What permits do foreign workers need?

Foreign nationals wishing to work in the Netherlands have to meet various requirements. People from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland often need a work permit, of which there are two types: an employment permit (TWV) and a single permit (GVVA), also known as a combined residence and work permit. 

No work permit required for Dutch or EEA nationals

Workers who have Dutch nationality or the nationality of another country within the EEA or Switzerland are free to work in the Netherlands without a work permit. Foreign nationals from other countries may also work in the Netherlands, subject to certain conditions.

Work permit required for foreign workers from outside the EEA

Foreign nationals from outside the EEA and Switzerland wishing to work in the Netherlands may, as a rule, only work in the Netherlands if their employer has been issued an employment permit (TWV) for these employees. The Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) will not issue an employment permit (only in Dutch) unless strict conditions have been met. For example, an employer must be able to show that they cannot find a suitable candidate in the EU. Less stringent requirements apply for special categories of workers.

Where a worker is hired through a company or temporary employment agency, that company or temporary employment agency must apply for an employment permit (TWV) and also send a copy of the worker’s ID, together with the permit, to the hiring company (the labour user). The latter compares the copy with the worker’s original ID before he or she starts working, and keeps the copy in its records.

No permit needed for certain groups

Employers do not need to obtain an employment permit for certain groups of foreign workers from outside the EEA and Switzerland. However, these employees must have a residence permit or a visa if they intend to stay in the Netherlands for less than 3 months.

The persons covered by this rule include:

  • individuals with a residence permit containing the note ‘arbeid is vrij toegestaan’ (‘permitted to work’), for example holders of an asylum residence permit;
  • self-employed foreign nationals who have a residence permit that states ‘arbeid als zelfstandige’ (‘self-employed’);
  • foreign nationals starting up a business who have a residence permit as ‘startup’;
  • highly skilled migrants: highly educated migrants who can contribute to the Dutch knowledge-based economy;
  • foreign nationals who live abroad and are performing a specific task in the Netherlands for a short period of time, for instance attending business meetings or repairing equipment supplied by their employer abroad.

You can find out more about these and other categories of foreign workers on the websites of the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND).

Types of work permit

There are 2 types of permit:

  • employment permit (TWV)
  • single permit (GVVA), or combined residence and work permit.

The UWV uses the same criteria to assess applications for a TWV or GVVA. Which of the 2 permits is required depends on how long the foreign national will be working in the Netherlands. Foreign workers can apply for a GVVA themselves, but only employers can apply for a TWV. 

Single permit (GVVA)

Foreign nationals from outside the EEA and Switzerland must apply for a single permit (GVVA) if they are coming to the Netherlands to work for more than 3 months.

Single permit not required but TWV required

Some groups of foreign nationals do not need to apply for a single permit, but the employer must still apply to the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) for an employment permit (TWV). These include:

  • employees coming to work in the Netherlands for less than 3 months;
  • students who have a residence permit for study purposes;
  • asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their application for asylum.

Conditions for granting permits to workers from outside the EEA

An employer can only employ someone from outside the EEA and Switzerland in the following cases:

  • the employer cannot find a suitable candidate from an EEA country or Switzerland;
  • the vacancy has been open for at least 5 weeks, or at least 3 months for vacancies that are difficult to fill. The UWV decides whether a vacancy is difficult to fill;
  • the employer has done everything it can to find a worker from the Netherlands, the EEA or Switzerland.

The employer applies to the UWV for an employment permit (TWV) or to the IND for a single permit (GVVA), and must also satisfy other requirements for the TWV or GVVA.

Less stringent requirements for single permit or employment permit

Some groups of foreign nationals do require a single permit (GVVA) or employment permit (TWV), but the application requirements are less stringent. The persons covered by this rule include:

students who combine their studies with a job of no more than 16 hours a week;

interns;

trainees (on-the-job learning);

artists whose income is higher than a threshold amount;

asylum seekers who work up to 24 weeks over a 52-week period;

spiritual leaders, such as ministers, imams and clerics;

nuns, monks or missionaries.


You can find out more about these and other categories of foreign workers on the websites of the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND).