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The orientation year residence permit for expat graduates in the Netherlands

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If you have recently graduated or obtained your PhD from a higher education institution in the Netherlands or abroad, then the "orientation year residence permit for highly educated persons" might be a good residence permit option for you to stay in the Netherlands.

What is an orientation year permit?

The Dutch government created the orientation year residence permit to give highly educated expat graduates the time to find a job or start up their own business after studying in the Netherlands. Prior to 2016 there were two policies: "the orientation year for highly educated persons" and "the orientation year for graduates".

Changes to the orientation year policy

As of March 1, 2016 the two policies were combined into a single scheme: "the orientation year for highly educated persons" known in Dutch as an oriëntatiejaar or zoekjaar (search year). The policy was changed to include a broader group of highly educated people. The new scheme applies to foreign students who have either graduated in the Netherlands or from a top university abroad.

Additionally, the new scheme extends the submission period from one to three years after completing studies or obtaining a PhD, which gives graduates the time to go back to their home country before returning to the Netherlands.

How the orientation year permit works

The orientation year residence permit is valid for a maximum of one year and allows the permit holder to work without restrictions, so a work permit is not required.

Requirements for the orientation year residence permit in the Netherlands

To be eligible for the orientation year residence permit in the Netherlands you must meet both general and specific requirements.

Orientation year permit - general conditions

To apply for the orientation year residence permit you must meet the following general conditions:

  • You fit on one of the categories of eligible applicants (listed below).
  • You apply within three years of completing your studies.
  • You have a valid passport.
  • You do not pose a threat to public order or national security.
  • You have not provided any false details or withheld important information.
  • You are prepared to undergo a tuberculosis test when you arrive in the Netherlands. Some nationalities are exempt from this requirement.

Citizens of EU/EEA countries and Swiss nationals do not require an orientation year residence permit as they are entitled to live and work in the Netherlands under EU law.

Orientation year permit - specific requirements

To be eligible for the orientation year residence permit you must demonstrate you are a highly educated person who has achieved one of the following requirements:

  • You have completed an accredited Bachelor's or Master’s programme in the Netherlands.
  • You have completed a PhD or post-doctoral programme in the Netherlands.
  • You have previously held a Dutch residence permit for scientific research or a residence permit for the purpose of working as a highly skilled migrant to undertake scientific research in the Netherlands.
  • You have completed a Master’s programme based on an Erasmus Mundus Masters Course.
  • You have completed a study that relates to the Dutch Cultural Policy Act.
  • You have completed a study offered through the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ development programme.
  • You have completed a higher education programme that is recognised by ministerial order.
  • You have completed a Master’s or post-doctoral programme or obtained a PhD at a designated international educational institution abroad and you fulfil certain language requirements.

Designated educational institutions

An international educational institution is designated if it is in the top 200 of a general, faculty or subject ranking list by the:

  • QS World University Rankings
  • Academic Ranking of World Universities
  • Times Higher Education World University Rankings

Language requirements for graduates from abroad

Graduates from designated international educational institutions abroad must fulfil one of the following additional language requirements:

  • You have achieved a score of 6.0 or higher for the IELTS (International English Langauge Testing System).
  • You have achieved an equivalent minimum score or higher in an English language test that complies with the Code of Conduct for international students in Dutch higher education.
  • You have been awarded a diploma, certificate or document that is recognised by the Dutch Civic Integration Decree (Article 2.3, (1), search this Decree in Dutch).
  • You have completed a Master or post-doctoral programme in English or Dutch.

How to apply for an orientation year residence permit

To apply for the orientation year residence permit the procedure is as follows:

  • If you are already in the Netherlands and do not require a temporary residence permit (MVV) then you can apply directly to the IND for an "Orientation year for highly educated persons" residence permit.
  • If you are living outside the Netherlands then you can apply for the orientation year residence permit at the Dutch embassy or consulate in your country of residence.

Be aware that some nationalities also need to apply for a provisional residence permit (MVV) in order to be granted entry to the Netherlands. If you require an MVV then you will need to start the TEV procedure, which is a combined application procedure for the MVV and residence permit at the same time.

You will also need to:

  • Provide documents that are listed in the application form.
  • Pay an application fee. The exact cost depends on the precise purpose of your residence, for more details contact the IND.

Ability to work with the orientation year permit

There are no work restrictions on holders of the new orientation year residence permit. This means you have free access to the Dutch labour market and do not require an extra work permit.

Future residence permit options

It is not possible to extend the orientation year after its validity period of one year. It is, however, possible to apply for other types of residence permit, depending on your purpose of stay. This could include the highly skilled migrant permit via your employer, the startup visa or residence as a spouse or (registered) partner. To avoid a "residence gap", or invalidity of your permit, it is important to apply for your new permit before the end of your orientation year.

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