Hiring international talent

Employment regulations in the Netherlands have been designed to offer a number of different ways of engaging international talent. This ensures that businesses and organisations in the Netherlands can employ the best skillsets, develop world-class research and invest in highly skilled graduates. Keeping abreast of these regulations and what they mean for established businesses and start-ups is just one of the services Expat Centre Maastricht Region can facilitate.

Highly-skilled migrants – knowledge workers

A kennismigrant (highly skilled migrant), also known as a “knowledge worker” is a person who is deemed to make a contribution to the knowledge-based economy in the Netherlands and migrates to the Netherlands on an employment contract earning them sufficient long-term income. The highly skilled migrant process is the most effective way to hire an employee from outside the European Union (EU).

Only Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst – IND erkend referenten (recognised sponsors) can employ knowledge workers utilising the highly-skilled migrant process.

Rights and obligations of sponsors

An IND recognised sponsor has rights and obligations, such as making use of the fast-track process and declaration forms. Only those highly skilled foreign citizens may be selected who meet specific conditions for admission to and residence in the Netherlands.

Applying for recognition as a sponsor

Further details regarding conditions and application processes for IND recognised sponsors can be found at the IND website.


An onderzoeker (Scientific Researcher) is someone who works under directive 2005/71/EC or under directive 2016/801 as a:

  • Paid scientific researcher;
  • PhD student;
  • Unpaid scientific researcher with a grant.

The Scientific Researcher must intend to conduct research at a research institution in the Netherlands. This research institution must be an IND erkend referent (recognised sponsor).

A Scientific Researcher has:

  • An appropriate higher education degree. The degree gives access to a doctorate programme. The research institution determines if the degree is appropriate. The degree must have been certified by a notary or municipality (in the Netherlands or abroad). If a researcher does not have an appropriate higher education degree, the research institution must declare that it has been demonstrated that the researcher has the correct level of education.
  • A research project that has been approved by the institution. The institution has assessed the purpose, duration of the research and the funds required for conducting this research.
  • Have an employment contract or hosting agreement with a research institution.
  • The qualifications to earn sufficient income. This income is independent and long-term. Is the researcher not being paid by the research institute? Then they must receive income from another source, for example a grant or sponsor payments, or have enough money in a bank account for the whole duration of their stay in the Netherlands.

Further details regarding conditions and application processes for Scientific Researchers can be found at the IND website.

Orientation Year residence permit for highly educated persons

Highly educated foreign citizens who have graduated abroad or in the Netherlands can obtain a verblijfsvergunning zoekjaar hoogopgeleiden (Orientation Year residence permit for highly educated persons) with a maximum term of 1 year in order to find a job as a highly skilled migrant or to start an innovative company. This scheme aims to ensure that exceptional international talent is more easily admitted to the Netherlands.

Eligible applicants can apply for this residence permit within 3 years of completing a study or research project.

It is not possible to extend the length of this 12-month residence permit; however it is possible to apply for another Orientation Year residence permit after another period of eligible study is completed.

During the 12-month period, Orientation Year permit holders are granted free access to the labour market in the Netherlands without any restrictions (no work permit required). They are allowed to accept any (temporary) job, including internships (paid or unpaid), to work as a freelancer or to start their own company.

If the residence permit for highly skilled migrant has been applied for during or directly following the period of residence with the orientation year permit a reduced salary criterion is applicable.

Their family members will also have free access to the labour market in the Netherlands during the orientation year, without restrictions.

Further details regarding conditions and application processes for the Orientation year can be found at the IND website.

Intra-company transferee

A residence permit is required for trainees, company representatives or specialists in an intra-company transfer. There are special conditions for this type of employee engagement.

The employer applies for a gecombineerde vergunning voor verblijf en arbeid GVVA (a combined residence and work permit). This permit entitles the foreign citizen to stay and work in the Netherlands. The GVVA combines the verblijfsvergunning (residence permit) and the tewerkstellingswerkvergunning – TWV (work permit). The employer only has to apply for 1 permit, to 1 authority: the Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst – IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service). The IND asks advice from the Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen – UWV (Employee Insurance Agency) about the labour market aspect. UWV assesses the request for advice based on the criteria of the Wet Arbeid Vreemdelingen – WAV (Foreign Citizens Employment Act). The IND takes a decision on the basis of the advice of UWV. If the decision is positive and the GVVA is issued, the IND will inform the employer accordingly.

The employer can choose to become an IND erkend referent (recognised sponsor). This is not obligatory, however recognition as sponsor has a number of advantages.

Becoming an IND recognised sponsor

Before submitting an application for a residence permit on behalf of a kennismigrant (highly skilled migrant), onderzoeker (researcher) or top artiest (professional artist), the organisation must be an Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst – IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service) erkend referent (IND recognised sponsor). After the organisation has been recognised as a sponsor, it will be listed in the Public Register of Recognised Sponsors, enabling highly skilled migrants to confirm that organisations are a recognised sponsor.

Additionally, recognition has the following advantages:

  • IND aims to decide within 2 weeks on applications from recognised sponsors.
  • Recognised sponsors may enclose less documentary evidence with the application for a residence permit. In many cases, the organisation’s statement for admission (a statement that the highly skilled migrant (and their family member(s)) meets all the conditions for admission and stay in the Netherlands, is sufficient.
  • Recognised sponsors for labour can contact the IND directly via: arbeid@ind.minvenj.nl.

Further details regarding conditions and application processes for becoming an IND recognised sponsor can be found at the IND website.

30% Tax Facility

When a company in the Netherlands brings in a worker from abroad, the company often pays the additional cost(s) for the employee’s temporary stay in the Netherlands. The actual costs can be reimbursed, but it is also possible to use the 30% Tax Facility if the employee qualifies.

The 30% Tax Facility may apply if the employee is recruited or seconded from outside the Netherlands to work in the Netherlands. 

Engaging volunteer staff

When engaging the services of volunteers in organisations the following considerations must be made.

Citizens of non-European Union (EU) / European Economic Area (EEA) Member States require a valid work permit to engage in volunteer activities.

Holders of a tourist visa are not allowed to do voluntary work. Recipients of unemployment benefits may not be allowed to volunteer without prior consent from the UWV (Employee Insurance Agency).

In the Netherlands a Verklaring Omtrent het Gedrag – VOG (Certificate of Good Conduct) is sometimes required before starting volunteer work. It is a document by which the Minister voor Rechtsbescherming (Minister for Legal Protection) declares that the applicant did not commit any criminal offences that are relevant to the performance of their duties.

Any payment for volunteer work is tax free up to a maximum of €210 per month or €2.100 per year. In order to be able to take advantage of this tax break (on the €2.100), the organisation must have an Algemeen nut beogende instellingen – ANBI (Public Benefit Organisation) status and must provide the volunteer with the required documentation for tax purposes.