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The Netherlands remains a significant immigration country, with most newcomers being EU citizens or Dutch citizens including from Antilles and Aruba. More permits are delivered for family reasons since citizens of 2004 ‘New’ EU Member States no longer require work permits.

Since 2007, newcomers have seen few changes to Dutch policies, still slightly favourable for integration and more favourable than in most corners of Europe. As in other established and reforming immigration countries, all residents are able to participate with equal rights and responsibilities, secure residence, jus soli, dual nationality and political opportunities.

While only SE and PT do more to promote economic integration, the Netherlands does slightly less to promote family life. Most other leading countries see having either a job or a family in country as meaningful starting points for integration in society. Increasingly, the Netherlands imposes the same conditions on very different statuses and at higher levels than expected for Dutch citizens (e.g. income). A family applicant (Chakroun) brought this issue before the European Court of Justice, whose judgement temporarily made the family reunion process more clear and coherent.

Timeline - What's Changed

+2 1 April 2007
Access to nationality – conditions
Same test for long-term residence/naturalisation means integration classes prepare candidates for citizenship.
0 2008–2009
New migrant education measures introduce policies to target migrant pupil needs.
-25 January 2010
Family reunion – rights
Implementation of Civic Integration Act for family independent permit.
0 January 2010
Access to nationality
Increased fee for naturalisation.
+9 March 2010
Family reunion – conditions
Case C578/08 Chakroun.
+10 Family reunion – eligibility
Case C578/08 Chakroun

Key Findings

  • Since 2007, policies still ‘slightly favourable’ for integration; ranks 5th. 
  • Dutch have 3rd best policies on labour market mobility: equal economic opportunities and targeted measures for foreign-born workers. 
  • Equal treatment for all families following Chakroun, equal income, age requirements. 
  • Multiple integration tests for family members: more obstacle than facilitator compared to few countries imposing them. 
  • Good intercultural education for all pupils, but few new opportunities addressed in schools. 
  • Restrictive conditions for long-term residence and citizenship, otherwise law-based procedures. 
  • Broad definitions of anti-discrimination enforced but limited in scope. 
  • Equality policies an area of weakness, as across Europe. 
  • Migrants can participate in democratic life and national consultations. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Tailored programmes for equal opportunities in practice:

    Migrants in the Netherlands enjoy targeted measures to help find work and improve skills. Vulnerable categories are specifically recognised as needing special assistance. For example, migrant youth benefit from programmes to improve language skills and to keep them in school. Local projects support migrant women to find jobs and set up businesses, with pilot schemes to attract them into the health sector and to bring 50,000 to voluntary sectors.

    Residents with the right to work are encouraged to find the right job in the Netherlands, which ranks 3rd best (after SE and PT). Non-EU workers and families have equal access and workers’ rights in all parts of the economy. The Netherlands’ policies resemble other countries attracting labour migration such as CA, ES, PT and US. Their needs are targeted with some of the most developed measures of all countries (see box). Outside the Netherlands, non-EU residents can use study grants (see FR, LU, PT, SE) and the same facilitated procedures as citizens to recognise foreign qualifications (see recently CA, PT). In DE and SE, newcomers use coaches and mentors to access public employment services who are themselves trained on foreign-born workers’ needs. 

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    Meet the Chakrouns

    Mr. Chakroun immigrated in 1970 and, 2 years later, married his wife, who stayed in Morocco. Working in manufacturing until 2005, he then could not sponsor her because of more restrictive conditions for ‘family formation.’ In March 2010, the European Court of Justice judged that all families with a minimum wage and minimum age limit (18) fulfilled the basic conditions for living in the Netherlands, defined by Dutch authorities for family reunion. This was at least the case until a new July 2010 law.


    Tests: more obstacles than incentives for family integration?

    The Dutch pre-departure test, scoring just 14, is more likely to delay or discourage family members, with expensive tests and materials on both language and integration knowledge. In contrast, applicants learn the same subjects through France’s simpler requirement to attend free, more accessible courses (71). In the Netherlands, courses and tests are also unfavourably expensive, though some successful participants can be refunded. DK and FR better encourage families to succeed with free courses; DE with free tests; and NO with just courses.

    Scoring average, the Netherlands increasingly requires conditions and tests that few European countries follow. Most countries, especially labour migration countries, which score so well for labour market mobility, also do so for family reunion. The Netherlands’ score dropped only 1 point because reunited families now face greater integration tests, while sponsors temporarily enjoyed more equal age limits and income requirements as of the MIPEX research cut-off date in May 2010.

    Dutch law’s limited definition of non-EU families excluded as many family members as it included, though fewer since the Chakroun case. Adult children and parents only have a conditional right to join their sponsor, unlike in 7 more inclusive countries. Only BG and CH also apply extra criteria to minor children: in the Dutch case, including integration exams for children over 16. Non-EU spouses and partners had to wait 3 more years if meeting their sponsor before he or she moved to the Netherlands, but not following the Chakroun case (see box). They fulfilled the same 18-years-old age limit as in 23 of the 30 other MIPEX countries.

