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NETHERLANDS: Change in Government Affected Country's Immigration Regulations

The recent change of government in the Netherlands has affected the country's immigration regulations.

A proposal to amend the Dutch Nationality Act will be withdrawn, the government announced on November 27, 2012. The proposal was sharply criticized, particularly its provisions to further reduce dual nationality. The current law already generally prohibits dual nationality, but applicants who are married to a Dutch person were exempt, as were Dutch nationals who acquire the nationality of another country and are married to a person of that nationality. Other measures that will not go through now include the introduction of an income threshold and a qualification requirement (at least two years of work experience in the Netherlands or at least two years of vocational qualification in the Netherlands).

Also, as of January 1, 2013, the financial penalties for non-compliance with the Employment of Foreigners Act (EFA) have increased drastically. Companies employing foreigners without the required work permit were previously fined € 8,000 per employee. This will be raised to € 12,000. In case of a second offense within five years, this amount is raised by 100% to € 24,000 per employee (previously two years), or € 36,000 per employee if the EFA is violated for the third time within the five-year period. The company can also be shut down for up to three months if three offenses occur within five years, provided that the company has been warned in advance about the possibility of being shut down.

There is better financial news for family reunification applicants. Filing fees are reduced considerably as of January 2013. The reduction is a direct consequence of a long-pending complaint of the European Commission against the Netherlands. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on April 26, 2012 (C-508/10) that the government fee of € 401 for a European Community long-term resident permit is "excessive and disproportionate." The Dutch High Administrative Court followed this ruling in a judgment of October 9, 2012, on the Family Reunification Directive, applying the same principles of EU law as the CJEU. In response to this ruling, the Netherlands' State Secretary for Security and Justice announced that the government fee for family reunification would be reduced from € 1,550 to € 225 for visa nationals, and from € 1.250 to € 225 for visa-exempted nationals. The government fee for an EU Blue Card remains at € 750. Because the EU Blue Card is also based on an EU Directive, it could be argued that this amount is also "excessive and disproportionate."

In other news, some important restrictions on family reunification were introduced on October 1, 2012, of which the most remarkable was the abolition of conjugal partner immigration (with the exception of couples who are not allowed to marry according to the laws of the country where they live). This was introduced only days before the former government was replaced by the current one, and when the newly elected Parliament had already spoken out against such restrictions. This political gambit has not yet led to a clear announcement that the measures will be withdrawn or to continued opposition in Parliament. It remains to be seen if these measures will be maintained.

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