"My first experience in the Netherlands was very pleasant, extremely pleasant. I mean, I got my residence permit, refugee status, within four weeks of arrival." -Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Due to the Netherlands being a very liberal and tolerant country, immigrants from all over the world feel welcomed and at home in Europe's most densely populated country.

A 2010 survey conducted by Eurostat confirmed that there were over 1,800,000 foreign-born residents living in the Netherlands. This makes up 11.1% of the total population of just over 17 million inhabitants. 

The most common ethnic groups that are living in Holland, other than Dutch, are Morrocan, Turkish, Indonesian, German or Polish. More than 82,000 people chose the Netherlands as their country of residence last year in comparison to the 139,000 who left the country.

Whether immigrants are seeking refuge from complex political and economic issues or simply want a better life with superior healthcare, social acceptance and further work opportunities the Netherlands is the place to be!

In recent years, many refugees, immigrants and expats have been able to call Holland their home. To be able to legally reside in the Netherlands, there are many rules and quite a bit of paperwork that need to be filled out. Superprof is here to show aspiring residents a brief history of the Netherlands immigration, the reasons for choosing Holland as your new homeland and the steps that need to be taken in order to acquire Dutch citizenship.

A Brief History of Immigration in the Netherlands

moving to a new place
After Surinam became independent, many Surinamese people moved to the Netherlands for a better life. (Source: pixabay)

The Netherlands has a total population of 17.2 million people who are spread across the country's 12 provinces of Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, North Brabant, North Holland, Overijssel, South Holland, Utrecht and Zeeland.

The most populous of the aforementioned provinces is South Holland with over 3.65 million inhabitants. 

The majority of immigrants have found work and have decided to reside in the Western provinces of the country. In cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, located in the west, one in every three inhabitants is non-Western descent.

How did immigration begin in the Netherlands?

After the Second World War, the Netherlands was left in absolute shambles from all the destruction. Even though the Netherlands claimed neutrality at the brink of WWII, German attacks such as The Rotterdam Blitz caused many of the Dutch cities to be in ruins and in dire need of reconstruction, especially Rotterdam.

Directly after WWII, many foreign nations offered much-needed help to reconstruct the cities that had been severely destroyed. The post-war period was a very tough one for the Netherlands since industries were demolished and unemployment was rampant.

During this time there was a shortage of labourers due to the immense projects that needed to be undergone. Therefore, to meet the demands many private companies and even the Dutch government hired inexperienced workers from the Southern parts of Europe such as Spain and Italy. Many of these workers were temporary and went back to their countries of origin after their services were no longer needed, however, some stayed and created a new life for themselves in the tolerant and liberal country of the Netherlands.

After a few years of struggling and the reconstruction was finished, the Netherlands experienced an unprecedented economic boom. This caused many immigrants from the countries of Morocco and Turkey to migrate to the Netherlands as guest workers.

Moroccan and Turkish workers left their families during the 1960s in order to work for less time and earn extra cash to send to their families residing in their countries of origin. After experiencing this prosperity and the great things money can buy, these men had diffculties returning home. 

In the 1970s an economic oil crisis occurred and labour migration was halted completely in 1973. Nevertheless, in the following year of 1974, a new law was passed allowing for family reunification. This caused the wives and children of labour workers, mostly from Morocco and Turkey, to be reunited with their husbands who were working in Holland.

Due to the fact that during the Dutch Golden Age, under the Dutch East India Company, many foreign colonies were established, in the 20th century, many people from these Dutch colonies migrated to the Netherlands seeking a better life. 

The vast majority of immigrants came from the colonies of Surinam, Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and the Netherlands Antilles.

In recent years after the 1970s, many refugees have sought asylum in the Netherlands due to political unrest and harsh economic conditions in their countries of origin. Refugees have arrived from the countries of Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria.

While many of the reasons for immigration to the Netherlands are predominantly for political or economic reasons, there are quite a few expats living in the Netherlands who were enchanted by its charm on previous trips.

Some of the Best Reasons to Relocate to the Netherlands

happy people all over Holland
In 2013, UNICEF named Dutch children the happiest in the world. (Source: pixabay)

The Netherlands have welcomed immigrants from a variety of different cultures for centuries. In the Dutch Golden Age, many artists, Dutch writers, Dutch scientists and philosophers from the Netherlands flocked to the Netherlands in order to create their masterpieces in an environment that accepts artistic expression and freedom of speech without judgement.

The characteristics of being tolerant, liberal and accepting are still true today. The Netherlands is a melting pot with people from all over the world choosing this country to immigrate to. 

Acceptance and liberal policies may entice some who are from more conservative societies and want to let loose while others from poverty stricken countries may be attracted to the fact that the Netherlands has the 17th largest economy in the world and ranks tenth in GDP per capita. 

