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CJEU Opinion on Long-Term Residence Case

An Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has given his opinion in a case concerning the validity of integration obligations imposed on long-term residents.

The directive on the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents says that Member States are to grant long-term resident status to third-country nationals who have resided legally and continuously within their territory for five years immediately prior to the submission of the relevant application.

The directive allows Member States to require third-country nationals to comply with integration conditions laid down in national law. However, it doesn’t indicate whether and to what extent such an integration obligation can be imposed on a person once that person has acquired long-term resident status.

In the Netherlands the integration obligation imposed on foreign nationals includes the duty to pass an examination relating to Dutch language proficiency and basic knowledge of Netherlands society. Failure to comply with that duty in time attracts a fine.

The case in question concerned P, a United States national, and S, a New Zealand national, who had both achieved long-resident status in the Netherlands, but were subsequently told that they had to satisfy the integration requirement and were to pass the corresponding examination within a certain period.

P and S challenged this, arguing that as they held long-term resident status they were not subject to the integration obligation.

The Dutch Court referred the question to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling to determine whether it is compatible with Directive 2003/109 to impose on third-country nationals who have acquired long-term resident status an integration obligation, failure to satisfy which attracts a fine.

The Advocate General has now given his view, which is that the Court should rule that Directive 2003/109 does not prohibit the introduction of integration measures for third-country nationals who are long-term residents.

Such measures must, however, have the exclusive purpose of facilitating the integration of the person concerned and must not constitute a condition for the maintenance of that status or for the exercise of rights which flow from it.

In particular, those measures may not include any obligation to pass an examination relating to social integration.

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