The Netherlands is a member state of the Schengen Agreement and the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement. This provides for the free movement of persons by parallel and gradual removal of internal border controls as well as the strengthening of the common external border of the member states involved. Other Schengen countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden.
As of 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom no longer forms part of the EU and Schengen Agreement. As a result UK citizens are considered third-country nationals.
Common immigration controls apply throughout the territory of the Schengen Area. In addition, immigration rules favourable to nationals of the member states of the European Economic Area (“EEA“) and Switzerland apply.
The EEA countries are the 27 countries of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.
EEA citizens do not require a provisional residence permit (“MVV“), a regular resident permit (“VVR“) or a work permit (“TWV“). They may simply take up residence in the Netherlands, although they are required to register their residence as described below under “Basic residence reporting requirements”.
It is advisable (but not legally required) for a foreign employee from an EEA country or Switzerland to go through the formality of applying to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (“IND“) for a regular residence permit. In this case, it would be a “special” residence permit. Certain Dutch authorities (including the Tax and Customs Administration) require proof of lawful residence in the Netherlands. A passport or equivalent travel document may turn out to be insufficient for this purpose.
A traveller carrying a passport or equivalent recognised travel document that is valid for an extended period of time, i.e., for at least three months after the end of the visa period is permitted to enter the Netherlands. A visa may also be required, as explained in more detail below. The possession of a valid visa does not necessarily guarantee entry to the Netherlands.
There are several other requirements, although most travellers are not confronted with them. Not all the conditions below are applicable to all visitors coming to the Netherlands. In some cases, travellers entering the country are required to have a travel reservation to leave the country. An official may ask for documentary evidence that the traveller has sufficient means of support for the duration of the stay, transit or return journey, including bank statements, traveller’s cheques, or cash. If this cannot be shown, a statement from a guarantor or formal invitation from a third party may suffice if it can be shown that the guarantor or third party has sufficient and sustainable means of support. A traveller may be asked to provide documentary evidence showing the purpose and conditions of the planned visit (e.g. (legalised) letters of invitation, hotel reservations and work permits) and showing an intention to return to the traveller’s country of origin or establishment.
A traveller must be prepared to provide documentary evidence of health insurance. Some may be asked to undergo a tuberculosis test. However, this does not apply to citizens of an EEA member state, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Turkey, New Zealand, Suriname, the United States and Switzerland and as of 1 January 2021 the United Kingdom.
A traveller with a criminal record or a traveller who is currently wanted by the police in the Netherlands or another Schengen country may not be able to enter the Netherlands. Entry may also be denied to someone who is considered to be a threat to public order (including someone who might become an illegal immigrant), to national security or to the international relations of any Schengen country.
People who wish to stay in the Netherlands for a short periode (i.e., less than three months) are required to obtain a Schengen visa. Generally speaking, a foreigner wishing to stay or reside in the Netherlands for longer than three months have to apply for a temporary residence permit. Click below to read more about the differences options.
The Dutch immigration department is called the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst) or usually simply IND.
Many people who wish to stay in the Netherlands for a short period (i.e., less than three months) are required to obtain a Schengen visa. If that person is coming to the Netherlands for the first time, an application is made to the Dutch embassy in his or her country of origin or permanent residence, which may then either forward the application to the IND in the Netherlands or issue the visa itself.
A Schengen visa allows the visa holder to enter the Netherlands and temporarily travel for a specific period of three months or less within the Netherlands and usually within other Schengen countries as well. Depending on the circumstances, a Schengen visa may be limited to one or more Schengen countries, in which case the visa holder will be permitted to visit only those Schengen countries.
Citizens of some countries (including, of course, the Schengen countries themselves) do not require a Schengen visa when coming to the Netherlands.
The list of countries for which a Schengen visa is or is not required is subject to change. To find out whether someone currently requires a Schengen visa, go to www.ind.nl or contact your local embassy or the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the latest information.
A Schengen visa is not a substitute for the other visas in the Dutch system. The various types of visas are treated differently. For example, if the situation calls for an MVV visa (explained in more detail below), a Schengen visa will not suffice.
Only rarely and in very special circumstances (e.g., a situation beyond someone’s control) may a Schengen visa be extended from three to six months.
There are three types of Schengen visa in the Netherlands:
Non-Dutch citizens taking up residence in the Netherlands may be subject to a reporting requirement, even if this is for a period of less than three months. This is described under ‘Basic residence reporting requirements’.
