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Entry and stay for religious workers

Religious organizations in the Netherlands wishing to sponsor religious workers from outside the EU may rely on a special policy. This policy is also available to spiritual organizations. The policy applies regardless of the organization’s religious or spiritual orientation.

Residence – General

Foreigners who come to the Netherlands to work in a religious or spiritual capacity are referred to as ‘spiritual counsellors’ in the Dutch entry policy.
Working as a spiritual counsellor means that the applicant will be carrying out spiritual or religious activities as a preacher, pastor, religious teacher, or missionary.

Spiritual counsellors can apply for a residence permit in the Single Permit category.

This residence permit is issued for 3 years maximum and can be renewed for periods of 3 years.

Spiritual counsellors who are visiting the Netherlands do not apply for a residence permit. They can enter under visitor stay for 89 days in any given 180 days’ period. Visa nationals will need a Schengen visa.

If a spiritual counsellor will be carrying out activities while visiting the Netherlands, the organization hosting them will need a work permit.


A single permit can be applied for on behalf of preachers, monks or nuns, and missionaries.

Preachers can be eligible for a residence permit if they are the principal person within the organization, provided they earn the minimum-wage. This is possible by way of a pseudo-employment agreement.

Monks, nuns, and missionaries can be eligible for a residence permit if their activities in the Netherlands are necessary for the organization to carry out its statutory purpose.

Monks, nuns, and missionaries cannot be employed by the organization. If they have taken a poverty vow, they are exempt from the income test.

Civic Integration

Everyone who comes to the Netherlands to work as a spiritual counsellor, must enroll in the civic integration programme.

Foreign monks and nuns are exempt from having to enroll in the civic integration programme if they do not actively evangelize or bring a spiritual message to the world outside the walls of the monastery, nunnery, or other spiritual center. They can perform a religious ceremony for a limited audience, for instance at a wedding or funeral, on an incidental basis.

However, if after 5 years of continuous stay in the Netherlands, they want to naturalize or apply for permanent residence, they will need to pass the civic integration exam just the same.

The religious organization as sponsor

One of the conditions for the residence permit is that the religious worker will stay with the organization sponsoring them. Sponsoring means that the organization must be responsible towards the IND regarding the persons legal residency. This means the organization must observe the following duties:

  • The organization must be able to demonstrate that it is financially healthy, and its continuity is sufficiently warranted.
  • The organization must report certain facts and circumstances to the IND
  • The organization must keep records of documents and information and disclose to the IND and the Labor Inspector upon request
  • The organization must inform the religious workers about his rights and duties as a holder of a residence permit. This information must be provided at the time the religious worker is selected to move to the Netherlands. The organization must, at a later date, be able to demonstrate this duty has been complied with.

If these duties are not met, the IND can impose a penalty of €3,000 per violation. In case of repeated offences, this amount may be increased.

The religious organization as employer

Religious and spiritual organizations must be aware of the rules pertaining to work authorization for religious workers from countries outside of the EU. For example, if the concerned person has a permit for monastic activities, they may only perform the duties of a monk or a nun.

If this isn’t the case, the activities constitute illegal employment in absence of a work permit covering the work the person has been carrying out.

In case of illegal employment, the Inspection SZW can impose a hefty penalty. The penalty can also be made public, resulting in undesirable consequences for the concerned person, for instance a withdrawal of their residence permit. A future application by the organization may also be rejected on these grounds. 

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