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Expats Working in the Netherlands

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: October 2016

This article deals with the visas and work permits you need to gain permission to work in Holland before you arrive, and the conditions you will find once you start working there. For more information on finding a job and other work-related topics, see Employment and Business.
Note well that moving to Holland in the hope of finding work ‘on spec’ is not recommended. It is better to find and be offered work before moving to the Netherlands, as the bureaucracy can weigh heavily on you otherwise.

Permission to Work

There is a sharp distinction between EU residents and non-residents. EEA and Swiss citizens are free to live and work in Holland without a residence or work permit. If you have been working in another EU country for more than 12 months, you may be eligible for a special type of visa called a Van Der Elst Visa.

Things are more difficult if you are not an EEA or Swiss citizen, especially if you are not fluent in Dutch or English. Before you can apply for a work permit, you normally need a provisional residence permit (MVV) and a BSN (burgerservicenummer.) Furthermore, your prospective employer must be able to prove that there is no-one else in the EU available to fill the position.

To begin with, you will need to submit your completed application together with your residence permit, registration documents and contract of employment. Once you have started the application, you will be issued with a V-number, which you will need throughout the immigration process. Next you will need to apply for and be offered a job. Your future employer will then apply for a work permit on your behalf. Note that IT positions that are high in demand are dealt with by a separate section.

Allow up to two months for the application to be processed. Work permits can be obtained by your employer from the UWV Werkbedrijf (Dutch Employment Office). You will need a work permit so long as you are not a permanent resident. Exemptions may pertain to highly skilled individuals using the fast-track immigration process.

Note that a work permit only allows you to work for that specific employer. If you want to change to another employer, they will have to apply for a work permit on your behalf before you will be able to work.

Work permits take around five weeks to be processed, last for up to three years and cannot be transferred. After this, you will need to apply for a new work permit. Alternatively, if you are planning on a long-term stay in Holland, you can apply for a full residence, which means you no longer need a work permit.


Employment conditions in the Netherlands are generally favourable. Salaries average between €25,000 to €30,000, which is somewhat lower than most other Western European countries, but there are many benefits to compensate for this.

Work-life balance is skewed towards the latter side in Holland. The working day runs from either 8:30 to 4:30 or from 9:00 to 5:00. The total number of working hours per week is from 36 to 40. Workers cannot legally be forced to work more than nine hours a day or 45 hours a week, and most people do not take much overtime.

There are additional payments in summer and at Christmas. The minimum number of annual leave days for a full-time worker is 20 per annum, though many companies provide more than this, due to strong unionisation. Public sector workers can have 30 or more days of annual leave a year. Sick leave and other unplanned forms of leave are well catered for.

There is also strong legislation protecting workers in their jobs from unfair dismissal and harassment. The initial contract tends to be for six or twelve months, after which the employee is typically taken on permanently. Mandatory notice periods for employers increase as an employee gains seniority in the company. It is also impossible to summarily dismiss an established employee; the company must prove it has substantial grounds for dismissal to the local court.

It is likely to be worthwhile moving to Holland, provided you have the necessary skills that are in shortage. Businesses will generally have to prove that there are no locals who can do the job before they offer it to non-EEA /Swiss citizens, so in some sectors you may need to be highly qualified.




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