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The Netherlands, as well as the European Union as a whole, is making an effort to attract foreign investors, the wealthy, and persons of “high quality” and with knowledge to reside permanently within its borders.  Most non-EU investor visa applicants, who are eligible for a self-employed residence permit if they meet certain conditions, reportedly must invest a minimum of about $35,560 and engage in business activities that are substantially in the interest of the Netherlands.  However, owing to friendship treaty arrangements, citizens of the United States and Japan need only invest a minimum $5,939 in a Dutch business and are exempt from the “substantial interest” requirement.

I.  Introduction

The Netherlands introduced a points-based immigration system “for independents, business proprietors and investors” on January 3, 2008,[1] although the system had already been launched in 2006 for “knowledge” and “high quality” migrants.[2] The country’s investment visa program targets “individuals of high net worth status, business proprietors and foreign investors, provided each applicant adds value to the Netherland’s economy.”[3]

The European Union has also “publicly recognized the key contribution that migrant entrepreneurs can make to sustainable growth and employment,” and stressed their importance in its European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals.[4]  Under its Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan, the European Commission pledges to “propose policy initiatives to attract migrant entrepreneurs and to facilitate entrepreneurship among migrants already present in the EU or arriving for reasons other than setting up business” and to “analyse the opportunity of proposing legislation aimed at removing legal obstacles to establishment of businesses and giving qualified immigrant entrepreneurs a stable permit.”[5] 

At the same time, the Commission invites EU Member States to take similar action to remove legal obstacles to migrant entrepreneurs,

such as considering initiatives to give to qualified immigrant entrepreneurs or immigrant graduates of a European university-level institution a stable permit to allow them to set up a business in Europe, which can be extended if pre-defined targets in terms of job-creation, turnover or raising of new funding are achieved.[6]

Second, the European Commission urges Member States to “facilitate access to information and networking for migrant entrepreneurs and prospective migrant entrepreneurs by, e.g., creating relevant information centres in areas densely populated by migrants.”[7]

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II.  Self-Employed Residence Permit

Typically, foreigners who seek to work in the Netherlands are prohibited from working without a work permit.[8]  However, article 14 of the Aliens Act 2000 (Vreemdelingenwet)[9] authorizes the Minister of Security and Justice to grant on his own initiative a residence permit for a fixed period or to extend the period of validity.  Moreover, under the Aliens Employment Act (Wet Arbeid Vreemdelingen), an alien who has a residence permit for a fixed period, as referred to in the Aliens Act 2000, for the purpose of self-employment is exempt from the prohibition against foreigners working in the Netherlands without a work permit as long as he or she carries out work as a self-employed person.[10] Aliens in respect of whom there are agreements with other countries or a binding international organization decision for the Netherlands are also exempt from the work permit requirement.[11]

Persons who wish to practice a profession or set up a business in the Netherlands may apply for a residence permit as an entrepreneur[12] and will be exempt from the work permit requirement.  Although investor visa applicants are not subject to the Dutch work permit requirement, in general they must have a provisional residence permit (Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf, MVV), issued for stays longer than three months, and/or a residence permit for the self-employed verrichten van arbeid als zelfstandige) before they can begin working in the Netherlands.[13] The MVV is not required for EU or European Economic Area nationals or for nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, the United States, or Vatican City.[14]

Directors and major shareholders are also seen as entrepreneurs if they have at least a 25 percent interest in the company, are liable for any company risks, and can influence their income level.[15]  The maximum age of application is set at sixty years of age.[16]  Applicants who wish to start a business in the Netherlands must first register the company with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel);[17] those who seek to work in health-care services, however, must be registered in the “BIG” register.[18] 

The applicants are eligible for a one-year residence permit, renewable on an annual basis if the holder continues to fulfil the requisite conditions, allowing the holder to work within the scope of his or her business.[19] 

A.  Conditions for Non-EU Nationals in General

According to the European Financial Services Advisory Group, a business consultancy firm, in order to qualify for the self-employed residence permit, most non-EU entrepreneur nationals must make a minimum capital investment in the Netherlands of €27,000 (about US$35,559).[20]  Other conditions for those who wish to go to the Netherlands as entrepreneurs include, for example, having a valid travel document, not posting a risk to public order and security, having “sufficient and long-term means of support,” meeting the requirements for practice of one’s profession, engaging in business activities that “serve an essential Dutch interest” (to be assessed, except in the case of Turkish nationals, by a points-based system described below).[21]  Documents to be provided by the applicant include, for example, copies of identity details of his or her passport; the “Annex: Proof of Income” form; a certificate of qualification to practice a given profession, if applicable; a detailed business plan; and an income statement over the last twelve months before submission of the application.[22]

