Interested in moving to the Netherlands? This is our Netherlands Immigration Guide, containing all the info you need to get started. From getting a visa to finding work and (eventual) citizenship – it’s all here. Read on!
- Internationally known as Holland, the Netherlands is the only European constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; the other three (Aruba, Curacao and Saint Marteen) are Caribbean islands. Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (also Caribbean islands) are special municipalities of the country of the Netherlands.
- With 16.8 million inhabitants living in a space twice the size of the state of New Jersey, the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries (400/km2).
- Politically, it is divided in 12 provinces. Three of them, South Holland, North Holland and Utrecht represent almost half of the population. One of them, Flevoland, was reclaimed from the sea through polders.
- 20% of the country is below sea level and 50% of the land is less than one meter above the sea level. The highest hill is Vaalserberg at 322 m, on the southern extreme of the country.
- Holland is a very wealthy country by global standards – GDP per capita is $48,280. Services (mostly financial and transport related) and trade are the biggest productive sectors.
- The Port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe and one of the largest globally (by total annual cargo tonnage).
- Most imported flowers come from the Netherlands.
- Currency: Euro (EUR).
- Spoken languages: two official languages – Dutch is spoken throughout the country, while Frisian is spoken in the province of Friesland. Dutch people are foreign-language literate: 70% of the population speaks English very well; 60% has an excellent command of conversational German, and 20% does well in French. Spanish is becoming another popular language.
- Major religions: Roman Catholic 30%, Protestant 20% (Dutch Reformed 11%, Calvinist 6%, other Protestant 3%), Muslim 5.8%, other 2.2%, no affiliation 42% (2006 data).
- Major races: Dutch (81%), Indonesian (2.4%), German (2.4%), Turkish (2.2%), Surinamese (2.0%), Moroccan (1.9%), Antillean and Aruban (0.8%) and other (7.4%).
- Largest cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague. These 4 cities and all the surrounding smaller ones constitute the so called Randstad, has a total of 7 million people.
Why move to the Netherlands
- Although the EU zone is in an economic crisis, the Netherlands (with 7-8% unemployment) is still a great place to build a career (across various sectors).
- The 30% ruling – for skilled migrants in specific employment roles, the first 30% of gross income is tax-free.
- The Netherlands consistently ranks high on the list of “happiest” countries. People lead a laid back, relaxed lifestyle. Crime rates are very low.
- It is easy to do business. The Dutch are pragmatic, natural traders and don’t hesitate to take advantage of market opportunities. The entrepreneurial spirit is widespread and encouraged.
- The Netherlands is a beautiful country – famous for its canals, historic buildings, windmills, and tulip gardens.
- Society is receptive to foreigners. Many European (and global) corporate headquarters are based in the major cities, and the country as a whole is prepared to receive expats.
- Dutch people are friendly and like to have a good time and enjoy life. There are lots of open space activities (e.g. food, flower, furniture markets), music festivals in parks, and an active and varied nightlife.
- It is a good place to raise a family. You can find a comfortable house or apartment right in the center of the major cities (or just outside). There are numerous international schools and excellent universities throughout the country.
- It is one of the most democratic countries in the world, based on its electoral process, civil liberties, government function, political participation, and political culture. The Dutch are known for reaching social agreements by consensus.
- The Netherlands is known for its tolerance and acceptance – be it of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia, or usage of soft drugs.
- Public transport systems, which include buses, trams, and national railways, are very efficient. Commuting from one city to another is easy.
- In spite of its small size, the Netherlands contains a large number of globally renowned museums. It has a rich cultural history, and has been home to household names such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen, Fran Hals, and Mondriaan.
- It is a flat country – one can tour the entire country by bicycle. Just about everyone has a bike.
- Healthcare is efficient and reasonably priced.
- Its location makes travel ideal. Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Denmark can be reached by car/train in number 5 hours. There are ferries to the UK. Schipol Amsterdam Airport is a European (and global) hub, serving all major international routes.
REASONS NOT TO MOVE TO THE NETHERLANDS
Note: these are common expat complaints, and may not apply to you.
- Income taxes are high. Income taxes start at 33.1% for gross incomes of €18,218 and up. The tax rate is 52% for salaries exceeding €54,764.
