Immigration law in the Netherlands is complex and you may need to jump a few bureaucratic hoops to live and work in the country. This article gives an overview of entry requirements for the Netherlands. Please consult the Dutch Immigration Service (IND) or a legal specialist for further information or specific questions.
Netherlands is part of the European Schengen area - there are officially no passport controls for travel between Schengen countries.
There are currently 26 countries in the Schengen zone: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The area also includes microstates Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City. Sometime in the future Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are set to join the area.
Note, the UK and Ireland are not part of the Schengen agreement so travel between UK/Ireland and Netherlands requires passport control.
Short Visits to the Netherlands
Those coming from the EU (European Union), EEA (European Economic Area) or Switzerland do not need a visa to enter the Netherlands.
Citizens from the following countries also have visa-free entry for visits up to 90 days to the Netherlands/Schengen area:
Albania, Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, The Bahamas, United States of America, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.
Citizens from all other countries will need to apply for a short stay visa - this allows visits for up to 90 days in a 180 day period. The short-stay Schengen visa can either be a Tourist Visa (holidays, family visits) or a Business Visa (meetings, training etc).
Applications should be made from your home country - go to the consulate of the Schengen country where you will stay the longest time on your trip. You must pass some basic criteria such as having medical travel insurance, sufficient means of support, having a return flight reservation and a passport with at least 3 months validity after the visa expiry date. From May 2014 fingerprints of visa applicants are being taken. The visa should be processed within 2 to 3 weeks at the most.
Note, if you are transferring flights at Amsterdam Schiphol airport then you do not need a Schengen visa - but without one you would not be able to pass through immigration and leave the airport. Example, an Indian citizen with a US green card flying from Delhi to New York via Amsterdam would still require a Schengen visa if he wanted to make a stopover and enter the Netherlands.
Living/Working in the Netherlands
EU/ EEA/Swiss citizens do not need a residence permit to live in the Netherlands. If you plan to stay more than 4 months then you must register with the local municipality (gemeente) and obtain a Burger Service Nummer (BSN, the citizen service number). You will also require Dutch health insurance.
EU/EEA/Swiss citizens have an unrestricted right to work in Netherlands. Croatian citizens have some restrictions.
Citizens from non-European countries will require a residence permit (VVR - verblijfsvergunning) to live/work in the Netherlands.
The first step is to apply for a provisional residence authorisation (MVV - machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf) which is a visa sticker in your passport that allows entry to the Netherlands/Schengen. The MVV and residence permit are applied for at the same time via the so-called Entry and Residence procedure (TEV - Toegang-en Verblijfsprocedure) - this is normally done by a sponsor such as an employer, university or partner.
Note, citizens from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, United States of America or Vatican City do NOT need the MVV. Other foreign national already holding an EU blue card who have lived in another EU member state also don't need the MVV.
Once the Dutch Immigration Service (IND) approves your residence application (this can take up to 90 days), you can collect the MVV from the Dutch consulate in your home country. On arrival in the Netherlands you can make an appointment within 2 weeks at the IND desk (or within 3 days without the MVV) to pick up the VVR residence permit card. Note that fingerprints are taken for all residence permit holders.
The residence permit is generally issued for the duration of employment or study. On gaining residence you must then register with the local municipality (gemeente) and get your BSN number. You will also need to purchase Dutch health insurance.
For non-European citizens, sponsors/employers may also need to apply for a work permit (tewerkstellingsvergunning) to show that the position has been advertised locally without success and that the candidate is suitable. Under the TEV procedure there is a combined single permit for residence and work. Single permits are valid for up to 3 years - after which the residence permit is changed to free access to the Dutch labour market.
Highly skilled migrants (kennismigranten, literally 'knowledge migrants') are able to go through a faster and more streamlined procedure via the special Expatcenter offices run by the IND. Registered employers can lodge an application before the employee arrives in the country and once in Netherlands the employee can start work immediately. Work permits are not required. On a single visit to the Expatcenter the employee gets fingerprinted, collects their residence permit, registers with the municipality and gets issued a BSN number.
Highly skilled migrants must fulfil minimum gross salary requirements (not including holiday allowance) which as of 2015 are €4,189 per month for over 30s, €3,071 for under 30s, €2,201 for those who have graduated (PhD or Masters) in Netherlands within 3 years or €4,908 for EU blue card holders. See our article on Multinational companies in Netherlands
In Amsterdam the Expatcenter ( T:+31(0)20 254 7999) is located at the World Trade Center, F-Tower Strawinskylaan 39 (second floor) - near Amsterdam Zuid station.
Foreign Investors who invest at least €1.25m into the Dutch economy can get a residence permit for up to 1 year which is extendable.
A Dutch residence permit can be given for family reunion purposes such as joining a spouse or registered partner who lives in the Netherlands. Depending on the status of the resident partner, the residence permit card can be issued for a maximum validity of 5 years. The visa has various restrictions and you may have to take the Civic Integration exam beforehand.
Working Holiday Scheme - Nationals of Australia, New Zealand and Canada aged 18-30 can apply for a 1 year working holiday visa. You can arrive without a visa and then visit the IND desk within 3 days to apply for the working holiday visa which costs €53. You will be photographed and fingerprinted and will get a sticker in your passport which allows you to work. The residence permit will be processed within a few weeks.
For students see our article Studying in Netherlands
Mandatory ID Law
In 2005 it became mandatory for everyone in Netherlands to carry proof of identity at all times. The introduction of the law was controversial and caused particular consternation amongst law-abiding old ladies who had neither passports nor driving licenses (they had to get themselves Dutch ID cards). In fact the last time the country had such strict ID laws was during WW2.
For compliance, acceptable forms of ID are a passport, Dutch residence permit card, EU/EEA driving license or EU/EEA ID card. Copies of ID are not valid, the original must be shown. If you cannot produce such a document when asked by a police officer, public transport ticket inspector or certain other public officials you risk a fine of at least €60.
Permanent Residency and Dutch Citizenship
If you have held a temporary resident permit for a minimum of 5 consecutive years and still hold a valid residence permit you can apply for permanent residency. You will need to speak Dutch and complete the Civic Integration exam. Note that the permanent residency is valid 5 years and needs to be renewed. Permanent residents are free to work without a work permit.
Those with permanent residency who have lived in Netherlands for an uninterrupted period of 5 years qualify to apply for Dutch citizenship. For those married to Dutch partners, a residency period of 3 years is required. You may have to renounce your previous citizenship as the Netherlands does not allow dual nationality. On acceptance you will have to attend a citizenship ceremony and swear an oath of allegiance to the Netherlands.
Please note, unfortunately we cannot answer individual questions on immigration issues. Regulations are subject to change. For the latest info check the official Dutch government immigration service (ind.nl). Alternatively consult an immigration lawyer.