Ai has passed the Dutch integration exams!
Danny has done it quite sometime ago, but now she is mostly done too! (≧▽≦)
What are the Integration exams？
It is called Inburgeringexamen in Dutch. However, it does not mean you will become Dutch.
It is basically like a Dutch language exam.
Why would you take it？
There are two groups, the people listed below are obliged to take this exam.
・ People who have a residence permit to stay in the Netherlands as a partner of a Dutch citizen.
・ People who have a residence permit to stay in the Netherlands as a spouse of a Dutch citizen.
So, Ai is not obliged, but she took it as she is considering to apply for a Dutch permanent residence permit in the future. One of the condition for that permit is to have a diploma of the Intergration exam.
Dutch people speak very good English as a non English speaking country, however it does not mean that they use English everywhere.
All the street signs, official government letters and websites, and legal contracts are in Dutch, and it can be quite troublesome to have to use google to translate them all the time.
For us as musicians living in the Netherlands, rehearsals with local groups tend to be carried out in dutch as well. Therefore it is important for us to learn the local language, otherwise we cannot function well in rehearsals.
Integration exam consists of 6 main components: writing, listening, reading, speaking skills (in dutch of course) ＋ Knowledge of Dutch society
➕ONA（Orientation on the Dutch Labour Market）
What is the Knowledge of Dutch society exam?
In Dutch, it s called Kennis van de Nederlands Maatschappij.
To pass this exam would mean that you know how to do the following in the Netherlands: What do you do in an emergency situation? What do you do when you need a doctor? How can I rent a house? Who will help us to buy the house? How many year children learn in the school? etc. In other words, knowledge which you need to survive in the Netherlands.
In the test, you listen to/watch recordings of daily situations and answer from a multiple choice system, so you also need to know the application of the Dutch language in those situations.
☆The textbook I used.
ONA is Oriëntatie op de Nederlandse Arbeidsmarkt, or Orientation on the Dutch Labour Market in English.
This component aims to examine the following: How to write a CV, how to find jobs, and are there jobs for your specialization in the Netherlands?
There are 2 ways to complete ONA
①Portfolio + Interview
You will complete a portfolio, in which you have to fulfill a series of tasks, like writing your CV or showing actual advertisements of job vacancies of your specialization. In our case, that means showing advertisements of job openings for dutch orchestras/choirs.
This is considered to be a long way. First you have to complete the portfolio online, send it in for approval, and if there are mistakes in the portfolio, you have to correct them and resend it. What is not taken into account here is the time DUO (read on for what it stands for) takes to process anything; the time between your submission and the feedback, and vice versa, could potentially take what seems like forever. However when you finally get an OK from DUO, they will automatically schedule you for an interview, which again could take quite some time. In the interview, they will ask questions based on your portfolio. Well, sounds very fun, yay.
②Go to school
The other way is that you can go to a DUO-approved school to follow a course specifically tailored to this ONA. Once completed, that’s it, no interview. However, it costs more than €1000 and school schedules are generally not very flexible. So either way, it is relatively more troublesome than the other exams.
Exemptions were already available for some cases, but it become more freelancer-friendly recently since Fall 2020.
Condition for ONA exemption
You have been working for more than for 6 months in the past 12 months and are working at least 48 hours/month.
There are a few situations that are considered but the simplest (and probably the most common situation for most foreign freelancers) is this : You possess a residence permit to work as freelancer in the Netherlands. This applies to Ai, who has this permit based on the Japan-Netherlands trade treaty, and there is no need to send any further documents.
How to apply for the exams
You can apply from the DUO website here.
DUO stands for Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs, which is a part of Dutch government managing education.
You can choose to take the exams in Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Rijswijk, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Zwolle. There is freedom to take any exam, anywhere, based on availability of course. This means you can decide to take different exams in different cities, should you choose to. This strategy is usually part of a potential option for people who are in a hurry to complete the exams as soon as possible. On the other hand you can choose to take it easy and take one exam every other week.
There are mock exams officially available on the DUO website. They provide an almost exact simulation of real exams, from the interface down to having an internal timer to stop the exam once time is up. There are a few mock exams available for each component except for ONA, and it is highly recommended to try them before taking the actual exam. Try them here!