Netherlands

Individual - Other issues

Last reviewed - 01 July 2022

Immigration rules and formalities

Dutch immigration policy has been aiming to protect the Dutch labour market for decades. Over the past few years, it has introduced a less restrictive admittance policy for highly skilled employees of multinational companies who meet specific criteria.

Immigration procedure(s) apply to foreign nationals who want to work and stay in the Netherlands.

According to the Dutch Foreign Employment Act, an employer needs to be in possession of a work permit for a non-European Economic Area (EEA) national that will perform employment activities in the Netherlands. 

Additionally, most nationalities require a Schengen visa in case the intended stay will be less than three months within six months. Please note that a Schengen visa issued for business does not allow the business visitor to work in the Netherlands. A separate work permit will have to be applied for.

In case the intended stay will exceed three months (within six months), a residence permit is required to legally stay in the Netherlands. Next to that, a long-term entry visa (MVV) is required before entering the Netherlands (excluding nationals from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Vatican City, and the United States).

Work permit requirement

According to the Dutch Foreign Employment Act, an employer needs to be in possession of a work permit for a foreign national who will perform work activities in the Netherlands. This work permit requirement applies from day 1 of any work activities taking place in the Netherlands. An exception applies to EEA and Swiss nationals, who are allowed to work in the Netherlands without a work permit.

Entry and stay

Additionally, most nationalities require a Schengen visa in case the intended stay will be less than 90 days in a rolling 180-day period. Please note that a Schengen visa issued for business does not allow the business visitor to work in the Netherlands. A separate work permit will have to be applied for in case the individual will be working in the Netherlands.

In case the intended stay will exceed 90 days in a rolling 180-day period, a residence permit is required to legally stay in the Netherlands. Next to that, a long-term entry visa (MVV) is required before entering the Netherlands (except for nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Vatican City, the United Kingdom, and the United States). When the purpose of stay is employment, the employer will generally apply for a combined permit for residence and work. The applicable category depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Work permit categories

When the activities in the Netherlands last less than 90 days in a rolling 180-day period, the employer in the Netherlands must apply for a work permit. The application must be submitted to the Dutch labour authority (UWV). There are several categories available depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. However, two application categories are the most common: intra-company transfer (ICT) work permit and highly skilled migrant (HSM) work permit.

ICT work permit

A work permit in the ICT category can be obtained when the following main criteria are met:

  • A foreign national is temporarily transferred or assigned within the same company group.
  • The home/sending entity is established outside the Netherlands.
  • The host entity is established in the Netherlands.
  • The total group turnover is at least EUR 50 million annually.
  • The work permit is used at least once every 4 weeks.
  • The individual earns at least EUR 4,840 gross per month excluding holiday pay (2022 threshold).
  • The individual is in a leadership or specialised position.
  • The individual has a college/university degree (at least HBO equivalent) or works at this level.

This work permit can be issued for up to one year but is renewable.

The processing time for this work permit application is five weeks from date of submission.

HSM work permit

An alternative is to apply for a work permit in the HSM category, which is possible when the following main criteria are met:

  • A foreign national is temporarily transferred/assigned to, or employed by, a recognised sponsor company in the Netherlands.
  • The individual is not in the Netherlands for more than 90 days in 180 days.
  • The work permit is used at least once every 4 weeks.
  • The individual earns at least EUR 4,752 gross per month excluding holiday pay, or EUR 3,484 gross per month excluding holiday pay if aged under 30 (2021 thresholds).
  • The individual is in a leadership, key, scientific, or specialised position.

A recognised sponsor is a company that has been recognised as a sponsor by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). More information can be found on the website of the IND at https://ind.nl/en/work/Pages/Recognition-as-a-sponsor.aspx

This work permit is issued with a maximum validity of 90 days in 180 days. If the HSM work permit is issued for a validity of 90 days, a subsequent HSM work permit can only be issued from 90 days after expiry of the previous/initial HSM work permit.

The processing time for this work permit application is two to three weeks from date of submission.

Residence permit with work authorisation categories

When the activities in the Netherlands last more than 90 days in a rolling 180-day period, the employer in the Netherlands will usually need to apply for a combined residence permit with work authorisation. No separate work permit will be required. The application must be submitted to the IND. There are several categories available depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. However, the following work permit procedures are the most common (note that the names of the categories may be similar to the work permit categories; however, the requirements and permit type differ).

Intra-corporate transferee (ICT) procedure

The procedure for ICTs applies when a non-EEA national who is a manager, specialist, or trainee, who has their main residence outside the European Union and an employment contract with a company based outside the European Union, is transferred to an entity based in the Netherlands. The Dutch ICT residence permit grants a legal work and residence status when the foreign nationals stay exceeds 90 days in a rolling 180-day period. When a case falls within this scope, the ICT residence permit must be applied for and no other Dutch permit category can apply (except if the applicant is a Turkish or Japanese national).

