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Unsponsored immigration

Highly skilled individuals

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for highly skilled foreign nationals to seek employment in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Employment-related migration in the Netherlands is sponsor-based. Sponsoring under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme requires recognised sponsor status.

The most notable exception is the orientation year for graduates, who can apply for a self-sponsored residence permit allowing any type of work. Highly skilled workers may be eligible under another category that is either self-sponsored or sponsored by a non-employer (eg, a family member).


What unsponsored immigration routes are available for entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?


Entrepreneurs can apply under the self-employed category, and will then be assessed through a point system. Applicants can score points for their business plan, personal experience and contribution to the Dutch economy. RVO (the Netherlands Enterprise Agency) carries out an assessment of whether a business has a good chance of success and serves the Dutch economy’s vital interests. The points are hard to obtain, making this one of the more difficult immigration routes. That said, more favourable rules exist for US, Japanese and Turkish entrepreneurs under bilateral treaties.

Where the application is approved, a residence permit will be granted with a validity of two years. If, by the time an extension is due, the entrepreneur still meets the eligibility criteria, the permit will be extended for another five years (and be renewable afterwards).


Under the start-up programme, a permit is granted for one year to develop a business with the support of a (recognised) facilitator. Once that year has expired, the start-up entrepreneur must apply for a regular permit for entrepreneurs. Apart from being supported by a facilitator in the Netherlands, the business should be innovative. The applicant must have sufficient and sustainable resources, and be registered with the trade register of the Chamber of Commerce.


What unsponsored immigration routes are available for foreign investors seeking to invest in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

     Foreign investors can apply for a Dutch residence permit if they are willing to make a substantial investment in the local economy. The main requirement is to invest at least €1.25 million in the country.

In addition, any two of the following requirements must be met:

  • The investment adds to innovation in a particular industry;
  • The investment creates jobs; and/or
  • The investor brings a high-value personal network or specific knowledge.

The residence permit is valid for three years and is renewable. After five years the investor may apply for a permanent residence permit or Dutch citizenship.


Are any immigration routes open to foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

Regular immigration based on descent or ancestry is not possible, but it is always an option to assess whether ancestry can be a basis for Dutch citizenship.

Other routes

Are there any other unsponsored immigration routes?

Most routes require a sponsor. The most notable exceptions are the self-employment and investor programmes, the Working Holiday Scheme and the Working Holiday Programme, the orientation year for graduates, the research year for academics, and the programme of former Dutch citizens (ie, individuals who have lost their Dutch nationality). These are self-sponsored.

Extensions, permanent residence and citizenship

Extensions and status changes

Can short-term visa or work permit holders switch to long-term visas? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

In general, employees on short-term work permits may not switch their status to long-term visas while they are in the Netherlands. However, employees from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland, the United States or the Vatican need no further entry clearance visa and, therefore, need not return to their home country before being able to switch to a long-term visa.

Under what conditions can long-term visas be extended?

Long-term visas (residence permits) may be extended as long as employees still fulfil the criteria of their permit and their employment is continued, unless the visa is by nature temporary (eg, for seasonal work or as an au pair).

Permanent residence

Can long-term visa holders apply for permanent residence? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

In principle, employees and their dependants become eligible for permanent residence after five years of legal and actual residence. They cannot have committed crimes or accumulated (too many) large fines in the meanwhile and, most notably, should have passed the Civic Integration Exams.


Can long-term visa holders or permanent residents apply for citizenship? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Long-term visa holders become eligible for citizenship after five years of uninterrupted legal residence in the Netherlands. In addition, they need to have passed the Civic Integration Exams. In the four years prior to their application, they may have received neither a prison sentence nor a training or community service order, and they may not have had to pay a large fine either in the Netherlands or abroad. There must also be no ongoing criminal proceedings against them.

The applicants must be willing to take the oath of allegiance in a naturalisation ceremony and, in most cases, be willing to renounce their former citizenship (if possible), as at the moment the Netherlands is not very open to dual citizenship.

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