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Dutch nationality law is based primarily on the principle of Jus sanguinis and is governed by the Kingdom Act on the Netherlands nationality (Dutch: Rijkswet op het Nederlanderschap). Thus citizenship is conferred primarily by birth to a Dutch parent, irrespective of place of birth. Children born in the Netherlands to two foreign parents do not acquire Dutch citizenship at birth, unless special criteria are met.
Despite the existence of four different countries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, only one category of citizen is distinguished in Dutch nationality law (Nederlandse / Dutch).
The Kingdom Act on the Netherlands nationality was significantly amended with effect from 1 April 2003.
A person born on or after 1 January 1985 to a married Dutch father or mother, or an unmarried Dutch mother, is automatically a Dutch subject at birth. It is irrelevant where the child is born.
A child born to an unmarried Dutch father and a non-Dutch mother must be acknowledged by the Dutch father before birth, in order for the child to be a Dutch subject at birth. Before 1 April 2003, an acknowledgement could be given after birth. Since then children who were not acknowledged before birth may nonetheless acquire Dutch citizenship through the option procedure, or through obtaining proof of paternity from a court. In the last case, the child gets Dutch nationality retroactively, since his/her birth.
From 1 January 1985 the Kingdom Act on the Netherlands nationality (Rijkswet op het Nederlanderschap 19 December 1984, Stb. 628) permits children of either a Dutch father or mother to receive Dutch nationality by descent. Prior to that date Dutch nationality law (Wet op het Nederlanderschap en het ingezetenenschap (commonly abbreviated as WNI, 12 December 1892, Stb. 268) did not permit children to obtain Dutch nationality through descent from a Dutch mother (through matrilineal descent) and a non-Dutch father. Netherlands nationality was only passed through patrilineal (father) descent. Only if the father was not known or acknowledged did a child born to a Dutch mother receive Dutch nationality prior to 1 January 1985.
Between 1 January 1985 and 31 December 1987 children born after 1 January 1964 but before 1 January 1985 of a Dutch mother and non-Dutch father and who had never been married could use the ‘option procedure’ to acquire Dutch nationality. This possibility was not widely known and many in this situation missed the temporary opportunity to register themselves or their children as Dutch subjects.
In 2004, a number of these children of Dutch mothers and non-Dutch fathers (so-called "latent Dutch" or "latente Nederlanders") began to organise themselves in the hope of persuading the Dutch government that Article 27 of Rijkswet op het Nederlanderschap condones the discrimination against women enshrined in the earlier Dutch Nationality Law (before its 1985 revision), and it should therefore be revoked. In 2005, several Dutch lawyers agreed to take on the case and formalised the group into “Stichting Ne(e)derlanderschap Ja!”. The legislative change was discussed by parliament in 2006, but then stalled when the government fell and the bill was withdrawn.
In December 2008, a new proposal was presented to the Dutch Lower House of Parliament, and in January 2010 Legislative bill 31.831 (R1873) passed a majority vote amending the Kingdom Act on the Netherlands nationality to allow the so-called 'latent Dutch' to opt to receive Dutch nationality, regardless of their current age and marital status, and without requirement to renounce their original nationality. In June 2010, the Dutch Upper House approved the legislation. It was signed into law in July 2010 by Minister of Justice Mr Hirsch Ballin and H.M. the Queen, and published in the official Gazette issued by the Dutch Government (Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden), with effect 1 October 2010. Latent Dutch now have the opportunity to receive Dutch nationality by option. Many latent Dutch regard themselves as having been Dutch since birth. However, while latent Dutch are by definition descended from a Dutch mother, nationality granted through the option procedure is not retroactive to the date of their birth. Under the law, these individuals are not considered to be Dutch since birth (van rechtswege), but rather are legally ‘Dutch by option’ from the date that the requirements of the ‘option procedure’ are fulfilled.
The option procedure is a simpler and quicker way of acquiring Dutch citizenship compared to naturalisation. In effect, it is a form of simplified naturalisation.
In order to be eligible for the option procedure, it is necessary to hold a Dutch residence permit and to be any of the following:
Exception: Legislation 31.813 (R1873), inter alia, amends the Kingdom of the Netherlands' nationality law to allow latent Dutch to opt to receive Dutch nationality, effective 1 October 2010. The conditions of eligibility through the 'option procedure' differ somewhat from those described above. Eligibility criteria for Dutch nationality as a latent Dutch person are that the:
All five conditions must be met. If one or more of the conditions are not met the person is ineligible for nationality by this particular means under the recent changes to the option procedure affecting the latent Dutch. Residency in the Netherlands is not an eligibility requirement for latent Dutch applicants.
