In the period between 2007-2009, approximately 28,000 people who had arrived in the Netherlands prior to 2001 and had been refused asylum, received a residence permit under a general pardon in the Netherlands. After 20 years in the Netherlands, more than 10,000 people in this group were still unable to obtain Dutch nationality. A person generally becomes eligible to apply for naturalisation after five years’ legal residence in the country (three years for people registered as stateless). However, many in this group were unable to comply with a mandatory requirement in the naturalisation process to present a foreign passport and birth certificate. Sometimes the authorities of countries of origin refused to provide documentary proof of nationality or in the case of stateless people they were unable to prove their statelessness so had been registered as having ‘unknown nationality’.
In early 2021, members of Parliament from the Socialist Party (SP) and the Christian Democrats (CDA) issued a motion to the Dutch Parliament to request an exemption from the documentation requirement for this group. The motion passed, but the State Secretary for Justice and Security asked the WODC (Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security Research and Documentation Centre) to carry out additional research into the obstacles that people in this group encounter during naturalisation.
After the WODC published its research report, the State Secretary for Justice and Security announced on 7 July 2021 that all those who received a residence permit under the 2007 general pardon will be exempt from certain naturalisation or option procedure requirements. They won’t have to:
a) present a valid foreign passport (or prove possession of a foreign nationality);
b) submit a (foreign) birth certificate/birth registration certificate; and
c) where applicable, comply with the obligation to renounce an original nationality.
The other conditions in the naturalisation and option procedure continue to apply to people in this group, specifically relating to public order and security and where there are doubts about personal data.
The new exemption policy has effect from 1 June 2021 if the applicant was a minor at the time they received their permit, and from 1 November 2021 for all other applicants.