Every non-EU citizen who wants to work in the Netherlands has to obtain a valid work permit. Either the employee or their prospective employer may request the permit, although it is usually the employer who makes the request.
A work permit is valid only for the employer who makes the request and ceases if / when the employee leaves the job. There is no general work permit for the Netherlands.
Who needs a Dutch work permit
Expats from within the EU, the EEA (the EU plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland do not need a work or residence permit for the Netherlands, as citizens of these nations have to right to freedom of movement within each other. The most recent EU member countries for which full freedom of movement came into effect was Bulgaria and Romania at the start of 2014. As of July 1, 2018, people from Croatia no longer need a Dutch work permit to work in the Netherlands.
Expats also do not need a work permit if they are here to perform certain types of work for short periods of time on an occasional basis (such as press service staff, musicians and visiting lecturers). All other internationals will need a permit of some kind to work in the Netherlands.
Types of work permits in the Netherlands
The main kinds of work permit that apply to the Netherlands are:
- GVVA or Single Permit
- Highly skilled migrant permit
- Orientation year (zoekjaar) permits for expat graduates
- Entrepreneur permit
There are also a few other situations in which non-EU expats may work in the Netherlands without applying for one of the major work permits (see below).
GVVA / Single Permit in the Netherlands
From April 1, 2014, expats who want to work in the Netherlands can apply for the GVVA or Single Permit, a combination of the tewerkstellingsvergunning or TWV work permit and the residence permit.
What is a GVVA / Single Permit
The GVVA / Single Permit consists of a Dutch residence permit (verblijfsvergunning) and an additional document stating for which employer the foreign national is permitted to work and under which conditions. The GVVA is intended for workers and trainees from outside the EEA and Switzerland who will stay in the Netherlands for more than three months.
Before a GVVA work permit application can be filed, an employer must show that efforts have taken place to recruit a suitable employee in the Netherlands and European Union. Only after these recruitment efforts have not led to a suitable candidate can an employer start looking for employees outside the EU.
GVVA / Single Permit application process
The application for a GVVA should be submitted to the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Department (IND), usually by the prospective employer. The relevant application documents can be downloaded from their website. Once the fee has been paid and all the necessary forms have been submitted, the IND will ask the UWV (Dutch social security agency) to advise if the prospective employee may live and work in the Netherlands.
The UWV’s assessment is based on the criteria of the Aliens Employment Act (Wav). The IND will make its decision based on the advice from the UWV. If the decision is positive and GVVA is issued, the IND will inform the employer.
Once the GVVA is available, the employer will be notified by the IND that the foreign employee can pick up both documents in person. It may be that the UWV will contact either the employer or the employee during the application process to clarify some aspect of the application or position.
Who cannot apply for a GVVA / Single Permit
Some people who wish to work in the Netherlands cannot receive a GVVA: students who wish to work, asylum seekers, seasonal workers, employees transferred within a multinational group, employees who come for a maximum of three months and Croatian nationals. These individuals must request a TWV work permit separately from the UWV.
GVVA / Single Permit & Work experience in the Netherlands
The GVVA Single Permit also applies to the people coming to the Netherlands to gain work experience, either for study or work purposes, and people enrolled in the Canadian Young Workers Exchange Program (YWEP). Again, it is usually the employer (or sponsor in this case) who makes the application.
Highly skilled migrant permit in the Netherlands
The highly skilled migrant scheme (kennismigrant) is designed to allow Dutch employers to bring talented foreign professionals to the Netherlands and retain them. This means that employers in the Netherlands can organise Dutch work permits quickly for highly skilled international employees, without having to prove that there are no suitable Dutch or EU candidates.
Requirements for highly skilled migrant permit in the Netherlands
To qualify as a highly skilled migrant for work in the Netherlands, international applicants generally need:
- Skills and experience that are relatively scarce.
- A higher educational level (Bachelor minimum).
- Some years of work experience.
- Specialisation (for example in IT, engineering or science).
Only recognised organisations are able to submit applications on behalf of a highly skilled migrant. That means the organisation has to be recognised by the IND as a sponsor.
Conditions for highly skilled migrant permit in the Netherlands
In order to apply for a Dutch highly skilled migrant visa, an employment contract or an appointment decision (or a guest agreement for guest lecturers) must be in place. For an internal transfer to a Dutch-based branch of an international company, an employer’s declaration is required from the foreign employer, which should include the duration of the transfer, the type of employment and the income.
Other conditions include:
- Having a valid passport.
- Having a healthcare insurance in the Netherlands.
- Not having previously stayed in the country illegally.
- Given false or withheld information on previous applications.
Foreign nationals from countries other than Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Suriname, Switzerland and the United States of America must undergo a test for TB within three months after the residence permit has been issued.
Partners and children of highly skilled migrants will also be allowed to work in the Netherlands.
Income requirements for highly skill migrants
The applicant must also satisfy the minimum income requirements for highly skilled migrants which are (as of January 1, 2020):
|Older than 30 years||€ 4.612|
|Younger than 30 years||€ 3.381|
|Subsequent to graduation or after
job-seeking year for graduates / highly educated persons
|European Blue Card Holders||€ 5.403|
Note: Income is gross salary per month, excluding holiday allowance. This income requirement does not apply for scientific researchers or physicians in training to become specialists. In that case, their income must at least meet the provisions listed in the Dutch Minimum Wage Act (wml).
Length of time for decision for highly skilled migrant permit
If the employer is a recognised organisation with the IND, the permit should only take two weeks to process. If the employer is not, then they will have to first go through the registration process, which will add to the whole processing time.
European Blue Card
The EU Blue Card is a residence permit for highly qualified employment of third-country nationals in the European Union. Conditions for an EU Blue Card include a valid work contract or binding job offer of at least one year, meeting the agreed minimum salary (above). The same personal conditions apply as for highly skilled migrants.
As the application process for a highly skilled migrant in the Netherlands is among the most favourable for allowing skilled labour in within the EU, and the agreed minimum salary is much lower, there are no real current benefits in applying for an EU Blue Card instead of a highly skilled migrant permit for those who plan to stay in the Netherlands. If, however, you wish to be able to move around the EU, then EU Blue Card holders (and their families) are able to move to another EU country to take up another highly qualified position (as per the EU Blue Card Directive) after 18 months (legal) residence in the Netherlands.
The Dutch highly skilled migrant permit, on the other hand, is restricted to the Netherlands. Also, there are benefits in terms of gaining permanent EC long-term residence. It is also possible for people already in the possession of a highly skilled migrant permit to apply for a change of residence permit into EU Blue Card, provided the conditions are met.
For more information, go to the EU Blue Card website.
Orientation year for highly educated migrants in the Netherlands
This is a permit for non-EU / EAA / Swiss citizens who have graduated at a Master or PhD level at one of the top 150 universities worldwide (as per QS World University Rankings or ARWU from Jiao Tong Shanghai University) in the last three years.
They are able to apply for the regeling hoogopgeleide (highly educated ruling) orientation year, which allows graduates to spend a year in the Netherlands looking for work. Once they find employment, the employer must apply for a highly skilled migrant work permit, but with a lower salary requirement than for other applicants (see above). If graduates have not found a job within the year, they will need to leave the Netherlands.
Search year permit (zoekjaar) for graduates in the Netherlands
This permit is for non-EU / EAA / Swiss students who graduated from Dutch universities. Once their studies in the Netherlands are complete, graduates who wish to work may apply for a zoekjaar (search year). This is a residence permit for one year that allows graduates to look for a job in the Netherlands, for example as a highly skilled migrant. If they do not find a job during the search year, they have to leave the country.
To apply for a search year, graduates should contact the IND before the end of their studies, as one cannot stay in the Netherlands without a correct residence permit. For those who did not apply for a zoekjaar directly after finishing their studies, but wish to apply for one, then as long as less than three years have elapsed since they finished their studies, they can apply for the regeling hoogopgeleide (highly educated ruling) orientation year (see above).
Work permit for entrepreneurs / self-employed in the Netherlands
Those who want to come to the Netherlands to start up their own business will need to apply for a residence permit for self-employment (verblijfsvergunning voor arbeid als zelfstandige). To qualify for this permit, entrepreneurs must meet the requirements for the performance of their business or profession and be in possession of all necessary permits for the performance of the company.
Also, their business activity must demonstrate a substantial benefit to the Netherlands. This is tested by experts in the Dutch government miniseries: for example, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will advise in the case of an artist, but in most cases, the IND will ask the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
A points system is used to make the decision. Points are awarded in three areas:
- Personal experience (training, entrepreneurship, work experience).
- Business (market analysis, product / service, price, organisation, financing).
- Added value for the Netherlands (innovation, employment creation, investments).
Those who wish to work as a self-employed professional in the Dutch healthcare sector must sign up to the Individual Healthcare Professions Act (BIG) register, which regulates the provision of healthcare services by individual practitioners. Admission to the BIG register enables the use of a professional title acquired internationally.
Situations in which one of the previous permits is unnecessary
There are other situations in which non-EU expats may work in the Netherlands that do not involve applying for one of the previous work permits.
Having had an EU / Dutch work permit previously
A Dutch employer does not need to apply for a work permit for a non-EU citizen if they have worked in the Netherlands on the basis of a Dutch residence permit for the purpose of work for five years (three years for Turkish citizens).
Working whilst studying in the Netherlands
For non-European students who need a residence permit to study, the following labour endorsement appears on the back of the permit: TWV vereist voor arbeid van bijkomende aard, andere arbeid niet toegestaan (work permit required for additional work, other work not permitted). This means if students wish to work, they need to apply for a TWV work permit (from the UWV) and then may work a maximum of 16 hours per week during the academic year or full-time during the summer months (June, July and August).
A work permit is not required, however, for doing an internship (stage) as part of your education. The internship agreement, however, must be signed between the employer, the intern and the educational institution.
Note: students who are citizens of any EU / EEA country or Switzerland have no working restrictions.
Voluntary work in the Netherlands
Are you an international student or scientific researcher from outside of the European Union and you want to do voluntary work in the Netherlands? You don't need a work permit (TWV) to do so, instead, a Volunteer Declaration (Vrijwilligersverklaring) is sufficient. This declaration is valid for three years. Organisations, such as NGOs, can apply for the Volunteer Declaration via the UWV.
Please note, you do not need a Volunteer Declaration if:
- You are a scientific researcher who holds a residence permit under the directive for scientific research (2005/71/EC).
- You are in your orientation year.
Working holiday visa in the Netherlands
Nationals of Canada, Australia and New Zealand between 18 and 30 years old can apply for the one-year Working Holiday Scheme (Aus / NZ) or Working Holiday Program (Canada) in their own country and do not need a work permit when they arrive in the Netherlands. The only requirement for a working holiday visa is to be able to financially support oneself in the Netherlands and to find a job within the first six weeks.
Working permit with a Dutch / EU partner
Internationals who have a residence permit through their Dutch or EU partner or parents are able to work in the Netherlands without restriction.
More information on work permits in the Netherlands
For more information on your specific situation, go to the Klantdienstwijzer (customer service information) section of the IND (in Dutch).