The Netherlands has a comparatively open citizenship policy. Since 1953, third generation migrants (i.e. the grandchildren of immigrants) receive Dutch citizenship at birth. In 1985, the Netherlands introduced a new citizenship law that replaced the law of 1892. The law introduced an option-right to Dutch nationality for Dutch born children of immigrants (the second generation) between the ages of 18 and 25. In amendments that came into effect in 2003 the age-limit was removed, but the option right was made conditional on the outcome of a public order investigation.
Immigrants can naturalize after five years of legal residence, or three if they are married to a Dutch citizen. Until 2003 the naturalization requirements were minimal: applicants had to show that they had no serious criminal record and complete a modest oral exam to test their Dutch language ability. This exam usually involved a civil servant asking the candidate to state their name, place of birth, address and year of immigration in Dutch. The low threshold to naturalization was a deliberate choice. The government believed that it was important for the immigrant population to have equal rights, and awarding citizenship was seen as a good way of ensuring this.
Legally resident foreigners have several rights that other countries usually reserve for citizens. Since 1985 foreigners have been allowed to work in the civil service, with the exception of the police force and the army. After five years of legal residence, foreigners have the right to vote and stand for election in local elections.
Dual citizenship was introduced in January 1992, which led to an increase in naturalizations. Dual citizenship was highly contested, and in October 1997 it was withdrawn. As a consequence there was a drop in the naturalization rate
Tightening Access to Citizenship
In line with the stricter approach toward immigrant integration in general, citizenship requirements have been tightened. Granting citizenship is no longer seen as a means of facilitating integration, but more as a reward that should only be given to people who have proven that they have successfully integrated. To test the level of integration, a formal naturalization test was introduced in 2003. This written exam tests both the applicant's language proficiency and his/her knowledge of Dutch culture and society. The introduction of the test led to a decrease in naturalizations. In 2005 the naturalization rate was 3.1 percent, which is still high compared to other European countries. It has remained stable ever since. Since 2007, people who passed the civic integration exam no longer have to do a naturalization test.
This text is part of the Interner Link: country profile Netherlands.