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Work and residence permits

Is it possible for a company to work with non-Dutch nationals in the Netherlands?

Yes, the Netherlands allows you to hire foreign nationals. But like other countries, the Netherlands regulates the number of foreign workers in the country. Employees who are nationals of countries outside the EU must have a work permit (except for Knowledge Migrants, which we'll discuss more fully below).

As far as EU citizens are concerned, as well as citizens of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, no work permit is required.

When can a work permit be obtained for an employee?

Immigration law in the Netherlands is a little tricky. Many different rules—and exceptions to these rules—apply. Therefore, each case needs to be determined on its own merits. For the purposes of this website, we focus only on situations where employers need to send staff to the Netherlands to perform 'permanent' employment activities, as opposed to situations like training programmes, implementation of products sold to Dutch clients, etc.

For regular personnel transfers, you can't be granted a work permit until you demonstrate to the authorities that the Dutch and European employment market does not have a suitable candidate or someone to fulfil the position after a short training period.

However, there are two instances in which recruiting from the European market is not a prerequisite:

First, when the assignment qualifies as an intra-company transfer. In order for a posting to qualify as an intra-company transfer—a transfer from the company's head office or other worldwide offices to the Netherlands—certain conditions need to be met with regards to the company's annual turnover and salary level of the position.

Second, from time to time, the authorities can indicate that a shortage exists within certain fields. If the employee is working in one of these fields, the procedure to obtain a work permit is less complicated.

In general, the employer is required to first report the vacancy to the Dutch Labour Agency, as well as to the European Labour Agency (EURES). Then you must recruit for at least five weeks, and up to three months. When recruiting, you're required to use as many potential contacts as possible: not only the Dutch Labour Agency and EURES, but also newspapers, professional literature, headhunting companies, professional magazines, etc. For some higher-level positions, it is not necessary to recruit via government agencies—recruiting via head-hunter will do.

Work permits are issued for a maximum of three years. After three consecutive years of legal employment in the Netherlands, you no longer need a work permit, provided an endorsement is stamped on your residence permit.

When is a residence permit required?

It depends on nationality. All EU citizens and nationals from Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are allowed to take up residence in any EU country. Note that citizens from Bulgaria and Romania still require a residence permit until these countries have also officially been admitted to the EU.

All other individuals require a residence permit.

However, even if a residence permit is not required, it is recommended you do apply, as it may facilitate a number of administrative procedures.

A residence permit must be applied for with the municipality where the expat plans to live within three days of arrival in the Netherlands.

In order to apply for a residence permit, the applicant must provide:

  • Valid passport
  • Copy of the (application for a) work permit (not required if you are a knowledge worker)
  • Copy of the employment contract
  • Signed declaration of non-criminal behaviour
  • Legalised birth certificate
  • Legalised marriage certificate (when applicable)
  • Divorce papers (when applicable)
  • Act of name change (when applicable)
  • Proof of medical insurance with coverage in the Netherlands
  • Declaration that the individual does not pose a threat to society
  • Two passport pictures

In addition, expats must also be prepared to undergo a tuberculosis check. Citizens of the following countries do not need to be tested—EU member states, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Surinam, Switzerland and the United States of America.

While the above are the general requirements, the exact rules can change with new legislation, as well as with the nationality of the employee involved. More detailed information can be obtained after contacting the relevant municipal administration where the individual intends to apply for his or her residence permit.

It is important to identify at an early stage which documents are required, since certain documents may need to be legalised and even verified in the case of certain countries, often a time-consuming process.

When does an expat require a temporary residence permit (MVV - Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf)?

Prior to their move to the Netherlands, certain nationals that plan to work and live in the Netherlands need to apply for a temporary residence permit (MVV), which is a special travel visa that they need to travel into the Netherlands.

In order to qualify for an MVV, a work permit is required, but the application processes for both the work permit and MVV can start simultaneously.

Nationals from the following countries do not need an MVV before travelling to the Netherlands:

EU citizens and nationals from
New Zealand
South Korea
United States of America
People of all other nationalities should apply for their MVV at the Netherlands Embassy or Consulate in their country.

How long does it take to process an application for temporary stay (MVV), a work permit and a residence permit in the Netherlands?

The application for an authorisation for temporary stay can take two to three months. The application for a work permit usually takes ten weeks—five weeks for the recruiting efforts, and five weeks processing time. In certain cases, the recruiting period may be extended up to three months. Exceptions apply in the case of intra-company transfers, which generally take a total processing time of five weeks. Please remember that while it can take up to six months to obtain a residence permit after filing, additional time to obtain legalisation of the application may be required prior to filing—which, again, can add time to the process.

Are partners allowed to work in the Netherlands?

When one partner has obtained a work permit under the knowledge migrant programme or intra-company transfer, the other partner is allowed to work in the Netherlands as well. As a matter of a formality, the partner must still apply for a work permit, but this permit is granted without further checks.

In all other cases, the non-working partner typically follows the working partner in terms of permit application rules. For example, in a case in which the partner does not need a permit because of nationality, no work permit is required for the non-working partner. In cases where the working partner requires a work permit, a partner who subsequently starts working in the Netherlands then also requires a permit.