The main conditions for the ICT residence permit with work authorisation procedure are the following:

  • The foreign employee has been employed by the company group for at least three consecutive months immediately prior to the transfer.
  • The salary of the foreign employee must be in accordance with Dutch market standards (in practise this is the age-based highly skilled migrant salary threshold: EUR 4,840 (or EUR 3,549 for applicants under the age of 30) gross per month excluding 8% holiday pay. These are the amounts for 2022.
  • Managers and specialists must have sufficient experience for their position in the Netherlands. Trainees must have a master degree (university or ‘HBO’/college level) or at least five years’ experience.

Depending on the nationality, an MVV entry visa may be required. The processing time for this residence permit for recognised sponsors is two to four weeks (excluding 1-10 days for the MVV entry visa application at the diplomatic post in their home country, if applicable), and is 3 months for employers who are not recognised sponsors at the IND.

The ICT residence permit cannot be extended after one year (for trainees) or after three years (for managers or specialists). In principle, a cooling off period of six months will apply once the maximum validity has been reached. The foreign employee will have to reside outside the Netherlands before a new ICT residence permit can be applied for in the Netherlands. However, in practise, if the employer is a recognised sponsor, it is possible to change the status from ICT to highly skilled migrant after the maximum validity of the ICT permit has been reached (see below).

Intra-EU mobility

The above information is applicable in case the foreign national has the intention to reside in the Netherlands for the majority of the transfer (the Netherlands is the first member state). The foreign employee who is in possession of a valid ICT residence permit issued by another participating EU member state may be transferred to the entity in the Netherlands too, in which case the Netherlands is the second member state.

  • When the work activities will last for less than 90 days in 180 days, the foreign employee may start working as soon as the short-term mobility has been notified to the Dutch labour authorities (UWV).
  • When the work activities will last longer, a Dutch ‘mobile ICT’ residence permit will need to be applied for at the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). After the application has been submitted, the individual will be allowed to start working in the Netherlands.

Highly skilled migrant procedure

A residence permit as a highly skilled migrant will allow a non-EEA national to work and reside legally in the Netherlands (without a separate work permit). The highly skilled migrant procedure applies to foreign employees who currently already reside in the Netherlands or the European Union, who have a local employment contract with a company in the Netherlands, or who have already reached the maximum validity of the ICT permit (see above). It cannot be applied for as an initial permit if a case falls within the scope of the ICT category (see above) unless the applicant is a Turkish or Japanese national.

The main conditions for the HSM residence permit with work authorisation procedure are the following:

  • The company must be registered as a recognised sponsor with the IND.
  • The gross monthly wage (excluding 8% holiday pay) of the employee exceeds EUR 4,840, or EUR 3,549 if for applicants under the age of 30. For recent graduates in the Netherlands, and for students who graduated from a recognised top 200 university abroad, the salary threshold is EUR 2,543. These are the amounts for 2022.
  • The guaranteed wage is to be paid monthly via bank transfer on a bank account in the employee's name.
  • The wage is in line with Dutch market standards (i.e. is not excessively high for the relevant position).
  • The stay of the employee is longer than 90 days in a rolling 180-day period.

Depending on the nationality, an MVV entry visa may be required. The processing time for this residence permit for recognised sponsors is two to four weeks (excluding 1-10 days for the MVV entry visa application at the diplomatic post in their home country, if applicable).

GVVA

In case the highly skilled migrant and ICT residence permit procedures are not applicable, there are other less common application categories that can be used, such as a residence permit with work authorisation in the EU Blue Card category a single permit (GVVA) for paid employment based on a work authorisation category under Dutch law. Specific criteria apply in these categories.

Brexit

While the United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020, the rules regarding free movement continued to apply until 31 December 2020 based on the Withdrawal Agreement. This means that there is, in principle, no change to the rights of UK nationals to have entered, worked, and resided in the Netherlands before 31 December 2020.

Any UK national who resided in the Netherlands before 1 January 2021 is allowed to continue to do so after this date. The main requirements are that the individual registered at the town hall of the municipality where they resided before 1 January 2021 and that they have sufficient income (e.g. through paid employment). UK nationals who resided in the Netherlands for five years or more are eligible for a permanent residence permit while those who have not may apply for a temporary residence permit (valid for five years). Once these individuals have reached five years residence they will also be allowed to apply for permanent residence. The deadline for submission of the initial application under the Withdrawal Agreement is 30 September 2022 (postponed from 30 June 2021).

However, we note that UK nationals without a pending or approved application under the Withdrawal Agreement (or other type of Dutch residence permit) do not have a lawful immigration status in the Netherlands from 1 October 2021, even if they arrived in the Netherlands before 1 January 2021. If they apply for a permit under the Withdrawal Agreement before 1 October 2022 and it is approved, their residence status will be restored to lawful status from 1 October 2021.

The Withdrawal Agreement also ensures that UK and EU nationals who are ‘frontier workers’ may continue to pursue their activities after the end of the transition period. This is intended to secure the rights of, for example, UK nationals who regularly work in an EU member state but do not reside there. The current requirements are that the UK national resides in the UK or another EU country and worked in the Netherlands before 1 January 2021 regularly and will do so after this date as well. This set-up must also be formalised in a local contract with an employer in the Netherlands. The employee should also, in principle, have a Dutch tax registration number (BSN). The deadline for submission of this application is also 30 September 2022.

