Brief Introduction

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Brief introduction on Dutch nationality law

The information below is correct at the time of writing, 21 April 2021. The Netherlands has had its own specific nationality (citizenship) law since 1892. Like any legislation, this has changed over the years. For example, a major change in 1985 resulted in a very different law so that it was renamed. But there have also been important changes in 1964, 2003 and 2010 and dozens of smaller changes over the years. Due to an EU legal ruling in 2019 the government is currently still working on a change of law, but the new rights can already be made use of (unique situation). Other related Dutch laws have also changed. For example, since 1988 minors become adults at the age of 18, before that it was 21. 

These changes, and the different personal backgrounds, often cause confusion among (former) Dutch people, even among the officials. After all, we all have different dates on which we were born, married, moved, migrated, etc. The government, and everyone else, has a hard time giving general advice about someone’s nationality and rights. Historically it is not always simple. Despite possible future modern legislation, this complexity will persist. After all, a potential future legislative change does not change the previous historical complexity. 

The law today! What you need to know and what you need to pay attention to!

Despite the many changes, the Netherlands has maintained its single nationality principle since 1892. This means that Dutch law would rather not have its people have or acquire another nationality. However, the world itself is not so black and white and since 1892 the Netherlands has also allowed having another nationality by some specific exceptions. On the other hand, it is also possible to still lose your Dutch nationality later. Minor children are somewhat better protected against loss of Dutch nationality. Since 2003, some more initial exceptions have been added. 

You can generally lose your Dutch nationality in two ways: 
  1. Initially when acquiring or adopting another nationality. There are limited conditional exceptions to this. 
  1. In second instance, after having another nationality by exception, through the so-called 10-Year Clock. This can be prevented. 

To limit this to a brief introduction, we will not go into the details here. On our information pages (in Dutch) you can find more about this, and you can make further inquiries with the Dutch government. 

Children from parents with multiple nationalities 

Children often receive the nationalities of both parents. This is not always the case because some countries do not always allow this. Each country has its own nationality laws on this. 

Since 1985, children with at least one Dutch parent will receive automatically Dutch nationality at birth. Note, an unmarried father is legally not (yet) the parent, and this can be resolved by recognition (of unborn child) or later through legitimisation by law. 

Only Dutch nationality 

If you only have the Dutch nationality, since 1985 you cannot simply become stateless. You may, however, be asked to prove that you are (still) Dutch. This can sometimes become difficult, especially if you live, or have lived, illegally in the other country. 

Prove your Dutch nationality

As soon as you (or your children) live or have lived abroad, the Dutch government may suspect that you have received that nationality. Officials would therefore like to see evidence that you had a visa/residence permit in the country or have not taken on that nationality. Or otherwise, that one of the exceptions was applicable and that your Dutch nationality was not lost. You can be questioned on your nationality at any time, for example when applying for a Dutch passport, at the Dutch border or when registering with the Dutch municipality.  

The Dutch government sometimes asks for a municipal extract from the country so that your status can be proven. But not every country has such a civil municipal administration, and some countries do not always have a good immigration administration. The longer ago the relevant period, the more difficult it can become to prove your status. Ultimately, this can usually be resolved, but it is therefore important to request your supporting documents and to keep them for yourself and for descendants. So even if you are only Dutch, keep proof of old residence permits, visas, etc. For this it is also advisable to ask to have your old Dutch passport invalidated and returned to you. Your old passport can contain visa stamps that can become important later. Even the fact that you possessed a Dutch passport is historically important evidence. The government itself only keeps the issue of your passport in their records for a few years (11 years for passports valid up to 5 years and 16 years for passports that are valid longer). 

As soon as you do have another nationality, certain documents are very important. We therefore recommend that you always keep originals, extracts or copies of, birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce, death, registration, deregistration, etc. These can become very important for you or your (grand) children. For foreign documents the (Dutch) government sometimes wants translations and legalizations/apostilles, this is not always necessary. Dutch and EU municipalities and authorities can also provide multilingual copies of certificates which avoids requests for translations.  

How long should you save these? This can become important even for future generations. Grandchildren proving their Dutch nationality dependant on a missing Dutch passport of a deceased grandfather can sometimes be very frustrating. So, keep everything safe for yourself and all descendants. 

The Nationality law can change again

If you also have another nationality, it is certainly important to keep an eye on Dutch legislation. Politics is currently still divided. There are many politicians who are in favour of a more modern and liberal nationality law, but also enough who want to keep it the way it is, or even make it impossible to have another nationality. This can therefore translate into future legislative changes that directly affect you or your children.

Stay informed.