Travelling to the Netherlands: Back to the “old” normal?

Travelling to the Netherlands: Back to the “old” normal?

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After 18 months of COVID-19 travel restrictions, we still cannot travel as freely as we once used to. Though the rules have been relaxed a little, travellers still need to be mindful of the applicable rules. Everaert Advocaten explains.

Entering from an EU country

The Dutch government has divided EU and Schengen countries into two categories: safe countries and high-risk countries.

For both categories, the EU entry ban is not applicable. This means that travellers from EU countries can enter the Netherlands at all times, provided they meet the requirements, such as proof of vaccination or proof of recovery and a health declaration.

Entering from a non-EU country

Travelling to the Netherlands from a non-EU country can be more challenging. The non-EU countries are divided into three categories: safe countries, high-risk countries and very-high-risk countries. The category of “very-high-risk countries with a virus variant of concern” no longer exists.

Travellers in all categories can be exempt from the most invasive restriction, namely the EU entry ban, if they can present proof of vaccination showing that they have been fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Other exemptions to the entry ban are in place for EU nationals and their family members, Dutch residence permit holders, MVV-visa holders, long-term stay immigration approval holders, people visiting a seriously / terminally ill family member, grandparents visiting their grandchildren, etc.

Business travellers who cannot claim to be exempted from the EU entry ban based on vaccination, are only admitted to the Netherlands if they can show that the purpose of travel has demonstrable value for the Dutch economy and Dutch society. They will need to carry a diplomatic note issued by a Dutch embassy stating that they fall under the exemption to the entry ban.

COVID certificate for travel or events

From 25 September 2021, residents in the Netherlands need to show a COVID Certificate to get access to events and activities. If you would like to attend an event or activity in the Netherlands such as a festival, bar, disco, cultural event or sports activity, the owner of the premises or event organiser may ask for a COVID certificate.

There are three ways to get a COVID Certificate:

  • With proof of vaccination
  • With a negative test result
  • With proof of recovery

The proof needs to be uploaded to the Corona Check app or website in order to generate the COVID Certificate-QR code.

For people vaccinated in the Netherlands or within the EU, obtaining the COVID Certificate this way is quite easy. However, this isn’t quite true for people vaccinated outside of the EU. Many international students and expats face issues with uploading their proof of vaccination and can only generate the QR code they need to access bars, restaurants and events by getting tested for each visit.

At the Municipal Health Services in Utrecht, students and expats can file an in-person application to have their non-EU proof of vaccination converted to a COVID Certificate. They will need to bring their official ID, proof of vaccination and proof of BSN, meaning that this option is not available for short term visitors to the Netherlands. This also means that the current delays in getting BSN registration appointments at the IN Amsterdam Center and several other municipalities result in challenges for expats who want to visit bars, restaurants, etc.

Absence from the Netherlands

Ever since March 2020, a lot of Dutch residence permit holders are working from their home countries. After spending lockdowns with family, a number of employees are still working for their Dutch employer from abroad.

Please be mindful that since returning to the Netherlands is no longer impossible, the IND may be less lenient when it comes to accepting periods of absence from the Netherlands.

Residence permit holders in the Netherlands can spend a maximum of six consecutive months outside of the Netherlands (or a maximum of four consecutive months for three consecutive years) while keeping their residence permit. If they spend more time outside of the country, the Immigration Department (IND) argues that they no longer have their main residence in the Netherlands.

Highly Skilled Migrant (HSM) permit holders are allowed to spend a maximum period of eight consecutive months outside of the Netherlands if they continue to work for their Dutch employer.

It is important that a HSM employee keeps their registration in the Population Register. They should also continue to receive their monthly salary, meeting the HSM salary threshold, on their Dutch bank account. If these conditions aren’t met, the IND can still withdraw the residence permit since the permit holder no longer meets the applicable requirements.

If you have any questions about your specific situation, like whether your stay abroad is jeopardising your legal status in the Netherlands, or if you want to know whether you are eligible for a work permit in the Netherlands, feel free to contact Everaert Advocaten.

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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