UK nationals arriving in the Netherlands after 1 January 2021 are subject to Dutch immigration legislation. This means they are allowed to enter and stay in the Schengen area (which includes the Netherlands) for up to 90 days in 180 days on the basis of their passport. Their passport must be valid for at least six months. However, they will require a work permit in order to work in the Netherlands from day 1. They will also require a residence permit in case their stay exceeds 90 days in 180 days.

EEA nationals

No immigration requirements are applicable for EEA and Swiss nationals. They may enter, work, and stay in the Netherlands on the basis of their valid passport or EU ID card. However, if their stay in the Netherlands exceeds four months, they are required to register with the local municipality (see Registration municipality below).

Registration municipality

In case the stay in the Netherlands is less than four months, registration with one of the 19 designated municipalities as a non-resident is voluntary, but required in order to obtain a Dutch citizen service number (so-called BSN). For a stay of at least four months within six months, registration in the Municipal Population Database (Basisregistratie personen or BRP) is required.

Update and trends

Following the implementation of the Modern Migration policy, the responsibility and obligations for Dutch employers increased, while on the other hand, procedures were simplified. However, research showed that enforcement of the new obligations was lacking in certain areas. As a result, there has been an increase in audits of recognised sponsors by the IND, with penalties and fines being imposed for non-compliance. This is in addition to random and sector-specific audits by the Dutch labour inspectorate (Inspectie SZW), who enforce Dutch Foreigners Employment Act as it applies to all employers in the Netherlands. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dutch government has followed agreements made at the EU level for the implementation of restrictive immigration measures for travellers from high-risk locations. This has included border closures, vaccination requirements, additional forms pre- and post-travel, and quarantine requirements. These measures are increased or relaxed in line with developments on the spread or mutation of the virus.

Economic employer concept

On 1 December 2006, the Dutch Supreme Court rendered a judgement regarding the interpretation of the term 'employer' in article 15, paragraph 2, sub b of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Model Convention. The Supreme Court ruled that the employer concept should be interpreted economically. For inter-company assignments, the economic employer concept implies that a foreign group company that bears the risks and responsibilities of the employee's activities and that will have the authority to instruct the employee will be considered the employer if the salary costs relating to the employment activities in that country are charged individually (i.e. the actual salary costs per time unit) to the foreign group company.

In addition to the new case law of the Dutch Supreme Court, the Dutch Ministry of Finance published new policy guidelines in a decree on 20 January 2010 in reaction to questions raised about the practical application of the aforementioned judgement. The Decree addresses the definition of employership (state of being an employer) in the employment article of tax treaties and is particularly relevant for short-term assignments. It deals only with assignments to a separate legal entity in the country of employment. In other words, the Decree does not address assignments to a permanent establishment (PE) in the country of employment. The relevance, in particular for group entities, is that the Decree mentions a number of examples of commonly occurring case positions and their related tax treatment. With this, a few guidelines and tools are provided for the practical application of the Dutch Supreme Court's economic employer concept. More importantly, the Decree introduced two specific facilities, i.e., a 60-day facility and a general facility for reversing wage tax withholding from the home country employer to the Dutch company that is hiring employees. The second facility provided then has been included in the wage tax legislation per 1 January 2013 as well.

60-day facility

Under the aforementioned judgement of 1 December 2006, cross-border intercompany employment is subject to a test as to whether the group company in the country of employment qualifies as an economic employer. The Decree offers a relaxation for assignments to the country of employment for less than 60 days over a 12-month period in the context of an exchange programme or career development, or in situations where the employee in question has a specific expertise. In these instances it is easier assumed that no employer under a tax convention exists in the country of employment regardless of who is bearing the employment costs. This will alleviate the administrative burden for many group entities. The facility is intended in principle for group entities as referred to in the Dutch Wage Tax Act (one-third equity stake required). Groups that do not satisfy this requirement, but present themselves as a group can submit an application to the Dutch tax authorities to request treatment along the lines of the Decree.

General facility for reversing payroll obligations to a Dutch group entity

When an employee is subject to Dutch wage tax, the foreign, formal employer will in principle be liable to remit wage tax. In other words, the foreign employer will have to register in the Netherlands and operate a Dutch (shadow) payroll. However, from 1 January 2013, there is a general facility included in the legislation for reversing wage tax withholdings from the home country employer to the Dutch (host country) employer in assignment situations. As such, the Dutch employer can take over the withholding obligation from the home country employer. However, a request should be filed with the Dutch tax authorities in this respect; otherwise, the foreign formal employer should still register with the Dutch authorities for the purpose of remittance of Dutch wage tax and employee insurance premiums via a Dutch (shadow) payroll.

The scope of this legislation is expanded as of 1 January 2017. Please note, however, this facility (still) does not apply in all situations, e.g. formal salary splits are not automatically covered. In those situations, the formal foreign employer(s) may still need to register and operate a separate shadow payroll in addition to the Dutch employer.