Update from June 2023:

The Dutch Senate has adopted two bills on statelessness on 6 June 2023, after they were approved in the House of Representatives in May 2022. The first bill introduces a judicial procedure to determine statelessness, while the second amends various laws, including the Dutch Nationality Act, to allow stateless children without legal residence in the country the possibility of obtaining Dutch nationality. Although hailed as a positive development, experts argue that the new legislation falls short of fully resolving the challenges faced by stateless people in the Netherlands. The new laws will be published before entering into force at a later date.

While the introduction of a judicial procedure to determine statelessness is a welcome development, concerns remain regarding the lack of residence rights attached to the procedure – both during the procedure and once officially recognised as stateless. Moreover, the requirement of "stable and habitual" residence for stateless children to obtain Dutch nationality is inconsistent with international norms.  While the legislative reforms may provide advantages to stateless individuals who already possess residence rights in the Netherlands based on other grounds, they fall significantly short in addressing the needs of the most marginalised stateless people, those lacking formal residence status.

Further information:

The information below was last updated in February 2023. A full update to this page will be available in 2024.

Positively, the Netherlands is party to most relevant international and regional instruments, but there are some gaps in its domestic legal framework to protect stateless people and prevent statelessness. The definition of a stateless person in Dutch law is narrower than the 1954 Convention, and without a statelessness determination procedure (SDP) or status, there is limited protection for stateless people in the country. Currently statelessness can only be identified through other administrative procedures. If identified, legally residing stateless people are granted a travel document and have access to facilitated naturalisation, but there is no route to protection for those without legal residence. The Dutch Parliament has approved legislation that would establish a judicial procedure to determine statelessness (not yet in force), although it does not lead to a right to reside. Although the law contains some protections and safeguards against arbitrary detention, immigration detention is used in practice, and stateless people without legal residence are at risk of detention.

There are safeguards in Dutch nationality law to prevent statelessness in the case of foundlings and adopted children. However, the safeguard for children born stateless in the Netherlands is not automatic. Until recently, it required registration as stateless and three years’ legal residence before a child could acquire nationality, although an amendment to the Dutch Nationality Act approved by Parliament in May 2022 will allow stateless children without legal residence in the Netherlands to opt for Dutch nationality after five years’ of ‘stable and habitual’ residence. Children born to unmarried Dutch fathers and a foreign mother are also disadvantaged. The law provides for universal, immediate birth registration, and all children are issued with birth certificates; but parents without legal residence or who lack key documents may face barriers and the procedure for late birth registration is complex.

Posljednje ažuriranje: 
Feb 2023
Stručnjak/ci za zemlju: 

Robin van Oene, ASKV

Dodatne informacije






Međunarodni i regionalni instrumenti

Assesses whether countries are State party to the relevant international and regional instruments, including whether reservations have an impact on statelessness, and whether instruments are incorporated into domestic law. The four core statelessness treaties (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; European Convention on Nationality; Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession) carry more weight than other relevant human rights instruments in the assessment.

The Netherlands has a strong record on accession to the relevant human rights instruments. It is party to all four of the core statelessness conventions, although it does retain reservations to the 1954 Convention, it has committed to removing these and a bill proposing their withdrawal is currently being examined by Parliament. It is State party to all other relevant regional and international treaties, except for the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. Its reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child do not directly impact on statelessness but may impact on stateless children in the country.

  • The Netherlands is party to the 1954 Convention and it has direct effect. It retains reservations to Articles 8 and 26, but a bill passed by the House of Representatives in May 2022, currently before the Senate, proposed to withdraw these reservations.
  • The Netherlands is State party to the 1961 Convention with no reservations, and the convention has direct effect.
  • The Netherlands is party to most relevant international and regional conventions, though it retains some reservations.
  • For example, its reservation to Article 7 of the European Convention on Nationality impacts on childhood statelessness. Its reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including in relation to the right to legal representation, age of majority, and access to social security, do not directly affect statelessness but may affect stateless children in The Netherlands.
  • The Netherlands is not party to the Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

Podaci o osobama bez državljanstva

Examines the availability and sources of disaggregated population data on statelessness. Provides recent figures and assesses reliability of measures countries have in place to count stateless persons, including in the census, population registries, and migration databases. Notes whether statelessness has been mapped in the country and whether there are sufficient measures in place to count stateless persons in detention.