Applicants for Dutch citizenship through the option procedure are not required by Dutch law to renounce any foreign citizenship they might hold. However, the laws pertaining to their other citizenship may disagree.
A child born in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba to at least one resident foreign national parent is a Dutch subject if at least one of the parents was born in the Netherlands, the Dutch Antilles or Aruba to a resident foreign national parent.
A child found on Dutch territory (including ships and airplanes with Dutch nationality), whose parents are unknown, is considered Dutch by birth if within five years since being found it does not become apparent that he/she got another citizenship by birth.
An application for Dutch citizenship by naturalisation must meet all the conditions below:
Since March 1, 2009, someone who requests naturalization has to take an oath/promise his/her adhesion to the values of the Dutch state: "I swear (declare) that I respect the constitutional order of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, its freedoms and its rights, and I swear (promise) to faithfully fulfil the obligations due to my nationality. So help me God Almighty", or: "This is what I promise and declare." According to Art. 23.3. of the Kingdom Act on the Netherlands Nationality, some categories of people are excepted from declaring their allegiance, through a general administrative measure. According to Art. 60a.6. of the Decree regarding the Obtention and Loss of the Netherlands Nationality, persons with a physical or psychical handicap who are unable to state their allegiance are exempted from doing so.
The 5-year residence requirement may not apply where the applicant falls into any of the following categories:
An applicant for naturalisation does not have to give up his current nationality in the following cases:
These exemptions do not hold for citizens/subjects of Austria, Denmark and/or Norway, since these countries (together with the Netherlands) signed and ratified without reservations and never denounced the Convention on the Reduction of Cases of Multiple Nationality and on Military Obligations in Cases of Multiple Nationality (see Chapter I, art. 1, paragraph 1).
This was also the case for Belgian subjects until April 28, 2008, since Belgium denounced Chapter 1 of this treaty on such date. In a similar way, this was also the case for Luxembourgian subjects until July 10, 2009.
Children aged under 18 may be added to a parent's application for Dutch citizenship. Those aged 16 and 17 will only be naturalised if they give their active consent, while those aged 12–15 inclusive are given a chance to object.
Former Dutch subjects who hold permanent resident permits and have resided in the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, or Sint Maarten) for at least 1 year may regain Dutch citizenship through the option procedure.
Where the person is not resident in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the person must have lost Dutch citizenship after reaching the age of majority and through the acquisition of another citizenship. In addition one of the following conditions must be satisfied:
These criteria are similar to the criteria for exemption from loss of Dutch citizenship in place since 1 April 2003. If a (former) Dutch national lost Dutch nationality prior to March 31, 2003 under one of the three conditions above, that individual may submit an application to regain Dutch nationality through option. The application opting for Dutch nationality may be submitted up to 31 March 2013 (i.e. 10 years from the 2003 change in the law).
Dutch subjects may lose their citizenship through long residence outside the Netherlands while having more than one nationality, or acquisition of a foreign nationality. In addition, in some cases it is possible to be deprived of Dutch citizenship.
The Dutch law has contained for many years provisions that removed Dutch citizenship from certain Dutch persons who held another nationality at birth and remained resident outside the Netherlands in adulthood.
Before 1 January 1985, Dutch subjects lost their nationality in cases where they were born outside the Kingdom of the Netherlands, lived for an uninterrupted period of ten years outside the Kingdom after reaching the age of majority (then 21) and did not submit notification that they wished to retain their Dutch nationality before the ten-year period was up.
These provisions affected Dutch subjects born abroad before 1 January 1954
Under the 1985 legislation, Dutch subjects born outside the Netherlands who also held the nationality of the country of their birth lost Dutch citizenship if they lived in the country of their birth for 10 years after age 18 (and were still citizens/subjects of their country of birth).
Those who were issued a Dutch passport or proof of Dutch citizenship on or after 1 January 1990 are deemed never to have lost Dutch citizenship. This exemption was put in place on 1 February 2001.
Former subjects who were not issued a Dutch passport or proof of Dutch citizenship in 1990 or later were given a limited period of time to acquire Dutch citizenship by option. These provisions expired on 31 March 2005.
