjour des étrangers et du droit d'asile.

2° l'emploi des ressortissants britanniques exerçant légalement à la date du retrait une activité professionnelle salariée en France.

En cas de retrait sans accord, les ressortissants britanniques sous contrat de travail de droit français avec un employeur en France pourraient se voir exiger un titre valant autorisation de travail en France, comme le prévoit la réglementation sur l'emploi des étrangers dans le code du travail. Sans la possession d'un tel document, l'employeur pourrait voir sa responsabilité pénale engagée au titre de l'emploi d'étrangers non autorisés à travailler, qui constitue une infraction au titre de l'article L. 8251-1 du code du travail.

Oct 18, 2018 11:08

It's a draft law, so it isn't actually law yet.

There are two side to every argument.

It's highly unlikely that France will refuse work permits for British nationals, as that would almost certainly mean retaliation by the UK against French workers.

You would see tens of thousands of young French people being forced into unemployment and being repatriated to France, a country where they already have one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. Exactly the same logic applies to Belgium, Spain and Italy etc. etc.

Personally I don't support Brexit, and yes, there are almost certainly going to be problems, but forcing hundreds of thousands of mostly young economically active continental European professionals to leave the UK and return home to unemployment isn't going to be one of the priorities in the negotiations.

Oct 18, 2018 12:49

You are probably right ANON.
It would be totally unheard and unexpected that people who worked for years and contributed to the economy would be forced to leave or even denied access again once they are out.

Oct 18, 2018 23:37