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Immigration Policy | Netherlands |

Netherlands Introduction Historical Trends Immigration Policy Immigrant Population Integration Policy Citizenship Immigrant Integration Irregular Migration Refuge and Asylum Current Developments References and Further Reading

Immigration Policy

Evelyn Ersanilli

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The Netherlands have attracted migrants for centuries. Initially, they were encouraged to maintain their own cultures. Since the 1990s, however, there has been increasing pressure to assimilate into Dutch culture. Successful integration has become a prerequisite to acquire political rights. The electoral success of anti-immigrant parties since the turn of the millennium has fuelled this development.

Dutch language and culture proficiency course (The Hague, 2002): Since 2006, those who want to come to the Netherlands for the purposes of family migration (formation or reunification) now need to pass a Dutch language and culture proficiency test in the country of residence. (© picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb)

Aliens Act of 2000

In 2001 the Aliens Act of 2000 (Vreemdelingenwet 2000, Vw 2000), came into effect. This law brought about major changes in refugee and asylum procedures (Interner Link: see below). During the 1990s politicians had become increasingly concerned with the large numbers of migrants arriving for the purpose of family formation. Some of these marriages were "fake"; contracted for no other purpose than to obtain a visa. There were also concerns about the high share of children of – particularly Turkish and Moroccan - immigrants marrying partners from the origin countries of their parents. Since these marriage migrants were often low-skilled there were fears that they would lead to a continuation of socio-economic marginality into the next generation. The law therefore raised the bar for marriage migration.

The minimum income that a Dutch citizen or resident must have in order to sponsor a family migrant was raised to at least 100 percent of the minimum family income (or 120 percent in case of non-permanent residents). In addition sponsors must have an employment contract for at least one year and be at least 21 years of age. The spouse who comes to the Netherlands has to be at least 21. Since 1998 the spouse must await a permit outside of the Netherlands. An exception is made for spouses from the US, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, and EU and EEA Member States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). These exceptions are based on bilateral treaties, but they also reflect the fear that people from other countries are more likely to be economic immigrants who use marriage as a way to enter the country. In 2004 the minimum income requirement for family formation was raised from 100 percent to 120 percent of the minimum family income. In 2010 the European Court of Justice ruled that this was unreasonably high and the requirement was brought back down to 100 percent.

Law on Civic Integration Abroad

In 2006 the law on "civic integration abroad" (Wet Inburgering Buitenland, Wib) came into force. Those who want to come to the Netherlands for the purposes of family migration (formation or reunification) now need to pass a Dutch language and culture proficiency test in the country of residence. Citizens of EU and EEA Member States, Interner Link: Switzerland, Monaco, Interner Link: Australia, Interner Link: Canada, New Zealand, Interner Link: United States, Interner Link: Japan and South Korea are exempted. In 2011 the Administrative High Court ruled that as a consequence of the association treaty between Turkey and the EU, Turkish nationals and their family members are also exempt.

As part of the study material, applicants can buy a video entitled "Coming to the Netherlands". This video, which includes images of gay men kissing and topless women lying on the beach, was very controversial when it was introduced, because it seemed designed to provoke Muslim migrants and not everybody considers homosexuality and topless sunbathing to be core Dutch values.

After restrictions on family migration were implemented, numbers initially dropped significantly. Since 2007 the numbers have increased again, but this is mainly due to migrants from the new EU Member States. Dutch residents of Turkish and Moroccan origin increasingly find a spouse from the local co-ethnic community rather than from the origin country of their parents.

Attracting Highly-Qualified Migrants

The government has been working to improve access for highly skilled workers. Special entry regulations for knowledge workers were introduced in 2004. Employees of companies who have signed an agreement with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) qualify for fast-track admission. Knowledge workers are exempted from the civic integration requirement. Since 2006 academic researchers and medical doctors training to specialize do not need to meet an income requirement; it is sufficient to show they have means of subsistence and work at a recognized institution. In 2007 the income requirement for foreigners with a degree from a Dutch university who find high-skilled employment was lowered. From 2008 to 2011 23,390 knowledge workers and 2,400 foreigners who studied at Dutch universities received residence permits. A program to attract graduates from the top-200 ranked universities in the world has been largely unsuccessful; between 2009 and 2012 fewer than 500 permits were granted.

This text is part of the Interner Link: country profile Netherlands.

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Dr. Evelyn Ersanilli is a Departmental Lecturer in Migration Studies at the International Migration Institute (IMI) at the University of Oxford. E-mail: E-Mail Link: