Background Briefing

Financial Constraints

The overseas integration test should also be seen in the context of financial restrictions on family formation and reunification.

Dutch citizens and residents, irrespective of their nationality,70 must meet stringent income requirements71 to show that they can provide financially (“sponsor”) for non-Dutch family members, including spouses they wish to bring to the Netherlands.72 These requirements are in addition to the high costs of entry visas and subsequent residence permits.73  

In a response to Human Rights Watch, the minister of housing, communities and integration stated that according to the state secretary of justice no changes are foreseen as regards the income requirements for family reunification and formation and the fees for the issuance of MVVs and residence permits.74

Sponsors must demonstrate that they can meet the income requirement, backed by an employment contract of at least one year at the time of application (or alternatively an employment record of three years and an employment contract valid at least for the next 6 months).75

The income requirement for newly formed families is 120 percent of the legal minimum wage (€1,512.34 as of January 1, 2008), irrespective of the age of the sponsor.76 As the statutory minimum wage of 21 year old workers is €856,77 a sponsor aged 21 or 22 must earn a considerably higher percent of the minimum wage for his or her age group in order  to meet the requirement.78The income level and the need to show a record of employment make it more difficult for sponsors under 23 to meet the requirements for sponsorship.79

The income requirement for family reunification of couples is € 1,260.28 per month as of January 1, 2008.80 This is the highest income level required for family reunification in the European Union.81


70 Including to some extent EU citizens as well.

71 In the 1990s Dutch citizens, refugees, and holders of a settlement permit had to earn at least 70 percent of the welfare level to be allowed to bring family members into the country. Persons over 57.5 years old or single parents caring for small children were exempted from the income requirement before 2004.

72 Rules existing since the 1990s were further tightened in November 2004, in particular for family formation.

73 The total amount of fees to be paid for a residence permit for family reunification amounts to approximately €1,400. See Comparative study on the implementation of the Family Reunification Directive, Centre for Migration Law, Radboud University Nijmegen, Questionnaire data of the Netherlands, section B.11, May 2007, (accessed February 4, 2008). See also IND, Residence in the Netherlands, December 2007,  p. 15, and Costs for staying in the Netherlands, (accessed March 6, 2008). In addition, there are of course still the generally applicable additional costs for legalizing and translating documents, which differ for each country.

74 Letter from minister for housing, communities and integration, March 19, 2008, also on behalf of the minister of foreign affairs and the state secretary of justice, to Human Rights Watch letter, January 23, 2008. However, the minister informed Human Rights watch in this letter that the state secretary of justice will evaluate the impact of income and age requirements, amended in 2004, this year.

75 Self-employed persons have to provide a declaration of sufficient net income and profit for the current and immediately preceding financial years, certified by a financial administrator.

76 Royal Decree of September 29, 2004 (Stb. 2004, 496) amending several provisions of the Dutch Aliens Decree (Vreemdelingenbesluit). For the income requirement, see IND, “New 'means requirement' standard amounts introduced with effect from 1 January 2008 by the IND,” December 21, 2007,  (accessed March 5, 2008).

77 Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment,,310_6057,334_12070 (accessed February 5, 2008).

78 A sponsor aged 21 must therefore earn about 160 percent of the net minimum wage for workers of his or her age.

79 The argument that for younger persons this in fact amounts to a higher income requirement than 120 percent was also put forward by the IOT, “The alliance of Turkish immigrants in Holland” (Stichting Inspraakorgaan Turken in Nederland), in a letter to the European Commission, no. 204-03HZ.HS, Utrecht, December 6, 2004. The IOT is the national Turkish consultation body and part of the National Consultation on Minorities in the Netherlands that is established under the Minority Policy Consultation Act.         

80 See IND, “New 'means requirement' standard amounts introduced with effect from 1 January 2008 by the IND,” December 21, 2007, (accessed March 5, 2008).

81 See K. Groenendijk et al, “The Family Reunification Directive in EU Member States,” the first year of implementation, Centre for Migration Law (CMR), Nijmegen, 2007, p. 26.