Netherlands Amends Entrepreneur Visa Scheme

April 18, 2016

By Immigration Group

This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Laura Danielson is an active member.

Important exemptions for startup entrepreneurs have been introduced, streamlining the application process and allowing them to extend their stay in the Netherlands. The requirements for high net worth individuals have also been made less strict. Furthermore, the search year visa for young graduates with a foreign degree will include work authorization, and graduates from Dutch institutions can preserve their search year for up to three years after graduation. Finally, the 2016 salary thresholds for highly skilled migrants are listed below.

New Exemptions for Startup Entrepreneurs

The startup visa clearly remains a favorite of Dutch policymakers. First, renewal of stay has been made easier. Start-up visas are issued for only one year, non-renewable. As of January 1, 2016, startup visa holders can prolong their stay easily by applying for a general entrepreneur visa (verblifsvergunning als zelfstandige). Whereas regular entrepreneur visa applicants must go through a cumbersome points assessment (resulting in a very low average success rate of 15%), the former startup visa holder only needs an endorsement from his or her facilitator. The facilitator—the same one that has sponsored the startup visa in the first place—must make a written statement that under its guidance, the startup has “performed to satisfaction” during the first year of stay in the Netherlands. No further requirements apply. As for regular applicants, the entrepreneur visa is granted for two years, bringing the total stay of the startup to three years.

Another important exemption was introduced in October 2015: startup visa applicants are exempt from the entry clearance visa requirement (machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf, MVV). This means that a startup visa applicant can apply and await a decision on the application in the Netherlands without having to travel back to the country of origin. This is remarkable because the MVV requirement is one of the most sacred cows of the Dutch immigration system. The startup visa scheme was seriously hampered by this MVV requirement. Many startups had to interrupt high-pressure facilitator programs to travel back to their countries just to collect visa stamps. Clearly, the government intends to make this visa scheme work.

Making the “Golden Visa” Work

The conditions to obtain a “Golden Visa,” or high-net-worth individual permit, were made less strict. No longer is an auditor required to state that the funds of the applicant are of legitimate origin. These statements were superfluous because the government does its own checks on the origin of these funds. To recall the main requirement, an investment of €1,25 million must be made into a Dutch company with an innovative character. The necessity of innovativeness of the investment will be made alternative; if the investment target is not so innovative—e.g. acquisition of real estate—this can be compensated for by creating 10 new full-time jobs instead. Another change is that the permit is issued in the first instance for three years instead of one year. These changes will enter into force on July 1, 2016.

The amendments seem to be prompted by the lack of success of the scheme. Only 10 applications were filed in the first three years, of which only one was approved.

Highly Educated Persons: Important Changes

The “highly educated persons” visa is a one-year, non-renewable visa for persons with tertiary education (a bachelor’s degree or higher) from a foreign top-200 university. This program is meant to attract valuable immigrants, but it has not resulted in many applicants. The highly educated persons visa is granted for a “job search” year but paradoxically does not allow for work of any kind. To work legally, the highly educated person must first find a prospective employer willing to sponsor a work permit. This will be changed. The visa will allow for work during the search year without specific conditions (“labor freely permitted; work permit not required”). This will allow the visa holder to make a living during the search year. Ultimately, at the time of renewal, an employer must be found to sponsor the application for an extension of stay; e.g., through a highly skilled migrant permit (kennismigrant).

Another important change was announced relating to the search year visa for graduates from Dutch tertiary education institutions. Until now, the search year was available during the first 12 months following the date of graduation. Under the new rules, this will be extended until three years after graduation. The visa will allow graduates to return home after their graduation and spend some time there (or elsewhere), and still return to the Netherlands to look for a job. In addition, the graduates’ search year visa will become available to former researchers who have completed their research.

The effective date of these new rules has not been announced yet.

Salary Thresholds for 2016

The new salary thresholds for 2016 for highly skilled migrants (kennismigranten) and EU Blue Card holders have been published. As of January 1, 2016, the following gross monthly salary amounts apply, to which a statutory 8% holiday pay is added (see the figures in parentheses):

Highly skilled migrant aged 30 and above: €4,240 (i.e., €4,579.20 inclusive of 8% holiday pay)
Highly skilled migrant younger than 30 years: €3,108 (€3,356.64)
Highly skilled migrant with a Dutch degree: €2,228 (€2,406.24)
EU Blue Card holder: €4,968 (€5,365.44)