You know you need to take the Dutch integration exam — but is the level A2? B1? Something else completely? It’s normal to be confused, but here’s the easy guide.
For the longest time, the Dutch integration exam was pretty straightforward: everyone did it at A2 unless they wanted to take a Dutch university course. Simple, right?
However, the Dutch government decided that A2 wasn’t enough to, well, integrate. To change the level, they had to change the whole integration law, which took a long time.
Now, if you’re wondering what language level the Dutch integration exam is, the answer is: it depends!
Some people are under the old system, some people are under a new system, and others are still undecided.
Here’s the easy guide to knowing at which language level you might need to take the Dutch integration exams in 2024.
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A2, B1? Are we speaking in code? If you’re feeling a little confused, we’re using terms from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It looks a little like this:
At what language level do I need to take the Dutch inburgering exams?
The language level of your Dutch integration exams has two main factors:
- Your visa or residency type and,
- The date the IND formally decided you must begin to integrate
I have a partner/relationship visa, or I am a refugee
If you have a partner or relationship visa or are a refugee, the IND will automatically decide that you must integrate. This typically happens shortly after the date that you registered at your local municipality.
You will receive a letter advising that you are required to integrate, or as DUO, the Dutch education authority, will write, “U moet verplicht inburgeren.”
The most important thing here is the date of the letter. That’s because there are two laws at play: The Civil Integration Act 2013, and the Civil Integration Act 2021 (which affects people from 2022 onwards).
You can tell which law you fall under by your letter’s date.
Your letter is dated before January 1, 2022
If the date of the letter is before January 1, 2022, then congratulations: the language level you will take the Dutch integration exams at is A2.
Your letter is dated after January 1, 2022
If the date of your letter is after January 1, 2022, you’ll need to study for a while longer: your language level will most likely be B1.
Why “most likely”? Technically, the municipality can decide for you to follow one of three routes:
- The B1 route: where you learn Dutch to a B1 level, mostly for integration and working or volunteering.
- The education route: where you learn Dutch to a B1 level or higher to prepare for higher education.
- The self-reliance route: an exemption given for people who must integrate but find the first two routes are too difficult. Instead, you learn Dutch to an A1 level and have non-mandatory exams.
However, the first route is supposed to be the most common option. You’ll discuss your route with your municipality, where you’ll also create a personal integration and participation plan (PIP).
The upside? You’ll speak pretty decent Dutch by the end!
What if the exams are too difficult? A municipality can make some rare exceptions to the language levels stated above — but typically only if you have health problems or would truly struggle to learn Dutch.
I am integrating to apply for permanent residency or citizenship
If you don’t fall into the category of having a relationship visa or being a refugee, you likely:
- Are here on a temporary visa (such as a working visa),
- Have lived here for around five years, and
- Have decided to make your stay in the Netherlands more permanent.
We get it, the Netherlands is a leuk place to live!
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If this is you, and you’re not an EU, EEA, Swiss, or Turkish citizen, then you’re integrating “voluntarily”, and it’s good news: the language level you will need to integrate at is still A2 — for now.
While the Dutch government does want to raise the level to B1 for people in your position, they haven’t made a final decision on whether it will be raised in 2024.
That means that if you can fully integrate and pass your exams to apply for permanent residency or citizenship before they decide to raise it, you shouldn’t have to study further than A2 level — based on the information the government has given so far.
TIP: Still not sure at which level you need to take your exams? Check out DUO’s inburgeren plan generator.
Do I need to take the Dutch integration exams?
Whether you need to take the Dutch integration exams is mostly determined by your nationality. If you’re not from an EU or EEA country, Switzerland, or Turkey, and you’re coming to live in the Netherlands long-term, you’ll likely need to take the Dutch integration exams.
As with anything, there are a few exceptions.
Whether you’re A2 or B1, we can tell you this: taking the Dutch integration exams is really achievable and worth it — especially if it leads to permanent residency or a Dutch passport!
At what language level do you need to take your Dutch integration exams? Share it in the comments below!
Dutch integration exam language level: frequently asked questions
How long do I have to complete the inburgering exams?
If you are required to integrate in the Netherlands, you have three years to earn your Dutch integration certificate. Most people can study and take all the exams within a year, or even a few months.
Who has to take the integration exam in the Netherlands?
Anyone who is seeking to stay in the Netherlands for a longer-term and who is not a member of an EU/EEA state, Turkey, or Switzerland must take the Dutch integration exams.
What language level is the Dutch integration exam in 2024?
The language level of the Dutch integration exam depends on your visa and when you became required to integrate.
For those on a relationship or refugee visa who became required to integrate before January 1, 2022, the level is A2, for those after that date, it is B1.
For people who are voluntarily integrating the language level is currently A2 but may rise to B1 in the future.
Is the Dutch integration exam level still A2?
The Dutch integration exam level is still A2 for people who became required to integrate before January 1, 2022 and (so far) for people who are voluntarily integrating in 2024. For everyone else, the level is likely to be B1.
How difficult is the Dutch integration exam?
The Dutch integration exam is taken at either A2 (basic) or B1 (intermediate) level, depending on your personal situation and when you became required to integrate. It’s possible to prepare for and pass the Dutch A2 integration exams within a few months. The preparation time for the B1 integration exam can take between six and 12 months depending on your learning speed.