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Becoming a Dutch citizen

The Netherlands may be geographically small, but it has huge attraction for the many that move here each year from outside the country. The 16th largest economy in the world is found here, as are the world’s tallest people! There are canals, rivers, and lakes all around, with roughly 15% of the country below sea level. The government is situated in The Hague, while Amsterdam is the official capital. The majority of residents live in one of four cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague.

Dutch society is highly multicultural, and large numbers of expats move here either temporarily to work or study, or permanently to become citizens and put down roots. Foreigners make up around a fifth of the total population here, with higher concentrations of expats in the larger cities.

Who Needs a Visa in the Netherlands?

The first thing you need to know about Dutch citizenship is that it requires that you live in the country for five years first (or three if you have been living with your Dutch spouse). This is a simple matter if you are from the “Schengen” area. A total of 26 countries including the Netherlands, France, Germany, Greece, Norway, Spain, and Sweden comprise this area, and all share a common visa and have no border controls.

If you are a citizen of an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland, you can visit, work, study, or live in the Netherlands indefinitely (unless you are from Croatia; Croatian nationals who want to stay in the Netherlands longer than three months must be registered in the personal records database and fulfill certain other requirements).

If you are not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland and are not coming to the Netherlands to join a Dutch, EU/EEA, or Swiss relative, then you are considered a “third party national” and will most likely need a provisional residence permit to enter the country. If you plan to stay more than three months, you will need a residence permit.

In order to work in the Netherlands, you may need a work permit. EU/EEA and Swiss citizens (except Croatians) can work freely without restriction. Third party nationals usually must obtain a work permit in order to work in the Netherlands. This is a little easier now than it used to be, as you can now obtain a combined entry visa, residence permit, and work permit. The combined permit is not available for certain residents such as students, seasonal workers, and individuals staying less than three months.

Finally, some expats in the Netherlands do not need a work permit at all, such as “highly skilled migrants,” new graduates looking for work, and scientific researchers.

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The Process to Become a Dutch Citizen

Individuals who have been living in the Netherlands for five consecutive years (or three if they have been living with a Dutch partner or spouse) may become a Dutch citizen through naturalization, as long as they fulfill certain requirements. To become a Dutch citizen you must:

  • Be over the age of 18
  • Possess a permanent residence permit
  • Be able to speak and write Dutch
  • Not have been in prison for the past four years
  • Be willing to renounce your previous citizenship (with some exceptions)
  • Be willing to change your name if it is deemed too difficult for Dutch people to pronounce or write

The entire process takes about a year and begins when you apply via your local municipality. Your application is processed through the IND. If it is successful, you will attend a citizenship ceremony, where you will pledge allegiance and affirm (in Dutch) that you will uphold the country’s laws. You will receive the formal decision, and then you will be a Dutch citizen, have all the same rights as every other citizen, and be able to apply for a Dutch passport.

The Option Procedure

There is another faster, simpler route to becoming a citizen, and it is known as the option procedure. This method takes only about three months, but only certain individuals qualify. To qualify for the option procedure you must meet certain criteria. For example, you will need to meet one requirement on a list that includes:

  • Being 18 or older, born in the Netherlands, and lived in the country since birth
  • Being 18 or older, a former Dutch citizen, and lived in the country for at least one year
  • Being married to a Dutch citizen for at least three years and lived in the Netherlands for at least 15 years
  • Being a minor who has been raised by an acknowledging Dutch citizen for at least three years
  • Or another item on the option procedure requirements list.

Regardless of which requirement you meet, you cannot have received any prison sentence in the past four years or have any impending criminal proceedings against you. You will also have to attend the citizenship ceremony and declare your allegiance, just like naturalized citizens.

Can You Get a Dual Citizenship?

Dutch dual citizenship is permitted in a limited number of circumstances. It is an option if:

  • You obtain dual citizenship at birth
  • You obtain your citizenship through the option procedure
  • You obtain your citizenship through naturalization but acquire an exemption from the requirement to renounce your previous citizenship
  • You naturalize in another country and are exempt from the loss of nationality rule

It is possible to lose your Dutch citizenship if you live abroad long-term while having more than one citizenship. In 2003 this law took effect; it mandates that Dutch citizenship be revoked if the individual lives outside of the Netherlands for more than ten years and holds a foreign citizenship.

Once you have your Dutch citizenship, realize that you can lose it certain situations, such as naturalization in another country. However, this loss of citizenship does not apply if you were born in the country in which you naturalize and have your primary residence there at the time of naturalization, are married to a person who holds the citizenship you wish to acquire, or are Austrian, Norwegian, or Danish.

Citizenship rules can be complicated and processes drawn-out, but taking the time to learn what is required can help you better understand your options for becoming a citizen in the Netherlands.