How to obtain a residence permit as a self-employed entrepreneur

How to obtain a residence permit as a self-employed entrepreneur

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Valegis Advocaten is a law firm based in Amsterdam and The Hague and is the counsel for entrepreneurs and companies with international interests. Gateway to Holland is their corporate immigration platform. Co-written by Andrea de Ruijter.

If you’re planning to set up your own business in the Netherlands, you may first want to check if you qualify for a residence permit as a self-employed person. As there are exemptions to the more rigorous general requirements, you might benefit from one of these exceptions.

Self-employed permits versus start-up permits

Before we delve into the requirements of the self-employed permit, let us first see if a start-up permit is a viable option for you.

The start-up permit

The start-up permit is a permit designed to lower entry barriers for innovative start-ups. The two most important requirements for a start-up permit are:
Partnering with a recognised facilitator
Offering an innovative product or service

The start-up permit is valid for up to one year and cannot be renewed. 

The self-employed permit

For established companies, the self-employed permit may be a better fit. If you’re an American or a Japanese national, the self-employed permit is the best option for you due to more favourable conditions.

The self-employed permit is valid for up to two years and can be extended.

The requirements of a self-employed permit

What are the requirements of a self-employed permit? In general, the Dutch immigration service (IND) will send the application for a self-employed permit to the Dutch enterprise agency (RVO) for review.

A point-based system is used to assess whether the company serves an essential Dutch interest. You will need to fulfil the requirements of the following three categories:
Personal experience
Business plan
Added value for the Netherlands

Other requirements include having sufficient means of income and meeting requirements for practising your business (relevant for registered professionals).

Exception 1: American and Japanese nationals

The above-mentioned point-based system does not apply to American and Japanese nationals due to the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) and the Dutch-Japanese Friendship Treaty.

Instead, the main requirements include:
Setting up a company in the Netherlands
Depositing a minimal capital investment of 4.500 euros in your Dutch business bank account
Registering at the local municipality in the Netherlands

A business plan is not required by the IND.

Exception 2: Turkish nationals

Due to the Association Agreement between Turkey and the EU, Turkish nationals may also benefit from more favourable conditions. For Turkish nationals, the point-based system will not be used.

Instead, the following criteria are used to assess the business plan:
The company must serve an essential Dutch interest
The company may not interfere with the free market economy
The company may not interfere with the Dutch labour market

As you may notice, these requirements are less straightforward than the requirements for American and Japanese nationals. 

We advise Turkish nationals to provide the IND with a solid business plan, showing that the company is viable, with special attention to the creation or support of jobs in the Netherlands (if applicable).

If a complete application is submitted, Turkish nationals will be allowed to submit the application in the Netherlands and no MVV visa is required.

Exception 3: Long-term residents EC

If you’re in possession of an EC long-term residence permit, the point-based system will not apply.

You do not need to show that your company will serve an essential Dutch interest, but you will need to show that you will earn a sufficient and independent income. The best way to show this is by submitting a business plan with a solid financial paragraph.

Other legal issues

Other things to consider before setting up your company in the Netherlands:

How will you structure your company? Will you form a sole proprietorship, a Dutch limited liability company or a partnership? Which option you choose may have consequences for your liability and tax position (for example, the 30% ruling).

Protection of intellectual property rights may be essential for your business.

Do you use standard contracts for suppliers and other third parties? Consider drafting contracts on your own terms that you can present to other parties.

Will you employ personnel? If your employees are EU citizens, no work permit is required; if your employees are non-EU citizens, you may have to apply for work permits. Regardless of the nationality of your employees, Dutch employment law comes into play and attention should be paid to the wording of the employment contracts.

Know the rules

Check if you are eligible for a residence permit as a self-employed person and make sure that you prepare all the necessary paperwork before you submit the application. Do not lose sight of other legal issues that may arise.

It may be wise to consult with a specialist before you set up or move your company to the Netherlands.

For more information, or if you require legal advice about the application process for a self-employed permit, please contact Valegis Advocaten.

Their team of experts in the fields of corporate immigration law, employment law, corporate law and property law is dedicated to making your business work.

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Reinier Wolters


Reinier Wolters

Reinier practices Corporate Immigration Law and Employment Law with special attention to the international workforce and advises companies with regard to the international mobility of their personnel, staff policies, Dutch...

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