Since 1 April 2003, following an amendment to the Netherlands Nationality Act of 1985, Dutch subjects with dual nationality will lose their Dutch citizenship if they hold a foreign citizenship and reside outside the Kingdom of the Netherlands or the European Union for ten years.
In the case of Dutch subjects who possessed dual nationality on 1 April 2003 and who were then resident outside the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the European Union, the ten-year period started on 1 April 2003.
The amendment does give Dutch subjects who hold foreign citizenship and reside abroad to keep their citizenship by having a principal residence in the Netherlands or another EU member state for at least a year, or applying for a Dutch passport or proof of Dutch nationality before 1 April 2013, before the end of the ten-year period. A new ten-year period starts on the day the person is issued with a passport or proof of Dutch nationality.
From 1 April 2003, loss of Dutch citizenship upon naturalisation in another country is still automatic unless at least one of the following exemptions applies:
If you already lost Dutch nationality under these three exceptions prior to April 1, 2003, the final date to regain Dutch nationality under these three exceptions expired definitively on April 1, 2013, after which date it is no longer to reacquire Dutch nationality by option under these three exceptions if you had already lost Dutch nationality prior to April 1, 2003. The only way to regain Dutch nationality is by naturalization. These exemptions do not apply in the case of acquisition of Austrian, Norwegian or Danish citizenship. Before April 28, 2008, these exemptions did not apply to obtaining Belgian nationality. Before July 10, 2009, these exemptions did not apply to getting the Luxembourgian nationality. This is due to the provisions of the Convention on the Reduction of Cases of Multiple Nationality which the Netherlands became party to in 1985. Details
Other exceptions also exist such as minors who naturalize independently from their parents will not lose their Dutch citizenship. This is particularly helpful prior to 1985 when the age of majority was 21.
The exemptions lead to internal problems in the case of acquisition of Japanese or South-Korean citizenship, since neither Japan nor South Korea allows its nationals to hold foreign citizenships in their adult years. (See Japanese and South Korean nationality laws.) Of course, they are strictly Japanese/South Korean internal affairs and have to be solved by Japanese/South Korean citizens themselves, according to the laws of their own country. They are not problems of the Dutch state, and all the Dutch laws say in this respect is that such Dutch subjects with dual nationality are allowed to renounce to their Dutch nationality. Dutch subjects are not allowed to renounce their nationality if they become stateless, so this rennunciation has to occur while they have dual nationality, which is illegal in Japan and South Korea. Therefore acquiring Japanese or South Korean nationality cannot be done by exempted Dutch subjects without breaking the laws of such countries. Each sovereign state decides for itself who are its citizens, therefore other states are not allowed to bother with such internal affairs.
Dutch citizenship by naturalization may be withdrawn if procured by fraud, or if the naturalized Dutch subject does not renounce a foreign citizenship as per the requirements for naturalization (i.e. if one did not have the right to be exempted from such requirement or if he/she did not claim his/her right to such exemption before signing a paper wherein he/she agrees to renounce his/her original nationality). A similar requirement exists for citizens of Japan and South Korea (see above).
Dutch citizenship may also be revoked in the case of service in a foreign army at war with the Netherlands.
The possibility to reapply for lost Dutch nationality under these three exceptions expired on March 31, 2013. It is no longer possible to reacquire Dutch nationality under these three exceptions.
Although Dutch law restricts dual citizenship, it is possible for Dutch subjects to legally hold dual citizenship in a number of circumstances, including:
Dutch nationality law is an object of enduring dispute, dissension and debate, since the electoral campaign of Pim Fortuyn, turned immigration into a hot issue in Dutch politics. Since the assassination of Pim Fortuyn, anti-immigration politicians like Geert Wilders and Rita Verdonk have opposed dual citizenship.
Although the European territory forms part of the European Union, Dutch citizens are also citizens of the European Union and thus enjoy rights of free movement and have the right to vote in elections for the European Parliament.
Before independence, Dutch citizenship was held by many persons in Suriname and Indonesia. In general, those acquiring citizenship of these countries at independence lost their Dutch citizenship. A request for determination of citizenship status can be addressed to the Dutch authorities.
Figures from the Dutch government show that approximately 11,500 people were granted Dutch citizenship by naturalisation in the first 6 months of 2003. There were close to 20,000 applications. Details
According to the country's statistics office Details, nearly 21 thousand people were granted Dutch nationality through naturalisation in 2004 (13,000 adults and 8,000 children at the same time). This is 4 thousand fewer than in 2003 and half the number in 2002.