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Qualification recognition in the Netherlands
2019-10-09 | By Steve Voyce
Whether contemplating a move to a new country or re-starting a career after relocating, it is important to check that your qualifications are valid. Luckily the Netherlands has established organisations to assess and validate foreign qualifications.
You are only allowed to practice certain professions in the Netherlands if you meet specific requirements, and some regulated professions are also subject to particular professional competence requirements.
Studying or working in the Netherlands
For admission to a program of study, application begins with the educational institution, which will either evaluate any credentials or forward the application to the relevant evaluating authority.
To work in the Netherlands in a licensed profession (one requiring a specific diploma, such as healthcare, teaching, architecture), any foreign training needs to be at least equivalent to a Dutch diploma. Procedures are in place to evaluate this and to recommend additional training if deemed necessary. The relevant professional authority should be the initial point of contact, and depending on diploma level, they will forward the application to either Nuffic or SBB (see below).
If seeking employment in the Netherlands in a non-licensed profession, an application should be submitted to the Internationale Diplomawaardering (IcDW), (the Information Centre for Credential Evaluation), and while an evaluation isn’t officially required it will provide information that could be useful to a potential employer.
Recognition of qualifications
The IcDW represents two evaluating authorities: Nuffic evaluates qualifications awarded in higher education and for secondary qualifications that grant access to higher education; and the Stichting Samenwerking Beroepsonderwijs Bedrijfsleven (SBB), (Foundation for Cooperation on Vocational Education, Training and Labour Market) evaluates preparatory vocational secondary education (vmbo) and senior secondary vocational education and training (mbo). Further detailed information about this procedure and costs can be found on the IcDW website.
Nuffic – evaluating academic qualifications
Nederlandse organisatie voor internationalisering in onderwijs (Nuffic) carries out appraisals of higher professional education and university courses. Someone coming to the Netherlands with a higher education degree (Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate) should submit an application to Nuffic, which will evaluate the credential and the competent authority–institution, employer or authority for the specific profession–will make the final decision regarding admission, employment or official recognition.
For qualified professionals in a so-called non-licensed profession, such as an electrician, qualification evaluation isn’t a definitive requirement but it may well be required by a potential employer. This professional should submit an application to IcDW, and the evaluation will then be handled by SBB: s-bb.nl/en
Many professions can require additional certification, for example, electricians, engineers, or construction workers working in areas with ‘a raised level of risk,’ may require a recognised declaration that demonstrates that the holder is a well-trained, professional, safely-working craftsman. It is a good idea to check with a relevant professional organisation for any additional competence, safety or legal regulations required by your profession in the Netherlands.
BIG-register for healthcare professionals
The BIG-register was established in 1995 to protect patients from incompetent treatment and lack of due care by healthcare professionals. Healthcare professionals must register themselves, and anyone can check the BIG-register to see if their care professional is in it. The BIG-register gives clarity about a healthcare provider’s qualifications and entitlement to practise. Nine professions must register in the BIG-register: dentists, doctors, health psychologists, midwives, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, physician assistants and psychotherapists.
Healthcare professionals wishing to work in the Netherlands with international qualifications will also find additional conditions that depend on the country of their qualification, their nationality, and the profession they are applying to work in. The CIBG (Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport) website contains help and information for applicants. Other healthcare professions have a legally protected title, and can sometimes perform reserved procedures but registration in the BIG-register is not possible. In addition, as a health care professional working in the Netherlands sufficient command of the Dutch language is a requirement, therefore proof of language proficiency is needed to be able to register on the BIG-register: english.bigregister.nl/foreign-diploma
Before beginning the new chapter of your career, make sure to contact the appropriate professional organisation, which can give valuable advice about qualification assessment. Official recognition of a foreign qualification in the Netherlands can only be made by the competent authority: an educational institution, employer or the relevant authority for a specific licensed profession.
About the author
Steve Voyce is originally from the UK but has lived, worked and studied in the Netherlands for over 20 years.