Dutch nationality law

Dutch nationality law is based primarily on the principle of Jus sanguinis. Thus citizenship is conferred primarily by birth to a Dutch parent, irrespective of place of birth. Children born in the Netherlands to two foreign parents do not acquire Dutch citizenship at birth, unless special criteria are met.

The Netherlands Nationality Act was significantly amended with effect from 1 April 2003.

Acquisition of citizenship

By descent

A person born on or after 1 January 1985 to a married Dutch father or mother, or an unmarried Dutch mother, is a Dutch subject at birth. It is irrelevant where the child is born.

A child born to an unmarried Dutch father and a non-Dutch mother must be acknowledged by the Dutch father before birth, in order for the child to be a Dutch subject at birth. Before 1 April 2003, an acknowledgement could be given after birth. Since then children who were not acknowledged before birth may nonetheless acquire Dutch citizenship through the option procedure, or through obtaining proof of paternity from a court. In the last case, the child gets Dutch nationality retroactively, since his/her birth.

As of 1 January 1985 a child born to a Dutch woman and a non-Dutch father outside the Netherlands is a Dutch subject. This was previously not the case but children born in these circumstances before 1985 were given the possibility of being registered as Dutch subjects but such registration had to take place before 1988.

By place of birth

A child born in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba to at least one resident foreign national parent is a Dutch subject if at least one of the parent's parents was born in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba to a resident foreign national parent.

By option

The option procedure is a simpler and quicker way of acquiring Dutch citizenship compared to naturalisation. In effect, it is a form of simplified naturalisation.

In order to be eligible for the option procedure, it is necessary to hold a Dutch residence permit and to be any or the following:

  • an adult who was born the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba and who has lived in any of these places continuously since birth.
  • a person born in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba, who has lived in any of these places for an uninterrupted period of at least three years and who has not acquired the citizenship of any other country (i.e. a stateless person).
  • an adult who has been legally resident in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba since he or she was four years old.
  • an adult who used to be a Dutch subject and who has been legally resident in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba for at least one year and who's residence is without any restriction as to length.
  • someone who has been married to a Dutch subject for at least three years and who has been legally resident in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba for an uninterrupted period of at least 15 years.
  • someone aged sixty-five years or over and who has been legally resident in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba for an uninterrupted period of at least 15 years.
  • a minor who is acknowledged by a Dutch subject who has been cared for and brought up by this Dutch subject for an uninterrupted period of at least three years.
  • a minor who, as a result of a Court decision or by law at the time of your birth, is under the joint custody of a non-Dutch parent and another person who is a Dutch subject and who, since the start of this custody, has been cared for and brought up by this Dutch subject for a period of at least three years during which the child has had his or her principal place of residence in the Netherlands.

Applicants for Dutch citizenship through the option procedure do not have to renounce any foreign citizenship they might hold.

By naturalisation

An application for Dutch citizenship by naturalisation must meet all the conditions below:

  • aged 18 or over;
  • holder of a permanent resident permit or a valid residence permit with a non-temporary reason of stay, e.g. family formation and/or reunion (gezinsvorming/gezinshereniging);
  • 5 years of continuous residence in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba with a valid residence permit prior to the application date. Residency under a temporary reason of stay (e.g. study) is also counted in those five years. There are a number of exceptions to this rule.
  • sufficiently integrated in Dutch society and are able to read, write, speak and understand Dutch. This must normally be proved by taking a naturalisation test. Successful completion of an eligible integration course is an alternative. The Staatsexamen Nederlands als Tweede Taal diplomas NT2-I and/or NT2-II give their holder exemption from taking the naturalisation test. There are lots of other exemptions, see the Decision naturalisation test (Besluit naturalisatietoets) art. 3.
  • in the four years preceding the application, the applicant has not been given any custodial sentence, training order, community service order or high monetary penalty.

Exemptions to the residence requirement

The 5 year residence requirement may not apply where the applicant falls into any of the following categories:

