Obtaining visas for the Netherlands

As the Netherlands is a Schengen and EU-member state, expats from other EU states are able to travel, work and reside in the country without applying for a visa. However, those from non-EU countries are likely to need a visa to enter the Netherlands, whether for work or a short visit.

Expats needing a Schengen visa will have to complete an application form, gather supporting documents and submit these to their closest Dutch embassy or consulate before they travel. All documents must be in English or Dutch. In some cases, applicants may have to provide additional documents at the discretion of the Dutch embassy or consulate.

It's best for expats to bring their documents with them when travelling to the Netherlands, in case border guards request these.

Schengen visas are valid for 180 days and allow entry into any Schengen state (or states) for up to 90 days. To stay longer, a residence permit is required.

Nationals of Canada, South Korea, Argentina, Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand between the ages of 18 and 30 are eligible to live and work in the Netherlands for one year on a working holiday visa. This allows holders of the visa to reside in the country on a temporary residence permit.

Non-EU citizens will need a residence permit if they intend to stay in the Netherlands for more than three months. Residence permits are usually valid for one year.

A common approach is to apply at the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service within a few days of arriving in the Netherlands – however, in some circumstances it may be necessary to apply for a long-stay entry visa prior to travelling to the Netherlands. This is known as an MVV (Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf) and allows entry into the country as a prospective resident rather than a tourist. An application for a residence permit is usually lodged at the same time.

Although EU citizens don’t require a residence permit, they do have to register with their local municipality if they intend on living in the Netherlands for more than four months.

Upon arrival in the Netherlands, expats should register at their local municipality and apply for a citizen service number or BSN (Citizen Service Number). It's not possible to work in the Netherlands without a BSN, which is also needed to open a bank account, receive a salary, take out insurance and claim other benefits.

Expats can apply for permanent residence in the Netherlands if they've lived in the country for an uninterrupted period of five years. Once they have this, they no longer need an employer-sponsored work permit.

EU citizens don't need a work permit for the Netherlands and don't have any restrictions when it comes to finding work. However, non-EU residents will have to overcome certain bureaucratic hurdles in order to obtain a work permit which allows them to legally take up employment within the Netherlands.

Dutch work permits are employer- and job-specific, so non-EU expats will have to apply through a company. Unfortunately, employers who hire foreign employees have to prove that the applicant’s skills can't be found elsewhere in the EU, which is highly unlikely. It is worth noting that those with highly sought-after skills or on an intracompany transfer may find that they are exempt from the labour market tests.

Should expats wish to change jobs while working in the Netherlands, they won't be allowed to work for another employer until new papers have been issued.

Dutch work permits are usually only granted for a maximum duration for one year.

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