Background Briefing

The Netherlands as a European Model

This overseas test is new not only in the Netherlands but in the rest of the EU.25 The Netherlands’ recent approach to integration policy, especially that of requiring language and other tests before family reunification, has served as a model for other EU member states, including Germany, Denmark, France, and the UK. Inspired by the Dutch model of integration in the country of origin, Germany introduced a new language requirement in August 2007 for foreign spouses wishing to move to Germany.26They must provide evidence of a basic command of German before entering Germany when they apply for their visa at the German embassy or consulate.27

The government in the UK has indicated it is considering similar plans to the Dutch policies that would require non-EU citizens wishing to enter as spouses to pass a language test in the country of origin before they are granted an entry visa.28 Denmark has already adopted a bill on requiring foreign nationals applying for family migration to first pass a test on Danish language and society before they can immigrate.29 The law has yet to be implemented. A new (still to be implemented) French government law on integration of family migrants foresees courses in the immigrants’ countries of origin.30

25 With the very limited exception of Germany, which has had oral German (dialect) tests since 1996, which could not be retaken, for the special group of Spätaussiedler  (ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union) to prove their “Germanness.” The function of these tests was different and had no aim of integration: by passing the test, the person was recognized as ethnic German, could enter Germany and would relatively quickly receive citizenship. In addition, for instance the GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) would also organize language courses in those concentrated areas where ethnic Germans lived. Moreover, in 2005 Germany required tests also for family members of ethnic Germans, which to a certain extent had an integration aim. If they would pass they could enter Germany at the same time as the ethnic German primary migrant. If not, the ethnic German would travel first to Germany and then apply for family reunification. Family members would then fall under the normal provisions of the Aliens Law.

26 § 28 (1) sentence 5 and § 30 (1) sentence 1 no. 2 and the exceptions in § 30 (1) sentence 2 and 3 of the German Residence Act and § 41 of the Residence Ordinance. Citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, and the United States of America are exempted.

27 Applicants for family reunification must demonstrate basic knowledge of the German language and are asked to submit a German language proficiency certificate in general from the Goethe Institute of the level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages when applying for an immigration visa to Germany. Costs are to be financed by the migrant. See Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, leaflet “Evidence of basic knowledge of German in the case of subsequent immigration by spouses from abroad,” available at (accessed March 4, 2008).

28 Patrick Wintour, “Smith seeks to restore trust in immigration system,” The Guardian, December 6, 2007, (accessed March 4, 2008).

29 The bill was adopted by the Danish Parliament in April 2007. It also applies to religious preachers. EU/EEA nationals are exempt. See also “Comparative study on the implementation of the Family Reunification Directive,” Centre for Migration Law, Radboud University Nijmegen, Questionnaire data of Denmark, section B.20, May 2007, (accessed March 4, 2008).

30 Amendments of the French Immigration Act (Projet de loi relative à la maitrise de l’immigration, à l’intégration et à l’asile), adopted by the Sénat and the Assemblée Nationale on October 23 2007, (accessed March 6, 2008) ,and approved by the Conseil Constitutionnel in November 2007. See for the law Loi relative à la maîtrise de l'immigration, à l'intégration et à l'asile (n° 2007-1631 of 20 November 2007), published in JO n° 270 of 21 November 2007, (accessed March 27, 2008): In the new articles L 411-8 and L 211-2-1, French consular officers may prescribe a language and integration course of up to two months when a  would-be family migrant lacks French language knowledge; the applicant will get the visa only if he or she has seriously participated in the course and after the applicant’s language skills are reevaluated.