New 'orientation year' residence permit for graduates in the Netherlands

New 'orientation year' residence permit for graduates in the Netherlands

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De Vreede Advocaten is a young and dynamic Amsterdam law firm specialised in immigration and international employment law for both businesses and individuals.

This article, co-authored by Andrea de Ruijter, explains the changes to the graduate orientation year permit in the Netherlands.

In 2016 the Netherlands is changing its policy towards foreign graduates. The rules of the "orientation year", also known as the "search year", will change as the Netherlands aims to attract more highly skilled migrants.

Current residence permits for graduates

Currently two types of orientation year permits exist. These residence permits enable you to seek work in the Netherlands after graduation. Both permits are granted for a maximum period of one year.

Orientation year permit for graduates in the Netherlands (zoekjaar afgestudeerden)

Graduates from a Dutch higher educational institution can apply for this permit within one year of graduating. The permit allows you to work in the Netherlands without an additional work permit.

Orientation year permit for highly educated persons (zoekjaar hoogopgeleiden)

After obtaining a Master’s degree or a PhD from a Dutch university or a high ranking foreign university, you can apply for this permit within three years of finishing your study or PhD.

A foreign university is considered high ranking if it is listed in the top 200 of the most recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings or Academic Ranking of World Universities.

In order to assess whether you are eligible, a points-based system is used.

This system rates your education, age and likelihood of success in the Netherlands, and you will have to score at least 35 out of 40 possible points. This permit does not allow you to work during your orientation year without an additional work permit.

New policy: what will change?

The two existing orientation year permits will be merged, using the most favourable rules of both permits. This "new" orientation year permit will become available for a broader group of highly educated people.

At the moment it is not yet known when exactly the new policy will take effect.

Who can apply for the new permit?

Besides the two groups mentioned above, the orientation year will also become available to:

Scientific researchers who did research in the Netherlands.

- Graduates who have obtained a Master’s degree as part of an Erasmus Mundus Course.

- Graduates who have completed a cultural study within the scope of the Cultural Policy (Special Purpose Funding) Act.

- People who have completed an education through the Dutch Foreign Affair’s development aid program.

The points-based system will no longer be applicable under the new policy.

Having obtained a Master's degree or PhD from a high ranking foreign university you will, however, be required to possess a certain level of understanding of the English or Dutch language.

An application for the orientation year permit can be filed up to three years after finishing your study, PhD or research.

Work authorisation

Under the new policy, the orientation year permit will grant you free access to the Dutch labour market. You are allowed to work in the Netherlands without any restrictions. An additional work permit will not be required.

Validity orientation year permit

The new orientation year permit will be issued for a maximum period of one year and cannot be extended.

It will, however, be possible to apply for another orientation year permit as long as the grounds for the application differ from the grounds for your previous orientation year permit application. A new ground can, for example, be graduation from a second study.

Options after expiry of orientation year permit

If you wish to continue your stay in the Netherlands after your search year and you are not eligible for another orientation year permit, you need to apply for another type of residence permit.

Make sure to apply for your new permit in time, before the end of your orientation year, to avoid a so-called "residence gap". Your options include:

Highly skilled migrant permit

If you have found a job with a competitive income or are conducting scientific research, you can change your orientation year permit to a highly skilled migrant permit. Please note that to be eligible for this type of permit your employer must be a "recognised sponsor".

On the IND website you can check whether your future employer has already been admitted to the highly skilled migrant scheme. Your income should also meet the minimum income criteria for this kind of permit.

If the application is submitted before the end of your orientation year, lower salary criteria apply, regardless of your age. The minimum gross monthly salary in 2016 is 2.228 euros (excluding 8 percent holiday allowance).

Other permits

If you were not able to find a job as a highly skilled migrant it might be possible to change your orientation year permit to a permit for another purpose. For example, a permit to stay with your spouse or (registered) partner.

In any case, make sure that you have applied for the next permit well before the end of your orientation year.

Update: The new orientation year policy came into effect on March 1, 2016.

For more information, or if you require legal advice about applying for the orientation year permit, contact De Vreede Advocaten.

This article was co-authored by Laura Pino, attorney at law, and Andrea de Ruijter, specialist in immigration law.

De Vreede Advocaten

Ester de Vreede


Ester de Vreede

Ester combines an extensive knowledge of employment law and immigration law, which proves to be an asset and of specific interest for highly skilled expats and companies that employ them....

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Leave a comment

n.mustafayeva92... 11:03 | 10 November 2017

Dear Ester, Thank you very much for the post, it was very informative. I have one question though, if you don't mind. I have a orientation year visa, but I did not study in the Netherlands, I came from abroad to find a job in the Netherlands. After 3,5 month I finally found a job. My company did not want to apply for 30% ruling for me, then I contacted an external party to help me with the submission. They told me that I am not eligible to apply, since I was not hired from abroad, but I came to the Netherlands intentionally to find a job. And since I was already living here, I broke the rule of "24 months". But then I read on different sources, that people with orientation year visa can still be granted with the 30% ruling. Could you please comment on my issue? I still want to apply, and if I am eligible, I will urge my company to do that. Thank you very much for your feedback.

Roshni R. Nair 22:10 | 6 May 2019

Hi, Did you ever find out about the 30% ruling and the orientation year visa. I too found a job within 4 months and now I am confused if am eligible for the 30% ruling or not. Any help is appreciated. Regards

bukhari917 21:34 | 18 October 2019

Hi, What happened to your case? I have same issue

Erik J. Giesen Loo 20:26 | 11 October 2018

Thank you very much for the article. I am curious if you maybe know what to do if I have a Dutch residence permit which will expire 1st of December but I will graduate from TU-Delft towards the end of November. Does the residence permit get extended automatically for 3 months, to give enough time to apply for the search year?