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Governance of Migrant Integration in the Netherlands

Since the 1920s, people from (former) Dutch colonies, such as Surinamese, Antilleans, Arubans and Indians, moved to the Netherlands. After the Second World War, when the Netherlands experienced an industrial boom, the Dutch government (and private companies), recruited workers from Southern European countries - especially Spain and Italy. As of mid 1960s, it also started to invite guest workers from third countries, including Turkey and Morocco.


Foreign population in the NetherlandsOn 1 January 2017, 367 744 Third Country Nationals (TCNs) were living in the Netherlands. They represented 2% of the total population, according to the Dutch Statistical Office.

In 2016, out of the 95 753 permits issued, 26% were for family reunification, 17% for studies and 15% for economic activities. On 1 January 2016, the most represented third countries of origin were Turkey (around 75 500), Morocco (around 42 000) and China (around 30,000).



Besides the foreign population, approximately 1,5 million Dutch nationals with non-western background were living in the Netherlands on 1 January 2016. Among them, 397 471 and 385 761 have respectively Turkish and Moroccan background. Another 12 992 TCNs were naturalised in 2016.

Integration Strategy

The Netherlands implemented its first strategy in the 1980s to integrate those guest workers who ended up had permanently establishing in the country. The Dutch government then introduced a two-track policy consisting of social-economic integration and support for identity-development and group-wide emancipation.

More recently, the then Minister of Social Affairs and Employment presented an Integration vision in 2013, putting responsibility of integration on the newcomer who needs to undertake the necessary steps to succeed. The accompanying agenda, outlines priorities such as:    

  • participation and self-reliance
  • living together and dealing with others
  • internalisation of Dutch values

It takes shape through concrete policies such as civic integration which can already start abroad, before the migrant’s arrival. Besides newcomers, the strategy also addresses the integration of second generation migrants.

The latest coalition agreement of October 2017 wants to accentuate this active vision of migrants’ integration and accelerate their entry into the labour market. The agreement also plans to eliminate low literacy in this population group. Based on this agreement, a new Integration Policy is currently being drafted.

Integration Programme

The Dutch civic integration programme is a mandatory process made of 2 exams: the first is to be passed abroad, prior to arrival and the second within 3 years after arrival. It includes:

 þ language course

 þ civic education

 ý vocational training

A module on labour market orientation was introduced on 1 January 2015. As of 1 July 2017, newcomers also need to first go through the Participation Certificate Programme before taking and passing the exam. Those who refuse to sign the declaration must pay a fine of up to 340 euros and will be unable to obtain permanent residence nor Dutch citizenship. The signature of the Certificate, which states that the migrant agrees to respect shared Dutch values, is preceded by a course introducing the standards and rules of the Dutch society. It is specifically aimed at asylum seekers, and people who move to the Netherlands for family reasons.

With regards to naturalisation, a ceremony during which documents are officially handed to new Dutch citizens is organised by municipalities every year on 15 December. Naturalised persons over 16 are required to attend and make a statement of commitment.

The latest coalition agreement of October 2017 foresees to change the current programme.


The Minister of Social Affairs and Employment reports back to the parliament on an annual basis, including for integration issues. The most recently available report reflects the situation as per December 2016. In addition, an evaluation of integration programmes (or parts of the policies) are produced upon request of the Lower House. The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) further produce bi-annual reports.

In 2016, a longer-term (15 years) study on the 4 main migrant groups was conducted, based on several integration indicators.


þ   Foreigners Law

The 2000 Aliens Act (Vreemdelingenwet 2000) is the main legislative act related to permits and foreigners’ rights and duties. The Aliens Act is implemented through Decrees, Regulations and implementation guidelines.

ý   Asylum Law

The Netherlands does not have a self-standing Asylum legislation. The Aliens Act also lays down the asylum procedure and the reception conditions of asylum applicants.

þ   Integration Law

The latest amendment to the Dutch Integration Law (Wet Inburgering) came into effect on 1-10-2017. It states that all immigrants must sign a pledge to uphold and support Dutch values as part of their integration exam (see section on Integration Programmes).

þ   Nationality Law

The law on Dutch citizenship came into force on 1 January 1985 to replace the Dutch Nationality and Occupation Act of 1892. The reform of 1 April 2003 introduced the possibility of becoming Dutch by option statement; a quick and easy procedure open to foreign or stateless persons born in the Netherlands and with legal residence permit at the moment of application. It was last amended on 10 February 2017 with the intention to take away Dutch passports from nationals with double nationality found guilty of terrorist acts.

þ   Anti-discrimination

Anti-discrimination is enforced by Article 1 of the Dutch Constitution (1814), last amended in 2008. The Equal Treatment Act (1994, amended in 2004) regulates the implementation of Article 1. It was enacted after 10 years of public and political debate and translates international treaty into the national law.New discussions are appearing to lay ahead Islamic citizens' claim to protect freedom of religion, including the right to found Islamic schools and churches.

In addition, the Municipal Anti-Discrimination Services Act ensures that everyone can report (alleged) discrimination in their own place of residence.

Public authorities

On the one hand, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment is the competent authority leading the governance of migrant integration at the national level. The civic integration exams are coordinated by the Institute for the Implementation of Education DUO which is part of the Ministry of Education.

On the other hand, municipalities have an implementing role in the participation certificate and the naturalisation ceremonies. Local authorities further have a big role in the integration of newcomers (housing, social services and social assistance, school education, etc.). However, these activities are no longer regarded as strictly ‘integration’ in the Netherlands.

Civil society

Immigrant civil society in the Netherlands has recently lost state support, as part of the current government's decision to mainstream integration and cut all targeted support. Bodies must survive on their own and must compete with other sectors to make integration a priority and have their voices heard. Local consultative bodies continue to come and go and several local authorities have moved from immigrant consultative bodies and subsidies to mixed bodies and project funds for the participation of all groups.


Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several EU funds. In addition, national and private funds are made available for service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.

þ  EU Funds

  • Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in the Netherlands


AMIF has allocated over € 253 million to the Netherlands for the 2014-2020 period. National integration priorities presented in the Dutch AMIF programme reflect the national Integration Policy and language learning, integration into the labour market and social cohesion.

National managing authority

The national managing authority for the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in the Netherlands is the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (Uitvoering van beleid SZW).

  • European Social Fund (ESF) in the Netherlands


The EU is contributing over € 510 million through the ESF to the Netherlands Operational Programme ESF 2014-2020, which has a total budget of over € 1 billion. Over 70% of the total budget will support inclusion through education and employment.

National managing authority

The national managing authority for the European Social Fund (ESF) in the Netherlands is the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (Uitvoering van beleid SZW).

  • Other EU funds for integration available in the Netherlands

ERASMUS+, the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe

National managing authorities:



Nederlands Jeuginstituut

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the EU by correcting regional imbalances

National managing authority: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy

Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), offering material assistance to the most vulnerable or in need

National managing authority: Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (Uitvoering van beleid SZW)

European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), supporting the development of rural economies and communities

National managing authority: Regiebureau POP

þ  Other Funds

  • Other public funding in the Netherlands

Ministry of Justice

Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (Uitvoering Van Beleid)

  • Private funding in the Netherlands

European Cultural Foundation

Oranje Fonds

Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland

VSB Fund

Stichting Democratie en Media

Stichting DOEN!


Other stakeholders

þ  Providing integration services

þ  Implementing Integration Programme

ý  Campaigning

þ  Publishing statistics