This issue contains 4 sections.
More immigrants must integrate and integrate better. The foundation for this is laid down in the Civic Integration Act, which came into force on 1 January 2007. Civic integration entails learning Dutch and knowing about Dutch society. The government also wants candidates to take part in society through voluntary work, work placements, etc.
Civic integration means that people learn Dutch and learn how Dutch society works. Civic integration is essential in order to take part in society. Newcomers to the Netherlands and migrants already living in the Netherlands have an obligation to integrate.
Civic integration course
To be able to integrate, migrants who settle in the Netherlands must learn Dutch and know how Dutch society works. Their knowledge is tested in a civic integration exam. Candidates who pass the exam are considered integrated. To increase the likelihood of passing, candidates can first take a civic integration course. The Civic Integration Act lays down the knowledge and skills they must possess. The course teaches candidates to read, write, speak and understand Dutch, as well as familiarising them with Dutch society.
Civic integration exam
The civic integration exam tests candidates’ command of Dutch and their knowledge of the Netherlands. The certificate they receive is proof that they are sufficiently integrated. To pass the exam, a candidate’s command of Dutch must be classified as A2. This is a reasonably basic level that allows people to get by in daily life.
Civic integration exam abroad
People who want to come and live in the Netherlands need a temporary residence permit or an authorisation for temporary stay (MVV). Before obtaining an MVV they need to take the civic integration examination abroad. Newcomers who are issued with MVVs are obliged to integrate further in the Netherlands. The civic integration exam abroad is a test of basic knowledge of Dutch and Dutch society. The results are valid for one year. Failure to pass the exam may result in the MVV application being turned down.
A leaflet is available to download about the civic integration exam abroad (In Dutch and Englsh).
You take the exam in Dutch, at Dutch embassies and consulates-general in your country of origin or habitual residence, i.e. the country in which you are entitled to reside for longer than three months, for instance on the basis of a residence permit. You have to take the exam before you travel to the Netherlands.
The exam is in three parts.
- Part 1 tests knowledge of Dutch society. With the help of a booklet with pictures, you answer a number of questions about the Netherlands’ history and political system by phone.
- In part 2, which tests knowledge of the Dutch language, you repeat sentences and answer brief questions.
- Part 3 (Reading and Comprehension Skills) tests how well you can read and understand Dutch. You have to read Dutch words and sentences aloud from a test booklet, add the words missing from some of the sentences, and answer questions about short texts. You do not have to write anything down.
The exam must be taken by foreign nationals between the ages of 18 and 65. Please note: The minimum age for obtaining an MVV for anyone wishing to come to the Netherlands for family formation or reunification is 21. The partner in the Netherlands must also be 21. Do not register a candidate for the exam unless he/she turns 21 within a year of taking it, because the results are only valid for a year.
You can find detailed information about the civic integration examination and the conditions for exemption on the website of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND).
Preparing for the exam
You are free to choose your own method of study. Embassies does not provide study aids. A self-study package has been produced, which you can use for practising all three parts of the exam. The package, which is available from Dutch bookshops and online retailers, also contains telephone access codes (TIN-codes, test identification numbers) which allow you to take two mock exams on the telephone in Spoken Dutch and Reading and Comprehension Skills. For more details, see the website Naar Nederland.
To register for the exam you must complete the registration form.
Payment for the exam
After you have sent in the registration form the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will send you an email witin 2 days containing a unique reference number, and information on how to pay the €350 examination fee. When paying the fee, make sure you state the reference number, since this shows what the payment is for and on whose behalf it is being made. Failure to do so will make it very difficult to process your payment. It may even be impossible to find any record of your payment, in which case you might have to pay again. This will create a long delay, since no date can be set for the exam until your payment has been received and processed. So always state your reference number when paying.
Around five working days after you have transferred the examination fee, you will receive confirmation of payment, by email, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If after a week you have not received confirmation, please call the Ministry’s Consular Service Centre (+31 (0) 70 348 4844).
Once you have received confirmation of payment you can make an appointment with your embassy or consulate-general to sit the exam.
Location for taking the exam
You can only take the exam in the country of which you are a legal resident (e.g. because you have a residence permit). If there is no Dutch embassy or consulate-general in your country where you can take the exam, you may take it at the nearest Dutch embassy abroad. The same applies if an embassy is temporarily closed, owing to political instability or other emergencies. Remember that you must apply for/collect your authorisation for temporary stay (MVV) from the same Dutch embassy or consulate-general where you took the civic integration exam.
For more information, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Consular Service Centre. You may email your questions to ExamenInburgering@minbuza.nl.
Role of municipalities in integration
Municipalities are responsible for organising integration. They must help people integrate. In concrete terms, they must actively approach and involve migrants and offer them appropriate civic integration courses.
Changes in government policy
The government will raise the quality of civic integration by taking more account of the candidates’ backgrounds and education. Municipalities will also actively seek out candidates. 156,000 people have started a civic integration course since 2007. The government wants (coalition agreement) migrants and asylum seekers to arrange their own civic integration in the Netherlands. This means they must pay for it themselves. If they cannot, they can apply for a loan. They can borrow the money they need to integrate but they must pay it back later.
The government is also considering:
- raising requirements in terms of immigrants’ language skills and qualifications;
- revoking the temporary residence permits of those who fail the civic integration exam;
- amending the Association Agreement – a form of economic cooperation – between the European Union and Turkey so that residents of Turkey are also subject to the requirements on civic integration abroad. The government wants Turkish citizens to integrate just like any other foreign national.
Until the end of 2013, municipalities will receive central funding to cover the cost of civic integration. This will come from the Municipalities Fund and the social participation budget. Municipalities can use such funding to pay for reintegration, civic integration and education.
Learning Dutch and using it at work, during a work placement, training course or voluntary work is known as dual integration ('duaal inburgeren' in Dutch). The goal of dual integration is that candidates increase their language skills and knowledge in the classroom and in practice. Municipalities must where possible tailor civic integration courses to the candidates’ work, work placements or courses.
Bill on civic integration and loan system
The government wants to change the rules on civic integration: everyone is personally responsible for integrating and learning Dutch. People who cannot afford to pay for this themselves can take out a special loan.
Those who do not integrate within three years may lose their residence permits. This does not apply to people who have a right to asylum; they are liable to be fined.
More information on civic integration
Your municipality can provide you with more information on the Civic Integration Act.
Acknowledgment of receipt of payment
Only register for the exam if you are adequately prepared and plan to take it within six months of payment. You can submit an application for a refund of the examination fee within up to six months of paying it – see the information below on Claiming a refund of the examination fee. Once payment has been received, an acknowledgment of receipt will be sent within five working days, informing you that you can contact the Dutch mission in the country in which you will be taking the exam to make an appointment. If you have not yet paid, or have not yet paid the full amount, you will not be able to make an appointment.
Claiming a refund of the examination fee
If you decide you do not want to take the civic integration exam abroad you can submit an application for a refund of the examination fee. This must be done within six months of payment. €35 will be deducted to cover administration costs. If you wish to cancel an appointment for an exam, please contact the mission in question at least 24 hours before the exam is due to take place. If you fail to do so, your money will not be refunded and your registration will lapse. You will then need to register and pay again.
Examination fee refund for Turkish citizens
Turkish citizens who took the civic integration exam abroad on or after 16 August 2011 are eligible for an examination fee refund. They are also eligible for a refund covering self-study materials and the travel costs incurred in taking the exam. Please use the official refund form if you wish to make a claim.