Civic integration in the Netherlands

To get a Dutch resident permit or to seek for Dutch citizenship, the majority of immigrants to the Netherlands from outside the EU must take the Inburgeringsexamen (civic integration tests).

You may be needed to study Dutch as well as information about Dutch culture and the job market in specific circumstances. 

According to the Dutch government, speaking Dutch fluently is essential to effectively integrate into the country and improving your chances of obtaining employment. As a result, they want to raise the language requirement for the Inburgering (integration) tests from of B1.

Do I need to start civic integration before I arrive in the Netherlands?

There are 2 instances where you must begin the inburgeren (civic integration) process before you arrive in the Netherlands. The first is if you are coming to live with your partner in the Netherlands. The second is if you are a cleric (such as a priest or imam). In addition, you must also fall in the category of people who require a machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf – MVV (authorisation for temporary stay). The MVV is a special type of visa needed to enter the Netherlands. If these conditions apply to you, you will need to pass a special exam known as the Basisexamen inburgering buitenland (Civic Integration Examination Abroad) before you come to the Netherlands.

Exemptions from civic integration requirement

The civic integration requirement does not apply to citizens of:

  • European Union (EU) countries

  • Liechtenstein

  • Norway

  • Iceland

  • Switzerland

  • Türkiye.

The following groups are also exempt:

  • children under 18;

  • people who have lived in the Netherlands for at least 8 years and were of compulsory school age during that time;

  • people who have degrees, diplomas, certificates or other evidence of having followed certain types of education and training taught in Dutch at an education institution in the Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (Kingdom of the Netherlands);

  • people who have reached retirement age;

  • people coming to the Netherlands temporarily for the purpose of, for instance, work, study or an exchange.

If a person stays in the Netherlands for a longer amount of time than those listed above, they must complete the civic integration procedure.

The process of integration

In a classroom context, you can take a course on civic integration. Or you might take a course on your own. You must take an exam at the conclusion of the course. After moving to the Netherlands, newcomers have three years to finish the civic integration procedure.

Civic integration system alterations

On January 1, 2022, the new Wet Inburgering 2021 (Civic Integration Act) went into effect. Currently, municipalities play a significant part in the civic integration process. The approach has been modified to allow newcomers to learn Dutch more rapidly while still gaining job experience. The new rule also offers immigrants more opportunity to select the educational path that suits them the best.

There are 3 learning routes:

  • The B1 route; for language and (voluntary) work. Newcomers learn to speak and write the Dutch language with an aim to achieve a B1 level (CEFR framework) within a maximum of 3 years. At the same time, they can participate through (voluntary) work.

  • The onderwijs (education) route; mainly for young people who are in the Netherlands attending tertiary education. They learn the Dutch language at level B1 or higher.

  • The zelfredzaamheidsroute (self-reliance) route; for newcomers who must follow the civic integration process and for whom routes 1 and 2 are too difficult. Learning the Dutch language at a lower level (A1). Preparing them (in a more straightforward manner) to participate in Dutch society.

Structure of the Inburgeringsexamen

The Inburgeringsexamen is designed to ensure migrants to the Netherlands have a basic understanding of the Dutch language and culture. There are five sections with questions concerning Dutch laws and customs:

  • Knowledge of Dutch society

  • Speaking competence

  • Listening competence

  • Reading competence

  • Writing competence

You can start the civic integration procedure while you are still outside the Netherlands if you are moving to the country to live with a relative.


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