Self-employment in the Netherlands: Becoming an entrepreneur

Self-employment in the Netherlands: Becoming an entrepreneur

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Everaert Advocaten is a respected leader in Dutch migration law. Based in Amsterdam, its multilingual team advises expats on residency and migration-related legal issues.

Being self-employed in the Netherlands can be attractive for expats already in the country, especially as highly skilled migrants can open their business parallel to their job. Naturally, this does not exclude applicants to apply from abroad.

General requirements for entrepreneurs (Regular)

In general, to qualify for a residence permit as an entrepreneur, your enterprise should serve an essential Dutch interest, e.g. have an added value to the Dutch economy.

The Immigration Service (IND) assesses whether this is the case whilst taking into account the advice of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, which uses a scoring system to grade the enterprise in the following three categories:

  • Personal experience
  • Business plan
  • Added value to the Netherlands (innovation, employment)

These criteria are equivalent to a certain amount of points. If an enterprise obtains 90 points out of a possible 300, the applicant is eligible for a residence permit. Research shows that the majority of residence permits granted for self-employment obtain most, if not all, of the required points within the first two categories. However, figures show that it is very difficult to score a sufficient amount of points overall.

The legal processing time is 90 days, but because there is no legal time limit on the point assessment from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the estimated processing time can even be as long as 6 months.

For certain categories, alternative policies are applicable:

Long-term residents of the EU

If you already have built a strong right of residence in another EU Member State, for example, as a result of 5 years of residence as a Blue Card Holder in Germany or under a partner visa in France, more lenient rules apply. Once you have obtained that status, it is a little easier to obtain a residence permit as an entrepreneur.

The criteria which fall under showing that your business serves an essential Dutch interest are not applicable, meaning that you will only need to show that you will be able to support yourself with your business in the Netherlands. Obviously, you do need to show this with a thorough business plan, financing and a business idea. 

Also, only the IND will assess the application, and it will not be sent to the Ministry of Economic Affairs for a scoring system test. This limits the processing time to a maximum of 90 days.

American and Japanese nationals

Based on the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT), and the Treaty of Trade and Navigation between Japan and the Netherlands, citizens of the United States or Japan can start a business in the Netherlands relatively easily.

In this case, the scoring system is not relevant. Applicants must develop and direct an enterprise in which they have made a substantial (not borrowed) investment of at least 4.500 euros. Furthermore, they must have full control of the funds and be subject to entrepreneurial risk.

Start-up visa

A special category of self-employment is the one-year residence permit as a startup. This is specifically for third-country nationals with innovative business ideas. If you can find a facilitator, and if your business idea relates to one of the 9 top sectors in the Netherlands, this might be the right option for you.

You do need to have a thorough business plan (containing the steps that you will take to further develop your business) and proof that you will be able to support yourself during this year.

Once the facilitator’s programme is successfully completed, it is far easier to comply with the scoring system. The recommendation of the facilitator guarantees the amount of points that are necessary to obtain the residence permit for regular self-employment (see above).

Doing business whilst your application is pending

If you come from the United States of America, Canada, Japan, South-Korea, New-Zealand or Australia, or if you have a residence permit as a long-term resident of the EU in one of the EU Member States, you may submit the application here, expanding your business whilst awaiting the decision.

Naturally, it is also possible for holders of a valid residence permit in the Netherlands to change the purpose of their residence in the country and await the decision here, whilst being allowed to work and expand their business.

Applying from abroad is of course possible, but if you need a visa to enter, you will need to await the decision from abroad, and you will not be able to do business whilst your application is pending.

Chances of success

When applying for this type of residence permit, it is necessary to obtain a firm insight into the above-mentioned criteria. It is difficult to obtain a residence permit as a self-employed entrepreneur, but with the right guidance, an initial rejection might be prevented if you are fully up to speed regarding the criteria with which you have to comply.

Given the uncertain outcome that many applicants face, it is wise to prepare thoroughly before submitting your application, either by researching the requirements in detail or by seeking professional assistance.

If you have any questions about the application procedure for a residence permit based on entrepreneurship, kindly contact Everaert Advocaten for more information and advice.

Thomas van Houwelingen


Thomas van Houwelingen

Thomas is an attorney focusing on the business side of migration law and nationality law. Among his clients are companies and individuals.Thomas has studied International Law at the University of...

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