- If you want to integrate fully with Dutch society, you will have to learn the Dutch language. It is very close to the German, with a grammar much more complex than that of English.
- The rental market is tight in the big cities, and there is a lot of competition for apartments. Many units are offered completely unfurnished (with no appliances).
- Some may not be used to the Dutch way of doing things. No appointment, visit, gathering or other social activity takes place if it is not scheduled well in advance.
- If you drive, you will quickly realize the difficulties of sharing the road with thousands of cyclists.
- Although average temperatures are not that low, the weather is often gloomy. Cloudy and rainy days are the standard.
- Dutch people tend to be very straightforward, and some may mistake this tendency for rudeness (it isn’t).
- Vehicle upkeep (including maintenance, taxes, and insurance) is expensive.
- Shops tend to close early (around 6-7 PM). On Saturdays, shops typically close at 1-2 PM (few shops are open on Sunday). This is the norm throughout the country – though there may be exceptions in Amsterdam.
- Expats may have trouble adjusting to the (non-special) level of service in shops, restaurants and bars. Employees receive their monthly salary regardless of the service delivered, and tipping is not common.
- Some expats have reported difficulties integrating – while foreigners and immigrants are accepted, it can be hard to make local friends and/or be fully accepted into society.
VISAS AND FINDING WORK
Nationals from the EEA (European Economic Area) countries and Switzerland do not need a permit to work in the Netherlands.
- Tewerkstellingsvergunning (work permit): if you want to work in the Netherlands, you need both a work permit and a residence permit (valid for the same duration as the employment contract). The work permit has to be requested by the employer, and is given on the condition that the employer was unable to find suitable candidates from the EEA countries.
- If you fall into the Highly Skilled Migrant category, you do not need a work permit. Nevertheless, your employer must sponsor you. A Highly Skills Migrant is defined as someone with a gross salary exceeding €38,141 (exceeding €52,010 if over 30 years old).
- Blue Card: has similar requirements to those of the Highly Skilled Migrant status, but does not require employer sponsorship. Your gross salary must exceed €60,952.
- If your partner already lives and works in the Netherlands, he or she may sponsor you so that you may obtain a work permit. Proof of partnership must be provided to authorities. If the partnership ends, the work permit is no longer valid.
- Working Holiday Scheme (for citizens of Australia, Canada and New Zealand): for people between 18 and 30 who wish to work in the Netherlands for 1 year. Applications must be submitted in the country of origin.
- Foreigners that have graduated from a Dutch University may obtain a work permit for 1 year if offered a job with an annual gross salary of at least € 27,336. This is typically the first step to later obtaining Highly Skilled Migrant status.
- Student visa: to study at a Dutch university, you will need a Provisional Residence Permit (MVV) or/and a residence permit. The educational institution will submit the application on behalf of a student, acting as a recognized sponsor.
OBTAINING RESIDENCY AND CITIZENSHIP
- Permanent residence: one may apply for PR status after having lived in the Netherlands for 5 consecutive years (and with a valid residence permit that allows for non-temporary purpose stay).
- Obtaining citizenship: one may apply to obtain Dutch citizenship after having lived in the country (or in Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba, Aruba, Curaçao and Saint Martin) for 5 consecutive years. The applicant must know the Dutch language and pass the Civic Integration Examination. If married to a Dutch partner, one can apply after 3 years of living together.
STARTING A BUSINESS IN THE NETHERLANDS
- To set up a business in the Netherlands, you must first apply for a residence permit as an entrepreneur through the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service). Nationals from EEA countries (and Switzerland) do not need a residence permit, but must remember to register at the municipality.
- Permission to start a business is granted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The MEA evaluates (on a point system) your personal experience, business plan and added value of your business to the country (“the business must serve an essential Dutch interest“).
- You will be considered an entrepreneur if you are a:
- Director or a major shareholder of a company,
- own at least 25% of the company,
- are liable for any company risks, and
- can influence the level of your own income.
- Freelancers must prove that they have assignments to be carried out in the country.
- US and Japanese nationals can act as self-employed as long as business is conducted between the US and the Netherlands (or between Japan and the Netherlands).
FURTHER READING & RESOURCES
- My Dutch diary: A month by month look at life in The Netherlands (book)
- Immigration and Naturalisation Service – official website