Can I simply arrive and start looking for work?

13th August 2003, Comments 0 comments

Wanting to enter the Netherlands to search for work? Read our column first.


“Am I allowed to come to the Netherlands and look for work? I have been surfing the Internet lately and found some interesting vacancies in Amsterdam. Can I just hop on a plane to the Netherlands for interviews with prospective Dutch employers? ”

As is usually the case, there are no straight "yes or no" answers to these questions because much will depend on your nationality and the country you reside in.

For starters, special rules and regulations apply to EU nationals, citizens from Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland (EER), and Swiss nationals. They are allowed to come to the Netherlands and look for work for a period of six months. During this period they can legally stay in the Netherlands. If there is a genuine job opportunity arising, the six-month period can even be prolonged. In practice, as long as the EU/EER/Swiss national has sufficient financial funds available, he or she can stay in the Netherlands to look for work.

Different rules and regulations apply to non-EU/EER/Swiss nationals. I often receive emails from foreign people with questions about travelling to the Netherlands in the hope of finding a job. For this scenario, the legal possibilities are extremely limited, not to say non-existent. If such a foreign person wants to enter the Netherlands, usually a Dutch visa is required. A short-term visa (less than 90 days) is linked to certain categories of purpose, such as vacation in the Netherlands, business or family visit. Looking for work is not among these categories.

Please note that citizens from certain countries such as the US, Canada or Japan are not required to arrange a short-term visa if they intend to visit the Netherlands for less than 90 days. Their passport is enough documentation to cross the Dutch border. Still, during this 90-day period the general "purpose of stay" rule applies (vacation, business, family visit etc.). Looking for work is officially not an option.

Applying for an MVV (special entry visa and a prerequisite for a long-term stay in the Netherlands) is not an alternative either. An MVV (and subsequently a residence permit) will only be issued if the foreign applicant falls into one of the following categories: employment, self-employment, residing with spouse, residing with partner, residing with parents, internship, study, au pair or for a medical treatment. Again, "looking for work" as such, does not qualify.

In the case of a foreign person (non-EU/EER/Swiss) who does come to the Netherlands on a short-term visa, finds a job "by accident" and decides to stay, a few legal problems arise. First of all, in order to qualify for an employment-based residence permit, in most cases an MVV has to be secured through the application procedure at a Dutch consulate or embassy in the country of origin or abode. During the MVV application procedure, the foreign applicant is not allowed to stay in the Netherlands. This means that a foreign person will have to go back to his or her country of origin or abode and wait for their MVV application to be processed. With an MVV stamped in his or her passport, a "legal" return to the Netherlands is possible. Proof of a valid MVV is required for an application for a employment-based residence permit.

Meanwhile, the prospective Dutch employer is required to arrange a Dutch work permit. Without proof of the actual MVV (or its application and acceptance) the Dutch employer will find it quite impossible to obtain a work permit. The Central Employment Office will check for proof of the (future) residence status of the beneficiary. Proof of a short-term visa is (in most cases) not sufficient and the application for a work permit will (most likely) be turned down.

In one of my recent columns I mentioned the possibility of assistance from the Dutch Employment Office (CWI) with regard to unemployment registration and certain employment-related intermediary activities. Please note that this kind of assistance is usually not available for the bulk of non-EU/EER/Swiss nationals visiting the Netherlands.

January 2003

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, visas, and residence permits are continuously subject to change.

Patrick Rovers and Hans van Velzen

Subject: Ask the Experts

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