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Netherlands introduce “startup-visa” to attract foreign startups: an opportunity for U.S. businesses seeking profits in the EU


On November 19, 2014, the Dutch State Secretary of Justice enacted a law under which foreign startups can as of January 1, 2015 more easily acquire a residence permit in the Netherlands.
Current immigration laws
Dutch immigration laws currently require non-EU citizens (“third party nationals”) to obtain a (provisional) residence permit if they want to stay in the Netherlands and a work permit if they want to work in the Netherlands (not required, however, in case the migrant has obtained a residence permit as a “highly skilled migrant” or as a graduate spending a year searching for work). The website of Expatica provides a very useful outline of the Dutch immigration laws and procedures.

As of January 1, 2015, third party nationals (including U.S. citizens) can obtain a temporary residence permit (or “startup-visa”, as the Dutch government has named it) if the migrant meets the following criteria:

  • The migrant has started or shall start an innovative enterprise;
  • The migrant is working for or shall work for this enterprise on an independent basis;
  • The enterprise has to be registered with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce;
  • The migrant has sufficient resources to support him- or herself;
  • The migrant can demonstrate that he will meet the other criteria for a temporary residence permit within a year after this residence permit has been granted;
  • The migrant has a reliable mentor with a good track record;
  • The “Rijksdient voor Ondernemend Nederland” (the Netherlands Enterprise Agency – a government agency) has given a positive advice to the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service as to the migrant’s application for a startup-visa.

Whether an enterprise is considered “innovative” depends on several factors, inter alia whether the product or service is new for the Dutch market, whether the enterprise applies a new technology for production, distribution and/or marketing, and whether there is an innovative organizational method or structure.

Benefits of startup-visa

Since immigration laws are usually considered a “barrier” for companies to enter a foreign market (if the business intends to move to or send expatriates to the target country), the new option to relatively easily obtain a “startup-visa” provides an interesting opportunity for U.S. entrepreneurs looking for business opportunities in Europe. The startup-visa basically offers U.S. entrepreneurs a “grace period” of one year in which they can get their company started before they have to comply with all the other criteria for a temporary residence permit. Entry into the Dutch market, which can function as a springboard to the European market, has therefore become easier for innovative American entrepreneurs. We do note, however, that the first startup-visa has yet to be granted, but we are happy to help American citizens in obtaining a startup-visa in the Netherlands.

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