Zoekjaar translates literally as “search year.” The Dutch government has a program for highly educated graduates with bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees who would like to work in the Netherlands after graduation.
Think of a zoekjaar as an orientation year or a year in which graduates who want to work in the Netherlands after they get their degrees have the time to look for a job. The government recognizes their skills and the great value of their knowledge and expertise to the Netherlands, so it provides a status for one year to experience working here.
Can someone in my situation be eligible for this orientation year?
Here’s how it works. If you are a graduate of an accredited bachelor’s or master’s program in the Netherlands, or you have an MA/MS or doctorate from a Dutch university or a high-ranking foreign university, you can apply! You have three years from the date you receive your degree to apply.
Lists of accredited academic institutions can be found on several websites:
- Times Higher Education World University Rankings
- QS World University Rankings
- Academic Ranking of World universities
Before you apply, you must have in your hand a diploma or a declaration from your university that you have fulfilled all the requirements to earn your degree. The Dutch immigration service (IND) requires you to have them before you apply for the orientation year status.
The application is called “orientation year highly educated persons” and you can fill it out yourself. The application fees are here: The IND fee (in English).
Are you not physically in the Netherlands when you apply for the search year? You will need to start the Entry and Residence Procedure (TEV procedure) at a Dutch embassy or consulate in your country. That is where you get a residence permit, which we call the MVV (in Dutch, stands for machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf).
If you are in the Netherlands when you apply: If the status on your residence card is “education,” it is valid for three months after your program ends or until the start date of your search year if you are doing that right after school.
What is the background of the three-year window in which to apply?
The rules allow three years in which to apply because people may want to go home to visit family and friends and to spend some time thereafter a long time away at school before settling down to a career. It is a thoughtful gesture from the Dutch, who value a good work-life balance.
What are you allowed to do during the orientation year?
During your orientation year, you are free to work in the Netherlands. There is one condition: you must meet the salary requirements required IND salary. Check our website for the current required salary level.
The company that hires you during the orientation year does not need to have the recognized IND sponsorship to hire you. Payingit International takes care of all that administration; they will act as your employer because they are a recognized sponsor.
What happens at the end of the zoekjaar?
Should you end up loving it here and want to work and live in the Netherlands after your orientation year is up, you can extend your stay as what is called a Knowledge Migrant. Note: This is extremely good news for you because it’s a special status that comes with some tax incentives. For details, see website: https://www.payingit-international.com/
Important: You need to submit an application for knowledge migrant status before the end of your orientation year.
To apply, you need to be employed by a company that is a recognized sponsor with the IND. You can discuss this with your hirer or ask Payingit International – they are a sponsor and can act as your employer. More information here: I am a Knowledge Migrant. How should I act??
You found your dream job – now what? Payroll Umbrella Services
Did you find your dream job during the zoekjaar and now the company would like to sign you up as an employee? First of all, congratulations and welcome! And second, you and the hirer are doing a great job by making the most of the search year program – you have proved your skills and found a place you like, and the Netherlands has gained a highly skilled person.
About that contract – a company has to be what is called a recognized sponsor (a referent in Dutch) in order to hire you, and some companies don’t have that status. Don’t worry though; Payingit International has a solution to get it organized. They can put you on their payroll on behalf of your hirer with their Payroll Umbrella Services.
My family and children—what about them during a zoekjaar?
If your family is already here and has a residence permit, nothing has to be done. If your family members do not have a residence permit, you need to prove to the IND that you meet the terms and conditions or have the means to support yourselves for one year to be eligible for a family reunion.
Check the mandatory financial requirements on this IND website.
During the zoekjaar, members of your family are also allowed to work free of restrictions in the Netherlands. This is a great advantage if your wife/husband/partner has a career. They don’t have to lose valuable years of experience or miss out on interesting jobs. Not to be underestimated!
If you would like more information or would like to discuss your particular situation, Payingit International has helped hundreds of people in just this situation, and they would be glad to help you with this important first year of your career in the Netherlands.