Civic integration

Are you new in Zwolle?

If you come from abroad to live in a new country, it is sometimes difficult to feel right at home. Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed or lonely, because you don’t know many people in this city. You may wonder what the customs are in your new community. Or how you will be able to find a job on the Dutch labour market. And what about all those new rules and regulations you have to deal with. They can seem pretty complicated to someone who has just arrived here. Especially if you don’t know how to speak or read Dutch. Right at a time when you need to settle so many important things.

That’s why it is very important that you will get to know the Dutch language and society as quickly as possible. Then you will be able to actively participate in your new country. This is called civic integration.

I am new to the Netherlands. Do I have to integrate?

Do you want to live in the Netherlands for a longer period of time? And do you come from outside the European Union, the European Economic Area (EEA), Turkey or Switzerland? Then the Civic Integration Act requires that you integrate in the Netherlands. This means that you will have to learn the Dutch language. You will also need to learn about Dutch society.

Afterwards you must take a civic integration exam to test your knowledge. You need to pass this exam within 3 years from the date you received your residence permit. Or within 5 years if you are not able to read or write. This is your integration period. If you pass the exam you will get a civic integration diploma from the Education Executive Agency (DUO, Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs).

Are you unable to do the civic integration exam? 

For example if you have a mental or physical disability. Or do you already know how to read and write Dutch? Go to inburgerenexterne-link-icoon for more information.

Are there other ways to integrate? 

Yes. You can take the ‘Dutch as a Second Language state exam’ (NT2) instead of doing the civic integration exam. For more information about the NT2 exam, visit DUOexterne-link-icoon. Another possibility is that you obtain a diploma for vocational training.

Are you not required to take the civic integration exam? 

You do not have to do the exam if:

  • you come from one of the countries mentioned above
  • you have a Dutch passport
  • you are not between 18 and state pension age
  • you lived in the Netherlands for 8 years or longer when you were of compulsory schooling age
  • you have certain Dutch diplomas or other proof of a specific education in the Dutch language
  • you have come to the Netherlands to work or study

However, even if you are not obliged by law to integrate, it is recommended that you learn Dutch. It is always possible to integrate on a voluntary basis.

Are you required to take the civic integration exam?

If so, you will receive a letter from DUO. It will tell you the start date of your integration period.

For more information about civic integration, visit the website of the Dutch governmentexterne-link-icoon or the website of DUOexterne-link-icoon. If you prefer calling DUO: phone +31 (0) 50 59 99 600.

What will I learn?

During your civic integration period you will learn how to read, understand (listen), write and speak Dutch properly. You also get to know more about Dutch society. How do people here live? What are the values, the customs and the basic rules? You will also find out how to get work on the Dutch labour market. All 6 subjects will be tested when you do the civic integration exam.

Your new knowledge and skills will help you integrate into Dutch society. That is because you will have a better understanding of the core values of this country. You are aware of your rights and obligations. And you will know how to express yourself in Dutch.

There are also many things you will be able to do without help. It will be possible to talk with the doctor or school. To read your mail or help your children with their homework. You will be able to make an appointment with the hospital or municipality. You can also receive an education. And you will have a better chance of finding work. This will help you become economically independent as quickly as possible.

Moreover, your new knowledge and skills will make you feel more comfortable in your job. The safety and quality of the work you do is very important to your employer as well. Knowing the language will also make it easier to get to know other people.

In conclusion. Your civic integration will give you better opportunities in Dutch society. But you must make an effort to make this happen.

What must I arrange for my civic integration exam?

It is your responsibility to pass the civic integration exam within 3 years. You can study for the exam by yourself.

If you decide to do so, there are various self-study packages available to you. For instance:

But you can also choose to attend a civic integration course at a school. It will help you prepare for your exam and improve your chances of passing it. You have to pay for the course and exam yourself. Can you not afford the fees? It is possible to borrow money for the course and the exam from DUO. You will have to pay it back later, with interest. Permit holders who pass the exam on time do not have to pay back their loan.

Do you want to borrow money to attend an integration or language course? This is only possible when you take this course at a language school that has a special quality mark.

For more information about borrowing money from DUO, visit:

Sometimes municipalities offer language courses. Ask your municipality for information.

If you are looking for a language volunteer (in your neighbourhoud) to practise with you, visit:

What if you fail to pass the civic integration exam within the 3-year integration period?

You could get a fine from DUO. It may also have consequences for your residence permit.

Do you want to apply for your civic integration exam?

Use your DigiD to submit your registration with DUO.

For all kinds of information about the civic integration course and the exam, visit the website of DUO: