More flexible rules for foreign students and highly-skilled migrants

More flexible rules for foreign students and highly-skilled migrants

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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.

It seems that 2016 is the year for relaxing the rules with regard to attracting expertise, talent and ability to the Netherlands.

The new regulations make it easier for foreign students, highly-skilled foreign nationals and foreign investors to move to the Netherlands and to stay, if they already live here.

The highly educated

In the past year, the Dutch government implemented a number of changes in the law, making it easier for foreign nationals to find jobs in the Netherlands.

The new legislation is the result of an announcement by the Minister of Security and Justice and the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment in 2014, to entice more expertise and talent to the Dutch labour market.

The policy for the orientation year scheme (also known as Search Year or Job-Seeking Year) for highly educated individuals was changed on March 1, 2016, to promote the recruitment of foreign students.

This scheme and the orientation year for college graduates have been consolidated into a single scheme: "orientation year for the highly educated". This scheme applies to:
Students who have completed a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in the Netherlands
Students who have received a Master’s Degree or PhD from one of the top 200 foreign universities
Scientific researchers and those doing post doctorates

The criteria

Foreign students, who have either graduated in the Netherlands or from one of the top foreign universities, can apply for a residence permit for the "orientation year for the highly educated" within three years after completing either their studies or their scientific research.

This temporary residence permit gives foreign graduate students a period of one year to find work in the Netherlands.

Having this type of residence permit exempts the holder from needing a separate work permit in order to be employed in the Netherlands; their residence document states that they may freely enter the Dutch job market.

Foreign graduate students who have already found employment in the Netherlands while still abroad, do not have to first apply for an orientation year permit, but can apply immediately for a "highly-skilled migrant" permit through their employer. For this, the salary requirement is lower.

The orientation year can be applied for once per newly completed academic degree. A new application can be submitted after each completed Bachelor’s Degree (only in the Netherlands), Master’s Degree (abroad or in the Netherlands) or PhD.

For example, a student who has graduated in the Netherlands with a Bachelor’s Degree can apply for an orientation year permit. If this same student completes their Master’s Degree in the Netherlands, a request for a second orientation year permit can be submitted.

Highly-skilled migrant

Besides the aforementioned scheme to facilitate jobs for graduates, the government is also making it easier for the highly-skilled migrant to find a new job if they have already been working in the Netherlands.

After July 1, 2016, it became easier for a highly-skilled migrant who has lost his job, to find a new job with a Dutch employer who has recognised sponsor status. They are given three months to look for a new job after their previous one ends, regardless of whether they quit or were terminated.

Previously, a highly-skilled migrant was only allowed three months to look for work when the initiative to terminate the job came from the employer, but not if the employee himself decided to quit the job.

Highly-skilled migrants who are unable to find another job within the three-month period will receive a letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service informing them that their residence permit will be cancelled. The search period starts on the day the contract is terminated.


On January 1, 2015, the so-called "start-up" scheme was introduced. In order to strengthen the Dutch economy and labour market, the scheme focuses on giving residence permits to budding young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas.

From January 1, 2016, this year, these entrepreneurs are being given three years to get their companies up and running, instead of just one year. Practically speaking, one year was too short a time to acquire a position in the Dutch market. They must still fulfill the requirements for self-employment.

Under the former system, there was the risk that interesting start-ups had to leave the Netherlands after one year despite the fact that they had the potential to be very successful. Therefore, the Dutch government decided to give a green light to young and ambitious entrepreneurs.

Foreign investors

In conclusion, the government has also created more opportunities for foreign investors to obtain residence permits (wealthy foreign nationals). The policy for foreign investors has existed since October 1, 2013 and grants a residence permit to foreign nationals who invest a minimum of 1,2 million euros into the Dutch economy.

Under the new policy, a residence permit will be granted for three years instead of just one. Moreover, a financial audit to refute suspicions of money laundering of criminal assets will no longer be required.

Two of the following three conditions must be met in order to be eligible:
increase innovation
expand employment opportunities by 10 full-time employees
make a non-financial contribution in the form of the investor’s network and their specific expertise

The rules were made more flexible because, in spite of the government’s high expectations when the scheme was first implemented, there had hardly been any requests submitted.

Kirsty Gies


Kirsty Gies

Kirsty is Manager Global Mobility & Immigration at Everaert Advocaten. Clients range from SMB’s to multinationals, in a variety of industries. Kirsty has considerable expertise in overseeing the application processes...

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