New coalition agreement: key points, timeline and game plan

After six months of negotiation, four Dutch political parties (namely, PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB) have managed to reach a coalition agreement. According to this agreement, the new government will try to adopt the strictest asylum policy and the most comprehensive package of measures with a view to curbing regular immigration. As an expat, should you lose any sleep over it? In this article, we will have a look at some changes as proposed in the agreement that can be relevant for the expat community. We will examine the issue as to how the government can make such changes from a legislative perspective and will try to give you a game plan and a (rough) timeline.


In the coalition agreement, the parties suggest that, with a view to applying for naturalization, the required number of years of continuous residence will be increased from five (5) to ten (10). The naturalization requirements (such as, the number of years of continuous residence) are set in article 8(1)(c) of the Dutch Nationality Act (“Rijkswet op Nederlanderschap”). This piece of legislation is a so called “kingdom act” (“rijkswet”). Standing in contrast to an ordinary act (“wet”), a kingdom act is applicable to not only the Netherlands (on the European continent) but also the other three island countries (ie. Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten) in the Caribbean. Together with the European Netherlands, they make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Pursuant to article 15 to article 18 of the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (“Statuut voor het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden”), the Dutch Government sends a bill to both the Netherlands Parliament and the legislative bodies of the other three island countries. The legislative bodies of the countries, where the bill would apply, are allowed to study the bill and to issue their written reports. The authorized ministers and the extraordinary delegates of the island countries are allowed to attend the parliamentary debates on the bill, to comment on the bills, and to make amendments to the bill. However, only the Dutch parliamentarians will be able to vote on the bill. For example, about 10 years ago, the Dutch Government tried to increase the required number of years for the purpose of applying for naturalization from five to seven, through making amendments to the kingdom act. The bill was sent to the parliament on 21 January 2014, and the Dutch Senate (“Eerste Kamer”) voted down the bill on 3 October 2017. Therefore, it took 3 years, 8 months, 12 days to vote down the bill. On the basis of this example, one can surmise that it will take approximately 2-3 years (or longer) before the 5 year term can be increased to 10 year. If you have been living longer than two or three years in the Netherlands, you don’t need to worry too much about the intended change of the nationality act, as it is more likely than not that you will qualify for naturalization under the current laws.

Qualification requirements of the highly skilled migrant visa

According to the coalition agreement, the four parties want to make it harder to obtain a highly skilled migrant visa through invoking certain “qualification requirements.” At this stage, it is a bit unclear as to what they mean by “qualification requirements.” Do they want to increase the applicable salary thresholds drastically or do they want to add an educational requirement? The salary thresholds and the substantive requirements (eg. an additional diploma requirement) are set in two different royal decrees (“koninklijk besluit”). If the Government wants to add an additional diploma requirement or to increase the salary thresholds drastically, they will need to make amendments to the royal decrees. Normally, it can take up to 12 months to make changes to royal decrees, as the government needs to seek advice from the Council of State (“Raad van State”). However, if the government only wants to adjust the required salary thresholds because of inflation, a ministerial decision will suffice. A most recent indexation of the salary thresholds can be found here, which is given by the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment. 

Comprehension of the Dutch language at the level of B1

Honestly speaking, this policy is an old wine in a new bottle. In 2021, the Dutch Parliament adopted the Integration Act 2021 (“Wet inburgering 2021”). Article 46 of this act aims to increase the required level of Dutch proficiency from A2 to B1 for the purpose of applying for permanent residence etc. However, due to technical difficulties (eg. test design), this specific amendment has not come into effect yet. If the Government wants to increase the required level of proficiency from A2 to B1, the Government can simply issue a commencement order. In light hereof, it may be sensible to consider applying for permanent residence as soon as when one qualifies for such a permit.

Opt-out the EU asylum and migration policies

A very ambitious idea that the four parties bring up in the coalition agreement is to opt out the freedom, security and justice policies of the EU (as referred to in Title V of Part Three of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). Nowadays, a large majority of the Dutch immigration laws originate from the EU law. For example, after living five consecutive years in the Netherlands, one can potentially qualify for an EU long term permit. This hinges on the EU Directive 2003/109. Opting-out may sound like Brexit. If we compare it to Brexit, it is only like a mini-Brexit. Currently, within the EU, there are two countries that often opt out the EU asylum and immigration policies. They are Republic of Ireland and Denmark. This is also, for example, the reason as to why an EU long term permit does not apply to these two Member States. The reason as to why Ireland and Denmark do not need to adopt the EU asylum and immigration policies is Ireland and Denmark managed to sign special protocols, when the EU Member States negotiated about the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (“TFEU”) and the Treaty on the EU ("TEU"). Standing in contrast to Ireland and Denmark, the Netherlands did not ask for any special protocols.  The TFEU itself does not give the other Member States the possibility to opt out the freedom, security and justice policies afterwards. This means that if the new coalition wants to opt out, the TFEU may need to re-negotiated. This may come across to other EU member states as “barking up the wrong tree.” In other words, it will probably take a long time before there can be any clarity regarding the issue of “opting-out.” Therefore, one should not lose any sleep over it.

Should you have any questions about Dutch immigration and/or nationality law issues, please feel free to contact us.