Whatever an individual may decide, migrating to the Netherlands is not a bad choice and here are some of the best reasons for doing so:

  • Healthcare: many patients from countries all over the world suffer from expensive doctors bills, long lines and mediocre attention from health professionals. The Netherlands is not a perfect country by no means but it excels in the field of healthcare. According to the European Health Consumer Index (EHCI), which analyzes and compares all European Health Care systems based on waiting times, generosity and results, the Netherlands has claimed the top spot in the past three indexes with a 2016 score of 927 points out of 1000. Healthcare in the Netherlands is some of the world's finest and most effective, nevertheless, it is not the cheapest. Dutch health premiums are not related to the health status or age, individual policyholders are compensated through risk equalisation.
  • Quality of Life: since the Dutch do not work as many hours as residents in other countries there is more time to enjoy the finer things in life. The Dutch love to enjoy the sun, sip a pint at a local bar and bike around to discover new landscapes and different scenery. People living in the Netherlands do not worry as much about good education and quality healthcare since it is already provided for them. In 2013, Dutch children were named by UNICEF as the Happiest Children in the World. Since the Dutch are very liberal, there are a variety of things and practices that are legal in the Netherlands that are not elsewhere. This contributes to the fact that the Dutch are very openminded and accepting of new activities and policies which leads to overall happiness. Immigrants coming from poorer countries deeply appreciate their new quality of life in the Netherlands.
  • Travel: this is a very important aspect of life for expats who have left their country of origin. They do not wish to stay put all the time and the fact that the Netherlands is sandwiched between Belgium and Germany makes it easy to travel to other parts of Europe. The brilliant transport system such as the train allows for easy and affordable travel within the Netherlands. Since Holland is rather tiny in comparison to other countries, it is easy to travel through and visit most parts of its geographic locations on the same day. Immigrants can work in Amsterdam but live in a more comfortable town or suburb without too much commute time.

The reasons for relocating to the Netherlands as an expat destination or to find work as an immigrant to experience a better life are varied and valid. Nevertheless, what are the steps to legally reside in Holland and acquire Dutch citizenship? We will now see!

Necessary Steps to Acquire Dutch Citizenship

being rejected for citizenship
Following the precise instructions of immigration officials can prevent you from omitting an important document that ultimately ends in rejection for citizenship. (Source: pixabay)

In order to obtain Dutch citizenship, there is much paperwork to fill out for visas and applicants need to meet the Dutch government's elevated standards and requirements.

Many foreigners who have gone to work in the Netherlands may be eligible to apply for Dutch citizenship after residing in the country with relevant documents such as a residence permit for over 5 years and sometimes it may be less if the person has any family ties.

Immigrants also have the option of applying for permanent residence which allows them to stay in Dutch territory indefinitely but they will need to reapply every five years to show that they still meet the requirements. Permanent residency means that foreigners no longer need to possess a work permit.

It is important to note that those who have a permanent residency instead of Dutch citizenship do not have all the civil rights offered to legal Dutch citizens. 

You should also be aware that you will have to take a language proficiency exam, which you can prepare for by taking Dutch courses London or in the town you currently reside in.

We will now analyze the two principal paths taken to acquire Dutch citizenship

Option Procedure

This pathway is less expensive only costing 179 euros per person but certain requirements need to be met and social situations need to be proven.

This procedure to apply for citizenship is a lot easier to undergo due to the fact that it usually takes three months from start to finish instead of an entire year. To apply, immigrants need to hold a valid residence document and be eligible in one of the following categories:

  • Lived in the Netherlands or another Dutch territory for the majority of your life,
  • Be married or have lived with a Dutch native for at least three years and the additional fact of having lived in the Netherlands constantly for at least 15 years,
  • Be older than 65 years of age and have been a resident of the Netherlands for over 15 years,
  • One of your parents are Dutch and you have lived with them for three years in Dutch territory before applying for citizenship,

Naturalization Procedure

This procedure costs 840 euros and requires more documents and time than the previously mentioned way.

  • Be 18 years of age or older,
  • Have lived in the Netherlands for five uninterrupted years with a valid residence permit, you have been married to your spouse for at least three years who is a Dutch native or you have resided in the Netherlands with a work or residency permit for a period of 10 years,
  • Another requirement is that an applicant must be able to read, write, speak and understand the Dutch language. A civic integration examination is required,
  • In the last four years of residency, you have not been sentenced to community service, another form of punishment service or a monetary fine of over 840 euros.
  • Applicants must be prepared to renounce their current nationality if it is the case.
  • Have a valid or permanent residency permit or visa to show your years of being a permanent resident.

After all the documents have been submitted and requirements are meant, the naturalization process may take up to a year. As previously, some citizens of other countries applying for Dutch citizenship may have to renounce their current nationality in order to continue with the application process and become eligible to qualify as a Dutch citizen. 

This only applies to residents of certain countries due to the fact that some nations make it legally impossible to renounce your nationality and dual citizenship is the only option. Research is required to make an educated decision.

The main documents required to apply for Dutch citizenship and eligibility are a passport, Dutch residence permit, birth certificate, civic integration certification or similar document and marriage certificate if applicable to your social situation.

Obtaining citizenship of the Netherlands or other Dutch territory is extremely worth it for those who are looking for a better life as an overseas working immigrant or retired expat. Living abroad and moving to another country is a rewarding and unique experience.

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