The so-called Orientation on the Dutch Labour Market exam (ONA) has been a dreaded part of becoming either a permanent resident or a Dutch citizen since 2015, but the Dutch government is introducing new regulations that may mean you don’t need to take the exam.
Becoming a permanent resident or a Dutch citizen is quite a long process, but it is generally quite straight-forward. You need to pass some Dutch language exams (known as the NT2), which assesses your reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. You also need to sign a “participation statement” where you commit to following the guiding principles of Dutch society, and complete an exam about Dutch life.
Starting in 2015, one final step was added to the process: the “ONA” exam. This somewhat mystifying exam included a portfolio, taking 64 hours of classes, participating in an interview, or all of the above. The interview is normally the final step of the exam, but in 2017, waiting times for that interview topped 17 weeks.
Lots of people that wished to attain permanent residency all thought the same thing: “But I’ve already got a job, surely I’m pretty well versed in the Dutch Labour Market?” Luckily, it seems that the Dutch government now agrees.
In February of 2018, the State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment announced that the rules were changing. It was recently announced that if you have worked more than 48 hours in more than half of the year prior to applying for permanent residency, you will no longer have to take the exam. However, this exemption does not apply for freelancers or self-employed individuals (in Dutch: ZZP’er).