As a foreigner, am I entitled to start a business in the Netherlands?
Yes, as a foreigner you can start your own business in the Netherlands, or bring your business from abroad. There are certain conditions that need to be fulfilled, the primary being legal residence, and ‘permission’ to work in the Netherlands. This differs to the ‘Start-up Visa‘ through which a resident permit is related to the business brought to the Netherlands.
Legal residence – condition number one
Legal residence is always the basic requirement, which may mean obtaining a residence permit, and often also an entry visa/permit.
The type of enterprise (legal form): whether a one-man business, a Dutch private limited company (BV), or a branch-office of a foreign company, makes no difference when it comes to residence requirements. The rules do not differ either if you start an enterprise shortly after arriving in the Netherlands, or after having been employed in the Netherlands for some time.
The law on residence differs for EU/EEA citizens and those of other countries.
Citizens of EU states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway (known as the European Economic Area states, EEA) and Swiss citizens do not need a residence permit to enter, stay, live and work in The Netherlands. Passport or ID card are sufficient proof of rightful stay.
Citizens of other countries intending to stay longer than 90 days usually need an entry permit, (MVV), and a residence permit, issued by the Dutch Immigration Authority, IND, (Immigratie en Naturalisatie Dienst), the authoritative source on residence permits. The information is available on their website:
MVV –provisional residence permit
Non-EU/EEA or Swiss nationals, who want to stay in the Netherlands for more than three months will typically require a Dutch residence permit. Unless exempt, an entry permit (MVV) is also required, as well as an integration exam beforehand.
More information about the MVV is available on https://ind.nl/en/pages/mvv.aspx
Can I renew a residence permit for entrepreneurs?
A residence permit for entrepreneurs is valid for two years. Renewal is straightforward, provided you meet the initial conditions, and:
- your business is still active
- you still earn sufficient income
- your personal situation did not change
- you did not apply for unemployment benefits
- you were not charged with any violation of the law
With this residence permit you are exclusively allowed to work for your own enterprise. If you take up any other form of work/employment, you need to apply for a separate work permit (TWV tewerkstellingsvergunning)
In some cases there will be an additional proof requirement:
Director or major shareholder
To be deemed as self-employed when acting as director or a major shareholder of a company, you must additionally prove you have at least 25 percent interest in the company, be liable for risks and be able to influence the level of your income. If this is not the case, your relationship with the company would be considered as an ’employee’ and you would be required to obtain a work permit for employees.
If you are applying to work as a freelancer you must additionally prove that at the time of application you have one or more work assignments in the Netherlands that you, as a freelancer, are going to carry out. For an explanation of what is considered a freelancer see https://ind.nl/en/work/working_in_the_Netherlands/Pages/Self-employed-person.aspx
If you intend to provide healthcare services you are subject to regulation by the Individual Healthcare Professions Act (BIG) and must be included in the BIG register. With this registration a healthcare provider with a foreign diploma may operate in the Netherlands as a self-employed person.
How to apply for a self-employed residence permit?
If you require an Provisional Residence Permit (MVV visa Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf) you must file an application at the Dutch embassy or consulate in your home country or in a country where you are legally residing.
If you need to apply just for a residence permit, you can wait until you arrive in the Netherlands. You can apply by making an appointment at your regional IND desk. You can also apply prior to your arrival if you want to start work as soon as you arrive
If you are applying for the start-up visa, you do not require an entry visa (MVV) regardless of your nationality, provided all the requirements for residence are met.
For details about applying for a start-up temporary residence see:
The applications are costly, and fees are not refundable if residence is not granted. As the fees are subject to change it is best to check the IND website for current rates.
What are the general residence requirements for entrepreneurs?
To qualify for a two-year residence permit as a self-employed entrepreneur, the business should serve an essential Dutch interest.
That is assessed by the IND upon advice of The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), a part of Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, which uses a point-based-system to grade the enterprise in three categories:
- personal experience
- business plan
- added value to The Netherlands
Each of these criteria is allotted points. With 90 points out of a possible 300, the applicant is eligible for a residence permit.
There are exemptions according to your nationality:
Long-term EU resident EC
In a number of EU Member States it is possible to obtain long-term resident EC status, a European type of permanent residence permit.
With that status you do not need to score points under the point-based system when applying for a residence permit for entrepreneurs. You do need to present evidence that your enterprise has a viable chance of success in the Netherlands, by providing:
- a business plan including: market analysis, product/service, pricing, structure of organization, financing
- proof of expected turnover: prognosis made by a registered bookkeeper/accountant over the next 3 years
- the necessary licenses to practice your profession
- copies of degrees/diplomas if applicable
- copy of the long-term resident EC permit issued by another EU Member State
The list of EU states that grant resident EC status can be found here:
Citizens of the US and Japan
They are exempt from the criteria and point system, based on inter-state treaties. They must develop and direct an enterprise in which they have made (not borrowed) an investment of at least 4.500 euros. They also need to have full control of the funds and be subject to the entrepreneurial risk.
Nationals of Turkey
Are exempt from the point system, based on a treaty with the EU. They do, however, need to submit information and evidence required by the prescribed criteria.
In order to avoid initial rejection it is necessary to be well informed and fully understand the set criteria when applying for this type of residence permit.
Further details on how the Dutch government determines whether you are an entrepreneur can be found at:
Can I have the 30% ruling if I start my own business?
If you are working for an employer under the 30 per cent ruling, you can continue to make use of the 30 per cent ruling if you start your own business in The Netherlands.
One of the requirements is that you, as an entrepreneur you are employed by your own private limited liability company (BV), that is, that you are on the payroll of your company. It is important that the company is a legal entity paying taxes in the Netherlands. It is advised to consult an expert in this.
For more information on the conditions please see: