Planning to start your own business? The startup visa is a good residence permit option for expats who want to stay in the Netherlands.
What is the Dutch startup visa?
The startup visa, officially called the "residence permit for start-up entrepreneurs", was introduced in January 2015 by the Dutch government to attract foreign entrepreneurs. The permit is valid for one year and gives ambitious internationals the chance to start their innovative business in one of the world’s most competitive economies.
How does the startup visa work?
To obtain the startup visa you need to fulfil general and specific requirements (see below) before you submit your application to the IND. Once you have received the residence permit you can move to the Netherlands and start developing on your business.
Under the visa, expats working on their startup in the Netherlands are guided by an experienced facilitator. This mentor system is designed to support the new business so it has the best chance to grow into a mature enterprise, which not only benefits the entrepreneur but also the Dutch economy.
Who can apply for the startup visa?
Citizens of any nation are eligible to apply for the startup visa, as long as they fulfil all the requirements. Citizens of EU/EEA countries and Swiss nationals do not require a startup visa to live and work in the Netherlands as they are already entitled to do so under EU law.
Requirements for the startup visa in the Netherlands
To apply for the startup visa you must meet general residence permit conditions as well as a set of specific startup conditions.
Startup visa general conditions
General conditions for the startup visa require:
- You have a valid passport.
- You do not pose a threat to public order or national security.
- You are prepared to undergo a tuberculosis test when you arrive in the Netherlands. Some nationalities are exempt from this requirement.
- You take out Dutch health insurance when you arrive in the Netherlands.
Startup visa specific conditions
To apply for the startup visa you must meet the following specific conditions:
- You must have an agreement to work together with a recognised facilitator.
- Your product or service is innovative.
- You have a solid business plan.
- You register your new business with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK).
- You have sufficient financial resources (such as savings) to live in the Netherlands.
What is a recognised facilitator?
The facilitator is an experienced business mentor organisation that provides guidance and support while you are developing your startup in the Netherlands. The support can come in a wide variety of forms, depending on the needs of the startup, and can include investment acquisition, marketing, assisting with operational management, research and providing business contacts.
Before you apply for the startup visa you must find and work with a facilitator who is recognised by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). This is to ensure that the facilitator is reliable, financially sound and has experience in guiding new businesses. When you find a mentor you must officially establish a cooperation by signing an agreement with them.
A list of recognised facilitators
Facilitators of successful applicants of the startup visa include:
- Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE)
- B. Building Business
- Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship
- Gemeente Amsterdam
- High Tech Campus
- Impact Hub
- Rockstart Enterprises
- Stichting PortXL
- TEC Europe
- THNK Social Enterprise
- World Startup Factory
- Space Business Innovation Centre Noordwijk
You can check the RVO webpage for the full list of recognised facilitators.
How do I prove my product or service is innovative?
To be eligible for the visa, applicants must prove their product or service is innovative in the Netherlands by meeting one of the following three conditions:
- The service or product is new in the Netherlands.
- The business involves a new technology for production, distribution or marketing.
- The business involves a new organisational or procedural approach.
Other aspects that can help to define a startup as innovative include: new technology, social responsibility, an original approach to energy conservation, social innovation and smart adaptations for cross-sector applications. More information on what constitutes an innovative business can be found on the RVO website.
What does the business plan need to cover?
To ensure that your startup idea is strong enough to develop into a business you need to provide a detailed plan that includes:
- An overview of the startup organisation including the structure of the organisation, the names, roles and responsibilities of all people involved, the business structure (legal form) of the business and the purpose behind the enterprise. The organisation overview must also demonstrate that the startup entrepreneur is playing an active role.
- A description of the product or service idea and an explanation of why it is innovative.
- A plan of the expected activities for the first year including a step-by-step process for setting up the business.
What are sufficient financial resources?
To be eligible for the startup residence permit, an expat entrepreneur must prove they have sufficient financial resources (such as savings) to live, work and set up their business in the Netherlands. You can prove you have sufficient funds by:
- Providing a bank statement that shows you have enough money in your bank account. The amount must meet the minimum income for self-employed in the Netherlands as shown on the IND income requirements webpage.
- Showing that another person, such as the facilitator, is willing and able to fund your residence in the Netherlands by providing you with either money or resources for the entire (one year) duration of the permit.
It is not possible to rely on public funding, such as welfare payments or unemployment benefits, as your financial resource.
How to apply for the startup visa in the Netherlands
Once you have established an agreement with a facilitator and have your documentation in order, you can submit an "Application for the purpose of residence "Start-up" working on a self-employed basis (foreign national)" to the IND using the 7558 IND application form.
Find out more on the IND start-up residence permit page.