Tuesday 3 October 2017 was an exciting day for future Dutch citizens living abroad. On that day, the Senate of the Dutch Parliament voted on a legislative proposal that would have ended naturalization from abroad. The legislative proposal also included an extension of the required residence period from 5 to 7 years. To the delight of many, a majority of the Senate voted against the legislative proposal, thereby striking it down.
There was ample attention to the negative consequences that the legislative proposal would have had, had the Senate voted for it. Unfortunately, two of its benefits will now not come about either, because the Senate can only vote for, or against, a law proposal in its entirety.
- the term after which automatic loss of Dutch citizenship occurs will not be extended from 10 to 15 years;
- the interim option request procedure to re-obtain Dutch citizenship after it was lost on the basis of expiration of that term, will not be introduced.
Beside these points, the proposal being struck down also causes a the practical obstacle of naturalizing abroad to likely fade into the background.
Many people still wanted to file for naturalization from abroad prior to the vote in the Senate. They contacted Dutch embassies across the globe in order to register for the required civic integration examination. When taken abroad, the civic integration examination consists of one central exam, with a series of tests via computer and telephone, on special DUO (Education Executive Agency of the Netherlands) laptops. The examinees were kept in the dark as to when they could take the exam: no one could tell them when a DUO-laptop would be available.
In one specific case, someone was even deterred from registering for the exam as he was the umpteenth in a long line and the Embassy already had been waiting for months for a laptop to arrive. Contact with IND, DUO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed the cause of this uncertainty and delay: only 6 of these DUO laptops are available worldwide! The laptops travel across the globe by diplomatic mail. No one can tell at any given time where the laptops are or when they will arrive at a certain embassy. In times where people can apply for residence permits online and there is digital litigation, a system where laptops are sent by diplomatic mail is outdated.
It is unlikely that this archaic system will change any time soon now that the legislative proposal has been struck down and the need to naturalize from abroad has become less urgent. This outdated system will, however, continue to cause long waiting times and uncertainty for future naturalization candidates abroad.
In the meantime, we have a new government and the coalition agreement has been presented. Ending naturalization from abroad and extending the required residence period no longer seem to be priorities for the new government. Instead, there is a new legislative proposal pending, ‘to modernize nationality legislation’. Whether this modernization will include updating the ancient system with 6 laptops remains to be seen.
Maarten Schippers, Former paralegal with Everaert Advocaten Immigration Lawyers
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