Our new GLOBALCIT website is under construction. In the meantime, please use the current website as before.

Dutch Senate vetoes proposal to extend residency requirement naturalisation from 5 to 7 years

By Maarten Vink, GLOBALCIT co-director

The Dutch Senate recently voted on a proposal to increase the residence requirement for naturalisation from the current five to seven years. This proposal was part of the coalition agreement of the outgoing government of the Liberal Conservatives (VVD) and the Labour Party (PvdA).

The proposal had been criticized from the start by the Council of State, parliamentarians and societal groups for lacking a clear motivation. Academic studies referred to in the parliamentary debate also show that a longer period before naturalisation decreases the probability that acquiring citizenship will positively affect the labour market prospects of immigrants. Moreover, the proposal was criticized for violating the spirit of Article 34 of the 1951 Geneva Convention which requires that ‘Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings.’ The proposal did not exempt refugees from the extension of the residence requirement and hence would imply a substantial restriction in terms of access to citizenship for this particularly vulnerable group.

Ultimately the decision by the Senate was determined by a constellation of three political factors. First, already in the Lower House (Tweede Kamer) of the Dutch Parliament the PvdA indicated they only voted in favour of the bill as they were bound by the coalition agreement. In the Dutch context, the coalition agreement especially binds the government parties in the Lower House, but less so in the politically more independent Upper House. Second, after the Dutch elections of March 2017, the VVD-PvdA coalition was already in ‘caretaker’ mode and a new government is expected soon, with the VVD but without the PvdA. After the senators of the PvdA withdrew their support for the bill during the debate on 26 September, when the Senate voted on the bill on Tuesday 3 October 2017, the faith of the bill was in the hands of the small Senior Citizens party (50PLUS). Here the third political factor came in, which was a last-minute effort by the Dutch diaspora, which lobbied against the inclusion of a new residence requirement of 3 years for spouse or registered partners of Dutch citizens (under current law, only 3 years marriage or partnership is required, irrespective of residence in the Netherlands). The 50PLUS senators were, apparently, sensitive to these concerns and when they voted against there was no longer a parliamentary majority to support the proposal and the bill was rejected.

More information (in Dutch) about the bill can be found on the website of the Dutch Senate.

Two blog posts (here and here, both in Dutch) provide further context, refer to academic research that featured in the parliamentary debate and provide further references for research on the relation between (the speed of) naturalisation and immigrant integration.