Moving to the Netherlands: Guide to Dutch visas and permits
Which Dutch visa or permit do you need to visit, live, work or study in the Netherlands? Here's an essential guide to apply for the correct Dutch visa or permit for your individual situation.
You may need to apply for a Dutch visa or other permit if you are considering moving to the Netherlands to live, study, work or join a relative or partner. This guide explains the requirements and conditions of the different types of Dutch visas and permits to help you choose which permit you need for your individual situation. Typically, your nationality and reason for coming to the Netherlands will dictate the Dutch visa or permit you need.
The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) – contact details are provided below. Read on to find out which Dutch visa or permit you need to visit, live, work or study in the Netherlands.
In this guide we answer some important questions about Dutch visas and permits:
- Who needs a Dutch visa or permit?
- Dutch work permits: Who can work in the Netherlands?
- Types of Dutch visas and permits: which one do I need?
- Dutch residence permits: purpose of stay
- Applying for Dutch citizenship
- Who must become a 'sponsor'?
- How to renew or extend your Dutch permit
- Lost and stolen documents
- Costs of Dutch visas and permits
- Contact information
The Netherlands is one of 26 countries making up the ‘Schengen' area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. They have one common visa and no border controls between them, so citizens in the Schengen area can travel freely to the Netherlands.
If you're a citizen from one of the countries in the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA; EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, you don't need a visa to visit, live, work or study in the Netherlands – however long you stay – unless you’re from the newer EU member, Croatia (see below).
If you have dual nationality (and passports), whether or not you need a visa depends on which travel document you'll be using to travel to the Netherlands (even if you're not living there at the time of travel).
For stays longer than four months, EU/EEA/Swiss citizens are expected to register with the personal records database (BRP) and get a citizen service number (burgerservicenummer or BSN), which is a social security and tax number.
If you’re staying for less than four months, you are not obliged to register but you will still need to get a BSN for all official matters. Ask at your municipality or you can call the government information service on 1400 (from within the Netherlands).
Partners and close relatives of EU/EEA/Swiss citizens
If you want to join a close relative (eg. spouse, partner, grandparent or child under 21) of an EU/EEA/Swiss national who is living in the Netherlands (but are not an EU/EEA/Swiss national yourself), you also have the right to live and work in the Netherlands without the need for a permit.
However, you will need to apply for verification against EU law to receive a certificate of lawful residence; it is a document proving you are allowed to legally stay in the Netherlands and work without a permit. Details are provided in our guide for non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals joining EU/EEA/Swiss relatives.
If you are a ‘third party national’, that is, not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland, and you’re not coming to join an EU/EEA or Swiss relative in the Netherlands, then you will probably need a provisional residence permit (MVV) to enter the country and/or a residence permit to stay for more than three months. More information is provided below.
All EU/EEA/Swiss citizens, with the exception of Croatians (see below), can work without restriction in all sectors. If an employer asks for proof of lawful stay in the Netherlands, show them this letter from the IND, which explains the changed circumstances as of 2014, where EU/EEA/Swiss citizens are no longer required to register their long-term stay in the Netherlands.
For the time being, there are work restrictions for Croatian citizens: you may only work in the Netherlands if your employer has a work permit for you for the first 12 months. After 12 months’ continuous, legal employment, you can work freely in the Netherlands without a permit. These restrictions will be reviewed in 2018 but could be in place until June 30, 2020. Read long-term residence for Croatian nationals.
Third party nationals (ie. those from outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland) will usually only be able to work in the Netherlands if an employer has obtained a work permit in their name. The IND now offers a single permit that acts as a combined residence and work permit, known as the GVVA, which is generally issued for employees coming to the Netherlands for more than three months. Usually it is the employer who applies for it and the permit is issued for up to three years.
Some people cannot qualify for the single combined permit, and employers must apply for a separate work permit (TWV). Read Expatica's guide to Dutch work permits.
Exceptions: Who doesn't need a work permit?
If you come to the Netherlands on a residence permit as a ‘highly skilled migrant', or as a graduate spending a year searching for work, you can work without the employer needing to organise a separate work permit for you. If you come as a scientific researcher, the research institution doesn’t need to get a work permit for you, however, if you work for another employer at the same time, your other employer will need to get one.
In some cases, family members enjoy the same rights as their relative living in the Netherlands; so if their relative or partner has already been granted permission to work, they can also work without the need for an employer to hold a work permit in their name. You can read about each type of residence permit (below) to find out whether you will or won't need a work permit, depending on which permit is applicable to your situation.
Short-stay Dutch visas: transit and up to three months
For those stopping briefly in the Netherlands (even for a few hours) en route to another destination or staying for up to three months, depending on your nationality you may need to get a short-stay visa.
There are two types of short-stay visa:
- The A-visa is for transit only and is needed by passengers of certain nationalities who are making a stopover in a Dutch airport en route to another country, outside of the Schengen area. It only allows you into the international zone of a Dutch airport. If you are leaving the airport, even for a day, you will need to get a short-stay C-visa.
- The C-visa (sometimes called a ‘tourist visa') allows you to stay in the Netherlands (or any other country in the Schengen area) for up to three months (90 days) within a six-month period. During this time you can work if your employer has a work permit in your name but you can't apply for a residence permit on this visa. You have to leave the Netherlands and apply from your home country.
