In his letter of 4 February 2018 minister Koolmees of Social Affairs and Employment acknowledged there are capacity problems surrounding exams for ‘Orientation on the Dutch labor market’, or ‘ONA’ for short.
ONA is a mandatory part of the integration exams since 2015. Especially the waiting period for the final, oral exam is too long. The minister suggests 4 measures:
- ONA will no longer be a requirement to qualify for an extension of the integration deadline and/or an exemption based on demonstrable effort. It is not yet clear if and when this measure will be applied.
- An exemption from ONA for those taking the integration exams who have passed the State Exam Dutch as a Second Language (NT2). It is not yet clear if and when this measure will be applied.
- An exemption from ONA for those taking the integration exam who already have a job. This measure will enter into force earliest by January 2019. Also, it is unclear who will be eligible for this exemption exactly. Candidates will need to have had a job for at least 12 hours a week over a period of 6 months within the year prior to the application of the exemption.
- Exemption from the final oral exam (not the portfolio) for candidates who have followed at least 64 hours of ONA training with the ‘Blik op Werk’ label. This measure is applicable since 1 May 2018.
Minister Koolmees also suggested a few long-term measures for the integration exams in general. Municipalities will be more involved in the integration process; they will compose an individual integration program (PIP) for every candidate, including an obligation to achieve results. Candidates can receive a fine or their social benefits can be cut if they do not demonstrate sufficient efforts to pass the exams. Further, the language requirement will go up from level A2 to level B1. There will be exceptions for candidates for whom this level is not achievable. It is not yet clear if and when these measures will be applied.