Wednesday’s edition of the daily ‘De Morgen reports that 500 applications by couples to legally recognised as living together were refused as they were considered to be fraudulent.
The stricter rules on bring family or a partner from abroad to come and live here in Belgium that came into force in October 2013 mean that not only bogus marriages, but also bogus relationships involving unmarried partners living together are also investigated.
These are couples that obtain the legal status of officially living together in order to obtain leave to remain in Belgium for one of the partners that has come here from a non-EU country. Since the new rules came into force these couple have been subject to the same level of investigation by the Immigration and Asylum Department as those that have got married.
The Secretary of State responsible for Immigration and Asylum Theo Francken (Flemish nationalist) told the paper that “For years now my department has received indications from local authorities that living together has become a new method of fraudulently obtaining papers for foreigners with ill-intent.”
Currently, those found guilty of being involved in a bogus marriage risk a three year prison sentence and a 3,000 euro fine. In time, Mr Francken hopes to increase the maximum prison sentence from three to five years.