Are work permits portable?

22nd July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Are work permits portable?

I am an American national and have been employed as an IT specialist for an Amsterdam-based company for one year now. Recently I was offered an exciting new job with another Dutch company. I was wondering whether or not I could change jobs on my current Dutch work permit?

I often receive this question and the answer is quite simply no. There seems to be a common misunderstanding within the expat community in the Netherlands regarding the portability of Dutch work permits. Let me explain some basic rules and regulations.

The Dutch system regarding work permits is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. In the Netherlands the prospective employer needs to obtain a work permit with regard to the services of the future employee/expatriate. The employer may only start the employment if and when the work permit is secured. It is not allowed to start employing during the work permit processing. This is punishable by law.

This work permit is linked exclusively to this employer and to this employer only. The employee/expatriate is therefore not the holder of the work permit and is not even qualified to apply for a work permit. This is the prerogative of the employer.

A Dutch work permit should state the following information: a specific case number, the name and the location of the employer, some essential information on the employee/expatriate, the period of validity of the permit, a description of the activities and job title and the actual location of the employee/expatriates' workplace. The law governing employment of certain aliens in the Netherlands, the Wet Arbeid Vreemdelingen is clear on these requirements.

After granting the work permit the Employment Office will send the original work permit to the employer. Attached to the original work permit is a duplicate for the employee/expatriate. It is recommendable to always ask your employer for this duplicate for future reference and safekeeping.

From a legal perspective changing jobs means that the successive employer is required to start a new work permit application with the Employment Office. Portability of the existing work permit is not possible. Dutch work permits and Dutch labour law are not that flexible in contradiction to the American system where the law in some cases allows to start working for a new employer on the old work permit whilst processing the new work permit application with the INS.

The situation would be quite different if the period of employment was three years instead of the one-year period as mentioned in your question. Dutch regulations offer an interesting 'gap' for an expatriate who has been employed on a valid work permit for three years and held a Dutch residence permit during that time. I'll tell you more in my next column.

21 August 2001

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 rules and regulations regarding aliens, work permits, and residence permits/MVV's are continuously subject to change.

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