Start-ups and knowledge migrants

17th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

We report on recent changes to knowledge migrant regulations aimed at allowing start-up firms to avail of the accelerated entry scheme for skilled expat workers.


"We are a fairly small outfit from Houston, Texas. Our company specializes in software development for the high end of the market. The company was founded in 2003 and is doing quite well. We are now looking at establishing a presence in the Netherlands. We have some interesting business opportunities developing in Europe and think that the Netherlands is the best place to start our European operations. Most of our IT specialists are US nationals but we also employ some Indian, Chinese and Indonesian nationals. It is likely we will be assigning US nationals to the Dutch presence but some of our Indian and Chinese employees may also be involved. The Netherlands still has this knowledge migrant scheme set up by the Dutch government, right? We are interested in participation, but do not know where to start. What about the fact that we only have a modest track record in the US and are brand new to the Netherlands and Europe? Will this be a problem? Can you guide us?"

Patrick Rovers answers

The Netherlands is a good place to establish your European headquarters. The country ranks high on the international innovation list and is one of the least corrupt nations of the world. The Dutch economy is growing at a steady rate and unemployment figures are declining.

The Dutch immigration service, de Naturalisatie- en Immigratiedienst (IND), started to implement the knowledge migrant scheme at the end of 2004 and the scheme became accessible for the 'general' public in 2005. The IND holds the monopoly on all knowledge migrant procedures. If your company wants to employ non-EU/foreign specialists in the Netherlands it will have to deal with the Dutch immigration service.

The knowledge migrant (KM) scheme is basically designed to allow for easy access into the Dutch labor market, if and when — for instance — the minimum annual gross salary requirements are honored by the knowledge migrant employer.

However, the KM scheme's rules and regulations are quite detailed. Recently some new regulations were added to the scheme, aimed at the situation of start-up companies. Certain start-up companies — screened by Dutch government agencies such as CDIU, DBIN or when a Technostarters-label has been secured — may be allowed as participants of the KM system.

The first step towards full KM scheme participation for the prospective KM employer is to have itself officially accepted by the Dutch immigration service. One of the documents the IND wants to see is a good standing letter by the Dutch tax office.

Start-up companies from abroad usually do not have any kind of tax history in the Netherlands and may have difficulty obtaining a good standing letter. However, if such a start-up company can show a positive statement by DBIN or CDIU, both linked to the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, or can show that it has obtained a Technostarters-label (through Technopartner, a joint initiative of the Dutch ministries of Economic Affairs and Education), participation into the KM scheme is still an option.

Note that at the beginning of November, Dutch MPs Jeroen Dijsselbloem and Peter Meijer asked the Immigration Minister, Rita Verdonk, some intriguing questions regarding the KM scheme. The MPs want to know why certain obstacles still haven’t been effectively tackled by the IND.

Why does the IND take such a long time to review so-called change of purpose applications? Why is it that an authorisation for temporary stay (MVV) has to be applied for in person? Is the minister willing to come up with reasonable solutions?

I do not know if Minister Verdonk will address these questions any time soon. It is election time in the Netherlands and the outcome of these elections could influence the future of the IND and the workings of the KM scheme. In one of my next columns I will report back on this matter.

Patrick R. Rovers,
Lawyer with Van Velzen CS

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

17 November 2006

[Copyright Expatica 2006]

Subject: Life in Holland, Dutch immigration laws, knowledge migrants 

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