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Permits in the Netherlands [2023]: A Comprehensive Guide

by College Life
Updated on July 13, 2023

If you are an international student or graduate coming to the Netherlands, it is highly recommended that you know about terms such as ‘work permit’ and ‘residence permit’, before you arrive. Roughly speaking, permits are official documents that give internationals certain permissions in a foreign country. Note that, for EU/EEA students, graduates and citizens in general, neither a work permit nor a visa is required in order to live in the Netherlands.

Permits Fundamentals

This chapter is going to give you a simplified explanation for these often dreadful steps that all internationals must take. But do not be discouraged: once you understand what they are, you will realize that the procedure is not as complicated as it may seem at first.

Residence Permit

A residence permit is a document that you get when you enter a foreign country in order to stay for a specific period of time. As an international student or graduate, you are required to get a Dutch residence permit, so you can study in the Netherlands legally.  EU/EEA citizens do not require to have a residence permit for any country that is a part of the EU/EEA. 

Moreover, having a residence permit means that your main residence is in the Netherlands. In order words, you spend most of your time living in the Netherlands. Your residence permit is only valid during your stay in the country. If you move to a different main residence outside the Netherlands, your permit will be revoked. 

General Conditions

Residence permit conditions vary based on your purpose of stay. However, the following are general conditions that apply to anyone who wants to get a residence permit regardless of their purpose of stay:

  • You have a valid passport or another travel document.
  • You sign an antecedents certificate (criminal record information).
  • You have taken a tuberculosis test (TB) upon your arrival in the Netherlands, unless:
    • You are from one of the countries that are exempt from undergoing the TB test.
    • You have already taken the test in the Netherlands less than 6 months ago.
    • You have an EU residence permit issued by another EU country to be a long-term resident.
    • You are a family member admitted to another EU country as a family member of the long-term resident.

Dutch Citizenship

Acquiring a Dutch citizenship is a process that is also referred to as civic integration for naturalization. If you are thinking ahead and planning to get a Dutch citizenship, you can read about the necessary requirements as well as exemptions in integration in the Netherlands on IND’s website.

Work Permit 

A work permit is a document that you must request if you intend to work in the Netherlands. All international students and graduates are required to have one in order to be legally employed in the country. EU/EEA citizens do not need to have a work permit for any country that is a part of the EU/EEA. 

Keep in mind that, unlike any residence permit, you cannot apply for a work permit yourself. The application process is carried out by your employer once you land a job at a company that is a recognized sponsor

Recognized Sponsors

A sponsor who is recognized by the IND (Immigration & Naturalisation Service) is a person or a company who employs a foreign employee. They are typically the employer of the company that the foreign candidate is going to work for. A person or an organization can be a sponsor for more than one employee at the same time. A person can apply to be recognized as a sponsor by the IND. As a recognized sponsor, the application procedure for their employee’s residence permit is a lot easier and faster. 

Duties of the sponsoring (recognized or not) employer include:

  • Duty of care: ensuring that the recruitment process has been careful (for recognized sponsors only). 
  • Duty to keep and retain records: all required documents need to be included in the administration 
  • Duty to provide information: making any changes that might be relevant need to be reported to the IND.


You don’t always need to get a work permit in order to be legally employed in the Netherlands. Before you ask your employer to file an application for a work permit, consider the following exemptions:

  • You are an EU/EEA national
  • You have a GVVA / Single Permit which allows you to work for five consecutive years 
  • You have a Zoekjaar Visa or a European Blue Card
  • You’re a Highly Skilled Migrant
  • You are carrying out scientific research at a Dutch institution of higher education
  • You are doing research as part of an EU project
  • You are a lecturer at a Dutch university of applied sciences
  • You are doing an internship that is relevant to your study program
  • Your partner's free to work (i.e. they are a Dutch / EU national or they have already got work permit)

Visa Types 

There are several different types of visas in the Netherlands. Based on the purpose and/or duration of your stay in the Netherlands, you choose the one that fits your situation.

Schengen (Short Stay Visa)

A Schengen visa is for internationals who plan to visit and stay in the Netherlands for no longer than 90 days in total in a 180-day period. If you do not intend to live in the Netherlands for long, then think about exactly how many days you will be staying in the country so that you can start to make some calculations. 

MVV (Long Stay Visa)

The MVV visa is known as an authorization for temporary stay. This residence permit is most likely what you are going to need to get as an international student or graduate. You are required to get this visa if you plan to stay in the Netherlands for longer than 90 days. Keep in mind, you must apply for a residence permit before you enter the Netherlands.  

Airport Transit

An airport transit visa (also known as ‘A’ visa) is a permit with which you can change planes when you make a stop at a Dutch airport in order to travel to a destination that is outside the Schengen Area. The Schengen Area consists of 26 European countries and the following non-EU states: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. 

