Report shows that only a third of immigrants pass integration exam

In order to be able to get a residence permit to stay in the Netherlands, one must first pass a compulsory integration exam testing one’s knowledge of the Dutch language and culture.

What the Dutch law states

In 2013, a law was passed making the immigrant responsible for organising and funding their own integration process, namely, paying for the exam and lessons.

Before the law came into effect, municipalities were responsible for making sure newcomers to the Netherlands integrated by using the allocated budget of 333 million euros towards the cost of courses. The budget has since then been slashed and courses have been transferred to the private sector.

The Dutch government allows all immigrants to borrow up to 10 thousand euros for lessons depending on their income. In most cases this money needs to be paid back in full. 

Dutch study shows

A study by the Netherlands General Court of Audit (Reken Kamer) has showed however, that only one third of immigrants who sit the exam, actually pass.

In the first half of 2013, only 33 percent of the 5.415 immigrants and refugees hoping to make the Netherlands their home, passed the exam within the three-year cut off.

50 percent did not manage to pass at all, and the others were issued an exemption or waiver from the government.

Additionally, only 2 percent managed to pass the exam at the higher level, which is far lower than the 20 percent that passed between 2007 and 2012.

The problem with finding Dutch courses

According to the report, the main problem is that those who come to the Netherlands without any knowledge of the language, struggle to find their way to a Dutch course in the first place. 

Even the Blik op Werk website that lists the integration courses on offer and monitors their quality, is entirely in Dutch.

Whilst 165 companies in the Netherlands do offer their expat employees Dutch lessons, there is still no way of controlling their standard, nor is there any way of knowing that the employee will indeed pass the exam or integrate into Dutch society, the report acknowledged.

A failing Dutch system

Lodewijk Asscher, the social affairs minister for the Netherlands, who introduced the changes, has openly stated that improvements do need to be made, and he is taking steps to monitor the quality of courses.

Asscher recommends that city councils take a more active role in providing newcomers with the right information about courses and offering them incentives to take the exam as well as help them in translating the relevant documents needed.

Find out more

To find out more about the exams, you can read about how Dutch language certification works in the Netherlands. 

Kiri Scully


Kiri Scully

Raised a global citizen, to an Irish father and American mother, Kiri has lived and worked in five countries over three continents. Fuelled by culture curiosity at an early age,...

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