Whatever your reason for moving to Europe is at some point you will need to sit down and get serious about obtaining a visa and Dutch citizenship. Without the proper paperwork, you will not be allowed to stay in Europe longer than a few months or be allowed to work once you arrive here. So let’s say you are planning to move long term: what are some things to keep in mind?
For obtaining a residence permit for the Netherlands, you can find a lot of information online through the website of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). And rest assured, most of it is in English. But only after touching down on Dutch soil, I found out that there are a few important aspects that most foreigners are not aware of before starting the process of applying for citizenship. So keep in mind the following information to obtain and keep your Dutch residence permit.
Please note: other requirements may apply to your specific situation. Always check ind.nl for specific requirements that apply for either a Work, Family, Exchange or Short Stay visa/residency.
The ‘Inburgering’ or Integration Exam is most likely required
When applying for a Dutch residency and working permit, I chose to apply for a partner visa since my boyfriend is Dutch and therefore has a full residency. The main benefit of having a Dutch partner is that you get equal residency rights and will most likely not have to apply for a (separate) working permit. Some conditions apply though, for one: your partner will need to be able to support you financially and meet an income threshold.
Being in the possession of a US passport, I didn’t have to do an entry exam but for some countries, you will need to pass an exam in your country of origin before you are allowed entry into the Netherlands. After arriving, you will soon receive a letter from the IND explaining if you will need to start integration (in Dutch: Inburgering) and which exams you will need to pass in order to apply for permanent Dutch citizenship if you wish to stay long term.
You have 3 years to complete your Inburgering
Does the process of Inburgering sound daunting to you? To me it does. But you actually have 3 years to meet the requirements starting from the first day you arrive in the Netherlands. Because of Corona, my 3-year limit has already been extended by a few months. This is because classroom learning and in-person exams have not been possible.
In order to pass your integration exam, you most likely need to pass the following exams/courses:
- Participation Statement: depending on the city you reside in this will either be a course or exam where you’ll learn some basic things about Dutch society and standards.
- Orientation on the Dutch Labor Market: either a 6-week course or interview, helping you find a job in the Netherlands (under certain conditions you can get exempt from this).
- Knowledge of Dutch Society: a 45 minutes computer exam with videos, for example about shopping or going to the doctor. After each video, you have to answer questions.
- Reading skills: a computer exam where you have to read texts and also answer questions. This exam takes 65 minutes.
- Writing skills: A 40-minute exam with pen and paper; writing 4 assignments. For example: you write a short letter, or you fill in a form.
- Listening skills: a 45 minutes listening exam conducted on the computer. You will get questions about videos and you will listen to texts.
- Speaking skills: a 25-minute speaking exam conducted on the computer. For this exam, you must speak and understand Dutch. You watch videos and answer questions.
You are required to do the Inburgering, even on a partner visa
Before coming here, neither I nor my Dutchie could find much information about the exact Inburgering process and if this would apply to me having the partner visa. As it turns out: even if your Dutch partner vouches for you and supports you, the Inburgering is still mandatory.
At first, I was a bit annoyed that I would have to do these mandatory exams and would be quizzed on speaking proper Dutch (eek!). But when you think about it, without really going the distance and making the effort to learn the language and culture, it would be very difficult to be on the same level as the Dutch. Although most Dutch people speak English, you would be surprised how they open up to you when you approach them in Dutch. Not just in day-to-day situations, but also in trying to find a job. It can really make a difference, especially in terms of obtaining Dutch citizenship.
You can apply for a loan
Good to know: for visa and residence permits you will have to deal with IND, but for integration, this is being coordinated by a separate organization called “Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs” (DUO). DUO will let you know which exams you need to do, and how to apply. All this information can be found on Inburgeren.nl by logging in with your personal details.
Since DUO is the same organization that also coordinates the Dutch student loans, it’s not surprising that you can also apply for a loan for your Inburgering if you need one. Especially if you are planning on taking Dutch courses, you might want to consider this.
Language requirements will get harder from 2021
As you can see in the image below. The minimum level of Dutch you need to speak to pass the Integration Examination is A2. But the Dutch government is planning on changing this requirement to B1 in 2021. This makes it harder to pass the language exam, but only for people arriving in the Netherlands after the new requirements have gone into effect. This may sound discouraging on your pathway towards Dutch citizenship. However, if you’re currently in the Netherlands doing the Inburgering, you can still do the A2 exam.
Not only are the language requirements going to change. The municipalities will play a bigger role in helping you with the Inburgering, and there are plans for Dutch migrants to help you get a job while you are still in the process of learning Dutch. This is promising because most of the current Inburgering you need to do yourself.
If you want to find out more about obtaining a residence permit or Dutch citizenship for your partner, head over to the special IND page for more information.
Special thanks to my Dutchie for helping me navigate the Inburgering and writing this article ❤️