The Dutch national statistical database contains some data on the stateless population that is disaggregated, but due to inconsistencies in how nationality and statelessness is recorded and the lack of an effective mechanism to identify stateless people in the country, the size of the stateless population is very likely to be underreported. UNHCR reports government figures for the stateless population in the Netherlands. Mapping studies of statelessness have been undertaken by NGOs and UNHCR.

  • There are inconsistencies in how nationality and statelessness are recorded in the Dutch national statistical database (StatLine). The two categories 'stateless' and 'nationality unknown' are sometimes combined and sometimes reported on separately. Data in StatLine is disaggregated by age and sex and updated annually. In 2022, the total number of people recorded as ‘stateless’ or with ‘unknown nationality’ by the Central Statistics Bureau  was 31,517.
  • Although it stated that the exact number of stateless people in the Netherlands is not known, UNHCR reports government figures for the stateless population and in 2019 it estimated there are approximately 13,000 people registered as ‘stateless’ and 43,000 as ‘unknown nationality’. There is also an unknown number of stateless people without a residence permit. The 2021 UNHCR Global Trends Report records 4,574 stateless people including forcibly displaced.
  • Asylum statistics provide data on applications by stateless people with some disaggregation. In 2022, 39 first-time applications for asylum were made by stateless people, 1,113 by people recorded with ‘unknown nationality’, and 32 by people recorded as ‘Palestinian Occupied Territory’, out of a total of 35,535. The Central Office for Statistics (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek) reports the number of stateless people who obtained a residence permit for the first time, by year, and type of permit. In 2021, 555 stateless people obtained an asylum permit (for comparison, the number in 2015 was 4,390); 200 stateless people obtained a residence permit on other grounds. In 2022, 370 stateless and 140 people with ‘unknown nationality’ arrived in the Netherlands following family reunification. There were 4,916 stateless people / with ‘unknown nationality’ who acquired Dutch nationality in 2021.
  • Various surveys and mapping studies of statelessness have been carried out by NGOs and UNHCR.
  • Previously unpublished figures from the Central Office for Statistics showing an increase in the number of people registered as stateless in the Netherlands from 2,005 in January 2012 to 12,869 in January 2019 were reported by the Dutch media in June 2019.
    The lack of a statelessness determination procedure means that it’s unclear who is included in the reported numbers, and the numbers are likely to be underreported.
  • In 2021, 2,929 people entered immigration detention with an average stay of 34 days. Data from the Ministry of Security and Justice shows that 30 people with 'unknown nationality' and 10 with a 'Palestinian' nationality entered immigration detention in 2021 (rounded to tens). No further data is available on stateless people held in immigration detention. A report by the Ombudsperson published in 2020 mentions that in practice an (unspecified) number of people are re-detained in immigration detention on a regular basis due to not cooperating or due to the country of origin refusing return of the individual. There is no further information published by the Government on statelessness or un-removability.

Utvrđivanje bezdržavljanstva i statusa

Identifies whether countries have a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, and whether they have a dedicated statelessness determination procedure (SDP) leading to a dedicated stateless status. If an SDP is not place, it assesses whether there are other procedures in which statelessness can be identified or other routes through which stateless people could regularise their stay or access their rights. Countries are subdivided in three groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP leading to protection, those with other procedures, and those with a statelessness status but no clear mechanism to access protection. The existing procedures and rights granted to stateless persons are examined and assessed against international norms and good practice. Assesses whether stateless people fleeing war have access to temporary protection.

