Virginia, US

After the June referendum in the UK and the vote to leave the EU, our private client team in Brussels has been overwhelmed by enquiries from UK citizens living in the EU, all asking the same question: can I apply for nationality in the EU member state where I am currently living? Evelyne Van der Elst has already looked at this question from a Belgian perspective in her blog post Keeping your European Citizenship after Brexit, and in this post, I will turn our attention to the Netherlands, where a post-Brexit information evening hosted by the mayor of Amsterdam recently attracted a standing-room-only crowd.

Dutch immigration authorities have noticed a sharp increase in nationality applications from British citizens –in just a month immediately following the Brexit vote, as many applications for nationality were filed by British citizens as in the entire year of 2015. The number would probably be far greater if nationality provisions in the Netherlands were not so restrictive. The largest barrier to applicants is the restriction on holding dual-nationality, which means that after successfully obtaining Dutch nationality the applicant must rescind their home nationality.  Exceptions to this rule are extremely narrow and this means that applying for Dutch nationality is not a real possibility for foreign nationals who have resided in the Netherlands for the required 5 continuous years.

The most notable exception to the dual nationality restriction concerns those who will naturalise on the basis of their relationship with a Dutch national.  In general, applying on the basis of partnership is preferential for several reasons:

  • the spouse or registered partner of a Dutch national can retain their home nationality,
  • the application can be submitted  after 3 years rather than 5 years,
  • and the application may be lodged from abroad, as long as not from the country in which the applying partner holds a passport (e.g. an American spouse could not apply while living in America.)
In our experience, most British nationals applying for Dutch nationality as a “back-up“ EU nationality are married to or living with a Dutch national. Unsurprisingly, very few clients we assist in obtaining Dutch nationality are willing to give up the passport of their home country so applications for nationality based on 5 years of residence are rare.  
However, other very interesting long-term residence options should be considered by EU citizens or third country nationals who have lived in the Netherlands for 5 or more years without interruption.
Permanent residence for EU citizens (currently still including British nationals)and their family members or EU long-term residence for non-EU citizens in the Netherlands can be an excellent alternative to obtaining Dutch nationality.  In general, these residence statuses will confer many of the benefits that nationality imparts without the requirement to rescind home nationality and, in some cases, with even more advantageous tax or family reunification conditions.  I won’t go into technical details about the two options in this post, but we did recently publish an article with more information on these issues here.
There is not a great deal of awareness about the long-term or permanent residence options. This holds true not only for the Netherlands, but also for the other EU member states. (EU permanent and long-term residence are statuses  which exist in all EU member states).  Our team is prepared to guide clients on obtaining long-term EU rights in the Benelux countries and France and we can be contacted at  Fragomen teams throughout Europe are able to assist in the other member states. This is perhaps the most relevant immigration planning that can be done in this context of post-referendum uncertainty as we all await formal negotiations between the UK and the EU to begin.
Please note: Nationality criteria in the Netherlands are about to become more restrictive. A law that is likely to be passed would increase the minimum residence period for foreign nationals seeking citizenship to 7 years, and would require those applying for citizenship based on a relationship with a Dutch national to have resided with the Dutch national in the Netherlands for at least 3 years, meaning that applications from abroad will no longer be possible.  If you think you may be eligible for Dutch nationality we strongly advise that you learn if this new law could affect you.