To obtain permanent residency or citizenship in the Netherlands, individuals have to meet certain requirements set out by the Dutch government. One of these requirements is to pass the civic integration exam, also known as the inburgeringsexamen. In this article, NedLes, a Dutch language school, explains how this process works.

In order to obtain Dutch citizenship or permanent residency in the Netherlands, foreign nationals must undergo the Dutch inburgeringsexamen (integration exams). Most individuals are required to take these exams and there are very few exceptions to this rule.

Why do you need to pass the inburgeringsexamen?By requiring expats to take and pass the inburgeringsexamen, the Dutch government wants to ensure that individuals have sufficient language skills to fully integrate into Dutch society. Their aim is that those who wish to stay in the Netherlands permanently are able to access social services, get in contact with their local municipality and find employment, among others.

Also, many expats find that obtaining a basic level of Dutch has definitely helped them to better navigate and enjoy their lives in the Netherlands.

Which exams do you need to pass?You will need to pass six tests in total to successfully acquire a permanent residence permit or Dutch citizenship. Four of these comprehensive integration exams evaluate your Dutch language skills in regards to reading, writing, listening and speaking.

In addition to the language exams, you will have to pass an exam assessing your knowledge of Dutch society and history (KNM). Specifically, this exam tests your knowledge of the rules, cultural norms and how various organisations work in the Netherlands.

The sixth exam is the Orientation on the Dutch labour market (ONA) exam. However, if you currently work in the Netherlands or are running your own business, you can ask for an exemption for this exam. To ask for this exemption, you need to apply for it via DUO’s website, under “Mijn Inburgering”.

Is the State Examination NT2 an alternative for the integration exams?The State Examination (Staatsexamen NT2) is a national exam that foreign nationals can take if they have learned Dutch as a second language. This diploma can demonstrate that you have enough knowledge of Dutch to work or study in the Netherlands at either a B1 (NT2-1) or B2 level (NT2-2).

Applying for permanent residencyWhen applying for permanent residency, if you have already passed one or more language exams from the State Examination NT2-1 / NT2-2, you will be exempted from those language exams from the integration process. However, you will still need to pass the KNM and ONA exams.

Applying for Dutch citizenship (through naturalisation)If you have fully passed either of the State Examinations for NT2-1 or NT2-2, you will be exempt for all of the inburgeringsexamen.

Why is it so complicated to get the right information about integration?This is the problem: the inburgeringsexamen itself is the responsibility of DUO, which is a part of the Dutch Ministry of Education. However, the requirements for Dutch citizenship and a permanent residence permit are the responsibility of the Dutch immigration authority (IND), which is a part of the Ministry for Justice and Safety. Thus, it sometimes takes a lot of phone calls from the individual to both the IND and DUO just to get the right information.

Is the inburgeringsexamen difficult?While there are plans to increase the difficulty of the language requirements from level A2 to B1 for residence permits and naturalisation, these changes will not be implemented in 2023 and it is not yet known when this change will be implemented. Therefore, the language proficiency level necessary for the year 2023 remains at A2.

This means you need a basic level of Dutch. You need to be able to understand a simple letter from your children’s school about a school trip or a simple request from your boss to work overtime. You should also be able to do things like write a simple letter to your dentist to cancel an appointment or to explain to a new colleague what they need to do.

In the exams, you are allowed to make mistakes in spelling and grammar; the main criteria is that your written and spoken messages are understandable. If you can conjugate the most common verbs and make no mistakes in the sequence of a simple sentence, then this is enough to pass. It also helps if you know a little bit about the past and perfect tense. However, the best way to get an idea of the required level is to have a look at the official examples of the exams, which can be found on DUO’s inburgering website.

What is the best way to prepare for the exams?That depends on your current level of Dutch. Do you have no knowledge of the language yet? Then it is advised for you to take a general beginner’s course that brings you to level A2.

If you are already near the A2 level, then you should first have a look at the practice exams and, if needed, take a short training for the exams.

Do you have any more questions about the Dutch integration exams and its requirements? Or do you need advice on the best way to prepare for each test? Attend the Open Day with NedLes on October 7 from 3pm – 5pm in Amsterdam Oost. You can also reach them via [email protected] or +31 61 500 4735 – they are happy to help and wish you all the best in passing your exams.


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