High skilled migrants


There is a great demand in the Netherlands for highly educated professionals from outside the European Union. The majority of these enter the Netherlands as highly skilled migrants. There are a number of conditions to qualify as a highly skilled migrant, and, surprisingly, a specific educational requirement is not one of them.

The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) recently published its annual figures for 2021. These figures show, among other things, that 22,840 applications were submitted for the "knowledge and talent" category. This concerns highly educated professionals with a nationality from outside the European Union or European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland (ie, third-country nationals). The purposes of stay in this category include:

  • employment as a highly skilled migrant;
  • the European blue card; and
  • the orientation year for highly skilled migrants (with the purpose of finding employment as a highly skilled migrant).

These numbers show that there is a great demand for highly educated professionals from outside the European Union, EEA and Switzerland.

This article provides an overview of what constitutes "employment as a highly skilled migrant".

High skilled migrants

In practice, highly educated international professionals are often referred to as "highly skilled migrants" or "highly skilled expats". In the context of this article, "highly skilled expatriates" refers to foreign nationals who have a residence permit for employment as a highly skilled migrant.

A highly skilled migrant must meet a number of conditions. Other than the name suggests, there is no specific educational requirement. However, a highly skilled migrant must meet the following conditions:

  • employment with a recognised sponsor – with the exception of Turkish highly skilled migrants, who may also be employed by a non-recognised sponsor;
  • earning a salary that at least meets the statutory wage criterion for highly skilled migrants;
  • the salary is in line with the market; and
  • the highly skilled migrant has been carefully recruited.

Once an organisation has been recognised as a sponsor, it can submit an application for residence as a highly skilled migrant for its future employees.

The Highly Skilled Migrants Scheme – in its current form – has been in effect since September 2013, as a result of the Modern Migration Policy Act, and introduced a number of advantages. For example, recognised sponsors, through their status as a reliable partner of the IND, can make use of a shortened procedure to bring employees from outside the European Union or EEA and Switzerland to the Netherlands. In addition, the time-consuming and near impossibility of obtaining a work permit, or combined residence and work permit, is no longer required.

On the other hand, the recognised sponsor must familiarise themself with the legislation and regulations relating to highly skilled migrants and correctly apply the procedures prior to starting the employment, during the employment and upon termination of the employment.

In general terms, there are three categories of highly skilled migrants with a defined legal salary criterion:

  • a highly skilled migrant younger than 30 years of age (€3,549 gross per month);
  • a highly skilled migrant 30 years and older (€4,840 gross per month); and
  • a highly skilled migrant following graduation or search year (€2,543 gross per month).

In order to be able to determine the correct salary criterion, it is, among other things, important to determine which procedure should be followed for the establishment or extension of the stay of the highly skilled migrant. The following procedures can all be applicable when an organisation wants to act as a sponsor for a highly skilled migrant:

  • the procedure for entry and residence;
  • the procedure for regular residence permit;
  • changing the purpose of residence permit to "highly skilled migrant";
  • registering a highly skilled migrant; and
  • extending the residence permit of a highly skilled migrant.

The correct procedure should be followed in order to prevent problems in the future. Each procedure determines the applicable salary criterion and comes with its own specific conditions.

For further information on this topic please contact Miriam Berendes-Currey or David Wernsing at Maes Law by telephone (+31 85 902 12 70‚Äč) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Maes Law website can be accessed at