Congratulations! You are about to finish your study at a Dutch research university or university of applied sciences. We hope you have experienced an unforgettable and valuable study period in the Netherlands.
Your next step is probably finding a job in the Netherlands (hopefully in the east of our country …) or start your own business. A little help is offered by the authorities: as our government values the contribution of international students and highly skilled migrants greatly, a special residence permit was created: the permit “orientation year highly educated persons”.

How does it work?

The orientation year permit (or “zoekjaar” in Dutch) allows you to stay one year in the Netherlands after graduation or PhD and is meant for finding a job or start your own company. The great benefit from this permit is that it’s a residence and a work permit ! Your future employer therefor doesn’t have to apply for an additional work permit and you can start working immediately after study or research.

Rules and conditions

In general the following conditions apply:

  • In the past 3 years you have completed an accredited bachelor’s or master’s programme in the Netherlands; or
    completed a master’s or post-master’s programme or obtained a PhD at a designated international educational institution abroad
  • You apply yourself online (using DigiD)
  • The application can start shortly before graduating. The diploma can be send to the IND at a later time
  • The residence pass can be collected from our Welcome Center in the Stadskantoor in Enschede
  • The permit can not be extended

For all the details, visit the website of the Immigration & Naturalisation Service (IND).

What happens after the orientation year period?

If your current employer wants to extend your labor contract, he will have to apply for a new residence-and workpermit for you. This will mostly be the permit for a highly skilled worker. One of the most important requirements is that the employer needs to be a “recognised sponsor”  ( “erkend referent” in Dutch)  with the IND. The application will take about 5-6 weeks and costs are involved. The employer can contact the Expat Center for information and assistance during the application and necessary steps to take.
Another requirement is that a highly skilled migrant will get sufficient income. The salary criteria are fixed and mentioned on the website of IND. A reduced salary criterion is applicable  during or directly following the orientation year period.

I want to start my own company

It might be that your specific situation requires another type of residence permit after your study, research or PhD. A start-up visa is perhaps more fitting.
This permit also allows you to stay a year in the Netherlands and gives you time to start your company. There are other criteria, like

  • Collaboration with a reliable and experienced facilitator. Local facilitators are OostNL and Novel-T.
  • The product or the service is innovative.
  • The start-up entrepreneur has a (step-by-step) plan in order to move from idea to business.
  • The start-up entrepreneur and the facilitator are both registered in the Trade Register of the Chamber of Commerce.
  • There are sufficient financial means (resources) to be able to reside and live in the Netherlands.
  • The residence pass can be collected from our Welcome Center in the Stadskantoor in Enschede

Essential start-up personnel
Beginning, start-up companies are important to the Dutch economy. To be able to grow, these start-ups often already need employees with specific high-valued expertise, experience and skills. However the residence permits for highly skilled migrant do’nt always match with the way start-ups bind personnel to their company in this early phase. With the pilot essential start-up personnel, the Netherlands wants to stimulate the knowledge economy by giving these beginning companies a better opportunity to hire the required experts.

All the necessary details on requirements can be found on the website of the Immigration & Naturalisation Service (IND) and the Expat Center is more than willing to assist you as well.

Start your own business as freelancer

When you start a business or want to register as freelancer, you need to register with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce: KVK. Freelancers are called ZZP’er in Dutch, meaning a freelancer without personnel.
You can start your registration on the website. The process is still in Dutch, but you can contact the KvK if you need assistance.