As of 1 March 2020, a reporting obligation applies to non-Dutch service providers (employers and independent contractors) who intend to work in the Netherlands. The (end)client must check whether the service providers complied with this obligation and provided all required information. In the absence of a correct report, the (end)client as well as the service provider risk a penalty.
A foreigner wishing to stay or reside in the Netherlands for longer than three months applies via a four-step process.
These permits are not the same as the Schengen visa or a work permit. Different processes are involved. Fees apply for these applications and for extensions. For current fees, please visit www.ind.nl.
Generally, it takes the IND or a Dutch embassy between three and six months to process an application for permits of this kind. Decisions by the Dutch government to reject visa applications are subject to legal review in various ways, including an appeal to the courts.
Most non-Dutch citizens require a provisional residence permit before travelling to the Netherlands. In Dutch, this is called a machtiging voorlopig verblijf or MVV. This application is made to a Dutch embassy in the individual’s country of origin or residence.
A citizen of one of the following countries is exempted from the MVV requirement and may freely travel to the Netherlands within the visa-exempt period of 90 days: an EEA country, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Vatican City, the United States and as of 1 January 2021 the United Kingdom.
To be eligible for a MVV, the applicant must meet certain requirements and provide certain documents. What these are depends on the purpose of the stay (work, study, family reunification, visiting, etc.).
Issuance of an MVV may require successful completion of a civic integration examination outside the Netherlands
To find out more about the requirements for a MVV, go to www.ind.nl or contact your local embassy or the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the latest information.
This section and the section below apply to a non-EU citizen who becomes a newly arrived resident of the Netherlands and intends to stay for longer than three months. It applies both to holders of a temporary residence permit and persons exempted from the MVV requirement (e.g., a citizen of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Vatican City, the United States or as of 1 January 2021 the United Kingdom.)
After entering the Netherlands, a newly arrived resident intending to stay longer than three months must apply as soon as possible (and no later than three months after arrival) for a regular residence permit at their municipality.
The municipality then sends the application to the IND. The procedure for applying for a residence permit is largely the same for all new arrivals (MVV holders and otherwise). However, MVV holders will need to provide fewer documents with their application, as several documents will have already been provided and checked when applying for the MVV.
There are also reporting requirements relating to residence, which are described in greater detail below under ‘Basic residence reporting requirements’. This is a separate procedure.
A regular residence permit is called a verblijfsvergunning in Dutch. With certain important exceptions, every non-Dutch citizen requires a regular residence permit to reside in the Netherlands. An exception is made for citizens of Switzerland or an EEA country.
This is the second permit in a two-step process. Generally, an MVV obtained outside the country is needed before a VVR can be issued inside the country.
To be eligible for a VVR, the new arrival must meet certain requirements and provide certain documents. What these are depends on the purpose of the stay (work, study, family reunification, visiting, etc.). To find out more about the requirements for a VVR, go to www.ind.nl or contact your local embassy or the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the latest information.
On arrival, a residence permit is generally issued for one year. An extension may be issued, but the application for an extension must be submitted before the expiry of the residence permit. Whether the residence permit is extended, and for how long, depends entirely on the circumstances of the case.
Resident permit holders who have lived in the Netherlands continuously for five years with a valid residence permit for a stay with a non-temporary purpose may become entitled to a residence permit for an indefinite period.
With a few important exceptions, in the Netherlands all non-Dutch citizens are required to report their arrival and residence to a local office of an agency called the Vreemdelingenpolitie. They must do this within three days of arrival. Not all foreigners are required to do this, however. The exceptions are:
Failure to comply with this requirement constitutes a criminal offence.
In addition, a Schengen visa holder who is visiting the Netherlands for less than three months but then decides to stay in the Netherlands for longer than three months must report this intention as soon as possible (and no later than within three months of arrival).
In the Netherlands there is a central register of basic information about all residents of the Netherlands (including temporary residents). This is called the Municipal Personal Records Database (Gemeentelijke Basis administratie), although it may be useful to think of it as the registry of births, marriages, deaths, and residence. When someone takes up residence or changes residence, this is reported to the appropriate office (usually located in the municipal town hall).
Even a citizen of an EEA country or Switzerland staying in the Netherlands for more than three months must register with the Municipal Administration and the IND. Citizens of Bulgaria or Romania must apply for a special residence permit called ‘proof of lawful residence’.
For an employer to bring an employee to the Netherlands from a country outside the EEA, one of the requirements is that the employee must have an employment agreement.
For further up-to-date information, contact the Immigration and Naturalisation Service or visit their website at www.ind.nl. You may wish to obtain their brochure called ‘Bringing a foreign employee to the Netherlands’. In this section, a brief overview of the process is provided.
With certain important exceptions, every non-Dutch citizen requires a work permit to work in the Netherlands. The exceptions are citizens of an EEA country or Switzerland. Croatians require a permit, even though Croatia is part of the EU. In Dutch a work permit is called a tewerkstellingsvergunning or “TWV”.
An employer in the Netherlands wishing to hire an employee from a country outside the EEA is required to obtain a work permit from the Employment Office (UWV WERKbedrijf). Although Croatia is part of the EU, a citizen of Croatia also requires a TWV.
Before a foreign employee comes to the Netherlands, the employer or employee must also arrange for the employee to obtain a provisional residence permit from the Dutch authorities. This permit can be obtained from the IND or the Dutch embassy in the employee’s country of origin or permanent residence.
After entering the Netherlands, the foreign employee is required to report to a special agency called the Vreemdelingenpolitie within three working days after entry. This does not apply to citizens of an EEA member state or Switzerland or foreign citizens staying at a hotel. Failure to comply with this requirement constitutes a criminal offence.
In addition, after entering the Netherlands, the employee must as soon as possible (and no later than within three months) apply to the IND for a regular residence permit. The holder of a work permit and a provisional residence permit may work in the Netherlands only after filing an application for this permit. For current fees, please visit www.ind.nl.
It usually takes the Employment Office five to eight weeks to make a decision about a work permit application. An employer is therefore advised to commence the process with the Employment Office at least twelve weeks before the actual employment is due to start. There are several avenues of redress following a decision by the Employment Office to reject a work permit application, including an application to the court.
A TWV is valid for a maximum of three years. The TWV is only applicable to that employee and to the specific activities for which the work permit is granted. If an employee carries out other activities, a new work permit is required.
TWVs may be granted for a maximum term of three years and only in the following circumstances:
The employer must provide for suitable accommodation for the employee.
The employee must be between 18 and 45 years of age.
Employees that fall under a certain category may be exempt from some of the procedural requirements.
This applies in particular to what are known as “highly skilled migrants”. A work permit (“TWV”) is not required, and the process is expedited (average time of four weeks). However, the employer should first be admitted as a recognised sponsor, the remuneration of the highly skilled employee must meet a certain statutory thresholds and must be in conformity with the market. The permit can be granted for maximum 5 years. As a recognised sponsor the employer must comply with several statutory requirements, such as the obligation to inform the IND on any relevant changes in relation to the employment of the highly skilled employee.
The highly skilled migrants-scheme is most commonly used.
The European Intra Corporate Transferee Directive has been transposed into Dutch law, known as the ICT-scheme. Based on this scheme, executives, specialists and trainees who are transferred within the international group to the Dutch branch may qualify for a GVVA (combined residence and work permit). This permit can be granted for a maximum of 3 years and cannot be extended after these 3 years. However, within this period the ICT permit can be changed to another residence permit such as residence as a highly skilled migrant or the EU Blue Card. This means that the maximum period of 3 years no longer applies.
To be eligible for the ICT permit it is a condition that the employment agreement between the transferee and the establishment from outside the EU continues to exist. No employment agreement may be concluded with the Dutch establishment. The employment agreement must exist for at least 3 months before a transferee can be seconded. For executives and specialists, the same remuneration threshold applies as in the highly skilled migrant scheme.
The employer does not need to be admitted as a recognised sponsor first.
The EU Blue Card is a work and residence permit for highly skilled employees from outside the EU who are highly educated. The employee must have completed at least a three-year bachelor’s degree valued by International Diploma Valuation (“IDW“) and receive a remuneration meeting a statutory threshold that is higher than the highly skilled migrant remuneration threshold. The EU Blue Card-scheme provides a limited degree of labour mobility within the EU.
The employer does not need to be admitted as a recognised sponsor first.
If certain conditions are met, an inbound expatriate coming to the Netherlands can take advantage of an allowance called the “30% ruling”. One of the conditions is that the inbound expatriate must have some sort of “specific expertise” that is scarce in the Netherlands (based on his or her level of education, level of experience and level of remuneration). Another important condition is that the expatriate must have been, prior to his or her assignment abroad, residing at least 150 kilometers from the Netherlands. A specific 30% ruling also applies to Dutch employees performing certain specific activities in another country or who are seconded to certain developing countries.
Last updated May 2022