Moving to the Netherlands

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A comprehensive guide to moving to the Netherlands

Do you associate the Netherlands with tulips, windmills, and cheese? In fact, there’s a lot more worth knowing before moving to the Netherlands: read on to broaden your general knowledge of the country and learn all about visa and residency requirements for moving to the Netherlands.

Relocating to the Netherlands

At a Glance:

  • The Dutch economy is the sixth largest in the European Union, being the transportation hub and a huge exporter of agri-food products.
  • Non-EU citizens will need a residence permit known as the MVV if they plan to stay for longer than three months.
  • The Hague is the legal capital of the world, home to organizations such as the International Court of Justice and Europol.
  • The key cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam are renowned centers of international commerce.

As the name indicates, the Netherlands is a low-lying country in geographical terms. About 25% percent of its surface is located below sea level and 50% less than one meter above. When moving to the Netherlands, you might well hear jokes about it being the first country that will drown in the ocean should sea levels begin to rise.

You are probably aware that the country is also referred to as “Holland”. This name, albeit used synonymously, actually refers to only two of the Netherlands’ provinces. Art aficionados will know the country mainly by its most famous painters. Artists like Johannes Vermeer or Vincent van Gogh have inspired many aspiring painters to move to the Netherlands for work or studies.


Since the constitutional reforms of 1848, the Netherlands has been a hereditary parliamentary monarchy. The constitution determines the duties and responsibilities of the monarch and other government authorities. King Willem-Alexander ascended the throne in 2013, after the abdication of his mother, Queen Beatrix.

Moving to the Netherlands will give you the chance to hear the king’s annual speech on the Prinsjesdag (the third Tuesday in September). In his speech, the king addresses the plans for the upcoming year, advises the head of Parliament and signs laws and royal resolutions.

Dutch Politics: First Chamber and Second Chamber

The Netherlands’ Cabinet is formed by the State Secretaries and the Council of Ministers. The latter has administrative responsibilities, e.g. preparing and implementing laws.

The Parliament (Staten-Generaal)consists of two chambers, the Senate (Eerste Kamer) and the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer). The second chamber has 150 elected members who supervise the work of the government. If a conflict arises between the government and the second chamber, the latter always has the last word.

The 75 members of the first chamber are elected by the members of Parliament in the 12 provinces (Provinciale Staten). The Senate has to approve laws before they are passed, but it does not have the right to make any changes.

In March 2017, the populist movement lead by Geert Wilder’s was rejected in favor of the liberal VVD party, lead by Mark Rutte, who is the current Prime Minister.

An Innovative and Growing Economy

The Netherlands is currently the sixth largest economy in the European Union and plays a significant role as the European transportation hub, particularly as Rotterdam has the largest port in Europe and Amsterdam has one of the biggest European airports. Meanwhile, the economy has been growing at a rate greater than expected in 2017, at 1.75%, and the deficit is shrinking as public finances thrive.

Expats may find jobs in various different economic sectors. The predominant industries are in agriculture, electrical machinery, chemicals and petroleum. For example, Shell and Royal Dutch are in charge of one of the most important oil refineries in the world. The highly mechanized food sector in the Netherlands has innovative agri-food technology, and produces a large surplus for processing and export.  Additionally, the farms are some of the most sustainable and efficient, meaning that the country is now a world-leader in the exportation of agri-foods. It provides employment for internationally operating logistic experts moving to the Netherlands from abroad.

Residency Requirements

Nationals of any of the EU/EEA member states (with the exception of Croatia) are free to move to the Netherlands and remain in the country. However, if you plan to stay for more than three months, you have to register with your municipal administration after moving to the Netherlands. For that you will need the following:

  • a valid ID or passport
  • a birth certificate, marriage certificate, and other documents
  • the lease or sales contract of your apartment or house

Contact your local administration beforehand to find out which documents you need exactly, as the requirements are subject to change. They may also vary, depending on where you live.

Expat Destination Netherlands: Visa Info

Retrieving Your Dutch Visa

If you are a citizen of one of the EU/EEA member states, you do not need a visa to move to the Netherlands. However, non-EU citizens require a residence permit (Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf — MVV) if their stay exceeds 90 days. However, this excludes citizens from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Canada, the US, and Vatican City. Residence permits are valid for one year. To apply for a residence permit, contact the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst — IND) and submit the application form at the IND. The verification of the documents in your country can take up to 90 days.

Non-EU citizens also require a work permit in order to be able to work in the Netherlands. Your employer will have to apply on your behalf at the UWV Werkbedrijf. The company has to prove that no EU citizen is qualified or willing to fill the position instead. Alternatively, you may also apply for a work permit after your arrival. Be aware, however, that you are not allowed to work until your permit is granted, which could take up to three months.

If you are not sure which type of visa you need, you can use the Dutch Immigration Services website to find out more.

Visas for the Self-Employed

As a self-employed expat, you must meet certain conditions to qualify for a visa:

  • You must have a valid passport.
  • You must have health insurance which covers you in the Netherlands.
  • You must not be a risk to public order.
  • You must be willing to undergo a tuberculosis test upon arrival.
  • You must have sufficient funds.
  • You must meet the legal requirements for practicing your profession, including providing your business license and company bank statement of the latest six months.
  • You must prove that you contribute to the country’s economy and show your Income Tax Return (ITR).

Your visa application is then reviewed on the basis of your personal experience, your business plan, and the material economic purpose of your business.

The ‟International City of Peace and Justice”: The Hague

The Hague, aka the “International City of Peace and Justice”, is home to many expats due to the presence of more than 150 international organizations. Most of them are of a judicial nature, strengthening the city’s reputation as the legal capital of the world. This legacy dates back to 1899, when the world’s first peace conference resulted in the establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. Other organizations include the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and Europol, to name a few.

As the seat of the Dutch Royal Court and Government, The Hague is also home to many foreign journalists, politicians, and civil servants. All foreign embassies and government ministries are situated in The Hague. The city also hosts the European Library and numerous academic institutions devoted to the study of international law.

Amsterdam and Rotterdam

Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ largest city and its financial and cultural capital. The headquarters of many Dutch corporations and institutions are located here, as are the regional headquarters and branches of multinational corporations and financial institutions. After all, Amsterdam is home to the world’s oldest stock exchange.

Both in size and economic importance, it is closely followed by Rotterdam, an immensely vibrant and multicultural city. Europe’s largest port is sometimes referred to as the “Gateway to Europe”, due to its strategic location in an extensive network of waterways reaching all across the continent. As a result, Rotterdam is widely recognized as an international commercial center.

InterNations GO!
by InterNations GO!
10 October 2018

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