highly skilled migrants

Companies can hire highly skilled migrants with a non-EU nationality (third country nationals) in a relatively quick and easy manner under the Highly Skilled Migrant Program (HSM).

The 2 main requirements are:

  • registration as a recognized sponsor
  • a minimum salary pay

For scientific researchers who want to conduct research at a research institute in the Netherlands, other conditions apply than for regular highly skilled migrants. For more information, see our page Scientific researchers.

Recognized sponsorship
Companies that wish to hire highly skilled migrants with a non-EU nationality - third country nationals - must be registered as a recognized sponsor with the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service).

Recognition as a sponsor is indefinite; it can however be revoked if the recognized sponsor has not applied for a highly skilled migrant permit in 3 consecutive years and does not sponsor highly skilled workers any longer.

The government filing fees for recognition as a sponsor are revised every 1st of January. Here you find an updated overview of the government filing fees. 

Per 1 January 2017, a 50% lower fee for smaller companies applies.

Also read: Reduced IND fees recognized sponsorship for small companies.

What are the requirements for recognized sponsorship?
First, the continuity and solvency of the company must be sufficiently guaranteed. The IND may seek advice from the RVO (Netherlands Enterprise Agency), which uses a points-based system to assess continuity and solvency.

Companies established or active less than 1.5 year must provide a business plan to demonstrate their continuity and solvability. Companies established or active less than 1.5 year are exempted from this requirement if:

  • the applicant is a subsidiary in full ownership of a company that is recognized as a sponsor. If the parent company has been exempted from the requirement to submit a business plan, a declaration of good payment behavior of the parent company suffices
  • the applicant comes from a merger, and the merged parties are recognized sponsors
  • the applicant was taken over by a company registered as a recognized sponsor
  • the corporate structure of a company registered as a recognized sponsor has changed, and by a notary act it can be demonstrated that the commercial activities have not expanded and the management of the new company has remained the same.

If the IND or the RVO is uncertain about the continuity and solvability of the applying company, additional proof may be requested: a business plan, verified financial statements, and exploitation- and liquidity forecasts for the coming 2 years.

Such additional proof may also be requested from companies that are established and active for more than 1.5 year, but less than 3 years, and from companies established and active for 3 years or more. Here, the IND retains full discretion.

Apart from being transparent on these points, all companies must be registered with the Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands and may not still be in a state of bankruptcy. Further, the company, the directors and other natural persons/legal entities involved should have an undisputed trustworthy reputation.

Turkish nationals and their family members do not need a recognized sponsor when they want to work as a highly skilled migrant. They may submit their application independently. However, an application filed by a recognized sponsor is generelly processed faster. 

Minimum salary pay
The minimum wage for highly skilled migrants is higher than the general legal minimum wage in the Netherlands. Moreover, the minimum wage for highly skilled migrants is differentiated by age. 

The salary criteria for highly skilled migrants are revised every year on 1 January. You find the current minimum wages for all categories here. The amounts are listed exclusive of 8% holiday allowance, which is a mandatory part of the remuneration for all employment in the Netherlands.

Scientific researchers and junior doctors employed as a highly skilled migrant are excluded from this requirement; to them the general Dutch legal minimum wage requirement applies.

The permit
The residence permit as a highly skilled migrant is valid for the duration of the contract, with a maximum validity of 5 years. The permit can be extended as needed.

The highly skilled migrant can, apart from work for the recognized sponsor, also work as an independent entrepreneur without applying for a separate permit.

Family members can also apply for a residency permit, linked to the residence of the highly skilled migrant. They are free on the labor market: they do not need a work permit to work in the Netherland.

Orientation year
Foreign nationals who graduated from a Dutch university or from a top university abroad are entitled to an orientation year in the 3 years following their graduation. If they are employed as a highly skilled migrant within this period, a lower minimum wage applies, regardless of their age. This minimum wage continues to apply, even when switching to another employer or when turning 30 years of age. Here you find the current minimum wage for recent graduates in an orientation year. 

Application fees
The government filing fees for a highly skilled migrant permit are revised every 1st of January. There is a fee for a first application and for renewal of the application.

Here you find an updated overview of the government filing fees.

Can a highly skilled migrant switch jobs?
Highly skilled migrants are entitled to a 3-month search period to look for a new job as a highly skilled migrant when they become unemployed, regardless whether the employment was terminated by the employer or the employee.

Also read: More flexibility for highly skilled migrants looking for a new job.

The search period commences on the day the employment agreement is terminated.

IND revokes the permit if the highly skilled migrant has been unable to find a new job with a recognized sponsor within the 3-month search period.

The EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card is a combined residence and work permit for highly qualified expats who are not a national of any of the member states of the European Union (third country nationals). The permit stems from a European Directive (Directive 2009/50/EC).

For a Blue Cardholder who has completed 18 months of work in the Netherlands it is relatively easy to obtain a Blue Card in another EU member state. The requirements for a Blue Card are tougher than for a highly skilled migrant permit.

Also read our webpage about the EU Blue Card.

Intra company transfer (ICT)
Multinational companies regularly transfer highly qualified personnel and trainees to an establishment in the Netherlands for temporary work. In many cases, transfers involving non-EU national employees are administered under the Highly Skilled Migrant program.

As of 29 November 2016, intra-company transfers (ICT's) of non-EU national employees remaining in an employment relationship with their group company outside the European Union, fall within the scope of the of the EU ICT Directive and are administered by the IND under the EU/ICT program.

The Highly Skilled Migrant Program remains available for transferees on a Dutch contract only.

Also read: our webpage about intra-corporate transfers.

With questions about the highly skilled migrant program please contact Marcel Reurs, Bram van Melle.

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