Return policy

Foreign citizens need a valid verblijfsvergunning (residence permit) to stay in the Netherlands if they are ‘third-country citizens’. Third-country citizens are foreign citizens who are not from the European Union (EU), Norway, Iceland or Switzerland. Foreign citizens residing in the Netherlands who have no right to a residence permit or who have never applied for one are in the Netherlands illegally. They must leave the country.

Return decision and entry ban

Foreign citizens who are not allowed to remain in the Netherlands are issued a terugkeerbesluit (return decision) from the Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst – IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service), the police or the Koninklijke Marechaussee (Royal Netherlands Military Constabulary). Return decisions can be issued in the following situations:

  • when the IND has denied a foreign citizen's application for a residence permit and the application for judicial review or appeal lodged by the foreign citizen have also been denied;
  • when the IND declines to renew a residence permit that is about to expire;
  • when the IND revokes a residence permit.

A return decision can also be issued to third-country citizens who are in the Netherlands illegally and are discovered:

  • at the border;
  • during a check;
  • during any other enforcement action by the police or the Koninklijke Marechaussee.

Deadline for departure of foreign citizens subject to a return decision

The return decision states the deadline by which the foreign citizen must leave the Netherlands. The general rule is that foreign citizens are given 28 days to leave. However, a person may be ordered to leave immediately (the same day) if:

  • the Government of the Netherlands has reason to assume that the foreign citizen will not leave and, as a result, will stay in the Netherlands illegally;
  • the foreign citizen has committed a criminal offence;
  • the foreign citizen has lodged an asylum application and the application is declared unfounded.

Anyone who fails to leave by the deadline can be given an inreisverbod (entry ban). If the decision states the foreign citizen must leave the same day, the person concerned must leave the Netherlands immediately and, in most cases, an entry ban will be imposed. During the period specified in the entry ban, the person concerned will not be allowed to travel within the Schengen Area, which includes the Netherlands.

Encouraging voluntary return

Foreign citizens who are not allowed to stay are responsible for their departure and return to their country of origin. Those who wish to return voluntarily can get assistance, for instance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This may include help with arranging travel documents or an airline ticket, or assistance at Schiphol airport or in their country of origin.

The Government of the Netherlands provides grants to a number of projects run by NGOs and other organisations which promote lasting return. In some cases, foreign citizens who meet certain conditions may be given money or goods to set up a business after their return. This will help them make a living in their country of origin.

IOM works with various civil society organisations to provide this support. Voluntary return is, in principle, possible regardless of country of origin.

Reception centres for asylum seekers

People whose application for asylum has been rejected stay at a reception centre run by the Centraal Orgaan opvang asielzoekers – COA (Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers) until the deadline for their departure.

If the person has not left the Netherlands by the deadline, they are no longer allowed to stay at the reception centre. Foreign citizens who cooperate actively in organising their departure after the deadline has expired may stay in restrictive accommodation.

Families with children are given accommodation at a family location until their departure or until the youngest child turns 18.

Special permit: no-fault residence permit

In some cases, migrants whose application for asylum or a residence permit has been denied are unable to leave the Netherlands through no fault of their own. For example, this could be the case because their country of origin refuses to repatriate its own citizens. In such cases the person may be eligible for a buitenschuldvergunning (no-fault residence permit), if they meet a number of conditions. For example, they must be able to show that they asked the embassy or consulate of their country of origin to enable them to return. If that does not work, they must ask the Dienst Terugkeer en Vertrek – DT&V (Repatriation and Departure Service).

If the DT&V determines that the foreign citizen is indeed unable to return, it will issue an advisory opinion to the IND. In most cases, the IND will then grant a no-fault residence permit.