  • a person adopted after majority in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba by parents at least one of whom has Dutch nationality.
  • married to or are the registered partner of a Dutch man or woman. If this is the case, the person can submit an application for naturalisation after 3 years of marriage or registered partnership and cohabitation. If the person has cohabited in the Netherlands with a Dutch man or woman (both partners unmarried) for an uninterrupted period of 3 years, an application may also be submitted. Note: this is true (in respect to marriage, partnership or cohabitation) if and only if in the last three years the applicant has continually lived together his/her partner inside the Netherlands. In case of marriage, it does not matter where this happened, i.e. inside and/or outside Dutch territories are both acceptable for married couples. As a rule of thumb, for each passed year, more than 6 months (per year) must have been spent under the same roof with that partner. There is an extra clause, namely that the couple/partners has/have to remain living under the same roof for as long as the request for naturalization is being researched.
  • the 5-year term is reduced to a 3-year term if the applicant is stateless.
  • the 5-year term is reduced to a 3-year term if the applicant as a minor is acknowledged or legitimised by a Dutch national and has been cared for and brought up by this Dutch national for a period of 3 years.
  • the 5-year term is reduced to a 2-year term if the applicant has legally lived in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba for a period of 10 years, the last 2 of which uninterruptedly.
  • a former Dutch subject. In some cases the applicant will instead be able to use the option procedure.

Exemptions to the requirement to renounce foreign citizenship

An applicant for naturalisation does not have to give up his current nationality in the following cases:

  • where the original nationality is automatically lost upon naturalisation as a Dutch subject
  • the legislation of the applicant's country does not allow renunciation of nationality. For example, under Greek Law
  • the person is married to or the registered partner of a Dutch national.
  • recognised refugees
  • born in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba, and still living there at the time of application.
  • where the person has lived in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba for an uninterrupted period of 5 years or longer before age 18.
  • where the applicant cannot be expected to contact the authorities in the country of which they are a national.
  • where the applicant has "special and objectively assessable reasons" for not renouncing his existing nationality.
  • where in order to give up his current nationality the applicant must pay a large sum of money to the authorities in his or her country or fulfil military service obligations. This must be demonstrated in each case.
  • where renunciation of the applicant's existing nationality would cause "serious financial losses" (for example, inheritance rights). This must be demonstrated. A peculiar case of "serious financial losses" is in the case where renunciation of the applicant's existing nationality would cost too much, in respect to his/her income. This must be demonstrated with proof of income and proof of consulary fees to be paid in case of renunciation, specific for his/her own case or with general specifications of such consulary fees for every citizen/subject of the country in which he/she is a national of. Note: As a rule of thumb, if that sum of money is larger than your income for two months, then you have a right to keep your nationality of origin. Loans do not count as income.

These exemptions do not hold for citizens/subjects of Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg and/or Norway, since these countries (together with the Netherlands) signed and ratified without reservations and never denounced the Convention on the Reduction of Cases of Multiple Nationality and on Military Obligations in Cases of Multiple Nationality (see Chapter I, art. 1, paragraph 1). This was also the case for Belgian subjects till April 28, 2008, since Belgium denounced this treaty on such date.

Local expat bulletin boards, though, say that the immigration ministry has largely undermined these exceptions, either by imposing barriers so high that no one reaches them, or by using secondary obstacles to prevent would-be applicants from getting Dutch nationality.

While it is a fact that these bulletin boards affirm this idea, taken in itself is neither true nor verifiable. For example, there is no "immigration ministry", but there is the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND), which is accountable to the Dutch Department of Justice. The harshness of the laws and regulations which IND has to apply is applicable to everyone who desires to obtain residence in the Netherlands. It remains a fact that immigration laws have become harsher, because this was the political decision of several Balkenende governments, which got approved by the Dutch Parliament.

But, after five/three years of legal residence (with a valid residence permit all these five years, or for only three years in case of marriage/partnership and such), obtaining Dutch nationality is more or less a formality. The site contains information about these regulations. In fact, laws and legal regulations cannot be kept secret in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, because they only apply at certain time after official publication. All Dutch laws and regulations are also available for reading on, 24 hours a day and seven days per week.

Further, the IND simply applies such laws and regulations. It is neither the task of the IND nor its aim to undermine its own rules. The rules themselves may be harsh and IND bureaucrats may be seen as harsh, but the only thing they do is gather reliable information, check it and apply rules, as in any state bureaucracy in a state of law (it is true that Strangers' Police clerks have the power to arrest people who cannot prove their legal right to stay in the Netherlands).


Children aged under 18 may be added to a parent's application for Dutch citizenship. Those aged 16 and 17 will only be naturalised if they give their active consent, while those aged 12-15 inclusive are given a chance to object.

By resumption

Former Dutch subjects who hold permanent resident permits and have resided in the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles or Aruba) for at least 1 year may regain Dutch citizenship through the option procedure.

Where the person is not resident in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the person must have lost Dutch citizenship after reaching the age of majority and through the acquisition of another citizenship. In addition one of the following conditions must be satisfied:

  • born in the country whose nationality was acquired and living there at the time of acquisition of the nationality of that country, or
  • before turning 18, lived in the country whose nationality was acquired for an uninterrupted period of at least five years, or
  • at the time of acquisition of the nationality of the other country, the person was married to someone who possessed that nationality.

