‘Breakthrough’ in Dutch expat immigration policy
14 April 2004
AMSTERDAM — In what Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst has described as a “breakthrough”, the Dutch Cabinet will decide later this month on a series of measures to ease immigration policies governing the entry of skilled expats.
The Democrat D66 minister said in Parliament on Tuesday that entry policies should not only be focused on asylum seekers and partner or family unification migrants, but also on the economy. He confirmed that the Cabinet was set to adjust its policy for skilled labour.
The Innovation Platform — a think tank under the leadership of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende — has also urged for some time that the government draw up a less complicated and quicker entry procedure for skilled expat workers, news agency ANP reported.
The Cabinet accepted advice from the platform in December 2003 to ease the entry of skilled workers into the Netherlands. It also accepted advice to make technical studies and jobs more attractive. The platform website (in Dutch) can be found at: Innovation Platform.
And Minister Brinkhorst said that the looming policy changes could entail a reduction in the price of residence permits and paid compensation for the costs of bureaucratic red tape. Temporary residence permits currently cost EUR 430 and renewals cost EUR 285.
Expats have long complained about the red tape of gaining entry to the Netherlands and it remains unclear how the transfer of work from the foreign police to the immigration service IND will improve matters. The recent rises in the price of residence permits have also been a sore point among the foreign community.
And any easing in policies governing the entry of expat workers will come despite a government crackdown on immigration and integration. Despite this, it will also come hot on the heels of a shift in stance by various political parties regarding expat workers.
Brinkhorst claimed at the end of a visit to Asia in February that the economy was suffering because it places too many restrictions on the entry of skilled foreign workers. He demanded a policy be drawn up focusing on the transfer of knowledge.
“The Netherlands employs (entry) criteria that are much stronger than any other European country,” he said.
In contrast to a reluctance of Balkenende’s ruling Christian Democrat CDA to admit entry to more foreign workers, a party workgroup backed the recruitment last month of highly-educated foreigners to fill jobs where a shortage of Dutch workers exists.
The workgroup pleaded for a labour migration scheme similar to the US and Canadian models, proposing a system of temporary job contracts such as the “green card” system used in the US.
“Our economy needs these people, also to hold up the labour market as Europe ages in the coming decades,” workgroup chairman Sjaak van der Tak said.
Main opposition party PvdA, and its leader Wouter Bos, are also in favour of a foreign labour migration system akin to the US green card and a party commission published a report in March echoing the PvdA line.
But coalition government party Liberal VVD has in the past expressed opposition to allowing more foreign workers into the country.
The free movement of labour is one of the founding tenets of the European Union and a new EU law approved by the European Parliament in Strasbourg last month exempts expats from European Union countries from applying for a residence permit to live and work in the Netherlands.
EU member states will need to change their domestic legislation within two years, meaning that in most cases the directive will not take effect until 2006.
Despite these changes, expats from East and Central European countries will continue to face restrictions despite their country’s entry to the EU in May.
With the exemption of Malta and Cyprus, expats from the accession states will still need to obtain work permits to live and work in the Netherlands, but the Dutch government has agreed to speed up application procedures.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news