There is a definition of a stateless person in Dutch law, but it is slightly narrower than the 1954 Convention definition and there is no dedicated statelessness determination procedure. Currently there are only two possible administrative procedures for a person to register as stateless depending on whether they are legally residing in the country. Both have significant gaps in terms of access and flaws in the assessment process, and neither confer 1954 Convention rights and protections. Identification as a stateless person does not lead to permission to stay, though a legally residing stateless person with a ‘stateless’ registration has access to a travel document and a facilitated route to naturalisation. The Dutch Parliament has approved legislation that would establish a judicial procedure to determine statelessness (not yet in force), although under the current proposal determination of statelessness would not lead to residence rights.

  • The definition of a stateless person in the Netherlands is slightly narrower than the 1954 Convention: a stateless person is someone not considered a national by any state ‘under its legislation’ rather than ‘under the operation of its law’.
  • There is no information available about statelessness courses specifically targeted at government bodies and public officials. General trainings on statelessness are available, which are sometimes also attended by State officials.
  • ENS members have provided various trainings on statelessness in recent years, which have been attended by civil servants from local and national government (for example, municipality employees, immigration officers, etc.) and lawyers.
  • There is no dedicated SDP in the Netherlands. Although statelessness can be identified through other administrative procedures, there are significant gaps in these procedures.
  • On 31 May 2022, the House of Representatives ('Tweede Kamer') passed a bill for the introduction of an SDP, which is currently before the Senate ('Eerste Kamer'). If approved, the proposed legislation will introduce a judicial procedure to determine statelessness, while administrative bodies will be able to determine cases of ‘evident statelessness’. While a positive step, the proposed procedure does not lead to a dedicated protection status nor any residence rights for those determined to be stateless.
  • Although there is not yet a dedicated SDP in the Netherlands, there are other administrative procedures through which it is possible to identify statelessness.
  • People staying legally in the Netherlands can be registered as stateless in the Basis Registratie Personen (BRP - Dutch Population Register) based on identity documents evidencing statelessness or a statement by the Minister of Security and Justice at the Dutch immigration Service. However, the BRP procedure is only a registration procedure, which records established data about a person. The procedure does not assess evidence on nationality beyond a standard passport or straightforward rule of nationality law and there are challenges with how it is implemented in practice, leading to significant protection gaps. Registration as stateless in the BRP provides a stateless person with some additional legal rights (for example, a travel document, and accelerated access to Dutch nationality).
  • Another procedure through which statelessness may be identified is registration in the Immigration and Naturalisation Service’s Basisvoorziening Vreemdelingen (BVV - Database on Foreigners), which allows stateless people without legal residence to be registered while they are in the procedure, though registration does not lead to any legal rights and is simply a registration database used internally within government institutions.
  • Stateless people can access the available procedures for a residence permit based on other applicable grounds (asylum, family life, medical grounds, no-fault procedure, etc.) but if their statelessness is not identified or determined, doubts about their identity and (lack of a) nationality may undermine the outcome of the procedure to regularise their stay.
  • If approved, the proposed legislation currently before the Dutch parliament will introduce a judicial procedure to determine statelessness, while administrative bodies will be able to determine cases of ‘evident statelessness’.
  • The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) can register someone as stateless in the Database on Foreigners (BVV) or refer them to the Population Register (BRP), but there are no obligations in law on the authorities to consider a claim for statelessness made within another procedure and there is no dedicated protection status.
  • An independent assessment of statelessness is not made during the asylum procedure, though the IND has a responsibility to assess the identity and nationality as best they can when deciding on admissibility of a claim. A referral mechanism between procedures is envisioned in the new SDP legislation currently before parliament.
  • An asylum procedure and a statelessness determination may not be assessed in parallel. A statelessness determination request will not be admissible where an asylum procedure is ongoing, and where an asylum request is lodged while a statelessness determination is ongoing, the District Court of The Hague will defer the determination of statelessness. 
  • The rules for registration of nationality in the BVV are not regulated by law, but there is an internal administrative protocol describing how to use a wide range of evidence (for example, witness statements or language tests).
