More and more Americans have their sights set on living and working in the Netherlands. American immigration attorney Christian Barth, Esq., from Expatlaw Dutch Visas offers these five paths to make this dream a reality.

There are a few options available for foreign nationals who wish to establish residency in the Netherlands. While many of these routes to residency apply generally, Americans in particular may benefit from additional schemes.

1. Self-employment under the Dutch American Friendship Treaty DAFTSince 1956, Americans have had the right to be self-employed in the Netherlands by investing at least 4.500 euros in their Dutch business. A DAFT permit does not permit employment, online or otherwise, with either a local or a foreign employer. However, partners and children of self-employed Americans with DAFT permits are free to work in the Netherlands with no restrictions.

Any kind of business is possible with a DAFT permit. There are thousands of American IT professionals, language instructors, musicians, shop owners, writers, consultants and more operating their businesses here.

The challenge is not in getting the DAFT residence permit itself, but rather in setting up the business and being successful enough in the first two years to renew it. Business rules, regulations, taxes and culture are different in the Netherlands, which can make the difference between success and failure for American entrepreneurs. It’s important to build a network of local advisors who can provide the necessary foundation for success.

2. Highly skilled migrantAmericans who get a job offer from a Dutch employer that is registered with the Dutch immigration authorities (IND) can get a work permit quickly as a Highly Skilled Migrant. This work permit also doesn’t have to prove the non-availability of Dutch or EU workers.

In 2024, the minimum monthly gross salary for a highly skilled migrant aged 30 or older is 5.331 euros. For migrants under age 30, the minimum monthly gross salary is 3.909 euros. These amounts are indexed for inflation each year and don’t include a mandatory 8% vacation allowance. In addition, Highly Skilled Migrants can be eligible for an expat tax benefit known as the 30% ruling, which provides substantial savings on Dutch taxes for up to five years.

3. Highly educated migrant search year visaAmericans who have been awarded a Master’s degree or a PhD from a top 200 university within the last three years can apply for a one-year residence permit (orientation year or “zoekjaar” visa) to look for a job as a Highly Educated Migrant. They can work freely during this year but will need to find a suitable job with an approved employer (i.e. a public registered sponsor) before their permit expires in order to stay afterwards.

In 2024, the minimum monthly gross salary requirement is 2.801 euros. This makes Highly Educated Migrants attractive to potential employers because they are much less expensive to hire than regular Highly Skilled Migrants.

The challenge is coming to the Netherlands and finding a place to live during the current housing crisis without a job. Dutch landlords will want to see a substantial bank account or family guarantees from prospective tenants who haven’t found regular employment yet.

4. Partner sponsorshipAmericans – and with their minor children – who have Dutch or EU partners in the Netherlands can be sponsored by them for a residence permit. The sponsor must meet certain requirements: both parties must be over the age of 21 and they must be married, in a registered partnership or in a long-term relationship. The same rules apply to same-sex partners (same sex-marriage has been legal in the Netherlands since 2001).

The sponsor must have sufficient income, which in 2024 is a gross monthly salary of 2.069 euros with a 1-year employment contract. Self-employed sponsors have to produce financial results for the previous two years.

Americans are not required to pass the Dutch integration exams (inburgeringsexamen) before they can apply for residency, but they will have to meet the language requirement within a few years of receiving their residence permit. There are exemptions for children under 18 and adults over retirement age, but learning Dutch is always a good idea for anyone living in the Netherlands.

5. EU nationalityThe US is a land of immigrants. Many Americans have parents, grandparents or great-grandparents that were from an EU country. Many EU countries make it possible to obtain citizenship by descent, including Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain. This process may be easy or difficult depending on the country’s laws and on your relation to the EU family member.

With an EU passport, Americans have the right to live and work in the Netherlands, as long as they can support themselves through employment or savings. They can also sponsor their non-EU partners and minor children for residency.

For over 20 years, Expatlaw Dutch Visas has been the premier immigration resource for Americans who want to live and work in the Netherlands. Contact them today for a free consultation by calling or sending a WhatsApp message to +31 65 527 6203 or by emailing [email protected]


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