Want to become Dutch (again)? This government is making it harder

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It is incomprehensible that the government is pressing ahead with its plans to increase the residency requirement to become Dutch from five to seven years and is continuing its crusade against Dutch citizens who live abroad, writes Eelco Keij.

With parliamentary elections set to take place in March 2017, the current coalition government – an alliance between the PvdA and VVD – entered the election season by giving the finger to foreign nationals who want to become Dutch citizens. They are pressing ahead with new legislation which will increase the time needed to become a naturalised Dutch citizen from five to seven years.

Their basis for this is ‘a feeling in society’ – according to the official statements. In other words, the measure looks good in the light of growing support for far-right and anti-establishment parties.

This new piece of legislation – not in effect yet, the senate still needs to have its say – will have a strong impact both on hard-working foreign residents in the Netherlands and the partners of Dutch citizens. After all, they don’t have vote until they’ve become Dutch, so why not sharpen up the procedures and win a few votes at the same time?

Equally blind to the new times, the government has been on a four-year-long crusade against Dutch citizens abroad. An unambiguous prohibition of dual nationality, severely cutting down on subsidies for Dutch education abroad and stripping a decade-long built network of consulates and embassies are examples of this government’s idea of enlightenment.

Whereas countries close by – for example France, Portugal, Italy and most notably Switzerland – understand the added economic and cultural value of their citizens abroad, the PvdA and VVD seem to be longing for a country that ceased to exist in the past century.


A third group that has been treated with disdain for decades are those people who¬† lost their Dutch citizenship, the ‘ex-Dutchies’. Most of them lost their Dutch passports involuntarily and often only found out that they had years later, because nobody warned them or informed them of the risk. Their number even includes people who fought in the resistance during WWII.

A recent appeal from the national ombudsman to fix this situation fell on deaf ears; quietly but quickly the government dismissed the report, and its suggested solutions.

The parallel between these three groups of people is clear: they represent value to Dutch society.

Economic impact

Obviously, active foreign residents in the Netherlands have a direct impact on the economy.

Both Dutch and former Dutch citizens living abroad have economic value as well. One only needs to have a look at the incoming tourist statistics, for example, to see that they were spurred by the Dutch living around them. It cannot be a coincidence that most tourists come from areas with a high-density of Dutch residents like Germany and the US.

Dutch people abroad, with or without a passport, still hold their culture and country dear – as immigrants nearly always do. Their economic ties locally are both often strong and beneficial for trade relations with the original home country.

In all, it is time for this government to leave. We need a new set of rulers that understand that building international bridges rather than burning them, is mutually beneficial, both culturally and economically.

Eelco Keij was a parliamentary candidate for D66 in 2012 and is hoping to run again next year. Follow him on Twitter

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