  • There are no nationwide instructions readily available at first instance on how and when to ask for a statelessness registration. A legally residing stateless person can ask their municipality to register them as stateless if they have relevant documents, but municipalities implement the procedure differently and no assistance is provided at first instance to inform people how and when to ask for registration as a stateless person. Examination of the evidence is conducted locally by the municipality, who can ask the IND for its opinion on an individual’s nationality. There is provision in law for the IND and municipalities to cooperate, but this is not consistent. Municipalities are increasingly cooperating with UNHCR and other (non-governmental) actors to improve the registration of stateless people at local level and provide additional information to stateless people at first instance.
  • Proposed legislation that is currently before parliament will establish an SDP, in which stateless people habitually residing in the Netherlands can file a request at the Court in The Hague to determine their statelessness. In cases of ‘evident statelessness’, administrative bodies, including the BRP, will be able to determine statelessness.
  • The burden of proof in the process to register as a stateless person in the BRP lies with the applicant. However, municipalities may assist applicants and are increasingly looking into ways to assist stateless people with their registration in the BRP.
  • The standard of proof is higher than in asylum procedures: the applicant must provide documents to prove statelessness. There are instances where statelessness can be registered without documentary proof based on nationality laws, for example if the mother cannot confer her nationality to the child.
  • To help with the registration, the municipality can request information from the IND. The IND and municipalities have different internal instructions and policies on registration. For example, the IND has a special instruction on how to identify and register stateless Palestinians. Civil servants in the municipalities have their own handbook for registering people in the BRP, a chapter of which is dedicated to nationality (including statelessness).
  • However, municipalities do not have adequate means to assess complex cases of statelessness.
  • The proposed legislation currently before parliament will allow administrative bodies, including the BRP, to determine statelessness only in cases of ‘evident statelessness’. The concept of ‘evident statelessness’ is restrictively defined and only includes limited categories, namely people who had their statelessness determined by a foreign country, stateless children born in the Netherlands to stateless parents, and children born in the Netherlands whose father is unknown or stateless and whose mother has the nationality of a State where only fathers can pass on nationality. The margin of freedom for BRP officials to register statelessness themselves will be significantly reduced.
  • There is no fee for the procedure of registering as a stateless person in the BRP. Free legal aid is available to challenge a decision in the court where the applicant cannot meet legal costs.
  • There is no opportunity to claim statelessness in a formal interview. To change a BRP registration to ‘stateless’ the person must go to the ‘Loket’ (desk) of the applicable Municipality and bring the necessary documents as proof. In most cases it is possible to make an appointment in advance. No interpreter is provided, though the individual can bring someone with them to provide language support.
  • General rules of administrative process apply to decisions and right to appeal for registering statelessness in the BRP procedure. Decisions granting registration usually do not provide reasons, but refusals do.
  • Identification and registration as a stateless person do not lead to permission to stay nor an official legal status, since statelessness is merely a category in nationality records in Dutch law, and not an immigration or protection status. The current system for registering personal data only permits registration of those who already have a right to reside in the Netherlands. Registration as a stateless person in the BRP gives the right to a travel document and accelerated access to Dutch nationality (following three years' legal stay, at a reduced cost, and the passport requirement is waived).
  • Stateless people with a residence permit have the right to work, healthcare, social security, education, and to vote in local elections (but Dutch nationality is required to vote in national elections). The right to family reunification and housing depends on the type of residence permit the person holds.
  • Stateless people without a residence document do not have these rights nor access to a residence permit or a travel document. Everyone in the Netherlands, including undocumented migrants and stateless people regardless of their residence status, have access to necessary healthcare.
  • The proposed legislation on the establishment of an SPD provides that statelessness determination does not lead to residence rights. The proposed legislation will introduce the right to an identity card upon statelessness determination, but the card will mention that it does not entail any residency rights.
  • Everyone fleeing the war in Ukraine can enter the Netherlands, but the registration procedure depends on whether the person has identification documents. Undocumented people can register but their identity must be established.
  • Under the EU Temporary Protection Directive, the Netherlands offers temporary protection for people fleeing the war in Ukraine. Protection is provided to stateless people who, on 23 February 2022, had international protection or another form of temporary national protection in Ukraine, or who had a valid residence permit in Ukraine (regardless of the type of residence permit), and their family members. People with a temporary residence permit are also eligible for temporary protection, provided they have registered at a Dutch town hall before 19 July 2022.
  • As of 4 September 2023, people who held a temporary residence permit in Ukraine will no longer receive temporary protection.
  • There are no publicly available reports on barriers for stateless people from Ukraine in accessing protection.


Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, but focusing on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as the identification of statelessness and assessment of whether there is a reasonable prospect of removal, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight, and effective remedies, as well as the rights granted to stateless people upon release from detention and protection against re-detention.

Dutch law provides for some procedural safeguards and limited protections against arbitrary detention, but there are significant gaps. Although it is set in law that detention should only be a last resort and there must be a real prospect of removal, statelessness is not considered a juridically relevant fact in decisions to detain and a country of removal is not required to be set prior to detention. Alternatives to detention exist, but reports suggest these are not fully considered prior to detaining. There is a time limit, a right to legal aid, judicial oversight, and rules governing the redocumentation process, but there are barriers to accessing legal assistance in practice and no residence status is granted on release, putting people at risk of immediate re-detention.

  • Powers for immigration detention are provided for in law. Grounds for detention are far reaching and include not leaving the Netherlands after being ordered to do so; not cooperating with the process to establish identity or nationality; presenting wrong or contradictory information; destroying documentation; and the need to carry out additional inquiries about a person’s identity. It is set out in law that detention should be a measure of last resort. An 'investigative duty' on the authorities to consider alternatives to detention is established in the Law on Return & Immigration Detention, but no further information about what this might entail in practice has been provided and, as of December 2022, the new law remains with the Senate pending approval. A range of alternatives to detention exist in practice though not in law: notice to leave the Netherlands, a duty to report combined with intensive case management, bail to prevent absconding, confiscating documents combined with reporting, freedom restricting measures, and an airport lounge alternative for departures.
  • These are not subject to statutory time limit nor periodic review.
  • In practice, reports suggest that detention is currently not only used as a last resort.
  • Although there is no need to identify a proposed country for removal prior to the decision to detain, detention is only permitted when a real prospect of removal exists and will be terminated if a reasonable prospect for removal no longer exists.
  • An additional amendment was proposed by the Government in 2020 to increase the permitted use of confinement in detention centres, which has been criticised by Amnesty International and the Ombudsperson.
  • Statelessness is not considered a juridically relevant fact and there is no statelessness determination procedure (SDP) to refer to.
  • The law provides for detention to be used only as a last resort and requires that attention be paid to vulnerability. However, the term ‘vulnerability’ is not defined in law, and no concrete steps have been taken to improve the assessment of vulnerability in the decision to detain.
  • The proposed new Law on Return & Immigration Detention, which is pending before the Senate, provides that vulnerability should be taken into account in the decision on detention, and detention will not be decided if it would be unreasonably onerous.
  • Stateless people are detained in practice, but this must be inferred from general statistics as there is no SDP and data is not fully reliable. The use of detention has increased year-on-year since 2015. In 2021, 2,929 people entered immigration detention and 3,005 people were released. A 2020 report by the Ombudsperson states that some people are re-detained on a regular basis due to not cooperating or due to the country of return refusing to accept an individual.
  • The maximum period for detention is 18 months (six months plus 12 months’ extension). Detainees are automatically released at the end of this maximum time limit.
  • The law provides that individuals must be informed in writing of the reasons for detention, as well as how to challenge the legality of their detention and access free legal aid and assistance.
  • People may be held in pre-detention at a police station, before being transferred to a detention centre where the removal process is initiated, and the initial decision to detain is then submitted to a court by an assistant public prosecutor (Hulpofficier van Justitie) within four weeks (in practice 10-12 days). The court must make a decision within two weeks, which can be appealed. After six months, another judicial review is mandatory if the detention is to be extended up to a maximum of 12 more months.
  • The Return and Departure Service is key to the decision to extend detention, which is partially based on their advice, meaning in practice it has significant decision-making power in the detention and return process. Detainees can appeal the decision to extend detention and can ask a judge to re-examine the lawfulness of their detention at any time, for example, to check the continued prospect of deportation.
  • There are rules and guidelines for the process of re-documentation, which involves a return interview conducted by the authorities and visits to the appropriate embassy arranged and accompanied by an official, but the burden of proof lies on the applicant and is stringent. The process is lengthy, and, in many cases, applicants are released after the maximum detention time limit after which they can be re-detained.
  • Although free legal aid is available, barriers to access have been reported in practice, including a lack of interpreters and inability to contact lawyers from within detention centres.
  • There is no protection from re-detention on release, and immediate re-detention is possible.
  • No residence status is granted on release and people do not have access to any rights, including social services, social housing, welfare, education, or work.
  • Re-detention regularly occurs, and cumulative time spent in detention is not counted towards the maximum time limit in law, so in practice, detention can be indefinite.
  • One legal possibility where return has proven impossible is for a stateless person to apply for a “no-fault” residence permit (buitenschuld vergunning), valid for a year and extendable annually. However, the approval rate for this procedure is low, as the burden of proof is on the applicant to prove beyond doubt that return to a country of former habitual residence, or any other country the applicant may have ties to, is impossible and the person are not to blame for this.
  • Most bilateral return agreements with countries of origin include a clause on readmitting former residents who are (presumed) stateless.
  • There have been cases of people with disputed/unknown nationality being returned under such agreements, including to Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, but not officially recognised stateless people.
  • In the asylum procedure, before a decision to return a child is made, the child’s right to a nationality, and their enjoyment of other fundamental rights in the country of return, are taken into consideration.

