How to integrate
If you come to live in the Netherlands, it would be best for you to learn the language quickly, to find out about the customs, and to learn the written and unwritten rules. It will then be easier for you to find your way and feel welcome sooner; you will then become part of Dutch society. This is called ‘integration’. It may sometimes be difficult to integrate, but it is also interesting and exciting: a whole new world is opening up to you!
The success of your integration depends largely on your own initiative. In addition, the Dutch government imposes obligations regarding integration on newcomers: the integration obligation and signing the Participation Statement.
The integration obligation applies to every new resident aged between 18 and 67 years. The integration obligation starts as soon as you get a residence permit. You have complied with this obligation once you have signed the Participation Statement and passed the Civic Integration Examination or State Examination NT2. These examinations consist of the following parts: Dutch language, Knowledge of Dutch Society, and Orientation on the Dutch Labour Market.
Finding an integration course
You are personally responsible for choosing a school or course for your integration. You can find schools in your area on the website www.ikwilinburgeren.nl of 'Blik op Werk'. Blik op Werk is a quality mark, which indicates the quality of the school. You can read about each school how satisfied the students are, how many students have passed the exams, and how much one lesson costs. When you choose a school with the Blik op Werk quality mark, you can apply to DUO (Education Executive Agency) for a loan. With this loan, you can pay the integration course and the exams.
You have three years to pass all exams, or five years if you must first take literacy training (learn how to read and write in Dutch script). This is called the ‘integration period'. If you pass all exams in time and you have an asylum residence permit, you do not have to pay back DUO's loan. Passing the Civic Integration Examination is also important if you want to apply for a permanent residence permit or a Dutch passport. If you fail the exams within this period - and you do not have a good reason why you did not pass them - you can get a maximum fine of € 1,250.
Extension of integration period
If, after 300 hours of lessons, you think that you need more than three years to pass your exams, you can sometimes be granted an extension of the integration period. You must apply for this extension at DUO. The Dutch Council for Refugees or your language school can help you with this.
Learning Dutch yourself and extra practising
You are not obliged to follow a Dutch language course, but it is very difficult to pass the Civic Integration Examination without having followed a course. Besides, you must often prove to the municipality that you are actively learning the language. If you want to practise the language, there are many possibilities, such as:
Net in Nederland (new to the Netherlands)
On the website of Net in Nederland (new to the Nederlands) you can find all kinds of videos with Dutch, English or Arab subtitling. You can watch the news and other TV programmes, and films on different integration themes.
Many public libraries offer the opportunity to practise the Dutch language, but you can also go there to meet other people and participate in activities that help you integrate.
And it is important to practise the language a lot. You may be able to get a language coach from the Dutch Council for Refugees or some other organisation. Do you have neighbours or acquaintances with who you can practise Dutch regularly? Or you could do voluntary work; you will then gain work experience and learn the language.
Norms and values differ by country. As a new resident in the Netherlands, you may be confronted with Dutch norms and values that may be somewhat different from those you were used to. Several norms and values have been laid down in the Dutch Constitution and legislation, such as:
- The freedom of religion and speech.
- Everyone is equal, whether you are a man, a woman, hetero, gay, lesbian, or transgender.
- You are not permitted to discriminate and others are not permitted to discriminate you.
- You are free to marry whoever you choose.
These subjects are discussed during one or more workshops of the Participation Statement Programme. You do not have to find a school for this programme yourself; you will get an invitation for this programme from the municipality or from the organisation that provides the workshops. At the end of the lessons, you will sign the Participation Statement. You must do this within a year after you have received your residence permit. The Participation Statement is an obligatory part of the integration. If you have a regular residence permit, you must pay € 150 for this, if you have an asylum residence permit, the municipality will pay this for you.
The role of the Dutch Council for Refugees
If you have any questions about Integration, do not hesitate to put them to your counsellor of the Dutch Council for Refugees. We can give information about the obligation to participate in an integration programme, about suitable integration courses in your area, and about a loan from DUO.