Self-employed? Residence permits for entrepreneurs in the Netherlands

Self-employed? Residence permits for entrepreneurs in the Netherlands

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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.

For self-employed expats living in the Netherlands, or who wish to move here, it may be interesting to apply for a residence permit as an entrepreneur.

A residence option for business owners

In a country like the Netherlands, where entrepreneurs are viewed as the engine of the economy, one might argue that applying for such a permit should be relatively easy to do.

For some non-European nationalities this is indeed the case. For others, however, the procedure is far more difficult.

The application for a residence permit as an entrepreneur is different from the recently introduced startup visa, which is a permit for foreigners who want to start an innovative business in the Netherlands.

General requirements for entrepreneurs

In general, to qualify for a residence permit as an entrepreneur, the enterprise should serve an essential Dutch interest.

The Immigration Service (IND) assesses whether this is the case while taking into account the advice of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, which uses a point system to grade the enterprise in three categories:
personal experience
business plan
added value to the Netherlands

These criteria are equivalent to a certain amount of points. When the 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.

Different criteria for specific enterprises

If the applicant would like to start an enterprise as a doctor or artist, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Public Health will issue advice on the essential Dutch interest that the applicant may serve, using a different set of criteria.

Application costs and requirements

The application fees for a residence permit as an entrepreneur are 1.296 euros, which will not be refunded if the application is denied.

Civic integration exemptions

In some cases, an applicant who wishes to change his or her existing residence permit to a self-employment residence permit is exempt from the long-term visa requirements. Furthermore, he or she will not need to be tested for tuberculosis.

For instance, highly skilled migrants are exempt from the integration test requirement and, if they apply for a residence permit based on self-employment, this remains the case.

Doing the integration test voluntarily is not taken into account by the IND. However, a high level knowledge of the Dutch language is often a relevant factor in the application.

Doing business while the application is pending

Once the application has been filed it is possible to obtain a sticker in one’s passport that allows the applicant to begin business immediately. This may be necessary since the legal processing time for an application is at least 90 days and can even be extended to six months.

There is no legal time limit on the point assessment from the Ministry of Economic Affairs. It is important to note that, depending on the field, working for clients during that period may constitute a compliance risk for the applicant.

Differing policies for some nationalities

For certain nationalities alternative policies are applicable:

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 between the Netherlands and the United States or Japan relatively easily.

In these cases the criteria and the point system are not relevant. The applicant must develop and direct an enterprise in which he or she has made a substantial (not borrowed) investment of at least 4.500 euros.

Furthermore, he or she must have full control of the funds and be subject to the entrepreneurial risk.

Turkish nationals

Turkish nationals are also exempt from the point system, due to the treaty between the European Union and Turkey.

However, the same application criteria must be still be submitted: personal experience, a business plan and the applicant’s added value to the Netherlands.

As a consequence of this favourable policy, the majority of applications filed for the residence permit for entrepreneurs are by Turkish nationals.

Chances of success

Research has shown that applications filed by entrepreneurs already residing in the Netherlands are seldom granted. For Turkish nationals, the odds of success are even smaller.

On the other hand, most of the Japanese or American applications based on the trade treaties tend to be granted.

When applying for this type of residence permit it is necessary to obtain a firm insight into the above-mentioned criteria.

In some cases, initial rejection might have been prevented if the entrepreneur were fully up to speed regarding to the criteria with which he or she had 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.

Need legal guidance with your residence permit application as an entrepreneur?

Thomas van Houwelingen of Everaert Advocaten is an expert in business-related migration and nationality law.

everaert advocaten immigration lawyers

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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