What is the language proficiency level required for the Dutch integration exam in 2024?
Jan 4, 2024

Are you unsure about the required language level for the Dutch integration exam? It's common to feel confused, but don't worry, I've got you covered!


In the past, the Dutch integration exam was primarily set at level A2, unless you were planning to pursue higher education in Dutch. It seemed straightforward, right? However, the Dutch government realized that A2 wasn't sufficient for effective integration. To address this, they had to make changes to the entire integration law, which took quite some time.


Now, if you're wondering about the language level of the Dutch integration exam, it's not a simple answer anymore. It varies depending on different factors. Some individuals fall under the old system, some fall under the new system, and others are still undecided.


To help clarify things, I've partnered with InburgeringOnline. Bart and his team are experts in guiding internationals through the Dutch integration process. They offer affordable online courses designed to quickly take you from zero Dutch knowledge to either A2 or B1 level. You can find more information about their courses.


But before we delve into the details, let's clear up the terminology.


When we mention A2 or B1, we're actually referring to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which is a standardized system used across Europe to assess language proficiency.


Now, let's explore the language levels you might need to take for the Dutch integration exams in 2024.


If you have a partner/relationship visa or you are a refugee, the decision to integrate is automatically made by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND). This typically happens shortly after you register at your local municipality. You will receive a letter from DUO, the Dutch education authority, stating that you are required to integrate, or in Dutch, "U moet verplicht inburgeren."


The important date to take note of is the date of the letter. This is because there are two laws involved: The Civil Integration Act 2013 and the Civil Integration Act 2021, which applies to people from 2022 onwards. By looking at the date on your letter, you can determine which law applies to you.


If your letter is dated before January 1, 2022, congratulations! You will need to take the Dutch integration exams at the A2 level.


However, if your letter is dated after January 1, 2022, you will need to invest a bit more time in studying. In most cases, the language level required will be B1. However, there are three different routes that your municipality might choose for you:

  1. The B1 route: This is for individuals who need to learn Dutch to a B1 level primarily for integration purposes, such as for work or volunteering.
  2. The education route: If you plan to pursue higher education, you'll need to learn Dutch to at least a B1 level or higher.
  3. The self-reliance route: This option is for those who are obliged to integrate but find the first two routes too challenging. In this case, you will learn Dutch to an A1 level and undergo non-mandatory exams.


In most cases, the first route (B1 level) is the most common option. Your municipality will discuss your chosen route and help you create a personal integration and participation plan (PIP). The upside is that by the end of this process, you will have a solid understanding of Dutch.


But what if the exams seem too difficult for you? In certain rare cases, the municipality can make exceptions to the language levels mentioned above, but typically only if you have health issues or would genuinely struggle to learn Dutch.


Now, let's address the language levels for individuals who are integrating to apply for permanent residency or citizenship.


If you do not fall into the category of having a partner visa, relationship visa, or being a refugee, and you are here on a temporary visa (such as a working visa) or have been living in the Netherlands for approximately five years, you might be aiming to make your stay more permanent. In this case, you are integrating voluntarily.


The good news is that, for now, the language level you need to integrate at is still A2 (Jan 2024). However, the Dutch government has expressed a desire to raise it to B1 in the future. As of now, they haven't made a final decision regarding the increase, so if you can complete your integration exams and fully integrate for permanent residency or citizenship before the potential level change, you should only need to study up to the A2 level based on the current information.


I understand that there are various factors to consider when determining the language level you need for your Dutch integration exams. If you're still unsure about your specific situation, you can check out DUO's inburgeren plan generator, which can provide further guidance.


In general, if you're not from an EU or EEA country, Switzerland, or Turkey, and you plan to live in the Netherlands for the long term, it's likely that you will need to take the Dutch integration exams. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.


No matter whether the required level is A2 or B1, I can assure you that taking the Dutch integration exams is achievable and worthwhile, especially if it leads to permanent residency or a Dutch passport!


If you have any questions or need further clarification, feel free to ask.


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