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Do you live in the Netherlands with family members abroad? May be you can apply for their residence permit(s) in the framework of family reunification.

Whom for?
Often, if you live in the Netherlands it is possible to let your family members join you. This goes for Dutch citizens, but also for holders of a Dutch residence permit, as long as you have lived in the Netherlands for at least a year at the time of the application.

However, if you stay in the Netherlands with a temporary purpose, like study, outplacement or seasonal work, your family members often cannot join you.

To Turkish nationals and their family members different rules apply. Read more about these rules here.

Which family members?
The following persons qualify as family members:

  • married or registered partners, regardless of gender
  • unmarried partners, regardless of gender, conditional to evidence of a long-term and exclusive relationship
  • children younger than 18 years and young adults who still live as household members

To have adopted children from abroad join you in the Netherlands, you must meet specific conditions. Read more about this on our page International Adoption.

Conditions
The conditions you and/or your family members must meet are:

  • you (as the sponsor in the Netherlands) meet the income requirement unless you are exempt
  • your partner has passed the civic integration exam abroad unless exempt from this requirement
  • your family members will stay at your address once in the Netherlands
  • you (as the sponsor in the Netherlands) and your partner abroad are at least 21 years of age

Income requirement
As the sponsor in the Netherlands, you must have independent and long-term, sufficient income. This is the basic condition but exceptions are sometimes possible.

Independent means you have a legal job (income tax and social premiums are paid) with your own income. A benefit from public funds, like a social welfare benefit, is not considered independent income. An unemployment or sickness benefit however, does qualify.

Sufficient means that you earn at least the statutory minimum wage.

Long-term is when your job contract is valid for at least another 12 months at the time of the application. Income as an entrepreneur or freelancer is considered long-term if you have had at least 1.5 years of business income.

If you have several sources of income, you may add up the wages.

The minimum wage is reviewed twice a year: January 1st and July 1st. You can find the current amounts here. If you are younger than 23 years, the minimum youth wage standard applies, as you can find here.

If you do not have the prospect of a valid labor contract for the coming 12 months, but you do have this for the coming 6 months, the income may be considered long-term if your income in the year prior to the application was sufficient (according to the minimum wage in that year). Read more about this topic in this news article

The income requirement is not applicable if the sponsor in the Netherlands has reached AOW pension age or, subject to conditions, is unfit for work.

Are you a Dutch expat and do you want to return to the Netherlands with your family members? Then you may not be able to meet the income requirement. In this case, a customized approach my apply and you may be eligible for family reunification. Read more about this topic in this news article

Basic Civic Integration Exam Abroad
As a foreign partner, you must pass the Basic Civic Integration Exam Abroad, except in a few cases. To pass this exam, you need a basic knowledge of Dutch language and society. You are tested on 3 aspects:

  1. speaking skills
  2. reading skills
  3. knowledge of Dutch society

You can retake the tests individually in case you fail one of them.

To prepare for the exam, a self-study package is available in 18 languages. It comes as a free download, or you can buy it as a kit with books and DVD’s. In some countries, you can take courses at private institutions. The Dutch government does not offer any courses.

You take the exam at the Dutch consulate or embassy of your home country, or country of residence. If that country does not have this facility, you may take the exam at the nearest consulate or embassy in the region. Check locations here.

The exam costs €350. Registration and payment is done on the DUO website. If you fail and need to retake a test, you pay for that part again. You receive your results within 8 weeks of taking the exam. The results remain valid for a year.

Exempt from the Basic Civic Integration Exam Abroad are for instance: persons from the EU countries, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. Persons from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Turkey and the USA are also not required to take the exam. You can find the full list here.

In special cases, if your personal situation prevents you from taking (parts of) the exam, you can apply for exemption. You must be able to provide evidence. Check here where or how to apply.

Entry clearance visa (mvv)
If you intend to stay in the Netherlands for 3 months or more, you need a special visa: an entry clearance visa or mvv. When you receive a positive decision on your residence permit application, you also receive an mvv approval. This means you may contact the Dutch consulate or embassy where you took your exam, for an appointment to collect your visa. Once you collected the visa, you must enter the Netherlands within 3 months. Your residence permit will be issued to you in the Netherlands.

Some nationalities are exempt from the mvv requirement. If you come from the EU, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea or the USA, you are a non-visa national and you can enter the Netherlands without an mvv visa.

Check here to find out whether you are a visa national.

The residence permit
The residence permit is valid for 5 years, unless the sponsor in the Netherlands has a temporary residence permit. In this case, the expiry date on this permit also applies to the family members.

The same applies to the employment restrictions; you are free on the labor market unless the sponsor in the Netherlands has a temporary residence permit. In this case, the employment restriction on this permit also applies to the family members.

Obligations
After arrival in the Netherlands, your family has certain obligations in order to keep their right of residence, for instance:

  • you and your family live at the same address
  • as a family you earn sufficient income
  • your relationship continues to exist

You must inform the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service) of any changes in your situation, for instance:

  • when your relationship changes or ends
  • when you apply for a social welfare benefit

If any changes occur resulting in non-compliance with any these conditions, you are legally obliged to inform the IND. If you fail to do so, you and your family risk being fined.

Integration in Dutch society
As a foreign partner in the Netherlands, you must pass the Civic Integration Exam within the first 3 years of your stay. This is the follow up of the basic Civic Integration Exam Abroad.

Your residence permit can be revoked, if you do not pass the exam within 3 years. 

If you are obliged to pass the exam, you will receive a letter from DUO (Dutch Government Agency for Education). In some cases, you may be exempt from this requirement. You can find a list of exemption categories here.

EU law
Dutch citizens are EU citizens aswell. This means that as a Dutch national, you can appeal to EU law, but only when you stay outside of the Netherlands or when you have recently lived in another EU country.

EU law differs from Dutch law on the subject of family reunification. For instance, the civic integration obligation does not apply and the income requirements are less strict. Also, contrary to Dutch immigration law, under EU law your parents are considered family members.

Would you like to know more about how EU law could apply to your situation? Please contact one of our experts in this area: Hans Jager or Barbara Wegelin.

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