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Live and work in the Netherlands as a highly qualified graduate with the Orientation Year Permit

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Find out how you can live and work in the Netherlands as a highly qualified graduate holding a Bachelor, Master's or PhD with the Orientation Year Permit — and the new policies that make the process even easier. [Contributed by Fragomen Worldwide]

Are you a foreign college graduate looking to work in the Netherlands? Did you graduate from a Dutch university or do you have a graduate degree (Master’s or PhD) from a school outside the Netherlands? Or did you graduate within the past three years?

If so, the Dutch government has made it easier for you to be employed or to open a company in the Netherlands by extending the so-called 'orientation year' to a greater group of qualified graduates. According to the immigration authorities (IND), “the Netherlands attaches importance to giving highly skilled migrants the time they need to find a job or start their own company in the Netherlands after completing their studies.”

Therefore, as of March 2016, two previously existing permits for local and foreign graduates have been consolidated into the Orientation Year Permit for Highly Educated Persons, with the effect of making it easier for foreign graduates to live and work in the Netherlands after graduation.

Previously, there were two schemes for recent college graduates:

  • The Orientation Year program, a one year 'search period' for Bachelor and Master’s students who graduated from a Dutch school. This was a one-year residence permit that allowed the holder to work without a work permit.
  • The Orientation Year Highly-Educated program, a one-year permit that was open to Master’s or PhD graduates from a Dutch or a top foreign school, that had a rigorous application procedure and did not allow the permit holder to work. To qualify the applicant had to graduate from a recognised top 200 school and had to score 35 out 40 possible points, based on an assessment of the candidates age, education and probability of financial success in the Netherlands.

The new policy combines these permits and in effect creates a more favourable permit that is accessible to a larger group of candidates. The scheme is particularly beneficial for students educated abroad.

Live and work in the Netherlands as a highly qualified graduate with the Orientation Year Permit

Who qualifies for the Orientation Year Permit?

Live and work in the Netherlands as a highly qualified graduate with the Orientation Year Permit Graduates holding a Bachelor, Master’s or PhD awarded in the Netherlands; a graduate of the Erasmus Mundus Master’s Course; a Master’s or PhD holder who graduated from a designated international education institution (a top 200 school, as per rankings recognised by the IND) and even scientific researchers (a group not previously included in either of the schemes) can qualify for an Orientation Year Permit.

An application for the Orientation Year Permit can be filed up to three years after completing your education or scientific research and you can even file for the permit if you have been outside the Netherlands after graduation. Two important and very favourable aspects for graduates of schools abroad are: that the holder may work without restriction (so graduates from foreign schools no longer require a work permit to be employed during the orientation year) and that there is no longer a points-based qualification scheme.

Of benefit to all applicants, whether from Dutch or foreign schools, is the provision that if there are new grounds you can apply for a new permit. This means that if you are awarded a new degree or if you have undertaken new research in the Netherlands you could apply for an additional orientation year.

What happens when the permit expires?

The Orientation Year Permit cannot be extended after the one-year period is over. If you wish to remain in the Netherlands you will need to establish a new purpose of stay.

If you have been lucky enough to find an employer who is a recognised sponsor of highly skilled migrants you could apply for a Highly Educated permit, a residence permit that will authorise work for your sponsoring employer. If the application is filed timely you will be able to qualify for the lowest salary threshold amount, EUR 2,228 (excluding 8 percent holiday allowance). This is something to pay close attention to, because once you have qualified for the low salary threshold and for as long as you work in a highly skilled capacity (without any interruption) you will always be held to this lower threshold, even when you change employers. This can give you flexibility later in your career and can be very attractive for potential employers.

Other possible bases to remain in the Netherlands after your orientation year are: as a student pursuing a new degree (which will then make you eligible for another search year), as the partner of a Dutch or EU national if you are in an exclusive relationship, or if you would like to start your own company you could apply for a Self-Employed Permit or even a Startup Visa.

Whatever you choose to do after your orientation year, it’s critical to file your application timely and while you are still residing legally in the Netherlands. Failure to do so can lead to illegal overstay, which can be the basis of rejection of future applications, and any interruption in legal stay (even for a day) will be considered a gap in residency should you ever apply for Permanent Residence or Citizenship in the Netherlands. Both require an uninterrupted legal stay of at least five years, and it would be a shame if a minor interruption in legal stay requires that you begin establishing five years of residency all over again.

Fragomen can help you apply for the Orientation Year Permit or change your purpose of stay as your search year expires. We can also assist you with your long-term planning in the Netherlands. Regardless of your current residence position and plans in the Netherlands, it is important to maintain legal stay and to file all applications timely. For specific guidance please contact Christine Sullivan at

Live and work in the Netherlands as a highly qualified graduate with the Orientation Year Permit



Contributed by Fragomen

Photo Credit: Eduard SOTICA (Graduation).


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