Are you legally entitled to start a business?

Those starting their own business should first determine whether they’re legally entitled to do so in the Netherlands. Nationals of one of the EU member states or the EEA (European Economic Area) and Swiss citizens are free to live in the Netherlands and work on a self-employed basis. Although they’re not legally required to register with the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service), it is advisable to do so because documentation may be requested – for example by an insurance company.

If you are neither a Dutch national nor EU citizen and you do not have permanent residency, you should check carefully with the IND (or an immigration lawyer) concerning your individual situation and residency rights.

Highly skilled migrants, for instance, may be able to establish a private company with their existing residence permit provided certain conditions are met, however EU Blue Card holders cannot start a business. Alternatively, there are some other options, such as the scheme for startups, which is a residence permit programme that affords ambitious entrepreneurs from outside the EU one year to launch an innovative new business in the Netherlands.

The first steps in setting up your company

Before registering your company with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK), the business name and legal form of company must be decided upon. Your business or trade name must be clear, unique, appropriate and advertise only the services actually provided. You can check existing trademarks with the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property.

Then there is the legal form of the company – i.e., how the company should be structured. This depends on whether the business is operated by one or several owners, whether there will be financial partners, and so on. For example:

  • General partnership or Vennootschap Onder Firma (VOF): A general partnership is a business structure with one or more partners.
  • Limited partnership or Commanditaire Vennootschap (CV): This is a business structure with one or more general partners and one or more limited partners.
  • Professional partnership or maatschap: This partnership differs from the general partnership and the limited partnership in that it is a form of cooperation established by professionals.
  • Private company with limited liability or Besloten Vennootschap (BV): A BV is classed as a legal entity, thereby limiting the risks to the owner(s).
  • One-man business, also known as a sole trader or eenmanszaak: In a one-man business, there is one fully independent founder and owner, although the business may employ personnel.

Learn more about the legal forms of companies and how they can impact the company you are launching in the Netherlands.

Register your company

Registration with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce is compulsory for every business. These days, many official matters can be handled remotely, either online or by post. Should you need to attend in person, you can schedule an appointment online. Depending on the legal form of your proposed company, you will need to fill in the required registration form or forms. The good news is that most forms are available in English – although you may need to add some Dutch translations if prompted. It’s also good to keep in mind that the legal structure of your company determines who is authorised to sign forms on its behalf. And you will be required to pay a small, non-recurring registration fee to the KVK.

Upon completion of your registration, your company will be recorded in the Dutch Commercial Register and you will be given an eight-digit KVK number as proof of registration. Details of the registration will also be passed to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst).

Follow our step-by-step guide to starting a business in the Amsterdam Area