Starting a business

The Netherlands welcomes and supports international entrepreneurs who are interested in bringing their established business and industry expertise to the Maastricht Region. The regulations are also accommodating for starters taking their first steps into entrepreneurship. For both seasoned businesspeople and tenacious first-timers, Expat Centre Maastricht Region is equipped to provide expert advice and facilitate the information and advice required when starting a business whether it be big, medium or small.

Residence permit for foreign start-ups

The Netherlands has implemented regulations that enable ambitious international talent from non-EU/EEA countries to apply for a temporary residence permit for the Netherlands. This provides applicants with one year to launch an innovative business. In order to apply for the residence permit the start-up must be guided by an experienced mentor (facilitator) based in the Netherlands.

The following conditions apply for the foreign start-up residence permit:

  • the applicant must have sufficient funds to live independently in the Netherlands;
  • the start-up must provide an innovative product or service;
  • there is a step-by-step plan present to develop the proposed idea into a business;
  • both the start-up and the facilitator are registered with the Kamer van Koophandel – KVK (Chamber of Commerce).

There are also specific conditions for qualifying as a mentor/facilitator:

  • the facilitator must be trusted and financially stable;
  • the facilitating organisation cannot be in receivership or bankruptcy and may not have negative equity;
  • the facilitator may not have a majority interest in the start-up company;
  • the facilitator may not be closely related to the start-up entrepreneur (child, parent, grandparent, uncle/aunt).

The period of validity of the temporary start-up residence permit is up to one year. After one year, if the start-up meets the regular conditions applicable to the self-employment scheme, the applicant can then apply for a permit to work on a self-employed basis.

In addition, the applicant must be in possession of a statement from the facilitator, showing that they completed the supervisory trajectory in a minimum of three months and with positive results. This is evidence that the start-up entrepreneur has developed enough personal experience and has a sufficiently viable company. The facilitator’s statement equals at least the minimum score for personal experience, business plan and added value for the Dutch economy within the scoring system, necessary for a residence permit for self-employed persons.

Residence permit for self-employed persons

Individuals who want to move to the Netherlands from outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland, and work as an entrepreneur, self-employed professional (ZZP-er) or freelancer need to apply for a verblijfsvergunning zelfstandig ondernemer (residence permit for self-employed persons).

To be eligible for this type of residence permit, the applicant needs to meet the following conditions:

  • prove that they serve an essential interest to the Dutch economy;
  • score enough points on the scoring system to be eligible for a provisional residence permit, the scoring system consists of three criteria, the results of which are added together to form an overall score:
    • personal experience (education, entrepreneurship, work experience);
    • business plan (market analysis, product/service, price, organisation, financing);
    • added value for the Netherlands (innovation, employment creation, investments);
  • registration with the Kamer van Koophandel – KVK (Chamber of Commerce);
  • all requirements for practising the specified business or profession are met, this means that all the necessary licenses are held;
  • sufficient income can be earned from activities as an independent entrepreneur, this should be evident from the business plan.

There are some additional conditions for companies in individual healthcare and USA or Japanese citizens.

Checklist and sources of information

When planning to set up a business (including working as a freelancer) in the Netherlands, there are several things that must be considered:

  • What requirements need to be met in order to start a business in the Netherlands?
  • What legal forms need to be completed?
  • What taxes need to be paid?
  • Is a license or diploma/degree required?
  • What requirements are there for setting up a location/office?

In the Maastricht Region there are two main sources of information that can answer these questions.

Kamer van Koophandel – KVK (Chamber of Commerce)
The KVK is an independent source of information and advice for new businesses that offers help in four key areas:

  • new businesses;
  • international trade;
  • transfer of ownership and takeovers;
  • government rules and legislation.

If the staff are unable to help, they refer to in-house specialists or third parties. An initial enquiry is free of charge.

The closest KVK to the Maastricht Region is located in Roermond, who hold regular sessions (in Dutch) for those interested in starting a business in the Netherlands.

StartersCentrum Limburg (Starters Centre)
Is a starting point for those who want to learn more about starting a business in the Maastricht Region. Their expertise covers:

  • rules and regulations
  • business modelling
  • business plans
  • making contacts
  • building networks.
Regional business service centres

The Municipalities of Heerlen, Sittard-Geleen and Maastricht have established business service centres to help entrepreneurs navigate their way through the process and procedure of starting and running a business in the Maastricht Region. They are familiar with the procedures and administrative pathways within the municipality, can answer questions or direct queries to a colleague who specialises in a specific subject. The business service centres aim to bridge the gap between entrepreneurial ambitions and the framework within which they can be achieved. All advice is free.

Bedrijvencontactpunt in Heerlen
Maastricht Business Contact Centre in Maastricht
Ondernemerscontactpunt in Sittard-Geleen