Starting a business in the Netherlands
Starting a business in the Netherlands or setting up as a freelancer? Dutch lawyer Patrick Rovers provides advice on how to start a business in the Netherlands.
"I'm an experienced designer from Berlin, Germany in need of immigration advice as I am interested in starting a business in the Netherlands. Over the years I have acquired an interesting client base in the Netherlands. I have decided to move to Rotterdam and establish a freelance business in the Netherlands. Is that allowed without a work permit? What should I do, where should I go and what is the process of opening a company in Netherlands?"
Dutch immigration expert and lawyer, Patrick Rovers, replies:
As a result of the continuing economic crisis, the number of new start-up businesses in the Netherlands decreased in 2009. However, 2008 was a record breaking year as far as setting up a business in Netherlands was concerned. Over all, freelance work remains quite popular in the Netherlands. Opening a company in Netherlands is not difficult, as long as you make sure to comply with certain rules and regulations.
Citizens from EU/EEA countries who want to reside and work in the Netherlands enjoy special privileges. This concerns citizens from Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Malta, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. Swiss nationals are – under certain circumstances – classified as equal to EU/EEA citizens. Their employers are exempted from obtaining a separate Dutch work permit. An important immigration advice to note is that the generic Dutch work permit requirement is still applicable to employers of citizens from Bulgaria and Romania.
Citizens from EU/EEA countries are required to register at the Dutch immigration service (Immigratie en Naturalisatiedienst or IND) who will issue special ‘Burger van de Unie’ stamps in their respective passports, if and when certain conditions with regard to paid employment are honoured. You can contact the IND by following these steps.
Opening a company in Netherlands for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens is not complicated as they are allowed to establish their own business in the Low Countries. They are also required to register at the Dutch immigration service. In general the Dutch immigration service will ask for proof that the company is properly registered with the Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel or KVK). Or the EU/EEA/Swiss citizen is asked to submit a business plan, an opening balance sheet with financial prognoses, a balance sheet and profit and loss statement, or a tax return. Note that different rules apply to Bulgarian and Romanian citizens when setting up a business in the Netherlands.
In general a start-up freelancer will have to register the new business with the competent KVK office after successfully starting a business in the Netherlands. It is worth to check out the KVK's English page on how to start a business in the Netherlands. Quite often you will find a reference to the term ‘zzp’. In the Netherlands the terms 'freelance' and 'zzp' ('zelfstandige zonder personeel' or self-employed without staff) are used interchangeably.
The start up freelancer is required to timely register the business with the Dutch Tax Service (Belastingdienst). The Dutch Tax Service is responsible for issuing the VAT number (BTW nummer). It may be useful to check out the Belastingdienst's business section on more helpful information for more immigration advice on setting up a business in the Netherlands .
A personal registration number (BSN nummer) is usually issued to the EU/EEA/Swiss citizen following his/her registration with the local municipality, for example, www.iamsterdam.com if you plan on living and starting a business in Amsterdam.
Persons with non EU/EEA/Swiss nationalities, who want to go self-employed in the Netherlands and seek to learn how to start a business in the Netherlands, will have to follow different procedures as far as the Dutch immigration service is concerned. In my next column I will offer some insight into their possibilities. Read Expatica's guide on visas for self-employed freelancers and entrepreneurs for more information.
Click to go to the top of our guide to starting a busines in the Netherlands.
Patrick R. Rovers, lawyer with Van Velzen C.S. / Expatica
This column is for informative purposes only, is general in nature, and is not intended to be a substitute for competent legal and professional advice. Dutch and European rules and regulations regarding foreigners, policies, work permits, visas, and residence permits/documents are continuously subject to change.
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