Integration law for immigrants to the Netherlands
The Law on integration (Dutch: Wet inburgering) obliges most immigrants who are not citizens of the EU, Switzerland, Turkey, or the European Economic Area countries to learn Dutch and pass an exam within a few years of their arrival in the Netherlands.
According to a separate law, known in Dutch as the 'Wet inburgering in het buitenland, certain classes of prospective immigrant must pass a test of very basic knowledge of Dutch and society even before their first entry into the Netherlands.
The Dutch Law on integration, drafted by Rita Verdonk, was passed by the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) on 7 July 2006 and the Senate (Eerste Kamer) on 28 November 2006. It came into force on 1 January 2007.
This immigration law obliges people entering the Netherlands to integrate into Dutch society. After a period of three-and-a-half years (five years for some), they must have passed an exam measuring their level of integration. It consists of two parts, a Dutch language exam and a test of knowledge of Dutch society. The obligation to learn Dutch and integrate applies not only to new immigrants, but also to some who have already lived in the Netherlands for years.
Instruments promoting integration did exist before 2007, but were not compulsory. The law will however have consequences for some of the people who entered the Netherlands before 2007 (subject to certain criteria), but they will not go as far as for people who entered the Netherlands in 2007 or later. Many other countries impose similar obligations on people seeking to adopt their nationality, but not foreign nationals legally resident.
Prior to traveling to the Netherlands
A similar obligation exists for some foreign residents wishing to come to the Netherlands, especially people wanting to marry somebody who already lives there. These rules are found in another Law, the “Wet inburgering in het buitenland” (Integration law for immigrants to the Netherlands abroad). This provides for a far easier exam to be taken before coming to the Netherlands when applying for a three-month visa (Dutch: MVV). This exam is usually taken in Dutch embassies.
Failure to meet the obligations
Since the obligation was introduced for people entering after 1 January 2007, the law had no consequences for people failing to fulfil their obligations until 1 July 2010.
The law further states that the city council on the place of residence can decide whether a person who has been in the country for three and a half years and has not passed (or not taken) the exam is to be held accountable. In other words, whether the individual has made adequate efforts.
The law does not apply to:
- Dutch nationals (but see below for earlier drafts of the law);
- people from EU countries, EEA countries, Switzerland and Turkey;
- minors (under 18);
- people over 65 years;
- people who spent 8 or more years or more in the Netherlands while minors and subject to compulsory education
- people who have school diplomas, certificates etc. of Dutch-language education, for example people educated in Suriname;
- people who are sent by their companies to work in the Netherlands (expats);
In 2010, a Dutch judge ruled that the law did not apply to Turkish citizens, because of an association treaty between the European Union and Turkey.
Implementation and cost
|This section requires expansion. (April 2010)|
Dutch municipalities are responsible for the implementation of the law.
As of June 2011, the courses, which can cost several thousand euros, may be subsidised by the government in certain circumstances.
- It is claimed that the Netherlands is the only country imposing integration and language requirements on persons still abroad.
- Part of the dispute is therefore whether this law is a sign of more negative attitudes towards immigrants (or even xenophobia) in the Netherlands.
- This law originally proposed obligations for Dutch nationals from (Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles) wishing to enter Dutch territory. Young people from these countries are over-represented in crime figures, and not all of them speak Dutch well, or not as their first language. However, it was not possible to identify people from the Dutch Caribbean as such, so all Dutch nationals were initially covered, except for those who had spent more than 8 years of their childhood in the Netherlands. The intention was, in fact, to pinpoint residents of the Dutch Caribbean. This plan was abandoned after legal advice from the Council of State (Raad van State), which declared it unconstitutional. The law now applies to about 250,000 people in the Netherlands.
- One highly controversial provision was that some people would have to pay for any Dutch language training themselves, and receive a reimbursement only if they went on to pass the exam. This has been abandoned in practice, though not in theory. (See Plans)
- Despite widespread controversy, only one member of the House of Representatives, Fatma Koşer Kaya (D66), voted against it. In the Senate, four smaller political parties opposed it, totalling 13 out of 75 Senators.
- "Netherlands - Parliament approves modified integration law - Canada immigration news archive". Tcscanada.net. 2006-07-10. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
- door Folkert Jensma. "Uitspraak 61: Is voor een Turkse migrant inburgering verplicht? :: nrc.nl". Weblogs.nrc.nl. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
- Door een onzer redacteuren (2010-08-14). "Turken hoeven niet verplicht naar inburgeringscursus :: archief nrc.nl". Vorige.nrc.nl. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
- Inburgering niet verplicht voor Turken (Nu.nl)
- Inburgeringswet schiet ernstig tekort OPINION by Jos Groenenboom retrieved 2010-April-24 Dutch: "Met invoering van de Wet Inburgering Nieuwkomers is de verantwoordelijkheid voor de uitvoering van dat integratiebeleid bij gemeenten gelegd." English translation: "When the Law on the integration of immigrants was passed, the responsibility for implementing integration policy was given to municipalities."
- Rick Broadbent Last updated at 7:10PM, August 3 2012 (2012-03-13). "The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion". Timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
- "Eerste Kamer der Staten-Generaal - Wet inburgering (30.308)".
- Civic integration examination abroad introduced website of the Immigratie en Naturalisatiedienst
- newspaper article Dutch language in Trouw
- The Netherlands: Discrimination in the Name of Integration article dated May 13, 2008 by Human Rights Watch
- Pass this test, Dutch tell immigrants From The Sunday Times June 18, 2006, by Nicola Smith
- http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,397021,00.html der Spiegel English version