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 two different kinds of civic integration requirements: basic civic integration, which applies only to people who need a provisional residence permit (machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf, MVV) before coming to the Netherlands, and civic integration according to the 2021 Civic Integration Act, which is required for most internationals living in the Netherlands, except for EU/EEA, Turkish and Swiss nationals.
Exempt from civic integration
Nationals of EU/EEA countries, Turkish and Swiss citizens, and highly skilled migrants are exempt from both types of civic integration. Anyone intending to stay in the Netherlands on a temporary basis, for the purposes of work or study for example, is also exempt from the integration requirement. If these situations apply to you, your immediate family is also exempt.
Basic civic integration – before coming to the Netherlands
The basic civic integration requirement applies only to people who need a provisional residence permit (MVV) before coming to the Netherlands. Nationality is the most important factor in determining if an MVV is required but there are also other grounds for exemption.
Basic civic integration exam
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 (basisexamen inburgering) as part of their MVV procedure. This must be completed in the country of residence (usually at the Dutch embassy) before coming to the Netherlands. 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 when living in the Netherlands
Most non-EU/EEA, Turkish and Swiss nationals who live in the Netherlands are required to take part in Dutch language and/or civic integration courses. Most migrants in this group between the ages of 16 and 65 will need to pass the integration exam. Completing the civic integration process is also compulsory for those who want to apply for a permanent residence permit. There are some exemptions to the civic immigration requirement.
The reasons behind 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 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 programme 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.