Civic integration (inburgering) in the Netherlands

The Dutch government wants everyone who lives in the Netherlands to be able to participate in Dutch society. This means knowing about Dutch culture, speaking the Dutch language and being able to work or study independently. People who move to the Netherlands permanently or for a longer period can take part in the civic integration process. Sometimes this is a requirement. This depends on the which citizenship the newcomer holds and other factors.

Exemptions from civic integration requirement

The civic integration requirement does not apply to citizens of:

  • European Union (EU) countries
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Switzerland.

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.

Civic integration requirement

People who do not fall into the above groups must complete the civic integration process if they stay in the Netherlands for a longer period of time.

If this applies to you, you will automatically receive a letter from Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs – DUO  (education implementation service). For more information go to the website.

The integration process

You can follow a civic integration course in a classroom setting. Or you can do a course independently. At the end of the course you must sit an exam.

Newcomers in the Netherlands have 3 years to complete the civic integration process after their arrival in the Netherlands. 

Changes to the civic integration system

The new Wet Inburgering 2021 (Civic Integration Act) came into force on 1 January 2022. Municipalities now have an important role in the civic integration process. The system was changed so that newcomers can learn Dutch more quickly and gain work experience at the same time. The new law also gives newcomers more freedom to choose which learning routeworks best for them.

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.

If you are coming to the Netherlands to live with a family member, you can begin the civic integration process while you are still outside the Netherlads.

The old Wet Inburgering 2013 continues to apply to people who already fell under the civic integration requirement before 1 January 2022. You can generate your own step-by-step civic integration plan on DUO’s website. 

It applies to everyone who first falls under the civic integration requirement on or after that date.