Immigration for Entrepreneurs
Following a long tradition of Dutch innovation, there’s a thriving community of entrepreneurs and start-ups in The Hague region. If you’d like to set up a business or work on a self-employed basis, the Netherlands offers various work permits designed for this. Find out about the options and how to launch your business ideas in a market that’s supportive, collaborative, and tech-savvy.
Being Self-employed in the Netherlands
If you want to launch your own business, The Hague region is a great place to do it. If you’re not a citizen of the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, you’ll first require a permit to live and work in the Netherlands. There are two options available, depending on whether you’re looking to set up a business as an independent freelancer who doesn’t employ staff (known in the Netherlands as a ZZP’er), or if you want to launch a start-up. Different rules and application processes apply to each of these legal forms of business.
Residence Permits for Freelancers
To work in the Netherlands as an independent entrepreneur, the IND (Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service) requires that you meet specific criteria. Among other conditions, you must:
- have all the necessary licences to work in your profession,
- register your business with the Kamer van Koophandel (KVK, the Dutch Chamber of Commerce),
- be able to prove the earning potential of your business idea,
- and demonstrate that the product or service you provide serves an ‘essential interest’ for the Dutch economy.
Learn about the points system used to evaluate this last factor. Also check the criteria required to apply. If your permit application is approved, you’ll then need to organise the other steps involved in setting up a business, such as registering with the tax office and getting insurance. Read our article on working as a freelancer [link].
The Dutch Scheme for Start-ups
In place since 2015, the ‘scheme for start-ups’ makes it possible for ambitious entrepreneurs to apply for a temporary residence permit for the Netherlands. The permit affords entrepreneurs one year to launch an innovative business. A prerequisite is that start-ups must be guided by an experienced mentor (a ‘facilitator’) who is based in the Netherlands, and that their product or service is innovative. You can find out more about the start-up visa and the application criteria on the Dutch government’s website. Submit your application via the IND.
Support for Start-ups
New international start-ups launching in the Netherlands will be offered various types of support to develop into a mature enterprise. After all, your start-up’s success is not only beneficial for its founders, but also for job creation and economic growth for the country. The Netherlands is one of the five most competitive economies in the world. With excellent digital infrastructure, a broad spectrum of international businesses, and easy transport connections across the country, you will have no problem connecting with your new clients. Find out more about support for entrepreneurs from the Dutch government.
The Hague region also offers innovative start-ups an optimal start. The Hague Business Agency provides tailor-made advice to international entrepreneurs considering establishing, relocating or expanding their business in the region. Steenworp Advisers offers free advice on finding the ideal location for your organisation.
Accelerators and Incubators
The Hague is a frontrunner on an international scale when it comes to entrepreneurship and contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The city is home to the global ImpactCity initiative, based on the concept of ‘doing good and doing business’. There are regular events in the city where young entrepreneurs can inspire each other to come up with great new ideas and initiatives. In addition, accelerator programmes like WorldStartup help innovators come together. There is also a world-leading tech incubator in Delft,Yes!Delft. Start-ups that specialise in artificial intelligence, blockchain, CleanTech, MedTech, aviation, robotics, and other technologies can offer connections and programmes to accelerate and grow.
Starting a Business for Recent Graduates
Another pathway to living in the Netherlands as an entrepreneur is to apply for the orientation year permit. This allows graduates of certain study programmes to spend one year in the Netherlands looking for work, interning, working for a company or as a freelancer, or starting their own company.
Further Information on Starting a Business
To make sure that you have a good overview of all the things you should consider when setting up a business, see our checklist on starting a business and read the KVK’s brochure on starting a new business. There are various laws and regulations that you must comply with at every stage.
Find out more about working in The Hague as a freelancer, starting your own business, and organising work and residence permits, including the orientation year permit. You can also read our tips for finding a job, including freelance opportunities.