B.  The Points System

The applicant for an investor visa must have his business assessed according to a points system to ensure that it meets the requirement of serving the Dutch national interest and adding value to the economy.  An applicant must acquire at least 90 points out of a maximum 100 per relevant category (i.e., 300 points in all) under the Netherlands points-based visa scheme.[23]  The Immigration Service (IND) under the Ministry of Security and Justice administers the system, but SenterNovem, a Ministry of Economic Affairs agency, carries out the assessment and allocation of points.  Processing of applicants takes three to six months.[24]  The scheme is said to be similar to Denmark’s point system.[25] 

The points for the investor visa are awarded under three categories:

  • Personal experience: education, employment experience, previous annual income, possession of high-level entrepreneurial experience, experience acquired in working with or in the Netherlands (Holland);
  • Business plan: analysis of the market, organization, financing;
  • Added value for the Dutch (Netherlands) economy: innovation, creation of working places, investment.[26]

Under this scheme, for example, if the entrepreneur’s business plan will lead to the creation of two to five new job opportunities, the application will receive 10 points; a masters degree automatically confers 30 points; and a business plan involving a patent awards 20 points.[27]  The advantage of such a points system “is that one can compensate a weak point with a strong point within the same category.  For example, if an applicant does not have a PhD or Masters, then points can be scored with entrepreneurial experience, and the absence of financial investment can be compensated by an innovative product or patent.”[28]  Higher points may be allocated for those who invest in distressed businesses or in rural areas or ones suffering from high unemployment.[29]

A chart summarizing the three categories (the “investment” and “job creation” sub-categories are in full) has been published online as follows:[30]

[Category]

sub-category

max. pts

breakdown of categories

pts

experience

(30 pts required)

education

40

e.g. Masters degree

30

as entrepreneur

35

e.g. company owner

30

as employee

10

e.g. senior > 5 years

9

in the Netherlands

15

e.g. Dutch client

5

business plan

(30 pts required)

commercial prospects

50

market analysis + clientèle + etc

15

unique selling pt + marketing + etc

25

price

10

organisation

10

e.g. supporting the product

10

financial justification

40

private capital > € 10.000,-

15

sales e.g. > € 125.000,-

10

added value

(30 pts required)

innovativity

40

e.g. patents

20

job creation (applicant not included)

30

general positions

0,5-2

5

"

2-5

10

"

5-10

20

"

> 10

30

salary > € 45.000,-

1-3

10

"

3-6

20

"

> 6

30

investments

30

assets € 0,- to € 50.000,-

5

assets > € 50.000,-

10

assets > € 100.000,-

20

assets > € 1.000.000,-

30

Source: Jelle Kroes, Investor Visa Program for The Netherlands, VisaLaw International, http://www.visalawint.com/index.aspx?page=F08_8 (last visited July 22, 2013).

C.  Conditions for Permit Renewal and Family Reunion

Among the key conditions for renewal of the permit are that the applicant maintain an ongoing, active role in the business and a personal income level that is at least equivalent to the welfare level, which the available sources in English state to be €800 net per month.[31]  In order for spouses, unmarried partners, and/or children under the age of eighteen to join the entrepreneur, the entrepreneur’s income must be at least €1,559 net per month.[32] 

D.  Exceptions: Nationals of the United States and of Japan

Under the terms of the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty[33] or the Treaty of Trade and Navigation Between the Netherlands and Japan, citizens of either the United States or Japan may be self-employed and establish a business in the Netherlands without being subject to the requirement to prove that the business brings a substantial benefit to the Dutch national interest.[34]  Reportedly, “any kind of small business or self-employment can qualify, except the practice of law or medicine.”[35]  The minimum amount of investment in a Dutch enterprise required is low, only €4,500 (about US$5,939).[36]

Among the other conditions that must be met to qualify for this type of self-employment visa are registry with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce and possession of a qualified accountant-prepared opening balance sheet and financial forecast; operation of a business between the U.S. and the Netherlands or between Japan and the Netherlands; start-up of a new business opportunity and representation of an American or Japanese business in the Netherlands, or launch of a profession in which one has invested “substantial capital”; and “sufficient and long-term means of support.”[37] 

