If you’re not lucky enough to come from an EU country, so you need to secure a visa for an extended stay in the Netherlands with your partner, you might need to do a test called the Civic Integration Exam Abroad (Basisexamen inburgering in het buitenland)
Basics and costs
In practical terms, this means you need to go to the Dutch embassy in your home country and pass a series of exams that show a basic understanding of Dutch language and society. If there isn’t a Dutch embassy in your country, or you’re currently living in another country – you can take this exam there as well.
The exam consists of a few different parts:
- Knowledge of Dutch society (Kennis van de Nederlandse maatschappij)
You need to pass each of the sections in order to get the certificate you need in order to get the partner visa. If you fail one of the parts – you can just re-take that one. The price for each of the sections is €50, which means you’ll pay €150 for the whole thing if you make it on the first try.
It’s difficult to say how much time exactly you need in order to prepare for the exam, because it depends on so many factors – how easy you find learning new languages, how much time you actually have to devote to this during your week, if you already have the basics in a similar language (like German, for example)…
I’ve read about so many different experiences, and spoken to people who’ve needed anywhere from a few weeks, to a full year to be able to confidently pass the exam.
In my case, I started preparing in August, and took the exam in mid-October.
I do think that I have an “easy” time learning new languages, so I had that working in my favor for sure.
I prepared using the materials from the official website that include the actual questions and vocabulary that can be on the exam. I also went through the online courses by leandutch.org, as well as their free resources on the YouTube channel. Their video courses that take you from level zero to A1 and A2 are absolutely amazing and so easy to follow – definitely a recommendation if you want to have a strong base, and you prefer learning on your own.
Because I’m a nerd, and also because I wanted to make sure I’m set up for success once I arrive to the Netherlands, I also did a few weeks of private lessons with a Dutch teacher in Serbia. This definitely boosted my confidence, but I wouldn’t say it was crucial in the preparation process.
Once you feel like you’re ready, you’ll go to the website of DUO and register for the exam. You’ll receive a response within 5 working days.
This response will contain a link for payment, as well as other instructions on how to make your appointment. In most cases, you’ll need to email or call your local embassy to find a time. Before I registered, I emailed the embassy in Belgrade to see what the waiting times are – will I have to wait a few months, or just a few weeks before I take the exam? However, their answer was – just register with DUO, and then you can make an appointment.
In reality, it took about 3 weeks between the time when I registered until I could take the exam. This time will surely vary based on how busy your local embassy is and other factors.
Taking the exam
You have 95 minutes in total to complete all three parts of the exam. This is split into 30min for the first part, 35min for the second, and 30 for the last one.
You need to make sure to take your passport and the confirmation you received from DUO with you. With this, you check in at the reception desk, they take your documents to check them and make a copy of your passport. At this point, they normally also take your fingerprints for the biometric data.
Then you need to turn off your phone, and the exam starts.
In my case, there was an embassy employee sitting on the other side of the glass, and his job was to start the test, and to move from one part to another. Yes, I know, that sounds quite stressful! The thing that makes it a bit less stressful, though, is that you don’t have to talk to a person for the actual exam at all. Even for the speaking part, you say the words into the microphone and they get recorded. The embassy employee was also very pleasant and patient.
Despite the stress and a bit of panic, I managed to finish the full exam in less than half an hour, and I was quite confident I had passed. I guess it pays off to be a nerd sometimes!
The knowledge of Dutch society and reading sections of the exam are marked by the computer automatically, but the speaking part is reviewed by an actual person. That’s why it takes up to 8 weeks to receive the results after you’ve taken the exam.
If you’ve passed all three parts, you receive a document that you can use to make the visa application.
There are special cases in which you don’t have to pass this test before you’re allowed to have your paperwork processed and move to the Netherlands.
Some of those are:
- you are younger than 18, or older than the official retirement age
- you’re from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, UK, USA, South Korea or Switzerland
- you studied in the Netherlands for a specific amount of time, or have a degree where Dutch was your first or second language
- you are a spiritual councelor coming to work, but not offering your services to the public
IND’s website has a full list of exemptions from taking the civic integration exam, so you can check whether you fall within any of those categories.