As of 2021, the EU countries that are NOT part of the Schengen Area are the following:

  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Ireland
  • Romania

Note: You cannot leave the airport using this visa. You are not allowed to enter the Netherlands or another Schengen country with an ‘A’ visa. 

Visa Facilitation

A visa facilitation is a permit that you get when you have a family member who is an EU, EEA or Swiss national. If your relative is a Dutch national, you may apply for visa facilitation, provided that your relative has practiced their right of free movement under EU law. If you are eligible, the process is most likely going to be faster and free of charge. 

Caribbean visa

A Caribbean visa is a permit that is specifically for staying in the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands:

  • Aruba
  • Bonaire
  • Curaçao
  • Saba
  • St. Eustatius
  • St. Maarten

Note: Not every international is required to get a visa to visit the Caribbean parts. If you wish to know whether or not you need a visa, you can learn about your eligibility here.


Residence Permits 

As a foreign national working or seeking to work in the Netherlands, you may need to apply to more than one residence permit. This will be decided by your employer. This chapter breaks down all possible permits based on your situation or purpose of stay.

GVVA / Single Permit

The GVVA or Single Permit is the standard work permit for paid employment in the Netherlands. It is a combined residence and work permit (TWV). Therefore, you only need to get a TWV once you get your residence permit. This permit is most suitable for foreign employees who intend to live in the Netherlands for more than three months. 

As previously mentioned, the application for the work permit is submitted by the employer themselves. The employer can visit the IND website and find the relevant information and required documents that they need to submit for their foreign national employee. The application cost is €320.

Application requirements for students and graduates who work up to 16 hours per week are less strict. Hence, this permit might be most suitable for you. 

Work in Paid Employment

Alongside the standard residence permit (Single Permit), several other work permits exist with specific rules. Job roles that require other permits for work are the following:

Orientation Year (Zoekjaar)

As an international student or graduate, obtaining a zoekjaar (orientation year) visa is most ideal if you wish to start working in the Netherlands. For up to 12 months, you have free access to the labour market after you receive your visa. You can read more about this, including the application requirements, on College Life’s Zoekjaar guide. 

Highly Skilled Migrant 

To work as a highly skilled migrant, you must already be an employee at a company outside the EU who is being transferred at a high-level position, either a manager, a specialist or a trainee to a company in the Netherlands. This work permit also requires you to earn sufficient income. The application for this residence permit costs €320.  

Work Experience / Seasonal Labour

To gain work experience as a trainee or apprentice relevant to your job, or you do seasonal work in agriculture for a maximum period of 24 weeks, your employer may request a Single Permit. They have to declare that they are your recognized sponsor.   

European Blue Card Holder

As a European Blue Card holder, you must be employed to work at a highly-qualified job for at least 12 months in the Netherlands. You must also have a diploma of at least 3 years of higher education. Your employer is not obligated to become a recognised sponsor. However, they must not have been fined for failing to pay wage tax within the last five years. This application costs €320. For Turkish nationals, the application costs €69.

Intra Corporate Transfer

An as Intra corporate transfer, you are first and foremost, already employed at a company outside the Netherlands and the EU. As a manager, a specialist, or a trainee, you are being transferred to work at a branch in the Netherlands by the company you work for. Your employer does not need to be a recognized sponsor, but it is recommended for a more speedy procedure. The application cost is at €320.

Researchers Under Directive (EU) 2016/801

If you are a researcher, you can be admitted on the basis of Directive (EU) 2016/801 which allows you to work as a paid researcher, a PhD student, or an unpaid researcher with a grant. The organization you work for must be recognized by the IND as a sponsor. The application cost is €192. 

Startup Visa

The Startup Visa is for foreign nationals seeking to start a business in the Netherlands. They can apply for this residence permit that is only valid for one year. Make sure to look through the conditions of starting a business before you apply. One of them entails that you must work together with a business mentor: a facilitator.  The application costs €342. 


If you are looking to become self-employed in the Netherlands as a foreign national, you must apply for a self-employment permit. The application normally costs €1416, but if you already have a Startup Visa, the cost is € 379.

Cross Border Service Provider

As a cross border service provider, you are employed outside the Netherlands but are necessarily established in the EU/EEA for no more than 2 years. The application costs €320.

[Recommended reading: Zoekjaar Visa Guide]



If you are seeking further support, do not fear;  College Life is here to help you every step of the way!

College Life Accelerate

College Life Accelerate is a program specifically created for all non-EU/EEA students and graduates living in the Netherlands. The program aims at finding employment for international students and graduates through training and direct connections to employers.  International students and graduates can practice their hard skills and soft skills as well as expect opportunities that they are qualified for. 

College Life Work

College Life Work is a platform for all students and graduates who seek to find and land a job. From part-time to internships, our platform offers the best job roles that don’t require you to know the local language.

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