The Netherlands may not force people to take an integration test if they have lived in the country for more than five years, the advocate general at the European court of justice in Luxemburg said on Wednesday.
The advocate general, Maciej Szpunar, was commenting on cases brought by an American and a New Zealand national, both of whom have refused to take the test.
The American, named as P, has lived in the Netherlands since 2002 and was granted a long-term residency permit in 2008.
She was told that year by Breda city council she had to take an integration course and pass an exam within a certain period. P began the course but became ill and failed to start it again when she recovered, the court document states.
The New Zealand national, named as S, came to the Netherlands in 2000 and was given long-term residency in 2007. Amstelveen city council told her in 2010 that she needed to take and pass the exam.
The Netherlands requires non-EU newcomers to follow an integration course and take an exam to qualify for residency. People who have lived here for longer periods may also be told to comply.
In his statement, the advocate general said countries are allowed to introduce integration measures for long-term residents under EU law.
However, the introduction of a compulsory examination ‘to test language proficiency or knowledge of the society does not … contribute to the objective pursued by integration measures’, he said.
The advocate general goes on to state that anyone who has lived in a different country for some time will ‘undoubtably’ be linked to it through family, work, neighbours and hobbies.
In addition, integration measures cannot be used as a condition to ensure someone keeps their right to live in the country. ‘In particular, those measures may not include any obligation to pass an examination relating to social integration,’ the advocate general said.
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