Dutch Civic Integration (Inburgering)

Information about the social integration requirements (Inburgering) in the Netherlands for non-EU citizens applying for a residency permit…

The Dutch Civic Integration Act (Wet Inburgering) makes it compulsory for most non-EU nationals to pass one of the two citizenship exams: the Civic Integration Examination (inburgeringsexamen) or the Basic Civic Integration Examination Abroad (het basisexamen inburgering in het buitenland) if they wish to:

  • Apply for permanent residency in the Netherlands
  • Apply for Dutch citizenship
  • Keep living in the Netherlands

For those who are already Dutch residents, this exam must be passed within three years of the date residency is granted.

Note: For non-EU citizens wishing to apply for permanent residency or citizenship but who do not wish to do the inburgering, the other option is to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the Dutch language, usually by passing a language-only exam called the NT2 Staatsexamen. Unlike the Civic Integration Exam, NT2 does not test an applicant on civil knowledge and does not require the portfolio demonstrating an understanding of the Dutch job market. For some residents (especially those who are not planning to work in the Netherlands or who are self-employed) this may be a more convenient option. More information on this third option can be found on the Dutch Language Qualifications page.

Individuals who wish to live and work in the Netherlands are normally obliged to take one of the civic integration exams if they meet all of the following conditions:

  • Are aged 18-65 years
  • Are registered in the State Register
  • Live in the Flemish region
  • Have a residence permit of more than three months for the first time
  • Hold a non-European Union passport

The obligation does not apply in Brussels. Citizens of EU/EEA and Switzerland are only obliged to take the exam if they are family members of Belgians or to a person who recently took up residence in Flanders and hold a Belgian nationality.

Civic Integration Courses

Special courses (in Dutch) are available to help candidates prepare for the exam. These courses are offered in every municipality, and their focus is on developing basic Dutch language skills as well as learning about Dutch culture and society.

Note: Enrolment in one of the schools listed in the above link and in the first bullet-point below means that the cost of the course may be borrowed from the Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs (DUO). The cost of attending a private school or studying with the help of a tutor must be borne by the student.

The level of skills and knowledge required to pass the exam is specified in the Civic Integration Act. The mandatory Dutch language skill level equates to level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). It is not obligatory to attend a civic integration course.

The Civic Integration Exam

Upon first registration with the local gemeente, non-EU residents will receive a letter if they are obliged to sit the Civic Integration Exam.This letter will give the deadline for passing the exam. Failure to successfully pass an integration test by this date may result in fines and/or cancellation of the residency permit. Exceptions can be made in the case of extended illness, pregnancy, or difficult personal circumstances as long as the applicant communicates clearly and early with the local authorities.

Each gemeente has a relationship with a privately-owned but government-funded language school in the area. An appointment will automatically be made for new residents to attend an intake appointment with this school, however it is not compulsory to study with the nominated school. An individual is free to choose their own school or even not attend classes at all if they are comfortable studying alone. In this case it is then the individual's responsibility to ensure that they apply to take the exam and pass it within the allotted time.

Enrolment for the exam should be made at the Achievement Education Service (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs, DUO).

There are six parts to the inburgering exam. As of late 2014 most of these components will be completed on a computer at an exam centre. The portfolio component (reintroduced in January 2015) is handled separately (see below for further explanation).

Part I. Knowledge of Dutch Society. Example topics may include:

  1. How the Dutch government works
  2. Understanding of the regions & municipalities within the Netherlands
  3. How people generally interact with each other in the Netherlands

Part II. Speaking. An applicant will hear snippets of conversation via their headphones and be given a certain amount of time to speak into their microphone in reply. Answers are later listened to, and graded, by an examiner.

Part III. Listening comprehension. An applicant will hear snippets of conversation or a short lecture on a topic via their headphones. They will then be asked a question and are required to choose the correct answer from a set of multi-choice options.

Part IV. Reading comprehension. An applicant will be given a paragraph or page to read. They will then required to choose the correct answer from a set of multi-choice options.

Part V. Writing. An applicant will be given a series of writing exercises. They will then be required to demonstrate their understanding of written Dutch. This may be done on paper, on a computer, or on a combination of the two.

Example topics may include:

  1. Writing an email to a work colleague inviting them to a company social function
  2. Looking at a series of pictures and explaining what is happening in each
  3. Writing a congratulatory card to be given to a neighbour who has just had a baby

Part VI. Understanding the Dutch job market. This component was dropped through 2014 but has been reintroduced as of January 1, 2015. An applicant will need to gather written evidence that they have interacted (in Dutch) with recruiters and/or potential employers. This is achieved through eight separate exercises, each of which is documented in their own way. Upon presentation of this portfolio to the examiners, an applicant may then qualify for the second stage of this component: an interview with an examiner who reviews the portfolio and asks the applicant a series of questions (all in Dutch).

The Basic Civic Integration Examination Abroad

Certain non-EU foreign nationals, aged 18-65, who intend to move to the Netherlands, must take the Basic Civic Integration Exam before arriving in the country. This is conducted at the Dutch Embassy or Consulate General in their country of residence. This initial examination is a test of basic knowledge of Dutch and Dutch society.

Prior to November 2014 the exam was a single unit costing €350. There were three parts, testing:

  1. Knowledge of Dutch society
  2. Dutch language ability
  3. Reading and comprehension skills

After November 2014 the tested topics remain the same, however the following changes have been implemented:

  • The exam is now made up of 3 separate tests (see above). This means that each test can be taken as a stand-alone exam and each has its own certificate. Three certificates are needed to pass the exam as a whole
  • The exam still costs a total of €350, but now each test has its own price: fluency €150, reading proficiency €100, familiarity with Dutch society €100
  • The tests are now completely administered by computer

The results of the exam are valid for one year. A temporary residence permit or authorisation for temporary stay (MVV) may be refused as a result of failing the exam.

Self-study packages are recommended as a form of exam preparation, and are available from Dutch bookshops.

  • Order a self-study pack for the Basic Civic Integration Examination Abroad (site recommended by the Dutch government)
With contributions from Josien Deknatel, Director, Kickstart School Laan Copes van Cattenburch 86, 2585 GE Den Haag Website email Tel: 070 360 7860