Find out how to apply in our guide to short-stay visas for visiting the Netherlands.
Long-stay Dutch visas and permits: more than three months
If you want to stay in the Netherlands for more than three months, unless you're a national from an EU/EEA member state or Switzerland, you may have to apply for a long-term entry visa (MVV) to enter the Netherlands and a residence permit – plus you may have to take an integration exam.
Not everyone needs an MVV. If you do, you can apply for the MVV and the residence permit at the same time in one single process called the Entry and Residence Procedure (TEV) procedure. Both permits are granted at the same time; you are issued with the MVV, which allows entry into the country, and you collect the residence document from an IND desk within two weeks of your arrival.
If you don’t need an MVV, you can still apply for a residence permit through the TEV procedure from outside the Netherlands, or from the IND after you arrive. To check whether you need an MVV or residence permit, and for information on the application process, see our guide to Dutch provisional residence permits (MVV) and temporary residence permits.
Dutch resident permits for different purposes of stay
You must apply for a residence permit depending on your purpose of stay. Each Dutch permit has its own conditions, requirements, restrictions and length of validity. For more information, read the relevant article depending on your individual circumstances:
- Joining a relative or spouse who is from EU/EEA/Switzerland
- Joining a relative or spouse who is a non-EU/EEA/Swiss family member
- Resident permits for employees
- Resident permits for self-employed/freelancer/entrepreneur
- Resident permits for highly skilled migrants
- Resident permits for scientific researchers
- Resident permits for seasonal/short-term contract workers
- Resident permits for study purposes
- Residents permits for graduates' orientation year
- Residence permits for Master's and PhD graduates
- Resident permits for au pairs
- Resident permits for exchange programmes
If you're already in the Netherlands and wish to leave the country temporarily but your current residence permit expires while you're away, or you have a pending visa application (say to replace a lost residence document or a change of purpose of stay), you may need a return visa to get back into the Netherlands. The validity of the visa depends on your circumstances, and can range from three months up to a year. Read more in our guide to return visas to re-enter the Netherlands without a valid permit.
Once you have been living in the Netherlands for five uninterrupted years, you can apply for permanent residence:
Once you have lived in the Netherlands for five, uninterrupted years (three years if you’ve been with a Dutch spouse or partner for three years), you can become a Dutch citizen through naturalisation. You must fulfil certain conditions, such as proving you can write and speak Dutch, renouncing your previous nationality (with some exceptions), and changing your name if it’s deemed difficult to write or pronounce in Dutch.
You apply via your local municipality although the application is processed by the IND. The process takes about a year. More detail is explained in Expatica's guide on how to get Dutch citizenship.
Many people will have a sponsor – a person or organisation – who has an interest in them coming to the Netherlands (such as an employer, education institution or family member). The sponsor may act on your behalf, submit residence permit applications and lodge objections or appeals if an application is rejected.
There are two types of sponsors: non-recognised and recognised. Only organisations, institutions and companies can be recognised sponsors (fees apply); individual persons cannot. Certain organisations must register (be ‘recognised') with the IND to hire foreign employees (see below). Registration is optional, however, for permit applications for those in paid employment, seasonal labour, traineeships or holders of a European blue card.
A recognised sponsor can be a:
mandatory recognised sponsor – for the purposes of study, exchange (including au pairs), highly skilled migrants and certain scientific researchers.
voluntary recognised sponsor – employers who have foreign employees in paid employment, for seasonal labour, traineeships or holders of a European blue card can apply for recognition voluntarily; recognition is not obligatory but optional.
For Turkish citizens with a highly skilled migrant permit, a mandatory sponsor is not required.
Recognised sponsors have certain legal obligations, including a duty to inform IND of any changes (eg. change of employer), keep administrative records, and be responsible for repatriation costs if someone overstays their visa. Find the IND's list of recognised sponsors, which can also be a useful job-hunting source.
If you hold a residence permit, the IND will contact you shortly before it expires and you may have the opportunity to extend it (although not all permits are extendable). If you can't extend it but want to stay in the Netherlands, you will have to apply for a new residence permit – or leave the country. Find out what to do when your residence permit expires or you want to leave the Netherlands.
If your permit is lost or stolen, you can apply to the IND for a replacement. You'll have to submit a copy of your passport, the police report and a passport photo, along with other documents pertinent to your own situation (eg. proof of employment). All foreign documents must be translated and legalised; read how to prepare supporting documents for Dutch visa and permit applications.
It costs a fee to process this – as much as EUR 259, depending on what document has been lost or stolen. For the latest fees, click here. Allow eight weeks for the IND to respond.
See here for the up-to-date costs for handling different types of applications and for the latest information on income requirements to obtain certain permits. Prices are reviewed bi-yearly: on 1 January and 1 July.
The Immigration & Naturalisation Service (IND)
For queries or to make an appointment, you can contact the IND by phone Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm on 088 0430 430 from within the Netherlands or +31 88 0430 430 from abroad.
7600 AG ALMELO
The IND's twitter account @IND_NL is also for general queries between Monday to Friday 9am–5pm.
The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Dutch embassy or consulate in your home country.
Need advice? Post your question on Expatica's Ask the Expert service to see if we can help.