E.  Wealthy Immigrants

The Netherlands also makes available to qualified foreign entrepreneurs who have over €1,250,000 in verified financial assets a wealthy immigrant residence permit, which “allows self-employment without any restriction or review by the IND.”[38]

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III.  Information on Use of Investor Visas

No information has been found on the use by non-EU foreign nationals of the self-employed residence permit to invest in the Netherlands.  In terms of overall foreign investment in the Netherlands, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, citing The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency figures, stated that in 2012, 166 foreign companies invested almost €1 billion in the country, “the third highest number of foreign investors in the past decade,” providing more than 5,000, mostly skilled jobs, “a new record.”[39]

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Prepared by Wendy Zeldin*
Senior Legal Research Analyst
August 2013

* At present there are no Law Library of Congress research staff members versed in Dutch.  This report has been prepared by the author's reliance on practiced legal research methods and on the basis of relevant legal resources, chiefly in English, currently available in the Law Library and online.


[1] Jelle Kroes, Investor Visa Program for The Netherlands, VisaLaw International, http://www.visalawint.com /index.aspx?page=F08_8 (last visited July 22, 2013).  

[2] Dutch Opt for Migration Points System, Expatica.com (May 22, 2006), http://www.expatica.com/hr/story/dutch-opt-for-migration-points-system-30182.html.

[3] Netherlands Investment Immigration, European Financial Services Advisory Group, http://www.mysecond passport.com/investment-immigration/netherlands-investment-immigration (last visited July 22, 2013).

[4] European Commission, Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan, COM(2012) 795 final (Jan. 9, 2013), at 25, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2012:0795:FIN:EN:PDF.  For the European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals, the plan cites COM(2011) 455 final and SEC (2011) 957 final.

[5] Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan, supra note 4.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Wet arbeid vreemdelingen [Aliens Employment Act] (Dec. 21, 1994, as last amended Nov. 18, 2010, in force June 1, 2013), art. 2(1), Overheid.nl, http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0007149/geldigheidsdatum_23-07-2013.

[9] Wet van 23 november 2000 tot algehele herziening van de Vreemdelingenwet (Vreemdelingenwet 2000) [Act of 23 November 2000 on Overall Review of the Aliens Act (Aliens Act 2000)], art. 14(1)(e) (as last amended June 19, 2013, in force July 1, 2013), http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0011823/Hoofdstuk3/Afdeling3/Paragraaf1 /Artikel14/geldigheidsdatum_22-07-2013; Aliens Act 2000, Legislationline, http://www.legislationline.org /documents/id/4680 (last visited July 24, 2013) [not up-to-date].

[10] Aliens Employment Act, art. 3(1)(b).

[11] Id. art. 3(1)(a).

[12] Immigration and Naturalisation Service, Ministry of Security and Justice, Working on a Self-Employed Basis, http://www.ind.nl/en/Residence-Wizard/work/working-on-a-self-employed-basis/Pages/default.aspx (last visited July 23, 2013).  See also Aanvraag voor een verblijfsvergunning met het verblijfsdoel ‘arbeid als zelfstandige’ [Application for a Residence Permit with the Purpose of Stay [Being] ‘Self-Employment’], IND, http://www.ind .nl/Klant-informatie/Documents/7024.pdf (last visited July 23, 2013).

[13] Self-Employed Residence Permit in The Netherlands (Holland), Business Legal Consultancy, http://www .businesslegalconsultancy.com/en/3204/self-employed-residence-permit-in-the-netherlands-holland-ind.html (last visited July 23, 2013).

[14] Procedure, IND, http://www.ind.nl/en/Residence-Wizard/Procedure/Pages/default.aspx (last visited July 24, 2013).

[15] Working on a Self-Employed Basis, supra note 12.  Freelancers must meet the additional condition of having an assignment to carry out as a freelancer in the Netherlands.

[16] Netherlands Investment Immigration, supra note 3.

[17] Self-Employed Residence Permit in The Netherlands (Holland), supra note 13.

[18] Working on a Self-Employed Basis, supra note 12; BIG-register, CIBG, Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, https://www.bigregister.nl/en/ (last visited July 23, 2013).

