Netherlands immigrants surprised with more integration tests: report

Integration exam
Image from a video portraying students during the integration exam (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs). (Image from a video portraying students during the integration exam (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs))

A number of immigrants in the Netherlands who previously passed a state exam for integration, were surprised by two extra tests they need to pass before getting an indefinite residency permit, the Volkskrant reported on Monday. The foundation for refugee students UAF received multiple complaints about this over the summer.

There are two options for an immigrant to comply with the duty to integrate in the Netherlands. The easiest is the integration diploma, in which immigrants have to pass six examinations at the basic language level A2. Immigrants who want to study in the Netherlands or work at a higher level, must pass a more difficult state examination. Up until 2015, this state exam was enough to fulfill the integration requirements.

After that, the rules changed. Immigrants who want to study or work at a high level in the Netherlands, now also have to pass two additional tests titled Knowledge of the Netherlands Society and Orientation on the Dutch Labor Market. 

UAF received multiple calls from immigrants who have been in the Netherlands for years, and passed their state exam years ago, but are now faced with these additional tests when they want to extend their residency permit to an indefinite one. 

The information from immigration and naturalization department IND and education service DUO, which handles the integration exams on behalf of the government, doesn't match up, according to the newspaper. DUO's website states that immigrants who passed the state exam, and therefore complied with integration requirements, before 2015, don't have to write the additional tests. But according to the IND, they do. 

One affected immigrant compared the situation to renewing your driver's license, according to the newspaper. It's like having to retake the driving test, after years of driving, because the exam criteria changed, the immigrant wrote on an online forum.

These additional integration requirements aren't that crazy, according to a spokesperson for the IND. The spokesperson pointed out that a residency permit for an indefinite period gives a person more rights than the temporary permit most immigrants initially receive. "So it's not crazy that stricter requirements are imposed", he said to the Volkskrant. 

Remarkably though,  the requirements for getting Dutch citizenship - the strongest form of a residency permit - does not require the additional tests. For that the state exam is enough, according to the newspaper.