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Civic integration

To live in the Netherlands, some people have to fulfil civic integration requirements, such as learning the Dutch language, and follow integration courses (inburgering). What’s required depends on your situation.

Types of civic integration

There are three different kinds of civic integration requirements: 

Basic Civic Integration Exam Abroad

Basic Civic Integration Abroad applies only to people who need a provisional residence permit (machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf, MVV) before coming to the Netherlands. People planning to stay in the Netherlands for longer than three months who are from a country requiring an MVV may need to pass a Basic Civic Integration Exam Abroad (basisexamen inburgering) as part of their MVV procedure. This exam must be completed in the country of residence at a Dutch representation (embassy or consulate) or external provider. The exam has two parts: knowledge of Dutch society and knowledge of the Dutch language. There are some exemptions from the requirement to sit the exam.

Civic integration examination for internationals residing in the Netherlands

Individuals relocating to the Netherlands for an extended duration or permanently can participate in the civic integration process, which may be mandatory in certain cases. The necessity of this process varies based on the newcomer's citizenship status and other relevant factors. For example, the civic integration requirement does not apply to citizens of the European Union, as well as Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. Anyone intending to stay in the Netherlands on a temporary basis, for the purposes of work (highly skilled migrants) or study for example, is also exempt from the integration requirement. If these situations apply to you, your immediate family is also exempt. Carefully check the list of exemptions from the civic integration requirement.

Civic integration examination for the purpose of obtaining a more secure residence permit and naturalisation

If you are interested in applying for a permanent residency permit (regular or asylum), a long-term resident EU residence permit, or a humanitarian non-temporary residence permit, Dutch citizenship, you are also required to pass the civic integration examination. You may be granted full exemption, dispensation, or partial exemption from this requirement, where not all parts of the examination are required. For more information, please refer to the IND website.

An overview of civic integration

The original Civic Integration Act of 2007 was updated in 2021. The aim of the Civic Integration Act 2021 is to enable people to start participating in Dutch society as quickly as possible. The civic integration process emphasises a combination of learning the Dutch language and taking part in Dutch society, for instance through work placements or volunteer work. Newcomers that are required to integrate have three years to complete the civic integration process after their arrival in the Netherlands. 

Municipalities play a key role in helping migrants who are obliged to complete an integration programme. There are several different types of integration programmes which are overseen by the Dutch Implementation of Education Service (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs DUO). An intake process determines which programme each migrant needs to follow.

The complete civic integration examination includes the following:

  • Knowledge of Dutch society
  • Reading (at A2-level)
  • Writing (at A2-level)
  • Listening (at A2-level)
  • Speaking (at A2-level)
  • Orientation on the Dutch labour market (ONA), which requires the completion of a portfolio assignment and 64 hours of ONA course or a final interview.

Benefits of civic integration for highly skilled migrants

If you are not legally required to go through civic integration, you may still want to do it in order to naturalise or apply for a stronger residence permit. In that case, you would need to pass the civic integration examination, but it is possible to request an exemption of the Orientation on the Dutch labour market component, if you already work in the Netherlands. You can find practising exercises and further information here.