These criteria are similar to the criteria for exemption from loss of Dutch citizenship in place since 1 April 2003. The application opting for Dutch nationality may be submitted up to 31 March 2013 (i.e. 10 years from the 2003 change in the law).

Loss of Dutch citizenship

Dutch subjects may lose their citizenship through long residence outside the Netherlands while having more than one nationality, or acquisition of a foreign nationality. In addition, in some cases it is possible to be deprived of Dutch citizenship.

By residence outside the Netherlands

The Dutch law has contained for many years provisions that removed Dutch citizenship from certain Dutch persons who held another nationality at birth and remained resident outside the Netherlands in adulthood.

Prior to 1985

Before 1 January 1985, Dutch subjects lost their nationality in cases where they were born outside the Kingdom of the Netherlands, lived for an uninterrupted period of ten years outside the Kingdom after reaching the age of majority (then 21) and did not submit notification that they wished to retain their Dutch nationality before the ten-year period was up.

These provisions affected Dutch subjects born abroad before 1 January 1954

From 1 January 1985 to 31 March 2003

Under the 1985 legislation, Dutch subjects born outside the Netherlands who also held the nationality of the country of their birth lost Dutch citizenship if they lived in the country of their birth for 10 years after age 18 (and were still citizens/subjects of their country of birth).

Those who were issued a Dutch passport or proof of Dutch citizenship on or after 1 January 1990 are deemed never to have lost Dutch citizenship. This exemption was put in place on 1 February 2001.

Former subjects who were not issued a Dutch passport or proof of Dutch citizenship in 1990 or later were given a limited period of time to acquire Dutch citizenship by option. These provisions expired on 31 March 2005.

From 1 April 2003

After 1 April 2003, Dutch subjects with dual nationality may lose their Dutch nationality if they reside outside the Kingdom of the Netherlands or outside the European Union for a long period. The place of birth is irrelevant in this event.

If you hold the same foreign nationality alongside Dutch nationality for ten years, and you are resident outside the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the European Union for ten years, you will lose your Dutch nationality.

In the case of Dutch subjects who possessed dual nationality on 1 April 2003 and who were then resident outside the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the European Union, the ten-year period started on 1 April 2003.

It is possible to retain Dutch citizenship by:

  • having a principal residence in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or another member state of the European Union for at least one year; or
  • applying for a Dutch passport or proof of Dutch nationality before 1 April 2013, i.e. before the end of the ten-year period. A new ten-year period starts on the day the person is issued with a passport or proof of Dutch nationality.

By acquisition of another citizenship

A person who acquired another citizenship before 1 April 2003 automatically lost Dutch citizenship.

From 1 April 2003, loss of Dutch citizenship upon naturalisation in another country is still automatic unless one of the following exemptions applies:

  • the person is born in the country of the other nationality and has a principal residence there at the time of acquisition of that nationality.
  • if before turning 18, the person has had a principal residence in the country of the other nationality for an uninterrupted period of five years;
  • if you are married to a person who possesses the nationality you wish to acquire (a spouse who is deceased does not count).

These exemptions do not apply in the case of acquisition of Austrian, Norwegian, Danish or Luxembourg citizenship. Before April 28, 2008, these exemptions did not apply to getting the Belgian nationality. This is due to the provisions of the Convention on the Reduction of Cases of Multiple Nationality which the Netherlands became party to in 1985. Details

The exemption also does not apply in the case of acquisition of Japanese or South-Korean citizenship, since neither Japan nor South Korea allows its nationals to hold foreign citizenships in their adult years. (See Japanese and South Korean nationality laws.)

By deprivation

Dutch citizenship by naturalisation may be withdrawn if procured by fraud, or if the naturalised Dutch subject does not renounce a foreign citizenship as per the requirements for naturalisation (i.e. if one did not have the right to be exempted from such requirement or if he/she did not claim his/her right to such exemption before signing a paper wherein he/she agrees to renounce his/her original nationality). A similar requirement exists for citizens of Japan and South Korea (see above).

Dutch citizenship may also be revoked in the case of service in a foreign army at war with the Netherlands.

Dual citizenship

Although Dutch law restricts dual citizenship, it is possible for Dutch subjects to legally hold dual citizenship in a number of circumstances, including:

  • those who acquire another citizenship at the time of birth (for example, a child born to Dutch parents in the United States would hold both U.S. and Dutch citizenship).
  • persons who acquire Dutch citizenship through the option procedure (including former Dutch citizens resuming citizenship)
  • persons who become naturalised Dutch subjects, who obtain an exemption from the requirement to renounce their foreign citizenship, such as those married to Dutch subjects.
  • Dutch subjects who naturalise in another country who are exempted from the loss of nationality rule (such as those married to a citizen/subject of that country).

