What is integration (inburgeren) and who must integrate?

What is integration (inburgeren)?

People who come from outside the European Union, Iceland, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and live in the Netherlands for an extended period are required by law to learn the Dutch language and to learn how Dutch society and the labour market work. This is called integration.


To demonstrate that you have sufficient knowledge of Dutch and society, you must pass an exam. Most people do the integration exam. Having passed this exam makes it easier for you to live and work in the Netherlands. It is also possible to meet the integration requirement by taking the State Examination NT2 (Staatsexamen NT2), or by earning a vocational education diploma.

Integration can happen in different ways, but most people take the integration exam.

Who has an integration requirement?

Not everyone who comes to the Netherlands must integrate. Only if you meet the following conditions are you required to integrate (you then have an ‘integration requirement’, ‘inburgeringsplicht’): 


  • You are coming to the Netherlands for an extended period
  • You are from a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA; Europese Economische Ruimte (EER)), Turkey or Switzerland
  • You are over 18 years of age and younger than the pensionable age (68 years in 2018);
  • You have a residence permit


How much time do you get to meet the integration requirement?

People who have an integration requirement will receive a letter from the Educational Services Department (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs, DUO). This letter states that they have an integration requirement as of a certain date. From that date, people have 3 years to pass the integration exam.


Integration in the Netherlands or abroad? 

Are you coming to the Netherlands as a member of the family of someone who has a residence permit in the Netherlands? Then you must start integrating before you come to the Netherlands. You then take the ‘basic exam for integration abroad’.


Read more about this exam in the dossier Naar Nederland >


Asylum seekers and refugees: integration requirement?

Asylum seekers may only start the integration when they have been granted refugee status. That means they may not take the integration exam while they are still going through asylum procedure. Have you applied for asylum in the Netherlands? Then you may only begin the integration when you are recognized as a refugee and legally allowed to stay in the Netherlands. 


When do you not have an integration requirement? 

If you meet one or more of the following conditions, you do not have an integration requirement: 

  • You have a Dutch passport
  • You are from a country within the European Union (Europese Unie, EU), European Economic Area (EEA; Europese Economische Ruimte (EER)), Turkey or Switzerland
  • You are under 18 years of age or older than the retirement age (68 years in 2018)
  • You lived in the Netherlands for 8 years or more during the school requirement ages (from 5 to 16)
  • You have Dutch diplomas, certificates or proof of education in the Dutch language
  • You come to the Netherlands to study or work temporarily here (for example as an expat), and you therefore have a special residence permit


Read more about the rules for integration on the Central Government website >

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Want to know more about the integration exam and the other ways to meet the integration requirement? On the page about exams, you can read what best fits your situation.

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