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.
The Schengen Area is a zone in Europe where internal border controls have been abolished. The Netherlands is a part of the Schengen Area which currently consists of 26 member states:
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.
Note that not all countries in the Schengen Area are European Union (EU) members – this is the case for Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are candidate countries and may join the area in the future. The UK and Ireland are not part of the Schengen agreement so travel between UK/Ireland and the Netherlands requires a standard passport control.
There are officially no passport controls for travel between Schengen countries. However, travel has been made more difficult recently due to the regulations in response to the so-called ‘coronavirus’ issue.
Short Stays: Visa-Free, Schengen Tourist/Business Visa
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, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macao, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, New Zealand, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Vatican City, Vanuatu and Venezuela.
Citizens from all other countries need to apply for a short stay visa – this allows visits for up to 90 days in a 180 day period. There are various types of visa available which will depend on the visitor’s situation.
The most common short-stay visas are the Tourist Schengen Visa (holidays/vacation), Schengen Visitor Visa (visiting family/friends) and a Business Schengen Visa (meetings/business). Visas can be issued as single entry (enter only once) or multiple entry.
The visa application 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 (showing financial documents), having a return flight reservation and a passport with at least 3 months validity after the visa expiry date. Your fingerprints will also be taken. The short-stay visa should be processed within 2 to 3 weeks at the most.
Latest Visitor and Health Requirements for the Netherlands
Due to the ongoing ‘coronavirus’ travel restrictions you should check the very latest official guidelines and ‘health’ requirements for visitors to the Netherlands. Only check the official Dutch government portal here. There are a number of sites cropping up in search engines offering outdated or inaccurate information – such as ‘passenger locator forms for the Netherlands’ – which are not actually required.
Schengen Transit Visas
Travellers from the following countries:
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka.
also require a transit visa if they are passing through an airport in the Schengen area. There are some exemptions to this visa such as an individual from one of the above countries also holding residency in Canada, Japan or the USA.
For example, an Sri Lankan citizen with a US green card flying from Delhi to New York via Amsterdam would not require the Schengen transit visa to pass solely through Amsterdam Schiphol airport. However, a standard Schengen tourist visa would be required if a stopover in Amsterdam was added, since they would be entering the Netherlands/Schengen.
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 mandatory Dutch health insurance.
EU/EEA/Swiss citizens have an unrestricted right to work in the Netherlands.
UK citizens – The UK officially left the European Union on 31 January 2020. British citizens coming to live in the Netherlands after 1 January 2021 require a residence permit. You can check the current status on the Dutch immigration ‘after Brexit’ page.
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 provisional 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 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 (TWV – 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.
See 10 Essential steps for expats arriving in the Netherlands
Highly skilled migrants (kennismigranten, literally ‘knowledge migrants’) are able to go through a faster and more streamlined procedure via the special IN Amsterdam (International Newcomers Amsterdam, formerly Expatcenter) office run by the IND. Registered employers can lodge an application before the migrant arrives in the country and once in the Netherlands they can start work immediately. Work permits are not required. On a single visit to IN Amsterdam, the migrant gets fingerprinted, collects their residence permit, registers with the municipality, gets issued a BSN number and can also apply for the 30% tax rule.
Highly skilled migrants must fulfil minimum gross salary requirements (not including holiday allowance) which as of 2022 are €4,840 per month for over 30s, €3,549 for under 30s, €2,543 for those who have graduated (PhD or Masters) in the Netherlands within 3 years or €5,670 for EU blue card holders. For more background info on work see Salaries in Amsterdam and Multinational companies in the Netherlands
The IN Amsterdam office is located at the World Trade Center Amsterdam, I-Tower ground floor (entrance via Zuidplein), Strawinskylaan 1767, 1077 XX Amsterdam. This is very close to Amsterdam Zuid station. Opening times are Monday to Friday 0900-1200 and 1300-1630, telephone +31(0)20 254 7999.
There are also official expat desks in The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Maastricht, Wageningen, Groningen and Enschede. Contact details are provided here.
Foreign Investors who invest at least €1.25m into the Dutch economy can get a residence permit for up to 3 years which is extendible.
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 Argentina, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Uruguay aged 18-30 can apply for a 1 year working holiday visa. Note that visa holders are only allowed to work a maximum of 12 weeks with the same employer.
Citizens of Australia, Canada and New Zealand can arrive without a visa and then visit an IND desk to apply for the working holiday visa. The other nationalities must generally apply at the Dutch embassy in their respective country. The cost of the visa is €69.
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.
Mandatory ID Law
In 2005 it became mandatory for everyone over 14 in the 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 the 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 only allows dual nationality in limited cases. On acceptance you will have to attend a citizenship ceremony and swear an oath of allegiance to the Netherlands.
Citizens of the Netherlands can apply for a Dutch passport which is ranked as one of the world’s best travel documents. According to the Sovereign Man passport survey (2022) it gives access to 160 countries visa-free and is globally ranked number 17.
Please note, unfortunately we cannot answer individual questions on immigration issues. Regulations are subject to change. For the latest information check the official Dutch government immigration service (ind.nl). Alternatively consult an immigration lawyer.
This article was originally published in 2010. Last updated 28 February 2022.