Magistrate Decries Second Civic Exam for Divorced Immigrants

(CN) – An EU magistrate chided the Netherlands on Wednesday for testing divorced immigrants on civic integration before giving them autonomous residence permits.

Though the ruling out of Luxembourg is not available in English, a press release notes that the Court of Justice consolidated two cases to decide the case.

The first involves a Chinese national identified only as C who held a permit until 2014 to reside with her Dutch national spouse in the Netherlands.

C’s lawful residence was interrupted for a year, however, after the state secretary withdrew her residence permit with retroactive effect to Feb. 10, 2014 — the date C was no longer registered at the same address as her spouse. C had applied for an autonomous residence permit in 2015 after filing for divorce, but the state secretary did not grant the permit until C had passed a second civic integration examination.

The state secretary made a similar demand of A, the Congolese national in the second case, who sought an autonomous residence permit after his marriage to a Dutch national was dissolved in July 2015.

With both cases pending before the Netherlands Council of State, the European Court of Justice is intervening to decide whether addition civic exams violate EU directives for immigrants who have a right of residence by virtue of family reunification.

Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi noted in his opinion Wednesday that the civic exam for immigrants to the Netherlands is a rigorous one.

“The applicant must first, within three years, acquire oral and written skills in Dutch equating to at least level A2 on the European Framework of Reference for Modern Foreign Languages,” the press release states. “Those skills consist of speaking, listening, writing and reading skills. Secondly, the applicant must acquire knowledge of Netherlands society over the course of those three years. Such knowledge consists, on the one hand, of knowledge of Netherlands society and, on the other hand, of Netherlands labor market orientation.”

Mengozzi disagreed with the Netherlands that the “conditions relating to the granting … of an autonomous residence permit” can encompass a substantive condition, such as passing a second civic-integration test.

“The advocate general therefore proposes that the court rules that the directive precludes national legislation which provides that an application for an autonomous residence permit on the part of a national of a non-EU country who has resided lawfully for more than five years in the territory of a member state for the purposes of family reunification may be rejected because of noncompliance with substantive conditions relating to integration,” the press release states.

Mengozzi concluded with a recommendation “that the effects of the autonomous right of residence must commence, at the latest, on the date on which that application is made.”

Opinions from advocates general are not binding on the Court of Justice, which now begins its deliberations in the case.

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