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In the news: permit for professional footballers

The transfer deadline day is nearing. With Jordan Henderson’s transfer to Ajax, migration law has been in the spotlight in the Netherlands in recent weeks, as he was not immediately eligible to play. Henderson did not yet have a valid Single Permit, which he requires as the UK is no longer part of the EU. This news item from NOS explained the procedure to be followed when applying for a Single Permit for a professional footballer in the Netherlands. If you are curious about the conditions for a successful Single Permit application, what it means for a football club to act as a player’s ‘sponsor’ and whether there are alternatives to the Single Permit for non-EU players, read on.

The conditions

Unlike Dutch players or players with the nationality of other countries within the EEA and Switzerland, to whom the free movement of workers applies, players who are not from these countries (third-country nationals) must obtain a Single Permit before they are entitled to participate in group training and matches. The main conditions are:

  1. the footballer will play for a club that is active in either the highest (Eredivisie, ED) or second highest tier (Keuken Kampioen Divisie, KKD) of Dutch professional football;
  2. the footballer’s salary is in accordance with the relevant market levels; and
  3. immediately prior to transferring to the Netherlands, the footballer has participated on a regular basis in a competition that is at least of the same level as the ED, or the footballer can prove in any other way that he possesses at least similar qualities;

For a third-country national who will play temporarily (‘on a loan basis’) for a Dutch football club, a Single Permit must also be applied for, subject to the above conditions.

Relevant market levels

Players aged 20 and above earn an income in accordance with the relevant market levels if their guaranteed gross annual income in the 2023/2024 season is at least €500,408. For players aged 18 and 19, the salary threshold for the 2023/2024 season is set at a guaranteed gross annual income of €250,204. These amounts follow from the rule that the guaranteed income for a third-country professional footballer must be at least 150% of the average income in the Eredivisie in case the player concerned is 20 years of age or older. For players aged 18 and 19, the threshold is lower: their guaranteed remuneration must be at least 75% of the Eredivisie average. Information from the Federation of Professional Football Organisations (FBO), the organisation that assists clubs in applying for Single Permits, reveals that the average gross annual income in the Eredivisie is determined annually by the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) based on information provided by the Dutch Football Association (KNVB). This means that, if a top club decides to boost player salaries substantially, this will affect all other professional football clubs.

In addition to these specific criteria, general conditions apply to any application for a residence permit. Here, the requirement to hold a valid entry visa for long-term residence (‘mvv’) stands out the most. This visa must be applied for and collected in person from the Dutch embassy in the country of origin or country of permanent residence. There are exceptions to this requirement laid down by law. For example, players with British (Henderson) or Japanese (Ueda) nationality are exempt from this requirement, which allows them to come to the Netherlands even before they have obtained the required Single Permit. Note; participating in group matches and training is, as mentioned, only allowed when the Single Permit has been obtained. For this reason, Henderson could already be presented in Amsterdam, but was not allowed to participate yet.


A football club that wants to apply for a Single Permit for a third-country national, must apply to the IND (the Immigration and Naturalisation Service) as a so-called sponsor for the player in question. This means, among other things, that the club assumes certain obligations towards the IND during and after the third-country national player’s stay in the Netherlands. These obligations consist of the duty to keep certain documents in the football club’s administration (administration duty) and the duty to report circumstances relevant to the player’s right of residence to the IND (information duty). Violation of these sponsor obligations can lead to being fined by the IND.


Whether there are alternatives for professional football clubs to attract third-country players if they cannot meet the stipulated salary criterion depends on the individual situation of the player concerned.

Family reunification

Depending on the personal situation, a player may be eligible for a residence permit that allows working in the Netherlands without having to possess a valid Single Permit. This can be done through a residence permit based on family reunification, for example. If the conditions are met, the partner of a Dutch or EU citizen may be eligible for a residence permit providing free access to the Dutch labour market.

Association Agreement

Furthermore, other, often more favourable rules apply to Turkish workers thanks to the Association Agreement between the EU and Türkiye. Specifically, this means, among other things, that Turkish employees, and thus professional footballers, are not eligible to be free on the labour market after the usual five years but already after three years of legal employment in the Netherlands, meaning a Single Permit is no longer required. After three years, the aforementioned income criterion no longer needs to be met. This income criterion, if the Turkish player stays with the same club, is no longer applicable even after one year. From then on, only the legal minimum wage must be considered when offering a new contract.

To invoke these more favourable rules, however, it is required that the Association Agreement can be successfully invoked.

More information on residence permits for athletes? Then look at this page or contact us.

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