This website uses Cookies

We use cookies for necessary website functionalities, for social media functionalities and for webiste statistics and analysis. More information can be found in our privacy policy.

I agree with the use of cookies for:

Necessary functionalities and anonymous statistics

The Civic Integration Exam Abroad

For successful family reunification, most migrants must first integrate abroad. This requirement exists since 2006. But what exactly does the exam entail? And what are the consequences if you do not pass the exam?

The exam

The Civic Integration Exam Abroad (hereinafter: integration exam), tests the knowledge of the Dutch language and Dutch society and aims to promote the integration of migrants in the Netherlands. The exam consists of the following three parts, at language level A1:

1.         Speaking skills (maximum 30 minutes);

2.         Reading skills (maximum 35 minutes); and,

3.         Knowledge of Dutch society (KNS) (maximum 30 minutes).

The integration exam should be completed on a computer at a Dutch embassy or consulate, in your country of nationality or your country of residence. If this is not possible, you will have to take the exam in a neighboring country. Registering for the basic civic integration examination can be done via Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs (DUO). The full exam, in 2024, costs €150. You can practise for the exam here.

The results
DUO announces the results of the integration exam within eight weeks. The results are given per part, and all parts must be passed. If you fail one of the parts, you will only have to retake the exam for that section. To schedule a re-exam, a new application via DUO’s website must be booked and be paid for.

Applying for a residence permit
Once you have passed the integration exam, it is important that you apply for entry and residence with the IND within a year. This is because the result of the exam is not valid for more than one year. If you did not pass all parts at the same time, this one-year period starts from the date all parts have been completed.

Integration and MVV
The integration exam is linked to the requirement of having a provisional residence permit (MVV). This is a visa to enter the Netherlands. If you must complete the integration exam, you will have to await the decision on the application abroad. Successful completion of the integration exam and obtaining an MVV, which you apply for simultaneously with a residence application, are required to obtain a residence permit. An MVV is issued by the Dutch embassy or consulate in the your country of residence, after the residence application has been approved by the IND. This will be the same location where the integration exam needs to be completed.

Exemptions and dispensation
The integration requirement does not apply to everyone. For example, it does not apply to migrants under the age of 18 and over the age of 67. It is also not a requirement if you apply for a residence permit because you want to come and work in the Netherlands. The same goes for family members of the migrant who wants to work in the Netherlands. A migrant is also not required to pass the basic integration exam if they have the nationality of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Vatican City, United Kingdom, United States, South Korea or Switzerland.

The situations listed above are the most common exemptions. All other exemptions can be found in the list below:

Other exemptions

  • The migrant has EU long-term resident status in another EU country;
  • The migrant has lived in the Netherlands for 8 years or more during compulsory school age.
  • The migrant has Surinamese nationality and completed at least primary education in Dutch in Suriname or the Netherlands;
  • The migrant is a spiritual minister but will not work in public. For example, as a monastic, internal employee or board member.
  • If the migrant applies for a residence permit to stay with a family member with a temporary or permanent asylum permit;
  • If the migrant applies for a residence permit to stay with a person with the nationality of an EU country;
  • If the migrant applies for a residence permit with a different purpose of stay, while the migrant already has a residence permit in the Netherlands.

Finally, you can also be exempted from the integration exam if you can demonstrate with an attained diploma that you have followed Dutch education or passed the subject Dutch in school. The full list of exemptions can also be found here.

In addition to the above-mentioned exemptions, there are also possibilities to obtain dispensation from the integration exam. You can apply for dispensation if there are special circumstances why you cannot pass the exam. This may be the case because of a medical situation, or if you have tried to pass the exam several times but failed. Obtaining dispensation is very difficult.


The integration exam has changed a lot since its introduction in 2006. In the first years, around 90% of foreigners passed the exam. This led to changes in 2011, making the exam more difficult. With those changes, this number dropped to 80%, which dropped further to between 60 and 70% after the exam was altered again in 2015. As of 1 May 2023, the exam has been adjusted one more time, with the ‘easier’ sections being removed.

In practice, the probability of passing the exam has a lot to do with the foreign national’s origin. For example, foreigners of Ukrainian, Russian or South African descent pass the basic civic integration exam in over 90% of cases, whereas for poorer countries, such as Eritrea, Somalia and Tanzania, this lies between 15% and 35%.

Besides nationality, the level of education is also an important factor in the likelihood of passing the civic integration exam; migrants with at least a completed college education pass in over 85% of cases, but migrants with only a completed basic education pass in less than 50% of cases.

The exam has received criticism since the plan to introduce the basic civic integration exam. Back in 2004, for instance, the Dutch Advisory Council on Migration stated that not enough explanation was given for the difference made based on nationality, and in 2008 Human Rights Watch labelled the difference on the basis of nationality as an inappropriate measure to achieve better integration of migrants.

European (law) perspective

Remarkably, per 2024, the Netherlands is the only EU country that has a compulsory integration abroad that tests knowledge of language and knowledge of culture. In Germany and Austria this exists as well, but only with a language test. Also, the diploma to be obtained in these countries does not expire, while in the Netherlands the diploma is valid for only one year.

European legislation demands that integration conditions should not have the purpose of selecting individuals. Integration conditions may also not be a severe obstacle for family reunification and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, language and ability is prohibited as well. In addition, Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) contains the general prohibition of discrimination. The question is whether the basic civic integration exam is in line with this.


Besides the question whether the compulsory integration abroad is in line with European law, it is also questionable how much it helps in achieving the goal of improving migrants’ integration in the Netherlands. After all, a large group of migrants does not have to integrate abroad and there is an obligation to integrate in the Netherlands as well. Research by Regioplan, from 2014, shows that integration abroad does provide a basis for daily life in the Netherlands, but only for a very small amount. The Dutch court also questioned the effectiveness of the integration exam in 2023. The added value of the integration exam has not been demonstrated (enough).

Do you want to settle in the Netherlands and/or do you have questions about the integration exam? Please contact us.

Contact us

Contact us

Sign up for our newsletter