Studying in the Netherlands and residence options after graduation

Studying in the Netherlands and residence options after graduation

Fragomen Worldwide provides a full range of immigration services with wordwide support for individuals, professionals and businesses.

Many expats start their time in the Netherlands as a student and then continue to stay once they graduate. Making the transition from studies to the workforce takes some care, especially when it comes to maintaining your residency.

This article provides a brief guide to coming to the Netherlands as a student, and the most common residence options for after graduation.

Studying in the Netherlands

If you are a foreign national (not a citizen of an EU/EEA country or Switzerland) and you wish to attend a Dutch university, you will need a residence permit before you can begin your studies.

The residence permit will be sponsored by your educational institution and you must be a full-time student for the school to do so.

Only institutions qualified as "recognised sponsors" by the immigration authorities can file an application on your behalf, and you must be accepted to your field of study before the university can do so. A list of recognised educational institutions can be found here.

Proof of financial means

To qualify for the residence permit you must have sufficient financial means to support your studies.

You can demonstrate this by having adequate funds in a bank account, a scholarship, funds deposited into the account of your university or via financial support from someone residing either in the Netherlands or abroad (the review process can differ depending on the residence of your financial supporter).

This financial sponsor can be your parents, another family member or a company sponsoring your education, for example. To continue qualifying for your residence permit you must obtain at least 50 percent of the required credits for each academic year.

Duration of stay

The residence permit is issued for the duration of study plus three months, up to a total of five years.

If you must fulfil some preparatory classes before beginning your studies, for example to learn Dutch or English, you may be granted up to one year in addition to the five-year maximum.

You may perform some limited work during your studies, either:
1) 10 hours per week, or
2) seasonal work during June, July and August.
Your employer must apply for a work permit for you.

Trainee or apprenticeship

You can also come to the Netherlands for a traineeship (work-related) or internship (study-related). In this case you will receive a combined work and residence permit, known as a Single Permit.

The Single Permit is issued when the Dutch labour authorities (UWV) make a positive recommendation and the immigration authorities (IND) then issue a residence permit with work authorisation.

You or your employer may apply to the IND for the Single Permit and the two authorities will manage the process internally. The qualification criteria for a trainee or internship permit are quite varied depending on your situation. You or your employer may want to obtain advice before filing an application.

Residence options after graduation

Here are some of the most common career-related residence permit options for continuing your stay in the Netherlands after studying.

Orientation Year permit

After you have completed your studies in the Netherlands you may qualify for the Orientation Year permit. This permit allows you to spend up to one year searching for an employer who can sponsor you to work in the Netherlands, or to open a Dutch company and remain in the Netherlands as a self-employed person.

This permit is also available to students who have graduated from a qualifying college or university outside the Netherlands. Find out more information about the Orientation Year permit.

Become a highly skilled migrant

If, during your Orientation Year, you are hired by an employer who is a recognised sponsor for highly skilled migrants (HSM), you may be able to qualify for the lowest salary threshold in the HSM scheme, which is very interesting for potential employers.

Currently, the required salary amount is 2.228 euros gross per month. Moreover, for as long as you remain employed as a highly skilled migrant without any interruption to your employment, you can still qualify for a residence permit with this low salary threshold, even if you transfer to a new recognised employer.

It is therefore critical to properly manage your employment and residence status to avoid unintended interruptions.

The Startup Visa and Entrepreneur Permit

If you are entrepreneurial and prefer to work for your own company, or if you do not find an eligible employer during your Orientation Year, you can apply to reside in the Netherlands as a self-employed individual.

You can do so via the relatively new Startup Visa or you can submit an Entrepreneur’s Permit application, depending on your particular circumstances.

You should be aware that self-employed permits are notoriously difficult to qualify for, and before filing your application you should be certain to make a strong case for your intended business, demonstrating to the authorities that your company will bring added value to the Dutch economy.

We strongly advise that you enlist the help of both an experienced immigration specialist in the area of self-employed permits, and an accountant, before submitting an application, as that greatly improves your chances of qualifying under the points-based system used to assess the Entrepreneur’s Permit application.

American and Japanese nationals

American and Japanese nationals could make use of a trade treaty between the Netherlands and their home country to bypass the points-based criteria and obtain a self-employed residence permit via a less onerous process.

The results are more predictable than applications that must fulfil the points criteria, but compiling all the documentation required for a successful application can become a bit tricky.

Careful planning

Whatever studies you choose to follow, and whichever residence option you pursue after graduation, it is essential to thoroughly research and prepare your plans as much as possible in advance, to avoid any delays - and for your own peace of mind.

For more information about the above application options and residence permit processes, please contact Christine Sullivan, who specialises in private client enquiries in the Netherlands.

Christine and her team can be reached at Fragomen via email:

Fragomen Worldwide

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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