Making and registering the application
If an asylum seeker enters the Netherlands by land, he or she has to apply at the Central Reception Centre (Centraal Opvanglocatie, COL) in Ter Apel (nearby Groningen, north-east of the Netherlands, where the registration takes place. The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) is responsible for the registration of the asylum application. The Aliens Police (Vreemdelingenpolitie, AVIM) takes note of personal data such as name, date of birth and country of origin. Data from Eurodac and the Visa Information System (VIS) are consulted.
If an asylum seeker from a non-Schengen country has arrived in the Netherlands by plane or boat, the application for asylum is to be made before crossing the Dutch external (Schengen) border, at the Application Centre at Schiphol Airport (AC). The Royal Military Police (KMar) is mainly responsible for the registration of those persons who apply for asylum at the international airport. The KMar refuses the asylum seeker entry to the Netherlands if he or she does not fulfil the necessary conditions, and the asylum seeker will be detained in the Border Detention Centre (Justitieel Complex Schiphol, JCS). As far as known in recent years, no problems have been reported by asylum seekers as regards the fact that the KMar did not recognise their claim for international protection as an asylum request.
The IND takes care of the transfer of the asylum seeker to the AC, where further registration of the asylum application takes place. The AC is a closed centre. It sometimes happens that an application cannot be registered immediately, for instance when no interpreters are available. In this situation an asylum seeker can be detained in the JCS.
If an asylum seeker is already on Dutch territory he or she is expected to express the wish for asylum to the authorities as soon as possible after arrival in the Netherlands, which is, according to jurisprudence, preferably within 48 hours.
As a rule, after registration at the AC, asylum seekers immediately go to the COL. After the three-day period in the COL, they are transferred to a Process Reception Centre (Proces Opvanglocatie, POL).
In January 2019 the State Secretary of Justice introduced a new policy which means that at the start of the registration procedure every asylum seeker has to complete an extensive form containing questions about their (1) identity; (2) place and date of birth; (3) nationality, religious and ethnic background; (4) date of leaving the country of origin; (5) arrival date in the Netherlands; (6) remains/stay in one or more third countries when appropriate; (7) identity cards or passport; (8) itinerary; (9) schooling/education; (10) military services; (11) work/profession; and (12) living environment and family.
The completed form is followed by an interview. The completed form and interview play an essential part in the asylum procedure. During the registration procedure, the asylum seeker does not benefit from legal assistance and does not obtain information from the Dutch Council for Refugees. Before the introduction of the new policy only nationals originating from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan had to complete the form and the interview.
Seeing the extensiveness of the form and its follow up interview, the first interview during the general asylum procedure is now less extensive. It has become a so-called verification interview.
The rest and preparation period
Exclusively in Track 4, the asylum seeker is granted a rest and preparation period. This starts from the moment the asylum application is formally lodged by signing an application form. The rest and preparation period grants first time asylum applicants some days to cope with the stress of fleeing their country of origin and the journey to the Netherlands.
The rest and preparation period takes at least 6 days. It is designed, on the one hand, to offer the asylum seeker some time to rest, and on the other hand, to provide the time needed to undertake several preparatory actions and investigations. The main activities during the rest and preparation period are:
- Investigation of documents conducted by the KMar;
- Medical examination by an independent medical agency (FMMU) which provides medical advice on whether the asylum seeker is physically and psychologically capable to be interviewed by the IND;
- Counselling by the Dutch Council for Refugees (VluchtelingenWerk Nederland); and
- Appointment of a lawyer and substantive preparation for the asylum procedure.
The rest and preparation period is not available to asylum seekers falling in the Dublin procedure (Track 1) or those coming from a safe country of origin or who receive protection in another EU Member State (Track 2).
As a general rule, the rest and preparation period takes six days after which the actual asylum procedure starts. In 2018, this period has been considerably extended. During this entire period they have access to reception and medical aid. In fact, due to capacity problems within the IND, the rest and preparation period took about 12 months before the general asylum Procedure could start. This has not changed in 2019. The rest and preparation period still takes about 12 months (in general 47 weeks) before the general asylum procedure takes place. In February 2020, almost 9,000 asylum seekers were still awaiting – some of them for almost two years – the start of their asylum procedure.  The Secretary of State announced that it will be difficult to reduce the delay in 2021. Measures are being taken to limit or reduce the delay. 
Due to the delay the State Secretary of Justice (IND) cannot adhere to the legal time limits for taking a decision on asylum applications. Subsequently, the State Secretary of Justice (IND) has to pay legal penalties to asylum seekers in cases the time limits have been exceeded.
Article 3(3) Aliens Act.
Council of State, Decision ABKort 1999.551, 20 September 1999.
Article 3.109 Aliens Decree, paragraph C1/2.1 Aliens Circular and IND Work instruction 2018/15 Aanmeldgehoren en Verificatie eerste gehoren.
Article 3.109 Aliens Decree.
Article 4:17 GALA, Regional Court Arnhem, decision no NL19.22847, 14 November 2019, Regional Court Amsterdam, decision no NL19.18215, 13 September 2019.