Instruments Juridiques
Instruments Juridiques
Lexique Conventions Recommandations
Rapports Guide Pratique

The Netherlands

General Organization
I. Historical Development
1) When was the registration service established in your country?
Before the French domination of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Netherlands did not have a central overview of the composition and size of the population. The French occupier introduced the civil registry in some parts of the country; in 1811/1812 this registration was introduced everywhere.
This means that from that time on birth, marriage and death certificates were drawn up by employees of the municipal government, the Registrars.
2) Which authorities were empowered before this date and what is the evidential value of documents drawn up by them?
Before 1811/1812, the registration of certain important and sometimes official moments in a person's life (birth, baptism, marriage and death) was mainly the task of ecclesiastical authorities.
3) Can you cite the major texts marking the development of civil status in your country?
The Dutch Civil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek abbreviated in Dutch as: BW) is a Dutch code and is part of Dutch civil law. From 1970 on, the Civil Code of 1838 was gradually replaced by separate new books, which for the most part came into force on 1 January 1992.
After the Second World War, opinion in politics and society changed. Therefore, it was instructed in 1947 by the government and the Lower House to draw up a new Civil Code. In 1948 a new design was drawn up, but in the end, it took until January 1st, 1970 before the new persons and family law was introduced with Book 1 of the Dutch Civil Code.
The European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands opened marriage to same-sex partners on April 1st 2001; since 10 October 2012, this also applies to the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Lesbian parenting is an amendment to Dutch parenting legislation that came into effect on April 1st, 2014. Since then, the law has equated the legal parentage of two women with that of parents of different sexes. Children are allowed to use the surname of the biological mother as well as the surname of the duo mother.

BES Islands
The Dutch islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba in the Caribbean Sea have been part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands since 10 October 2010 as three separate public entities, the Caribbean public entities. This change was part of the constitutional reforms within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
These islands are also known as BES Islands. The abbreviation BES refers to the first letters of the names of the islands. There is a separate “BES version” of Book 1 of the Dutch Civil Code. The division into books is the same as that of the Civil Code for the European part of the Netherlands. There is no separate BES version of book 10 of the Dutch Civil Code.

Book 10 of the Dutch Civil Code
When the subjects of Book 10 of the Dutch Civil Code are also regulated in a European context or in treaties to which the Netherlands is a party, such as the treaties of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, these international regulations take precedence over the national rules (in Book 10 of the Dutch Civil Code) of private international law.
The rules of Book 10 of the Dutch Civil Code therefore only come into play if the European regulations or international treaties cannot be applied, for example because the countries involved in the problem are not part of the European Union or are not party to a relevant treaty.
Book 10 of the Dutch Civil Code does not regulate all subjects that can be regarded as part of Dutch private international law. It only contains rules of conflict of law in the field of personal and family law. Rules for the recognition and enforcement of foreign court decisions for certain subjects are also included in Book 10 of the Dutch Civil Code, although strictly speaking this is part of procedural law.
As of January 1st, 2024 it is possible for children to bear the surnames of both parents. In this way it will be possible to express the connection with both parents in the family name.
The double family name can consist of up to two names and is written without a hyphen. For example, parents of which one parent has the family name 'De Boer' and the other parent the family name 'Jansen' are given the following choices: Jansen, De Boer, Jansen De Boer and De Boer Jansen.
For the group of people who already have a double or plural family name, such as 'Van Bergen Henegouwen' or 'Korthals Altes', this name is seen as a single family name. If they wish, they can also give their child a double family name, such as Van Bergen Henegouwen De Boer (one parent has the family name 'De Boer' and the other parent the family name 'Van Bergen Henegouwen').
For adopted children it will be possible to choose a combination of their family name at birth and the names of their adoptive parents. A maximum of two names in total applies here too.
The choice for a double family name is not mandatory. If the parents do not make a choice, a child will be given the family name of the father or co-mother in the case of a marriage or registered partnership. In the case of unmarried or unregistered partners, the child automatically receives the family name of the mother from whom the child was born.
4) Can you cite the major judgments that have marked the development of civil status in your country?
Court rulings very rarely lead to direct amendments to legislation. This usually only happens after the Supreme Court of the Netherlands (as the highest civil court) or the Council of State (as the highest administrative court) has passed a judgment.
However, the applicable law still applies, unless the ruling in question is so unambiguous and strongly worded that it is advisable - pending new legislation - to act in accordance with the ruling.
II. Characteristics of the System
1) Is the registration service secular ou religious in your country?
The registration service in the Netherlands is purely secular.
2) If secular:
a) Do any acts of religious authorities have any effect on civil status and, if so, which?
Acts of religious authorities have no influence whatsoever on civil status in the Netherlands.
Furthermore, it should be noted that religious ceremonies concerning a marriage may only take place after the minister of the religious worship in question has proven that the marriage has been solemnized (previously) before the registrar.
b) Must an act drawn up by a national religious authority be transcribed or registered by a civil authority and what are the consequences of a failure to transcribe or register?
In the Netherlands, religious authorities are not authorized to draw up any instrument that can affect the marital status of a person.
When a certificate from abroad, only drawn up by a religious authority is submitted in the Netherland (mostly this concerns the solemnization of a marriage), these certificates can be recognized under the following conditions:
  • that a religious wedding ceremony has the same status as a civil wedding ceremony in the country concerned
  • that the act in question has taken place in accordance with the law of the country, by an authorized official and
  • that the legal fact included in the document is not contrary to Dutch laws and regulations or public order (e.g. marriage between minors).
3) Which of your national authorities are authorised to register events?
The Netherlands have two systems regarding the registration of persons. On the one hand in civil status records and on the other hand the municipal personal records database (in Dutch: Basisregistratie personen).
The registration of legal facts regarding persons is entrusted to the (municipal) registrar of births, marriages and deaths, who draws up deeds for this purpose, and can issue extracts and copies thereof. The registrar also places so-called 'subsequent statements' regarding legal facts such as divorces, adoptions, name changes and gender changes on the original certificates.
Although a registrar is also authorized to solemnize marriages and register partnerships, this is often done by an extraordinary civil registrar (in Dutch: buitengewoon ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand; abbreviated BABS). In almost every Dutch municipality it is also possible to be appointed as a 'BABS' for the solemnization of a single marriage or registered partnership.
The responsibility for the municipal personal records database formally lies with the municipal government (the mayor and aldermen). Municipal officials are appointed for the daily work who are authorized - on behalf of the mayor and aldermen - to make changes to the (electronic) files and to provide copies of the data from the municipal personal records database.
4) Which authorities hold and keep the registers?
In civil status records, information about persons is recorded because of a legal event that has taken place, such as birth, marriage or death.
Personal data are also registered in the municipal personal records database. In addition to data derived from civil status documents, the municipal personal records database records also includes data about address, place of residence, family composition, right of residence, authority, right to vote and possession of travel documents.
Both registrations are conducted at municipal level; the municipal personal records database also contains the registration of non-residents. Both systems have their own legislation and also have their own ministry responsible for that legislation. The civil status registers are an authentic source of data, while the municipal personal records database consists of data transcribed from other sources, whether authentic or not.
In principle, the municipal personal records database must always wait and see whether an event about birth, marriage, divorce or death is first recorded in a civil status document.
This must then be passed on to the municipal personal records database, where the data are recorded again. This transfer takes place within a municipality or between municipalities themselves. This transfer is necessary and mandatory, because it is legally determined that the municipal personal records database is the provider of personal data to all authorities and institutions that need this data and are entitled to receive it lawful.
5) Is there a national authority responsible for civil status in your country?
No, there is no national authority directly responsible for civil status in your country. The Ministries of Justice and Security and Home Affairs do monitor implementation by means of instructions and (self-)evaluations. Many municipalities participate in (regional) working groups to exchange knowledge and keep their knowledge up to date.
The registry office has its legal origin in the Dutch Civil Code and is the ministerial responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and Security; the municipal personal records database has its legal origin in the Basic Registration of Persons Act (in Dutch: Wet Basisregistratie personen) and falls under the ministerial responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior. The Basic Registration of Persons Act has had an automation obligation for municipalities and users since 1994.
6) Can you give details of who performs the duties of a civil registrar? Are they elected officials? Are they people who have passed an administrative competition or examination? Is this a profession as such in your country?
Municipal personal records database
Officials responsible for maintaining the municipal personal records database are appointed by the local municipal council. There is almost always a general designation via a mandate arrangement; the appointment is made at job level or on the basis of an official rank.

(Extraordinary) Registrars are also appointed by the local municipal council. However, this designation is personal and individual. Afterwards, the court must also be sworn in.

No, both officials responsible for maintaining the municipal personal records database and registrars are not elected, but appointed persons. In both cases there must be some form of employment relationship with a municipality. To be appointed as Registrar, one must have a permanent employment contract with a municipality.

Administrative competition or examination/profession
In the Netherlands, there is currently no obligation for municipal employees to pass an administrative competition or examination. The Dutch Association of Civil Affairs - together with the Ministry of the Interior - strives to make a certain form of examination or testing of competencies mandatory. In 2024, various discussions are underway to this end. This also includes the aim to include this function in a new national register to be formed.
7) In which language(s) are documents drawn up?
Dutch is the official language in the Netherlands. The Dutch Sign Language (in Dutch: Nederlandse Gebarentaal; NGT) and the Frisian language in the province of Fryslân (in Dutch: Friesland) are both recognized by law in the Netherlands. Frisian is the second official language in the province of Fryslân.
Frisian and Dutch are the official languages in the province of Fryslân. Frisian citizens have therefor the right to use their own language (Dutch or Frisian), for example, in court or in contact with the municipality.
Therefore, (only) in the province of Friesland (Fryslân in Frisian language), civil status records and documents relating to the exercise of the right to vote - e.g. the ballot paper - are drawn up bilingually. This is stated in the Use of the Frisian Language Act.
In the Caribbean part the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Dutch is the official language on the islands of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. On Bonaire people also speak lot of Papiamento , but this is not an official language.
In addition, a number of regional languages are recognized under the European Charter. These are Low Saxon (in 1996), Limburgish (in 1997) and in 1996 Yiddish (Yiddish) and Sinti-Romanes as non-territorial languages. However, these are also not official languages.
8) What are the different categories of documents and registers used in your country?
Municipal personal records database
All kinds of documents can be issued from the Municipal personal records database, of all data registered in the Municipal personal records database.
These documents are form-free and - unlike civil status certificates - have no authentic evidentiary value. Nevertheless, the documents issued from the Municipal Personal Records database, due to their extensive use and based on case law, have such a status that very great value can be attached to what is contained in them. Data from the Municipal personal records database are also used for applying for passports and driving licenses and intensive digital data exchange takes place with numerous (semi-) government institutions, which have been designated by the Minister of the Interior to request and exchange this data electronically.

Civil status documents
Copies and extracts of drawn up civil status certificates can be issued. These documents - just like the original documents - have authentic evidential value.
What exactly must be stated in a document or in a copy or extract is described in the Civil Status Decree 1994 (in Dutch: Besluit Burgerlijke Stand 1994).
Because there are few rules regarding the layout of the documents, copies and extracts, a so-called "Model Book" is published under the auspices of the Dutch Association for Civil Affairs, which contains examples for almost all possible situations.
9) What is the role of computer technology?
a) Are civil status registers drawn up or reproduced by computer?
The Electronic Services Act Civil Registry (in Dutch: Wet elektronische dienstverlening burgerlijke stand) provides opportunities for municipalities to also modernize civil status records using technical means.
This law also allows for deeds in electronic form, but no municipalities have yet done so. Although he municipal personal records database has digital data storage, it is not yet suitable to serve as a replacement for the civil status records on paper.
Integration of civil status records and the municipal personal records database is not only a technical operation, but above all a legal one. Partly for this reason, a transition from both systems to a single system has not yet been realized.
In the meantime, extensive use is made of digital declarations of birth and death, digital reporting of an intended marriage or registered partnership and obtaining an extract or copy of a deed electronically.
In the years after the Second World War, the population registers were automated. Ultimately, with effect from 1 October 1994, the analogue personal (paper) card (for every person 1 card) was replaced by the digital personal list . Every municipality is since obliged to carry out the works for the municipal personal records, using automated administration software approved by the Ministry of the Interior. Through a closed network, the municipalities exchange the data required to keep this basic register up to date.
b) Can information available in electronic form be consulted by third parties?
Information out of Dutch civil status certificates can only be given by means of copies and extracts op paper. They have the same evidentiary value as the original act. An extract mentions the current (updated) data without the history of the (civil) state of the person concerned.
Information out of the municipal personal records database can be given both on paper of in electronic form. How this is done depends on the recipient. Information for the citizen himself is usually provided on paper and for other (government) agencies information is often provided electronically.
c) Can interested parties and/or third parties obtain copies of or extracts from civil status records via the Internet?
Of course, copies can be sent via the Internet (often as PDF). However, this 'copy of a copy' has no formal evidentiary value. It is often up to the receiving authorities to assess how to deal with this.
For this reason, many municipalities - when a copy has already been sent via the Internet - still send the relevant "original" copy to the applicant by post. However, there are no national uninformed agreements about this.
III. Consular Registration
1) Do your laws prohibit foreign diplomatic agents or consular officers from exercising, in your territory, the functions of a registrar with regard to their nationals?
Births and deaths must always be reported to the Dutch registrar. Afterwards, the legal fact can or must be registered again with the consulate of the country in question - and the manner in which and the obligation to do so differs per country. Whether or not this is an obligation also depends on the domestic law of that country.
A marriage in the Netherlands must always be concluded in the presence of the (Dutch) registrar. Afterwards, this marriage can or must be registered at any time at a foreign embassy or consulate. Whether or not this is an obligation also depends on the domestic law of that country.
Only if neither of the parties has Dutch nationality may the marriage be solemnized at a foreign embassy or consulate in the Netherlands, provided this is possible under the law of the country in question.
2) Do your laws give your diplomatic agents or consular officers the right to exercise abroad the functions of a registrar with regard to your nationals?
Declaration of choice of name
The heads of all consular posts are authorized to receive, assess and draw up a declaration regarding the choice of name of a child who was recognized by a Dutch national during his minority or who became the child of a Dutch national without legal recognition or who by option acquires Dutch citizenship and is in family law relations with both his or her parents at the time of the option.

Birth and death certificates
The heads of the following consular posts are authorized to draw up birth and death certificates: Baghdad (Iraq), Damascus (Syria), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Islamabad (Pakistan), Kabul (Afganistan), Kuwait (Kuwait), Beijing (China), Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Seoul (South Korea), Tehran (Iran), Tel Aviv (Israel) and Tokyo (Japan).

Other documents
The head of mission Baghdad (Iraq) is authorized to draw up other civil instruments.
3) Is there a central service for consular records?
No, there is no central service, but the Consular Services Center (CDC) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can play an intermediary role when requesting copies of and extracts from consular documents.
Requesting a copy of a consular certificate takes 8 to 12 weeks.
R.J. (Rob) van der Velde
Directieadviseur Burgerzaken
Den Haag