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Coming to the Netherlands as an entrepreneur

Categories: Career Advice

For love, for money, for adventure; there are near-infinite reasons why people emigrate nowadays. If you are an entrepreneur or a self-employed person from outside the EU, EEA or Switzerland, and are considering moving to the Netherlands, you will be happy to know that there is a whole host of information available to help you through the process.

For ambitious people with dreams of running their own business in the Netherlands, we have put together a comprehensive guide outlining everything you need to know. However, before we look at how to get started, we will first examine why the Netherlands is a popular choice for non-native entrepreneurs.

The benefits of doing business in the Netherlands:

The strong Dutch economy

The country’s economy has always been robust. In 2008, while the rest of the world struggled during the global economic crash, Dutch employment rates hit an all time high. The Netherlands currently has the eighth-highest employment rate in the world and ranks sixth on the global Prosperity Index. The economy is predicted to continue to grow long into the next decade.

A multi-lingual land

The Dutch are known for their excellent grasp of numerous languages. To only speak one’s mother-tongue is quite unusual in the Netherlands. English is learned in school from a young age and spoken near-fluently in most regions. This will be of immense worth to English speakers and will certainly make the transition with a business a lot easier. Until you learn Dutch, you won’t find yourself completely at sea in the Netherlands.

Big business is doing it

Since Brexit was announced, many UK-based international corporations have been looking for new locations for their headquarters. The Dutch have been engaged in a serious effort to attract big business by showcasing the advantages of doing business there. That effort is paying off with a large amount of corporations, particularly within the banking and finance sectors, choosing to relocate to the Netherlands.

Infrastructure is the lifeblood of industry

Not only does the country’s geographic location lead it to being a literal gateway to Europe, a strong infrastructure (both physical and digital) makes the Netherlands an incredibly attractive place to do business. Home to major international hubs such as Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam, the country also has sturdy and effective public transport, road and telecommunications networks.

The Netherlands loves innovation

Although many countries claim it, the Netherlands is a country that truly does love innovation. The Dutch government is incredibly supportive of innovative entrepreneurial enterprises, going so far as to provide specific support and additional financing for these types of endeavors.

Should you have a particularly innovative idea, and wish to bring it with you to the Netherlands, a special start-up visa is available, which comes with a 12-month residence permit. If you have an innovative new product or service and wish to move to the Netherlands temporarily, or are seeking a stepping stone towards gaining a long-term visa, the Dutch start-up visa is a good option to look into.

Support on a governmental level

For established businesses looking to expand into the Netherlands, support for large organisations is available in the form of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA). However, even for sole traders and small enterprises, the Dutch government makes extensive support available. Business.gov.nl is an English language online portal for resident and foreign entrepreneurs. This incredibly comprehensive government initiative is designed as a user-friendly point of contact and source of information.

Emigrating with your business to the Netherlands

Much like starting your own business in the Netherlands from scratch, emigrating as an entrepreneur or a self-employed person is not difficult if you know how. An essential step to being able to run your own business in Netherlands is to get a BSN (burgerservicenummer), the Dutch equivalent to a social security number. With this, you are able to open a bank account, register for compulsory health insurance in the Netherlands and, most importantly for this topic, work.

To attain a BSN, an EU citizen can simply register at the local municipality (Gemeente) when they land in the Netherlands. However, for those coming from outside the EU, EEA or Switzerland, a residence permit must first be applied for.

Residence permits

To live in the Netherlands, as an entrepreneur or otherwise, you must first apply for a residence permit at the Dutch consulate or embassy in your country of origin. In fact, technically you must apply for two residence permits. You will need a provisional residence permit (MVV) and your permanent residence permit, which are applied for at the same time.

In order to get a Dutch residence permit, you must first meet a number of general conditions. While some exemptions do exist, these conditions apply to everyone regardless of the purpose of your stay in the Netherlands:

  1. You must have a valid passport or other travel document.
  2. You must sign an antecedents statement.
  3. You must undergo a medical test for tuberculosis (TB), unless you are from certain countries.

Permission to work as an entrepreneur

If you wish to live in the Netherlands and work as an entrepreneur, a business plan must be submitted when the above residence permits are applied for. In order to qualify, your business plan is analysed by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) and the potential benefit to the Dutch economy is vetted.

They will scrutinise many aspects to determine this, including your own education and experience, business and financial plans, market analysis, business innovation, employment creation and the added value to the Dutch economy. A scoring system determines whether your business endeavour serves an “essential Dutch interest”. By scoring 90 points or above, the RVO will provide a favourable report to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND).

IND assessment

The ultimate decision lies with the IND, who assess your application along with the report provided by the RVO. With approval, you will receive your  temporary residence permit stating that you are “allowed to work in the Netherlands”. You can now emigrate to the Netherlands and, once there, apply for a BSN at the local municipality. Within approximately 4 months, they will contact you to collect the full residence permit.

Recognition of your profession qualifications

You won’t need a separate diploma to establish a business in the Netherlands. However, certain professions are regulated and will require you to be in possession of recognised qualifications or be subject to professional competency requirements in order to conduct activities.

To go about checking whether your foreign diploma or profession is recognised, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency has provided detailed information to help direct you to the appropriate authority. In addition, if your business is in the healthcare industry, you must also sign up to the BIG Register which approves healthcare providers in the Netherlands.

Once all the above criteria are met and you are in possession of the relevant permits, you can then register your business endeavour with the Chamber of Commerce (KVK). With this registration you will receive a VAT number to enable to you legally carry out commercial activities and pay tax.

It may be overwhelming trying to digest all of this information in one go. Therefore, it might be beneficial to take a look at this useful webinar, in English, prepared by the Dutch government. The webinar comes in four parts and covers all aspects of the process. The main take-away from all of this seems to be that the door is always open to enthusiastic and motivated entrepreneurs who can positively contribute to the Netherlands.