Netherlands not exactly welcoming entrepreneurial expats

Published:  10 Oct at 6 PM
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For years, the Netherlands has been known for its entrepreneurial culture, but would-be self-employed expats are experiencing real problems getting residency visas for their start-ups.

Local entrepreneurs in the Netherlands are playing a huge part in growing the economy by providing new jobs as well as innovative ideas and generally benefiting their country of residence. That said, it’s increasingly difficult for expat entrepreneurs to even get a foothold in the country, let alone a residence permit which will enable them to start their own businesses.

This fact is hard to explain as well as frustrating for expats involved in attempting to legalise themselves in order to put their ideas into practice. Many who’ve entered the Netherlands due to a job with a local company have attempted to transfer their residency permit to its equivalent for self-employed expat workers, only to be met with a resounding refusal.

Two years ago, it seemed the situation might get easier with the introduction of more supportive laws applying to innovative start-ups from overseas. Even so, for new arrivals with brilliant ideas, the requirement to have a Dutch facilitator with at least two years’ experience in helping start-ups can be tricky to fulfil, and demonstrating the service or product is truly innovative has its own problems.

Entrepreneurs must have their ideas or products assessed by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and, should they have already started a company, they will be given a swift reply before their legal stay of less than three months expires. Actually starting a company in the hope the authorities will approve of their offerings before they’re forced to leave doesn’t seem to encourage new ideas. Only a few dozen residence permits have actually been granted to entrepreneurial expats since the new laws were introduced, with the number representing just three per cent of the total number of applicants.

Another way to break into innovative business here is the points-based system aimed at foreign entrepreneurs. A total of three categories are used for assessment, with the first dependent on experience, knowledge and ties to the country. The second is dependent on the type of company, product or service to be provided and includes an assessment of the financial position and organisation of the business. The third category rests on added value and applicants must show investments and job creation plans. To be successful, applicants need to have at least 30 points overall or at least 45 points in the first two categories.
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