The Dutch nationality law dispute

Dutch nationality law is an object of enduring dispute, dissension and debate, since the electoral campaign of Pim Fortuyn, who turned immigration into a hot issue in Dutch politics. The purpose of this paragraph is to give insight into why Dutch nationality law reforms are seen as illegitimate by some mainstream Dutch political forces (i.e. leftist and liberal, as opposed to libertarian and conservative). Even traditional libertarian and conservative political forces take restrictive immigration measures more as a reaction meant to appease a radical mood of the Dutch demos and for stealing voters from radical parties, than of their own free will.

The moves to restrict dual nationality have been supported by the current government of J.P. Balkenende. This policy has always been justified on the basis of ‘strengthening ties to the Netherlands’ of new passport holders. While Balkenende has said that the rest of Europe would be following the Netherlands’ example, they’re not. More countries are, in fact, allowing dual nationality or liberalizing laws on the basis of including legal residents into local society.

While Balkenende wants people to be part of Dutch society with only one passport, immigrants do not seem to share the sentiment. Only 13,000 adults became Dutch in 2004, according to the country's statistics office. This represents a decline of 83% over the total naturalizations in 1997. Those becoming Dutch were predominantly Turkish, Moroccan, Afghan, Surinamese or from the former Yugoslavia.

On the other hand, the number of dual nationals in the country has risen from 400,000 in 1997 to nearly one million now. The restrictions on dual nationality have not worked at all, and it seems that those asking for it are largely those who qualify for dual nationality under the current law.

And, certainly, having only one passport works contrary to the purpose it is supposed of making true. Cora Kreft, a sociologist working for the General Chamber of Accountants in the Netherlands, the Dutch instance which controls policy effectiveness and efficiency in the Netherlands, refers to W.I. Thomas' and Znaniecki's book The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, stating that when people are allowed to form ethnic communities and behave therein as their community prescribes, they integrate much better than in the opposite case.

Dr. Willem Schinkel, a prominent Dutch sociologist busy with systematically restating Margaret Thatcher's insight that "there is no such thing as society", thinks that speaking of "integration" is misleading since it presumes that there would be in the first place a "society" wherein individuals could "integrate", as organs do integrate in a human body. He insists that this organicist view, originating in Plato's writings, leads to the nefarious consequence that some people get stygmatized as "foreign bodies" or "foreign to the social body", i.e. lacking in "integration". Dr. Schinkel considers that "national identity" is at best a meaningless combination of words and at worst a dangerous collective delusion. He considers that speaking of "society" inside the social sciences is part of the problem, not part of the solution. He published such thesis under the name (translated here into English) "Thinking in a time of social hypochondry. Provocation to a theory that goes beyond society. -- "hypochondry" means therein that individuals are busy with inventing make-believe illnesses of a make-believe social body, in their vane attempts to construct something which they believe to be a nation-state. Dr. Schinkel provides the scientific proof that words like "national identity", "society" and "integration" are ideas used by bullies in order to oppress their defenceless victims (scapegoats).

In the social sciences Thomas' point of view is more or less taken for granted. This means that the rank-and-file Dutch social scientist considers that the Dutch immigration debate in ridiculous and groundless, i.e. cheap and dangerous populism. In fact, the Dutch population "pyramid" has a huge top op old people and a meager basis of young people. In these conditions, it is straightforward that the Netherlands is in bad need of getting competent and hardworking work force by getting immigrants. The popular sentiment goes against this idea because they see the Turkish and Moroccan minorities as being a burden for taxpayers' money and lacking in Protestant work ethic (hard work).

Former territories

Before independence, Dutch citizenship was held by many persons in Suriname and Indonesia. In general, those acquiring citizenship of these countries at independence lost their Dutch citizenship. A request for determination of citizenship status should be addressed to the Dutch authorities in case of doubt.

Dutch citizenship statistics

Figures from the Dutch government show that approximately 11,500 people were granted Dutch citizenship by naturalisation in the first 6 months of 2003. There were close to 20,000 applications. Details

However, there is undeniably an extreme downwards trend in those foreign residents of the Netherlands who are bothering to apply for local nationality.

According to the country's statistics office Details, nearly 21 thousand people were granted Dutch nationality through naturalisation in 2004 (13,000 adults and 8,000 children at the same time). This is 4 thousand fewer than in 2003 and half the number in 2002.


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