Understanding your residence permit

Understanding your residence permit

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Jeremy Bierbach, immigration attorney at Franssen Advocaten, a law firm specialising in immigration and international family law, provides an essential guide to understanding your residence permit.

So, you are a non-EU citizen, you have arrived in the Netherlands, and now you have been issued your first residence permit by the IND, or by an expat centre acting on behalf of the IND. And you’ll probably marvel at all of the security features in it, including the impressive cloud of laser perforations reproducing your own face, visible when you hold up the card to a light source.

It is important, however, to take a moment to understand what your residence permit says about you and your right to be in the Netherlands. As an immigration lawyer, I have had numerous expats calling me for advice about their immigration situation - when I ask them what kind of residence permit they have, they take it out and read it to me: “verblijfstitel”, or “bepaalde tijd”. Or they say "it's a five-year card".

It seems that some expats don’t know that there are many different kinds of residence permits, or that theirs was issued to them for a very specific purpose. Sometimes this lack of understanding has gotten them into trouble. So, this is meant to be a quick guide to help you understand your residence permit in under ten minutes.

What kind of residence permit do you have?

Here is how to read your residence permit:

Regulier bepaalde tijd

On the front of your residence permit, if it says “REGULIER BEPAALDE TIJD”, it means that your right of residence was granted on the basis of “regular immigration law” (so, not on the basis of asylum you may have obtained as a refugee from your home country), and is valid for a “definite period of time”.

The clearest explanation of “bepaalde tijd” is that your residence permit is conditional. In other words: your residence permit was granted for one particular purpose, and it is liable to be revoked by the IND if you no longer satisfy that condition, even if the expiration date has not yet been reached.


You can find more information about the type of permit you have by reading the back of the permit, in the block of text labelled “BIJZONDERHEDEN”. The first sentence of this block of text defines the condition that you have to satisfy for this residence permit to continue to be valid.

If you are in danger of no longer satisfying your condition of stay (because you might be quitting your job, or because you might want to break up with your partner or spouse), you should seek professional legal advice about what your options are for staying in the Netherlands. For instance, here are two common conditions of stay:

  • Verblijf als kennismigrant
    “Verblijf als kennismigrant” translates as “stay as a knowledge migrant”. This means that you will be allowed to stay in the Netherlands as long as a qualifying Dutch employer is sponsoring you for a highly skilled job (in other words, you’re not a free agent).
  • Verblijf als familie- of gezinslid
    “Verblijf als familie- of gezinslid” translates as “stay as a family member”, meaning that you have to be a family member of the person named on the permit.  Usually, you must also be living in the same household, as reflected by your registered address.

Be conscious of the expiration date!

Going back to the front of your card, note where it says “Geldig tot dd-mm-yyyy”, or “Valid until” a certain date. The word “tot” for “until” is a notorious legal trap: it means that the validity period does not include that date. In other words, “Geldig tot 01-01-2018” means that when the fireworks go off this coming New Year’s Eve, the residence permit has already expired.

Any renewal application, or application to change to a different type of residence permit, has to have been received by the IND (not just by the post office) prior to the expiration date on your current residence permit.

The penalty? In most cases, your renewal will still be granted, or your new residence permit will be issued, but with the period of validity only starting (Ingangsdatum verblijfsrecht, on the back of the permit) on the date that the IND received the complete application.

This means that for the purpose of accumulating five years of uninterrupted residence as a legal immigrant in the Netherlands, which is needed to be able to qualify for a long-term residence permit (a coveted unconditional residence permit that allows you to live and work in the Netherlands without any restrictions, or to stop working for that matter, labelled “REGULIER ONBEPAALDE TIJD” or "LANGDURIG INGEZETENE") or Dutch citizenship, your clock was just reset to zero (as you now have a “gap” in your immigration history).

It is important to note that - short of you having been in a coma for three months before your expiration date - the law grants almost no leniency if you miss this date. Even if you did not apply for your residence permit yourself, or you are dependent upon your sponsor to file for renewal (as is the case with the kennismigrant status), it is still your own responsibility to be on top of this, and to remind your sponsor to file for you if they need to.

When in doubt

If ever in doubt, ask an immigration lawyer who is a member of the Dutch Bar, and thus bound to standards of professional and ethical quality, for a personal evaluation of your case.

Whilst you can also call the IND, keep in mind that you can never legally rely on any information that a telephone operator there gives you in case it turns out to be wrong, or it has been based on an incomplete evaluation of your case.

The specialised attorneys at Franssen Advocaten can assist you with matters regarding immigration law, international divorces and other kinds of (international) family law issues. To find out more, please contact them via the form below. 

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Jeremy Bierbach


Jeremy Bierbach

Jeremy Bierbach is an attorney-at-law at Franssen Advocaten, a niche law firm specialized in immigration and (international) family law. He advises expats on immigrating to the Netherlands, their rights as...

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Leave a comment

Jonathan Greenwood 12:58 | 30 October 2017

Totally agree. In my face to face, as well as telephone discussions, with the IND in Utrecht I've found that between each agent they have no idea themselves of the formalities and law. I don't mind paying 52% tax if I get good service, but it's a terrible service.

Fabio Di Lena 09:15 | 1 November 2017

If the holder of a residence permit as a family member of an EU citizen gets, before the expiration of the permit itself, the citizenship of an EU country, must he/she communicate this to the IND right away or can he/she let the permit expire and only after communicate it? What could happen if he/she does not communicate the acquisition of the EU citizenship?