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Dutch integration course proposed for migrants

The Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk has proposed that all immigrants, both new arrivals and long-term Dutch foreign national residents, need to successfully complete a social integration course and exam.

This regulations would also apply to non-EU ex-patriates who have come to the Netherlands on a work permit and who have been resident in the country for more than three years. Some countries, such as the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan have agreed with the Netherlands to exempt their citizens from the requirement to complete an integration course.

Nationals from Dutch territories such as the Antilles and Aruba would also need to pass the exam if they were to enter the Netherlands for the first time, despite the fact that they hold a Dutch passport.

This proposal is a strengthening of the Minister's earlier plan to oblige migrants to participate in an integration course, but now they would also be required to pass an exam.

The Dutch Government in coalition last year agreed that those migrants who in particular have a poor level of understanding of the Dutch language and who are also dependant on welfare should be required to complete such an integration course and exam.

The Minister believes that by offering integration courses to immigrants, local municipal councils should pay for these services and aim them towards unemployed migrants who are subsisting on social security benefits as well as disadvantaged female migrants, who are mostly Moroccan and Turkish nationals.

Ms. Verdonk has proposed that immigrants undergo two tests - the first one to test basic knowledge of the Dutch language and culture, which would be taken in the potential migrant's country of origin. The person would then receive full permanent residency if a follow-up course is successfully completed. The cost of this course would need to be paid for by the migrant. If the course is completed within three years then part of the costs will be refunded but they could be fined if the course is not completed within five years of their arrival to the Netherlands.

The Minister's proposals have come about after it was decided that family unification and marriage visa migrants would neeed to complete an integration course in their country of origin before they could come to the Netherlands.

The proposal is waiting approval by the Lower Houses of Parliament.