Dutch nationality or long-term residency in the Netherlands: Which is best for you?

Dutch nationality or long-term residency in the Netherlands: Which is best for you?

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What does the Brexit vote mean for UK nationals living in the Netherlands? This guide explains the pros and cons of the EU long-term residency and Dutch naturalisation options for British nationals in the Netherlands. [Contributed by Fragomen]

Following the 24 June, 2016 Brexit vote, and the promise that UK nationals will at some time in the future no longer be EU citizens, queries about obtaining a second EU nationality have understandably increased. Margot Rikmanspoel of Fragomen Worldwidea specialist in Dutch nationality and long-term residence options—advises.

The Brexit impact
In the Netherlands, seminars and information sessions about the implications of Brexit are recurring events in the world of immigration, and people are increasingly wondering about how to obtain Dutch nationality.

Dutch immigration authorities are also noticing a difference: the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) states on its website that in 2015 a total of 40 British nationals applied for Dutch nationality. The same number of applications were filed in the immediate month after the Brexit vote alone.

Permanent residence as an alternative to obtaining Dutch citizenship
However, British nationals and other long-term foreign residents of the Netherlands need to question whether filing for Dutch nationality is the preferable option. Moreover, the restriction on dual-nationality will make naturalisation in the Netherlands impossible for many otherwise qualified residents of the Netherlands. 

It’s important to be aware that other options exist: Permanent residence for EU citizens (currently still including British nationals) and their family members or EU long-term residency for non-EU citizens in the Netherlands can be excellent alternatives to obtaining Dutch nationality.

Dutch nationality via the option procedure
Currently, one can obtain Dutch nationality by two means: the option procedure and naturalisation. The option procedure is the least expensive and quickest way to obtain Dutch nationality, but it is only open to a limited group of applicants. The main criteria to be eligible for the option procedure are:

  • You are 18 years or older and have been living in the Netherlands (or the Dutch territories) your whole life;
  • You are stateless and have been living in the Netherlands for at least three years; or
  • You are a minor and have been raised for at least three years by a Dutch national.

The option procedure in principle does not require that you denounce your current nationality. Furthermore, the option procedure does not require you to complete a civic integration test. The processing time is three months and the application process is not as expensive as the naturalisation procedure (currently, the option procedure costs EUR 179 and the application for naturalisation costs EUR 840).

Dutch nationality via naturalisation
To qualify for naturalisation, you must first obtain your civic integration diploma, you must be 18 years or older and you must be currently residing in the Netherlands. In addition, you must have maintained a valid right of residence for at least five uninterrupted years in the Netherlands.

The application processing time can be up to a year, and after qualifying for Dutch nationality you must denounce your current nationality, as legislation in the Netherlands in principle does not allow dual citizenship. Only in very exceptional circumstances can you maintain your original nationality, including if the laws of your home country prohibit loss of nationality or if your rights (for example regarding property or family) will be severely impacted.

An exception to the limitation on dual nationality is if you are applying on the basis of your marriage or partnership with a Dutch national. You can also apply sooner and from outside the Netherlands in this case; instead of having to reside for five years in the Netherlands, you must have been married (or have registered your partnership) and have lived together with a Dutch national for a minimum of three years, in the Netherlands or abroad.

Regardless of how you apply, once obtained Dutch nationality is not easily lost. Only when voluntarily applying for a foreign nationality or living outside the EU, Aruba, Curacao or St Maarten without a Dutch passport for ten years or more (this will be increased to fifteen years under a new law described later) will you automatically lose your Dutch nationality.

If you have a family, your children can apply for Dutch citizenship simultaneously with you, and your partner may also become eligible for Dutch nationality after three years and will qualify for the dual nationality exemption.

Finally, Dutch nationality leads to voting rights and, if you are not already an EU citizen, to EU citizenship.

Increasingly stringent requirements to obtain Dutch nationality
It is important to note that nationality criteria in the Netherlands are about to change. A law that is likely to be passed would increase the minimum residence period for foreign nationals seeking citizenship to seven years, and would require those applying for citizenship based on a relationship with a Dutch national to have resided with the Dutch national in the Netherlands for at least three years, meaning that applying from abroad will no longer be possible.

Obtaining EU long-term/permanent residence
Obtaining long-term residency/permanent residency in the Netherlands grants you rights very similar to Dutch nationals. Permanent residency in the Netherlands for EU nationals leads to equal treatment with Dutch nationals under EU law, and EU long-term residency for non-EU nationals leads to equal treatment in areas such as access to employment, education, social security and tax benefits.

The criteria to qualify for EU long-term residency in the Netherlands (for non-EU nationals) are:

  • A valid right of residence for a non-temporary purpose (study, seasonal work and au pairs are excluded, for example) for at least five years;
  • A civic integration diploma (the same as that required for Dutch nationality; however, if you have already completed this in another EU country for EU long-term residency there, you are no longer required to complete this); and
  • You must prove at the time of application that you have sufficient income to support yourself and any family members who are applying for EU long-term residency (note this is not a requirement for applying for Dutch nationality).   

EU nationals opting for permanent residence are not required to prove sufficient income and are not required to complete a civic integration exam.  

The permanent right of residence is only valid when maintaining your residency in the Netherlands. If you have a permanent residency as an EU national, you can only leave the Netherlands for a period not exceeding two years.

A non-EU national that has obtained EU long-term residency may spend up to six years outside of the Netherlands, but only within the EU. If you move your main residence outside of the EU, you may only move your main residence outside of the Netherlands for a maximum of one year before losing your EU long-term residency. 

Regardless of whether you are an EU national or if you come from a non-EU country, your family members will not be granted the same permanent residency right automatically. They must also have fulfilled the requirements in order to be eligible for long-term residency.

Practical considerations
Some practical considerations when choosing which option is right for your are:

  • The costs for the EU long-term residency are significantly less than that of an application to naturalise (currently EUR 156 and for EU nationals EUR 50);
  • EU long-term residency (for non EU-nationals) and permanent residency (for EU nationals) are permanent rights, but the residence card issued to prove that right is valid for only five years and must then be renewed; and
  • Obtaining EU long-term residency will only grant you voting rights for your local municipality.  

The most important consideration for most long-term residents in the Netherlands is that, unlike when obtaining Dutch nationality, you are not required to give up your current nationality. If you are prevented from applying for Dutch nationality because of the dual nationality limitation, the rights secured by permanent/long-term residence are certainly an excellent option.

If you are not sure which route is best for you or if you can successfully qualify, please don’t hesitate to contact Margot Rikmanspoel at Fragomen Worldwide.

Margot Rikmanspoel and Christine Sullivan/ Fragomen Worldwide

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