Changes in Dutch immigration policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Sep 6 12:44:55 UTC 2006

Changes in Dutch immigration policy

The Dutch government is getting tougher on most forms of immigration, but
is opening the door to skilled expats. Aaron Gray-Block traces the recent
flurry of proposals. Faced with a growing public and political backlash
against immigration counterbalanced with demands to admit more skilled
expats, the Dutch government has recently taken the bull by the horns.
Many of the proposals must still be approved by Parliament, but the
Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 majority government
is expected to push through the bulk of its plans.

Skilled expats

The Cabinet's move to ease immigration policies governing the entry of
skilled expats has been described by Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan
Brinkhorst as a breakthrough. Government ministers backed plans on 29
April that will pave the way for one point of contact, one procedure and
one permit for skilled or so-called "knowledge migrants". The proposal
drafted by Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk states that a knowledge
migrant is someone who enters the Netherlands for work, earning a minimum
gross income of EUR 45,000.

The Justice Ministry said the income criterion will not apply to
foreigners entering into employment as a doctoral student at an
educational or research institute and for postgraduates and university
teachers under 30 years of age. Skilled expats currently obliged to obtain
a work permit will in future be placed outside of the Foreign Workers
Employment Act and they will no longer require a work permit. The
Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) will be responsible for the
issuing of a residence permit.  The permit will be granted for five years
if the expat has a work contract for an indefinite period. In case of a
contract for a definite period, the permit will be granted for the
duration of the contract, with a maximum of five years.

Corporations and institutions can reach an agreement with the IND
qualifying skilled expats for an accelerated procedure for a temporary
entry permit (MVV). The government promises to fully deal with these
applications which most non-European Union nationals must obtain before
entering the country in the shortest possible period of time, but at two
weeks at the maximum.  Students will not be regarded as knowledge migrants
and instead will be granted a residence permit for a period of one year.
This will be subject to annual renewal. Educational institutes will be
able use the accelerated MVV procedure

Residence permit fees

The Cabinet has agreed to reduce the fees for residence permits for an
indefinite stay and the renewal of standard residence permits. But the
fees for family reunification permits will increase. A recent study found
that costs for standard residence permits decline in proportion to the
length of time a foreigner has spent in the Netherlands. Residence permit
renewals presently cost EUR 285, but could thus be reduced to just EUR 50.
Applications for an indefinite period cost EUR 890, but are set to be
reduced in price by EUR 696.

Fees for family reunification will increase by EUR 505, but the Cabinet
intends to implement a family tariff, which will apply if one or more
family members submit an application for residence. The introduction of a
family tariff will mean that the current tariff for children under 12
years will cease to apply.

Integration issues

Newcomers and settled immigrants will be forced to successfully pass an
integration examination to prove they have integrated into Dutch society.
The law is primarily aimed at non-EU family unification immigrants
especially those from Turkey and Morocco who will be required to complete
a basic integration test in their country of origin before arriving in the
Netherlands. The Netherlands is the first country in the world to demand
permanent immigrants complete a pre-arrival integration course. US,
Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Japanese nationals are exempted from
the pre-arrival courses.

The changes come on the back of a Cabinet decision in March requiring
Dutch residents earn at least 120 percent of the minimum wage before being
allowed to bring their foreign partner into the country. Both the partner
and Dutch resident must also be aged at least 21. Moving on, the Cabinet
agreed on 23 April that after arriving in the country, a newcomer must
report back to the local council after six months to monitor their
integration progress. Authorities will determine when they will be
assessed again. Those who fail to report will be fined.

If the immigrant wants to be compensated for course costs, they must pass
the integration exam within three years. If a newcomer has failed to
integrate after five years, they will be fined. Asylum seekers will only
be obligated to integrate once they have gained their first temporary
residence permit. Antilleans and Arubans will also be obliged to
integrate. A residence permit for an indefinite period can only be
obtained once a foreigner has passed an integration exam.  Settled
immigrants will also be required to complete the integration exam except
those who have already gained relevant diplomas.

The Cabinet asserts that about 450,000 settled immigrants have a language
deficiency and should thus be forced to integrate. Two groups are
identified: social security recipients and jobless residents who do not
receive social security (mainly disadvantaged ethnic women). Councils will
purchase courses for the latter group and ask the participant for a small

Policies for large cities

To combat the growing problems in socio-economic disadvantaged areas in
cities, the government has allowed the four largest cities demand that new
residents earn a minimum level income before being permitted to settle in
the city. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht will also be allowed
to offer fiscal incentives to persuade companies to set up operations in
problem neighbourhoods.

Illegal immigrants

Taking up the fight against illegal immigrants, the Cabinet resolved on 23
April to boost the capacity of the foreign police and double the cells at
deportation centres to about 3,000. Rental contracts can be dissolved if
inquiries indicate that landlords have rented homes out to illegal
immigrants. In the case of illegal subletting, the official tenant might
also lose his or her home. Employers will be threatened with stiffer fines
if they employ illegal workers. The average fine of EUR 980 will be
increased to EUR 3,500 per illegal worker.

More raids will thus be carried out and employers will also be forced to
pay retrospective social security premiums and taxes if the illegal
immigrant has worked there for six months. That bill could reportedly
amount to EUR 6,000. The Cabinet stopped short at declaring illegal
immigration a criminally prosecutable offence. Instead, if illegal
immigrants are considered a threat to public policy or national security,
they may be declared undesirable aliens.

Definite implementation

A spokesperson from the Justice Ministry confirmed that the crackdown
against illegal immigration did not need approval from MPs and will thus
proceed as is. But the legislative proposals regarding skilled expats,
compulsory integration and the policies assisting the four largest
Randstad cities improve problem suburbs must still be voted on in coming
weeks and months in the Dutch Parliament.

19 May 2004

[Copyright Expatica 2004]


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