[19] Kroes, supra note 1; Self-Employed Residence Permit in The Netherlands (Holland), supra note 13.

[20] Netherlands Investment Immigration, supra note 3.

[21] Working on a Self-Employed Basis, supra note 12.

[22] Id.

[23] Self-Employed Residence Permit in The Netherlands (Holland), supra note 13.

[24] Kroes, supra note 1.  For an overview of the organization of the Dutch immigration system, see, e.g., The Organisation of Asylum and Migration Policies Factsheet: Netherlands, European Migration Network (Nov. 2012), http://emn.intrasoft-intl.com/Downloads/prepareShowFiles.do?entryTitle=0%2E%20Institutional%20Charts %20on%20Asylum%20and%20Migration (scroll down page to “NETHERLANDS Factsheet_Institutional Chart”).  For a study of Dutch immigration policies, see, e.g., Netherlands National Report, European Migration Network (July 2012) (covering the period Jan. 1, 2011–Dec. 31, 2011), http://emn.intrasoft-intl.com/Downloads /prepareShowFiles.do;jsessionid=861EB6D49E9DFE503C5FF1B31CD7B2FF?entryTitle=01.  See also Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC), EESC Opinion: The Contribution of Migrant Entrepreneurs to Economy, European Economic and Social Committee, (Sept. 18, 2012), http://www.eesc.europa.eu/?i=portal .en.soc-opinions.21988.

[25] Netherlands Investment Immigration, supra note 3.

[26] Self-Employed Residence Permit in The Netherlands (Holland), supra note 13.

[27] Netherlands Investment Immigration, supra note 3.

[28] Residency for Self-Employed Entrepreneurs, Everaert Advocaten, http://www.visalawint.com/images /Residency%20for%20self-employed%20entrepreneurs.pdf (last visited July 23, 2013).  The article also states that SenterNovem may make exceptions to strict adherence to the point system.  “Experience with the system has shown that Senternovem may provide positive advice even if the minimum of 30 points is not acquired in each category.  As an example, Senternovem may decide that an entrepreneur’s exceptional knowledge or competency is of significant contribution to the Dutch economy as a whole.”  Id.

[29] Kroes, supra note 1.

[30] Id.; also found in Dutch Business Immigration Program, Business Immigration Visa, http://www.business immigrationvisa.com/netherlands.php (last visited July 23, 2013).

[31] Kroes, supra note 1; Netherlands Investment Immigration, supra note 3.  However, according to the IND’s “Table of Standard Amounts Considered Adequate Financial Resources,” with amounts in effect from July 1, 2013, married couples and unmarried couples living together in the Netherlands for purposes of permanent residence or for a short stay visa must have a minimum monthly wage (including holiday allowance) of €1,596.02.  Table of Standard Amounts Considered Adequate Financial Resources, IND, http://www.ind.nl/en/Customer-Information/sufficient income/Pages/default.aspx (last visited July 24, 2013).

[32] Residency for Self-Employed Entrepreneurs, supra note 28.  For payment by the self-employed of social security contributions and health insurance, see, e.g., If You Are Self-Employed in the Netherlands, Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB), http://www.svb.nl/int/en/bbz/werken/zelfstandige_nederland (last visited July 23, 2013).

[33] Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, United States-Netherlands, Mar. 27, 1956, 8 U.S.T. 2043, 2055, T.I.A.S. No. 3942; Netherlands Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty (Mar. 27, 1956), Trade Compliance Center, http://tcc.export.gov/Trade_Agreements/All_Trade_Agreements/exp_005868.asp; Treaty of Commerce and Navigation Between the Netherlands and Japan, 8:3 Am. J. Int’l L., Supplement: Official Documents, 228-236 (July 1914), available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/2212312.

[34] Dutch Self-Employment Visas, EXPATLAW, http://expatlaw.nl/dutch-self-employment-visas.htm (last visited July 23, 2013).

[35] Id.

[36] Self-Employed Residence Permit in The Netherlands (Holland), supra note 13.

[37] Working on a Self-Employed Basis, supra note 12.

[38] Dutch Self Employment Visas, supra note 34.

[39] Henk Kamp, The Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, State of the Economy, Speech in The Hague (Feb. 14, 2013), http://www.government.nl/ministries/ez/documents-and-publications/speeches/2013/02/14/the-state-of-the-economy.html.