DAFT & Self-employed Americans in the Netherlands

DAFT & Self-employed Americans in the Netherlands

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

In this article, specialist Christine Sullivan talks about the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) and how it affects U.S. nationals with an entrepreneurial attitude who want to live and work in the Netherlands.

This spring President Barack Obama visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and was hosted by Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands. The visit was friendly and in their remarks both leaders referred to the enduring relationship between the two countries.

A long history of friendship

During his tour of the newly opened museum President Obama was shown two original documents in the National Archives: the Plakkaat van Verlatinghe of 1581, the document that inspired Thomas Jefferson when drafting the American Declaration of Independence, and the Dutch Treaty of Amity and Commerce of 1782.

The Dutch Treaty of Amity and Commerce, referred to by President Obama as the Treaty of Friendship, was negotiated by John Adams and marked the moment that the Republic of the Netherlands became the second country, after France, to enter into a formal relationship with the new American states and to recognise the United States as a sovereign nation.

There is another treaty of friendship that is far more relevant to American expats: The Netherlands Friendship, Commerce and Navigation Treaty, drafted in 1956 to "further strengthen bonds of peace and friendship" between the United States and the Netherlands.

The purpose of the treaty is to promote trade between the two countries and it is commonly referred to as the “Dutch American Friendship Treaty”. The treaty has become the basis for which the Dutch immigration authorities (IND) issue a very special type of residence permit to U.S. nationals: the Dutch American Friendship Treaty, or DAFT, permit.

The Dutch American Friendship Treaty

The Dutch American Friendship Treaty gives preferential treatment to American citizens and provides a self-employed residence permit application process that is far easier than the process for other non-EU nationals.

American entrepreneurs applying for a permit under the treaty do not need to satisfy the difficult points-based test that is often a barrier for non-EU nationals to obtain a permit as self-employed. In fact, those applying under the DAFT do not even need to provide a business plan.

The DAFT permit is a two-year extendable residence permit that authorises the U.S. national to perform work for his or her company in the Netherlands without a separate work permit.

Residence cards are issued with the labour notation "Arbeid als zelfstandige op grond van het Nederlands- Amerikaans vriendschapsverdrag" or "work as self-employed via the Dutch American Friendship Treaty." It is also possible to sponsor dependent permits for spouses and children.

DAFT basic requirements

The basic requirements of the permit are:
 Registration at a local municipality in the Netherlands.
 Registration of a qualifying company at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK).
 Certification that the required capital investment has been deposited in a Dutch business bank account.
 Maintaining the capital investment for the duration of the permit.

Final note

The DAFT permit is an excellent option for U.S. nationals with an entrepreneurial attitude who want to live and work in the Netherlands.

With the proper application package a self-employed American can have a DAFT permit within 3 months, often sooner. While waiting for a decision, the applicant is able to legally reside in the Netherlands (although no work should be performed until the permit is granted).

Although the process appears simple, it can quickly become more of a circle than a straight line: one certifying agency can refuse to finalise a registration without a supporting document from a second agency, while the second agency requires the registration as a pre-requisite for the supporting document.

This can be very confusing and often having guidance or a properly prepared checklist can minimise the headache. It is also critical to be certain that the company registered at the KvK will satisfy the intentions of the authorities.

Christine Sullivan focuses on encouraging the developing bridge between the United States and the Netherlands and provides support to American entrepreneurs seeking to apply for a residence permit via the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT).

For more information and inquiries contact her at or visit De Vreede Advocaten.

De Vreede Advocaten


Christine  Sullivan


Christine Sullivan

Christine is an Attorney and Manager based in the Brussels office of Fragomen Worldwide. Christine acts as key point-of-contact for individuals who wish to be employed, work as self-employed or...

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