If you’re anything like me then you’ve always wanted to move abroad. You’re starting to think about it as a reality and now you’re checking your options. Well, if you’re from the United States and you want to move to the Netherlands to work as a freelancer, you’ve found the right place!
I came to Amsterdam back in August of 2015, on holiday to visit my friends. I was in the last few months of my Spanish visa considering my next move. I knew I wanted to stay in Europe but that Spain wasn’t for me on a permanent basis. After visiting for a month, I fell in love with Amsterdam and began to search for ways to get a work visa in the Netherlands.
There are several visa classifications for those interested in migrating to the Netherlands for work.
× Seasonal Worker
If you’re interested in a work permit in the Netherlands, I received my two-year residency using the DAFT Visa last August of 2016. I guided Steph through the process and she recently got her two-year DAFT residency as well. Happy Dance! Here's how you can too.
What is the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT)?
"DAFT is an international convention that allows for citizens of the United States to migrate to the Netherlands as an independent entrepreneur. The Dutch American Friendship Treaty aims to promote the economies of both the United States of America and the Netherlands and to stimulate trade and business on a bilateral basis. Via the DAFT, self-employed U.S. citizens can make use of a rather favorable ruling to work and reside in the Netherlands."
This classification applies to U.S. citizens seeking to open a qualifying business with a primary residency in the Netherlands. Consultancies, yoga teachers, artists, IT specialists; the range of applicants is rapidly growing.
What do I need to apply for a DAFT visa?
To be completely honest it all comes down to money and ingenuity. The absolute bare minimum you need to apply is €5,884 for the registration fees and required capital. That doesn’t factor in airfare, relocation and cost of living expenses. It’s doable, you just have to be strategic about saving your coins. A viable business plan is also a must. Remember, the DAFT classification for sole proprietor businesses, i.e. freelancing, so make sure your plan is something you can make money to support yourself. Luckily, your clients are not limited to the Netherlands. You may also take on clients from anywhere in the world as long as your primary residence is in the Netherlands, you’re paid through your Dutch business account and you pay quarterly VAT (sales) and annual income tax in the Netherlands. However, it does help your case to prove you intend to have Dutch clientele by supplying letters of intent. I included two letters from potentional Dutch cleints stating that they are interested in my services, I also included two letter from my current U.S. clients as well.
Where can I apply?
Unlike my experience applying for a Spanish visa, the Netherlands allows United States citizens to apply in the country. Upon opening an application, you are granted an extended stay until you receive a decision. Make sure you have the following original documentation before you leave the States if you plan on applying in the Netherlands.
× Valid passport not expiring for least three months. If it expires within a year you can renew your passport once you arrive at the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in the Netherlands.
× Birth Certificate with Apostille
× Diplomas & Certifications (*not a requirement)
What is the process?
Submit the required documentation and pay the €1319 application fee. Sounds pretty cut and dry, right? Well, not exactly. Let’s go step-by-step so that your experience is as painless as Steph’s. The quicker you can submit all your information the faster you will receive a decision. It can seem like you’re running around in a circle but if you follow the below steps, the process will run a lot smoother.
Once you arrive in the Netherlands, make an appointment (afspraak) with both the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service) and Gemeente (city hall) as soon as possible as wait time can be up to three weeks. Make sure the IND is first, and Gemeente is as soon after as possible. After your initial appointment with the IND, schedule your business registration with the Kamer van Koophandel - KvK* (Chamber of Commerce) then make your final appointment to return with your additional documentation to the IND.
× Initial meeting with IND to submit application and pay fee
Bring your valid passport and any additional citizenship documents if applicable, a completed application
Form 7524 with a signed antecedents certificate, and €1319 in cash. You can submit your business plan and any extra documentation you may have like University degrees, your CV, any certifications, and recommendation letters. Although not obligatory, adding supplemental information can only help your case. Upon the conclusion of your meeting, the IND will take your photo and fingerprints for your residence identification card should you be approved. They will supply you with a temporary sticker in your passport that allows you to remain in the Netherlands and freelance while you await your decision. You will also receive a receipt to show to the Gemeente as proof you have an application open and a checklist verifying receipt of the documents you turn in.
× Gemeente appointment for residence registration and BSN
You’ll need a valid passport, apostilled birth certificate, proof of visa application submission from the IND and proof of address - a signed lease or written certification from the primary lease holder. You will receive a afschrift uit de basisregistratie personen with your BSN (burgerservicenummer) to present to the IND, KvK, and bank you choose to open your business account. Your BSN is comparable to a social security number. It is required for almost all societal functions from enrolling in a phone plan to opening a bank account.
*Begin researching your living arrangements before you arrive if possible. I found the biggest hurdle to obtaining the DAFT visa was official residence registration. The housing market in Amsterdam is brutal, so I advise getting a rental agent if you can afford it (fee is typically one month’s rent). Otherwise, it’s difficult to find renters willing to register you because it can affect any benefits they may be receiving. The Gemeente also verifies that each person listed in an apartment has access to a bedroom unless they are registered partners.
× Make KvK appointment to register business
You must have a BSN and proof of residence registration from the Gemeente, a business plan detailing your line of business/expected revenue, and €65 in cash for registration (€50) and an official extract (€15). Submit your Sole Proprietorship application and you’ll receive an extract (Uittreksel Handelsregister Kamer van Koophandel) with your business name and KvK number to present to the bank of your choice and the IND.
× Open a Dutch business account and transfer opening balance
Once again pack your valid passport, BSN verification from the Gemeente, Official Extract from KvK, and a minimum deposit of €10 and head down to a bank to open a business account. I recommend opening a personal account as well but it is not required. ING is a popular Dutch bank with tons of ATMs around the city. You don’t need an appointment to open an account as they take walk-ins and offer services in both English and Dutch. Blog Post Coming Soon Once you have an open account, begin the process of transferring the minimum €4,500 required for your opening balance. Instead of a wire transfer through an American bank we use Transferwise because of their low fees, live exchange rate and quick turnaround time. It’s worth it when transferring sums less than €6,000.
× Get a certified opening balance sheet reflecting at least 4,500 in your Dutch business account.
Email a copy of your opening statement from your bank to a certified accountant and request an opening balance. We used Amsterdam Bookkeeper. They only charged us €30 which is an incredible price. As an added plus, their office is across from the IND in Amsterdam if you prefer to pick up an original document though a copy will suffice.
× Submit all remaining documentation to IND
Once you have submitted your BSN paperwork, original extract issued by the KvK, and Dutch business account opening balance sheet reflecting at least €4,500, you can also include letters from potential Dutch clients. Make sure it's on company letterhead and includes the V-nummer. You will receive a checklist verifying receipt of the documents you turn in.
*I highly suggest making an appointment to submit your final documentation. The front desk will accept paperwork and will issue a receipt but they do not take questions. I personally prefer a final one-on-one for any last-minute clarifications.
What’s is the final step?
You wait for the decision. Of course, I cannot guarantee that you will be awarded a visa but if you meet all of the criteria and follow the above to the letter your chances are more than high. The verdict will only be communicated through mail to the address on your official residence registration. The IND will not grant you any information, via phone or in person, their response is only available via the notification letter that is sent to your address by mail. All written correspondence from government entities is in Dutch so Google Translate is your friend. Steph taught me a great tip, take a picture of the doc and upload to Google Translate, then swipe your finger over the text and it will translate it for you. This is a godsend because translating the entire document by hand can be time consuming.
What are the terms of a DAFT visa?
Your notification of approval letter will list conditions of your residency. You have the right to contest those terms. If you do not contest the terms, a second letter will be sent informing you of the place and time you can pick up your residency card.
Here was the general information included in the notification letter I received.
× Period of validity (De geldigheidsduur) - Two years from the date of approval
× Limitations (De beparking) – Work as self-employed person under the terms of the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty
× Labor Market Term (De arbeidsmarktaantekening) - In order to work for an employer, you will need to have a separate work permit (TWV).
× Notes on appeal (De aantekening beroep algemene middelen) – This basically states that if you intend on renewing your visa in two years, accepting government resources/aid can affect your chance at renewal approval.
Now that you’re an official Dutch resident, you can file for healthcare, which you are obligated to do within four months of your visa approval. You can get a phone plan and begin getting integrated into Dutch Life. Make sure you pay your quarterly VAT and annual income tax. We’ll post more about that later.
I hope this information has been helpful. Let us know if you have any questions in our comments section. We’d love to hear from you!