Conditions and benefits of the highly skilled migrant permit, EU Blue Card and ICT permit
Learn about the requirements of the Netherlands’ three main immigration permits: the highly skilled migrant programme, the EU Blue Card and the ICT permit, including the similarities, differences and benefits of each permit.
Residence permits for migrants in the Netherlands
Various immigration schemes have been developed to attract highly skilled migrants from outside the European Union. The most common scheme is the Dutch highly skilled migrant programme (kennismigrant). There are also other types of permits attempting to attract highly skilled migrants, such as the EU Blue Card and the permit for intra-corporate transferees. The EU Blue Card is a work and residence permit for highly educated foreigners. The intra-corporate transfer permit, which will now be referred to as the ICT permit, is for employees of a group that has transferred from a company outside the EU to the same group of companies within the Netherlands.
Both the EU Blue Card and the highly skilled migrant programme require an employment contract with a company in the Netherlands. The EU Blue Card requires an employment contract of at least a year, and the highly skilled migrant permit (HSM) requires a three-month contract.
If the employee is already working for a company outside the EU and is transferring to an office within the Netherlands, the case will fall under the ICT Directive. In these cases, it is not possible to obtain another permit, such as the highly skilled migrant permit or the EU Blue Card – regardless of whether you meet the requirements of the ICT permit.
Regarding the EU Blue Card and the highly skilled migrant programme, there are no requirements about the employee’s type of job. The ICT permit, however, requires that the transferring employee must have a manager, specialist or trainee position.
The Dutch highly skilled migrant programme has no education requirements for applicants.
For the EU Blue Card requires a diploma of post-secondary education with a minimum duration of three years, and the diploma must be evaluated by the Dutch office for Evaluation of Foreign Credentials (IDW). It must also be equivalent to a Dutch bachelor or master’s degree.
If the applicant is transferring under the ICT Directive as a manager or specialist, they must hold a Bachelor degree or have five years of relevant work experience. A trainee employee must hold a master’s degree.
A vital requirement of the Dutch highly skilled migrant permit is that the company must be approved as a recognised sponsor by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). If the company is not recognised, it cannot apply for the permit.
For the EU Blue Card and the ICT permit, the company does not need to be recognised as a sponsor.
There are certain circumstances when the employee meets the requirements of more than one permit. If they are already working in the Netherlands, it might be beneficial to switch to another type of permit. In these situations, it is beneficial to know the advantages and disadvantages of each permit.
Speed of the application procedure
If the employer is approved as a recognised sponsor by the IND, the IND usually makes a decision within about two weeks, regardless of whether the employer applies for the Dutch highly skilled migrant permit, the EU Blue Card or the ICT transfer. The EU Blue Card requires an additional step before a permit application can be submitted: the diploma or degree of the foreigner must first be evaluated by the Dutch office for Evaluation of Foreign Credentials. This procedure takes between two to four weeks.
Both the Dutch highly skilled migrant permit and the ICT permit can be applied for online. This is not yet possible for EU Blue Cards.
If the IND do not recognise the employee as a sponsor, the worker is not eligible to apply for the Dutch highly skilled migrant permit. The application procedure for non-recognised sponsors can take up three months for the EU Blue Card and the ICT permit.
The salary threshold for EU Blue Cards is considerably higher than for applicants under the Dutch highly skilled migrant scheme and the ICT permit, especially when applicants are younger than 30 years old. This makes the Dutch highly skilled migrant and ICT permit more flexible for employers regarding the salary that they offer to their employees.
Duration of the residence permit
For both the EU Blue Card and the Dutch highly skilled migrant permit, the duration of the scheme corresponds with the duration of the employment contract. This means that if the employee has an employment contract for one year, the permit will also be issued for one year. If the employee has a contract for an indefinite duration, the Dutch highly skilled migrant permit is issued for a maximum of five years, and the EU Blue Card is issued for a maximum of four years. Both permits can be extended.
The ICT permit is considerably less flexible in this regard. The permit is issued for a maximum of three years for managers and specialists and one year for trainees. The ICT permit cannot be extended; to remain in the Netherlands, the employee must apply for one of the other permits.
Employment as entrepreneur allowed for holders of the Dutch highly skilled migrant permit and EU Blue Card holders
As of 1 April 2017, holders of a Dutch highly skilled migrant permit and EU Blue Card can take up work as an entrepreneur besides to their regular job. This possibility does not apply to holders of an ICT permit. It is required that the highly skilled migrant and EU Blue Card holder must continue to comply with the specific conditions of their permit if they also start their own business.
Both the EU Blue Card holder and the Dutch highly skilled migrant permit holder may qualify for a permanent EC long-term residence permit, under Directive 2003/109/EC, after a five-year legal stay in the Netherlands. The benefit for the EU Blue Card holders is that they are allowed to accumulate periods of residence in different Member States in order to fulfill the requirements of 5 years of legal and continuous stay. Provided, that the applicant has legal and continuous residence for two years immediately prior to the submission within the territory of the EU member country, where the application for the EC long-term residence permit is lodged. The possibility to accumulate periods of residence in other Member States is not open to holders of the Dutch highly skilled migrant permit.
There is another big advantage for EU Blue Card holders: if the employee leaves the European Union, it is not considered an interruption of the five-year continuous legal stay (providing that this period is shorter than 12 consecutive months and does not exceed 18 months in total.) These periods of absence are restricted to cases when the EU Blue Card Holder has returned to his country of origin to work as an employee or self-employed person, or to study or volunteer. Holders of the Dutch highly skilled migrant permit are not allowed to have any interruption in their five years of legal and continuous stay to qualify for the EC long-term residence permit.
The ICT permit does not count towards obtainment of the EU long-term residence permit. However, the ICT permit may count towards obtaining the Dutch national residence permit after five years of continuously holding a valid residence permit. As that the ICT permit is issued for a maximum of three years, it must be switched to another type of permit after three years. This would enable the employee to build up five years of residence, enabling them to apply for the Dutch permanent residence permit.
Naturally, each permit is aiming to attract highly skilled migrants that have different requirements, and each one grants different rights to the employee (once the permit is obtained.) Depending on your specific situation, it may be useful to apply for one type of permit or switch to another type of permit if you are already residing in the Netherlands.