Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?

13th August 2003, Comments 0 comments

Laid off? Find out if you are eligible and how to apply for Dutch unemployment benefits.


We work for a large IT company near Amsterdam. Last week, we found out that the company intends to sack several hundred employees. Chances are that we are out of a job soon. We have Hungarian nationality and came to the Netherlands in 1999. We both have specialist positions. Our residence permits are in order and we never missed an extension request with 'Vreemdelingenpolitie'. If we lose our jobs, where should we go to register? Are we eligible for benefits?"

Due to the current economic situation in the Netherlands, unfortunately some expats may stand to lose their jobs in the months to come.

Application numbers for Dutch unemployment benefits are increasing all the time. More and more people are actively looking for new jobs and in certain sectors vacancies are scarce. Sometimes, the local employment office (known as ‘Centrum voor werk en inkomen’ or ‘CWI’) offers assistance to certain foreign unemployed persons from abroad.

As a rule, CWI only assists Dutch nationals and persons who are "free" to enter the Dutch labour market. This applies to the underlying categories:

  • Dutch nationals;
  • EU nationals residing/working in the Netherlands, and their spouses and partners (even if these spouses and partners have non-EU nationalities);
  • Nationals from Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland (EER) and Switzerland; Aliens holding a valid residence permit with the annotation 'Arbeid vrij toegestaan. Een tewerkstellingsvergunning is niet vereist' (meaning: work permit not required);
  • Aliens holding a valid asylum related residence permit with the annotation 'Arbeid is toegestaan indien de werkgever beschikt over een tewerkstellingsvergunning' (meaning: work permit required);
  • Aliens holding a valid employment related residence permit without the annotation 'Arbeid vrij toegestaan. Een tewerkstellingsvergunning is niet vereist', whose current unemployment is of an involuntary nature;
  • Aliens formerly in the possession of an employment related residence permit, whose current unemployment is of an involuntary nature, and who applied for an extension of their residence permits in time, to which applications no final decisions were taken and no deportation measures were initiated.

Based on the information you provided, you may be eligible for CWI assistance. You have been in the Netherlands since 1999 so with your last residence permit extensions you probably both received the 'work permit not required' annotation.

Local employment office assistance can be divided in two categories: registration ('registratie') and intermediary services ('bemiddeling').

Registration means — amongst other things — that the personal details of the unemployed person are officially entered into the CWI central computer. This is important with regard to a possible unemployment benefit claim.

Intermediary services means that CWI officials can help you find suitable jobs or check for vacancies all over the country, or intermediate with prospective employers in the Netherlands.

CWI will usually ask for a valid ID (passport & residence permit) and a SOFI number. Different rules apply to EU/EER/Swiss nationals. Whether or not and for what period of time you are eligible for unemployment benefits ('WW'), depends on several variables. Most important is the length of your employment history in the Netherlands. I recommend you contact CWI for more information.

The following government sites offer information on work and unemployment: or

November 2002

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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