    After the Chakroun case, newcomers passed largely average conditions for Europe, except for the test abroad, an obstacle for integration, especially compared to the few other countries with them. All sponsors temporarily had to prove the minimum income, which applies to all Dutch residents. In May 2010, only 3 of the 30 other MIPEX countries required pre-departure measures (proposals in AT, BE, UK). Only 6 others required in-country measures (see box).

    Because of further tests, family members no longer have fully equal rights as their sponsor. Since January 2010, they must pass an integration exam to gain an independent permit. If they cannot, they remain dependent on their sponsor. Exceptions apply in cases of divorce or abuse where family members are guaranteed an autonomous status, as in AT and CA. Families still enjoy the same right to work, study and access benefits as their sponsors (as 18 other countries). Slightly less secure in their status than in most countries, reunited family members can lose their permits on wide grounds, but with judicial oversight. 

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    Targeting specific needs for migrant pupils

    At 50 points, the Netherlands scores slightly above average on targeting the specific needs of migrant pupils. It initiated new migrant education measures in 2008/09, when some problems were recognised and addressed. Measures include a covenant on higher education to stimulate the influx of non-western students and to combat dropout, desegregation measures in 7 pilot cities and support for language skills in early childhood education. See also BE, CA, Nordics, PT, UK, US.

    The Dutch education system is half-way prepared for diversity, but less so than international leaders that include new opportunities for diverse languages, cultures, parents and students in all schools. All children with a migrant background can attend compulsory schooling. They benefit from targeted support at higher levels, language support throughout and data to monitor their progress and improve policies. All pupils, regardless of background, learn to appreciate diversity as intercultural education permeates school life (see also NO, UK) with some measures to diversify teachers (see 6 other countries). Dutch policies have been less effective at teaching immigrant languages (taught in 22 countries) and cultures (14), parental outreach (12) and social integration (experiments in DK, SE). 

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    National Dialogue Structure with minorities (LOM)

    Introduced in 1985 and regulated in 1997, LOM creates slightly favourable conditions for minorities and government to build consensus around policy changes and social events (e.g. Iraq War, Fitna film). The Dutch Parliament settles any disputes. All 8 minority organisations are legally qualified for dialogue: i.e. representation of women and second generation, major groups. All are structurally funded to inform and consult communities. However, the Integration Minister chairs and decides whether they meet more than 3 times per year. See also Nordic countries.

    The Netherlands, as a long-established immigration country, allows and encourages newcomers to improve democratic life. Immigrant organisation can rely on specific funding with potential for real impact at national level, through the National Consultation of Minorities, regulated by law (see box). Local consultative bodies come and go (e.g. Amsterdam, The Hague), which can discourage immigrants from building bridges across communities and participation in civic life. Non-EU residents and EU citizens nevertheless participate in mainstream politics through electoral rights (as in 5 leading countries) and full political liberties (as in most). Still, newcomers may have trouble learning about organisations and rights (see policies in Nordics, PT). 

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    Long-term residents in The Netherlands enjoy equal and secure rights, but reach this point with difficulty. All time as students is counted towards the 5-year residence requirement. Still, 19 categories of temporary migrants cannot apply. Conditions limit long-term residence to those with permanent incomes and paying comparatively high €400 fees. Slightly unfavourable language and integration tests provide no guaranteed support (see CZ, FR, NO, PT). At least procedures are long established on rule of law and residence security. Authorities use few grounds to withdraw permits (as in 7 others, e.g. AT, BE, DE, ES), consider personal circumstances (23) and protect groups from deportation who have long called The Netherlands their home (10).

  • Show Access to Nationality

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    Newcomers take a basic and clear path to citizenship, as in established and reforming immigration countries. BE, CA, FR, GR, IE, SE, US also require no more than 5 years’ residence for naturalisation. Most countries with jus soli fully accept dual nationality for the second and/or third generation. Unlike The Netherlands, most MIPEX countries now fully accept it for the first generation. Since the same test now applies for long-term residence and naturalisation, long-term residents do not need to pass it again. The State guarantees that applicants become citizens when successfully passing the conditions (as in 10 others). As of May 2010, naturalised immigrants and Dutch-born citizens were legally treated as largely equal and secure citizens.

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    Effective equality bodies

    The Dutch Equal Treatment Commission is an independent quasi-judicial body established in 1994 to hear and investigate claims of discrimination. Anyone can ask for an opinion, free of charge. As part of its mandate, it conducts surveys, issues reports and recommendations, and performs consultative functions for government. ‘Article 1’, a Dutch NGO, covers all grounds of EU law and fills the role of providing advice and assistance to victims, while broadly monitoring discrimination in society. Local governments are obligated in law to provide anti-discrimination offices, which Article 1 coordinates and supports.

    Broad anti-discrimination definitions protect all residents on many grounds (17 other countries) and racial profiling (5), but not fully for social protection or social advantages (unlike half). Enforcement mechanisms are the strongest (with US, PT) and would be strengthened with alternative dispute procedures (in 19). During proceedings, victims can benefit from sharing the burden of proof, situation testing, NGO support, class actions and action popularis. They also turn to one of Europe’s strongest equality bodies for independent advice and proceedings (see box, also BG, HU, IE, SE). The Netherlands shares Europe’s weakness on equality policies, with the State not legally committed to promote equality through information, dialogue, duties and actions (see CA, SE, UK).