Sprječavanje i smanjenje pojave bezdržavljanstva

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including facilitated routes to naturalisation for stateless people, and protections for otherwise stateless children born on the territory or to nationals abroad, foundlings and adopted children. Examines law, policy, and practice on birth registration, including access to late birth registration, and reduction measures taken by States to prevent and reduce in situ statelessness. Analyses provisions on deprivation of nationality and whether there are safeguards related to renunciation and deprivation of nationality to prevent statelessness from occurring.

Full safeguards are in place in the Netherlands to prevent statelessness in the case of foundlings and adopted children, but there are gaps for other stateless children born on the territory. Some aspects of birth registration law and practice are also problematic, with strict deadlines, documentation requirements and a complex late birth registration procedure. The current provision in Dutch nationality law for children born on the territory who would otherwise be stateless is not automatic and requires continuous, legal, permanent residence of at least three years, as well as proof of the child’s statelessness. This may be subject to a reform, under a legislative proposal that was approved by the House of Representatives in 2022 and is pending before the Senate. Children born to unmarried Dutch fathers and a foreign mother are also disadvantaged by a requirement that the father officially acknowledges paternity before the child is seven years old. Deprivation of nationality cannot result in statelessness except where nationality was acquired through fraud.

  • Stateless people, when officially registered as ‘stateless’, can apply for naturalisation after three years’ legal stay, which is reduced from the standard five years. They are also exempt from providing a passport, but they do need to provide a birth certificate.
  • The fees for the naturalisation procedure are also reduced from the standard 970 EUR to 722 EUR (2023) for stateless people (and refugees). The fees for the ‘option procedure’ are 206 EUR for an adult (2023), and 23 EUR for a child under 18 when becoming a Dutch national together with a parent. 
  • There are no exemptions for stateless people from the language requirement, but all children under 18 are exempt from this.
  • There are requirements relating to 'good character' and criminal convictions that could prevent some stateless people from acquiring Dutch nationality. The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) will not process an application if the person is suspected of a crime and could receive a sentence; if they have been convicted of a crime in the previous five years; if they are suspected or convicted of a crime under Article 1F of the Refugee Convention; or if they are in a polygamous marriage.
  • There are reports of indirect discrimination against marginalised groups, such as Romani people, and stateless people, who may have difficulties in proving their statelessness and/or are registered with an ‘unknown nationality’ and may need to prove their identity with identity documents, including a birth certificate, which they may not have.
  • There is a provision in law for otherwise stateless children born in the Netherlands to acquire nationality, but it is not automatic. A written 'option statement' must be completed and submitted to the local municipality for approval and the child must have at least three years' continuous, legal residence in the country.
  • The child's statelessness must be proven, and they must be registered as stateless before acquiring nationality. The burden of proof lies on the applicant.
  • There is no age limit for a stateless child born on the territory to acquire nationality. The fees for this so-called 'option procedure' are 206 EUR for one person, and 23 EUR (in 2023) for a child under 18 when becoming a Dutch national together with a parent.
  • Children who are born in the Netherlands and have residence as beneficiaries of international protection, Dutch birth certificates or birth certificates from signatories to the Apostille Convention are exempt from the requirement to provide passports and some other documentation in the naturalisation process.
  • The proposed legislation currently before the Senate would extend the right to opt for Dutch nationality to stateless children born on the territory without legal residence, but they would need to wait for five uninterrupted years (while the previous proposal provided for a 10-year wait). The parents must have cooperated with the authorities and it must be established that the child's statelessness cannot be resolved by the parents.
