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Since January 1st, 2015, the Netherlands has a start-up program for non-EU start-up entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs obtain a residence permit for 1 year to develop their business with the support of a facilitator.

The program is a lighter version of the strict point-based program, which assesses applicants based on their business plan, personal experience and added value to the Dutch economy.

Why the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is part of the EU and the Schengen zone. A residence permit or passport of the Netherlands means freedom of movement on the European continent.

The Netherlands is a gateway to the European markets. It has a stable economy and plenty of business opportunities. Moreover, the Netherlands offers excellent living conditions, healthcare, and education in a stable and secure environment.


Most importantly, the start-up must be supported by a facilitator in the Netherlands. Further, the business should be innovative. The applicant must have sufficient and sustainable resources and be registered with the trade register of the Chamber of Commerce.

What is a facilitator?

A facilitator supports the entrepreneur in setting up business. Not just any organization can be a facilitator. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) appoints the status of facilitator based on certain criteria.

A facilitator must have a minimum of 2 years’ experience with coaching at least two individual innovative start-up business owners. In addition, the facilitator must be financially sound, registered with the trade register of the Chamber of Commerce, and not related (up to the 3rd degree) to the starting entrepreneur.

The status of facilitator is granted for 1 year. This is the list of registered facilitators.


To qualify for the start-up, visa the new business should be innovative. 3 aspects are reviewed to measure innovation:

  • the product or service is new in the Netherlands
  • the start-up uses innovative technology in its production, distribution and/or marketing process
  • the start-up operates in an innovative way

The above aspects should be demonstrated in a milestone plan. Furthermore, the entrepreneur and facilitator should enter into agreements showing that the coaching is tailor-made.

Although the role of the facilitator is important, the entrepreneur takes an active role in the business development.

After 1 year, the start-up should apply for a new residence permit. This time, the start-up should meet the requirements as a self-employed entrepreneur under the points-based system. However, a more lenient and flexible regime will apply to entrepreneurs who were previously holder of a start-up visa. To qualify for a residence permit as an entrepreneur, the applicant must also have sufficient and sustainable resources. If successful, the new permit will be granted for 5 years.

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