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Startup permits

As of 2015, a new regulation makes it possible for ambitious entrepreneurs to apply for a temporary residence permit for the Netherlands. The so-called residence permit ‘scheme for startups’ affords ambitious entrepreneurs one year to launch an innovative business. A prerequisite is that this startup must be guided by an experienced mentor (facilitator) that is based in the Netherlands.

Scheme for startups

The Netherlands has traditionally been a country that welcomes entrepreneurial spirits. After centuries of enterprise and ingenuity, the combination of innovation, trade and entrepreneurship remains a driving force within the nation’s economy and is a key source of economic renewal and job creation. As such, it is recognised that entrepreneurs stimulate economic growth.

Under the scheme for startups, new international startups launching in the Netherlands will be offered the necessary support to develop into a mature enterprise. This scenario is not only beneficial for the entrepreneur but also creates a solid foundation for job creation and economic growth. Read more about how the Dutch government is supporting ambitious entrepreneurs and startups.

Why start a business in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is one of the five most competitive economies in the world. It has much to offer foreign entrepreneurs and investors: for example, exceptional road, rail, sea and air infrastructure; digital infrastructure that is world-leading in terms of both speed and reliability; and a broad spectrum of (international) businesses with multilingual and productive employees. And besides the excellent business climate, there is the fantastic quality of life, with the Netherlands setting high standards in (international) education, healthcare and recreation.

How does the ‘scheme for startups’ work?

This scheme is aimed at ambitious entrepreneurs arriving from outside of the European Union. The scheme’s associated residence permit entitles the applicant to be a resident of the Netherlands for one year. Within that year, the startup entrepreneur can create a business based on an innovative product or service under the guidance of an experienced mentor.

After one year, the startup entrepreneur may have the duration of their residence permit extended on the basis of the Dutch government’s self-employment scheme under the condition that the startup entrepreneur meets the standard requirements applicable to the self-employment scheme. As of January 1, 2016, the application for the new permit can include a reference letter from the facilitator, increasing the chances to be granted a permit. Refer to this infographic for an overview of the start-up visa permit.

What are the conditions of the start-up permit?

  • Working together with a trusted and experienced mentor (facilitator) that is based in the Netherlands. The facilitator provides the entrepreneur with a tailor-made package of support dependent on the specific needs of the startup. The facilitator can, for example, offer help with operational management, marketing, research and investment acquisition for setting up an innovative business.
  • A product or service that is innovative. A product or service can be classed as innovative if at least one of the following three conditions are met: the product or service is new to the Netherlands; a new technology or technique for production, distribution or marketing is involved; and there is an innovative organisational procedure and method. Find more information on the website of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.
  • The startup entrepreneur has a (step-by-step) plan to develop their idea into a business.
  • The startup entrepreneur and the facilitator are registered in the Trade Register of the Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel).
  • The startup entrepreneur must have sufficient finance (resources) to reside and live in the Netherlands for 1 year. 

Where can I submit an application?

The application for a residence permit for a startup entrepreneur must be submitted to the IND by the startup entrepreneur or an authorised representative. Startup entrepreneurs residing abroad must submit their application for a residence permit to the Dutch embassy or consulate in the country in which they are resident. View an overview of Dutch embassies around the world.

Exceptions to this are startup entrepreneurs of Australian, Canadian, Japanese, New Zealand, American (USA) or South Korean nationality. These entrepreneurs can submit an application directly to the IND using the application form on their website.

Foreign nationals who already have a valid residence permit for the Netherlands but who wish to transfer this to a residence permit for startup entrepreneurs can also use the application form on the IND’s website.

There is a fee for submitting an application. Check the cost on the IND website. For successful applications, the residence permit can be collected from the IND’s service desks in the Netherlands or at one of the officially cooperating Expatcenters or Expat Desks in the Netherlands.

Who assesses the application?

For the assessment, the IND consults with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, a part of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The agency gives advice in regards to the facilitator's (1) innovativeness (2) the step-by-step plan and (3) the entry in the Trade Register. A positive response is required on all counts in order to obtain a residence permit. The IND will also assess the applicant’s financial means. 

For more information