  • The government provides public information about naturalisation procedures and requirements for children through various resources, including through the Government and public websites. Additional information is available for people who are stateless, do not possess the documentation required, and for children.
  • There is some flexibility in the documentation that must be presented by refugee children in order to acquire Dutch nationality.
  • There is a provision in law to grant nationality automatically to foundlings. There is no explicit age limit, but the legislation uses terms such as 'young age' and 'child', which are interpreted to mean under 18.
  • The law protects a foundling from statelessness if parents are later identified.
  • The law prevents any loss of Dutch nationality as a result of adoption by foreign parent/s leading to statelessness and enables a Dutch child adopted by foreign parent/s to retain Dutch nationality in certain circumstances.
  • Dutch law distinguishes between 'strong' and 'weak' adoption. An adoption is 'strong' if the legal ties between the child and the birth parents are broken, or 'weak' if they remain. In the latter case, the adopted child becomes a national when acknowledged by a Dutch judge. Although this process is not automatic and there are conditions, there are no reports of any risk of statelessness during the procedure.
  • Children with parents of Dutch nationality have access to nationality by descent, but there are discriminatory elements to the provision.
  • In the case of a Dutch father and a foreign mother, the father must officially acknowledge the child before they reach seven years-old if they are not married. If the Dutch father acknowledges the child at or after the age of seven, they must present DNA evidence of paternity. In practice, Dutch fathers can face difficulties and delays acknowledging their child when the mother does not have residence rights and official identification documents. 
  • If a parent acquires Dutch nationality after acknowledging the child, the child can only apply for Dutch nationality together with the parent if they hold a permanent residence permit immediately prior to the application. If the child is 16 or 17 years old, they are also required to have lived uninterruptedly in the Netherlands for at least three years. This discriminates against the child based on their residence status.
  • The law provides for registration of all births on the territory to take place immediately (legally, within three days), but an identification document must be provided by the parents.
  • If parents do not have legal residence or identification documents, there are various options as to who can register the birth. If the child is born in hospital, a medical statement can be provided with the date and time of birth and sex of the child. If the mother has no way of identifying herself to be recorded on the birth certificate, the civil registrar can refer the case to the Public Prosecution Service and the birth certificate with her details is drawn up by order and in accordance with their instructions. The father is mentioned on the birth certificate if he has legally acknowledged the child. If the father is not Dutch, the following documents are required: legalised birth certificate; legalised statement of non-marriage or a copy of the marriage certificate; and an identity document.
  • All children are issued with either an official copy of the birth certificate or an international extract.
  • The child’s nationality is not recorded on the birth certificate and is determined when the child is formally registered in the Dutch Population Register if they have legal residence status. Statelessness can be registered without documentary proof if the mother cannot confer her nationality to the child, but there are no safeguards in place to ensure that a child does not remain registered with ‘undetermined nationality’. In 2020, the Human Rights Committee found that the Netherlands had violated a child's rights by leaving him registered with 'nationality unknown', and requested the Netherlands take immediate steps to remedy the case and avoid similar situations in the future.
  • There are no reports of children being prevented from registering their birth because of their parents’ sexual or gender identity, or whether they were born through surrogacy.
