Between 2003 and 2008, Germany and the Netherlands have replaced informal interviews with local officials by formalised language and knowledge of society tests (‘citizenship tests’) to determine whether long-term resident immigrants have sufficiently integrated to become citizens. In this contribution, the questions of why the citizenship tests were introduced and of which effects these tests have produced in Germany and the Netherlands will be answered. By doing so, the author aims to contribute to answering the question of whether language and cultural requirements can be considered liberal, which, as has been claimed, remains an unresolved issue relating to civic integration policies. Scholars disagree on whether citizenship tests can be justified in the liberal model for citizenship. Liberal minimalists oppose the introduction of requirements barring permanent residents from full-fledged citizenship. Liberal nationalists think citizenship tests can be justified in case they encourage the acquisition of competences that play an important role in creating or sustaining a reasonably just society. The author concludes that proponents of introducing citizenship tests have indeed asserted that these tests are required for prospective citizens to be able to develop the competences that play an important role in creating or sustaining a reasonably just society. Far more important explanations for the introduction of citizenship tests can however be sought in the linking of naturalisation policy to integration policy, and in the desire to promote uniformity in the application of the language and integration requirement as a condition for naturalisation. As regards the effects produced by the tests, the author shows that the tests permanently exclude certain categories of immigrants from becoming full-fledged members of society. The conclusion can therefore be drawn that the citizenship tests applied by Germany and the Netherlands cannot be justified in the liberal model for citizenship.
Ricky van Oers, Deserving citizenship in Germany and The Netherlands. Citizenship tests in liberal democracies, Ethnicities, 2020