  • NGOs and lawyers have noted barriers to birth registration for parents who do not have residence status and lack official identity documents, or who are afraid to approach the authorities due to their irregular residence status.
    The municipality may pass on information about any change to a population register (BRP) entry for someone legally residing in the country to the immigration authorities, but there are no mandatory reporting requirements at the civil registry or health authorities relating to people who are undocumented. There is no information about a clear firewall to prohibit the sharing of information by other entities with immigration authorities.
  • Late registration is possible in law, but there are practical barriers. It is a long process as proof of where the birth took place is required and a DNA test may be necessary. It is often necessary to go to court, which is expensive and takes time. The public prosecutor will be informed of any late registration and parents may be fined.
  • There is no evidence of any proactive government campaigns to promote birth registration.
  • There are credible reports of low rates of birth registration among Roma communities in the Netherlands as well as survivors of human trafficking and undocumented migrants, due to the registration system being inadequate for these communities. A 2022 report cites some reasons for lack of registration of children: low literacy, being unaware that reporting is mandatory, or parents' lack of documents to confirm their identity, discrimination and exclusion. There can also be distrust of institutions and the lack of involvement of professionals who can report a birth.
  • With the approval of a legislative proposal for an SDP in 2022 by the House of Representatives, the Dutch Government began to address the problems surrounding identification of stateless people and ensuring children's nationality rights. However, the most recent proposal approved by Parliament in 2022, does not stand up to international norms and good practice on the protection of stateless people and prevention of statelessness.
  • A Human Rights Committee decision from December 2020 required the Netherlands to report within 180 days on progress to introduce an SDP and reforms to its Nationality Law. Following the Netherlands’ reply, the Human Rights Committee concluded in March 2022 that the Government did not implement measures to review its legislation on determining statelessness and eligibility for nationality applications.
  • The legislative proposal currently before Parliament confirms that the Netherlands intends to withdraw its reservation to Articles 8 and 26 of the 1954 Convention.
  • There are safeguards to prevent statelessness in most cases in which deprivation of Dutch nationality is permitted, except where nationality was acquired through fraud. In this case, deprivation could lead to statelessness.
  • There are also safeguards in law and practice to prevent renunciation of nationality from resulting in statelessness.
  • Deprivation of nationality provisions are applied in practice. There are provisions for deprivation of nationality on national security grounds, but not if this results in statelessness.
  • There are provisions on deprivation of nationality that permit deprivation only in the case of dual nationals, leading to unequal treatment between those who hold only Dutch nationality and those who hold dual nationality.
  • The competent authority for deprivation of nationality is the Minister of Justice and Security and there is a right to appeal and to legal aid to challenge the decision.
  • Nationality of an adult is not lost on the basis that a spouse has been deprived of that nationality. However, a child may lose their nationality if their parent loses it under certain circumstances. There is no absolute safeguard against statelessness for children where the parent’s loss of nationality is a result of fraud. However, careful consideration must be made of the individual interests of the child and statelessness could be considered a disproportionate consequence of the parent’s action given the impact on the child’s right to a nationality.


Library of resources, legal instruments, publications and training materials on statelessness, specifically relevant to this country. More regional and international materials, as well as resources from other countries, are available on the Resources library. Domestic case law can be consulted in the Statelessness Case Law Database (with summaries available in English).

Please note that we are in the process of adding new resources, so check back soon.

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