Permits and visas for the Netherlands: ultimate 2024 guide

Experience the Dutch life 🌷

Before starting your new Dutch life, you’ll likely need to arrange a visa or residence permit to live in the Netherlands.

With its entrancing fields of tulips, delicious stroopwafels, and healthy work-life balance, the Netherlands is definitely one of the best countries to visit or live in.

However, moving into a new country isn’t as simple as following your heart. Like opening a bank account or filing your taxes, there are some legal requirements that you’ll need to tackle before the IND (Department of Immigration) hands your visa or residence permit to you.

We’ve been there, so here’s our full guide to walk you through the process. Veel success (best of luck)!

Do I need a visa to travel to the Netherlands?

The first question is always: Are you an EU/EEA or Swiss citizen? 

If you’re lucky enough to have a passport from an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, then the process is as easy as pie.

man-at-airport-travelling-with-european-passport-and-suitcase-in-his-hand
Lucky EU resident can blast through immigration with a wave of their powerful, maroon passports. Image: Depositphotos

This is because EU/EEA/Swiss residents do not need a visa to travel or live in the Netherlands.

What are EU or EEA countries?

EU countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

EEA countries include the EU member states, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

Wait… but what if you aren’t in that club? Unfortunately, almost everyone else is required to apply (or be exempt) for a Dutch visa or residence permit.

Not sure if you need a visa to visit or live in the Netherlands? If in doubt, use the government’s visa requirement check.

Types of Dutch visas and residence permits

Like flavours of stroopwafel, visas to the Netherlands come in many different forms. They typically depend on your reason for travelling and country of origin, and have varying legal and financial requirements.

Keen as a bean to start your journey, but don’t quite know where to start? Let’s run through the most common types of visas and residence permits!

📸 Visas for tourism in the Netherlands

If you’ve always dreamed of vacationing amongst the tulips and windmills, you will likely need to apply for a tourist visa.

The Netherlands doesn’t offer its own tourism visas, as it’s a part of the Schengen Area. The Schengen Area is a group of European countries that have no physical borders.

group-of-friends-exploring-the-netherlands-with-dutch-visas
A visa to the Schengen area will give you access to most European countries. Image: Freepik

Once you have permission to visit the Schengen Area, you can visit the Netherlands too!

Countries in the Schengen Area

In addition to this, citizens from some countries (like Australia, Canada, Ireland, the UK, the US, and more) are visa-exempt for the Schengen area — which means that their citizens do not require a tourist visa to travel to the Netherlands. 

However, from mid-2025, these citizens will need to have a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) travel authorisation. It’s expected that the authorisation process will take just a few minutes to process. 

For longer stays, citizens from these countries are typically required to obtain a residence permit.

Citizens who do not need a tourist visa to visit the Netherlands

For those that are not included in the lists above, you’ll need a short-term visa. The most popular options are:

Short-stay Schengen visa (C-type): Best for tourists

A short-stay C-type Schengen visa allows you to travel within the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days

This visa is valid for a 180-day period and is only intended for tourism (essentially, you are not permitted to work in any of the Schengen countries).

Unfortunately, you can’t apply for a residence permit whilst on a short-stay Schengen visa.

people-on-a-short-stay-schengen-visa-touring-the-netherlands-on-bikes
A short-stay Schengen visa is a tourist’s best friend. Image: Freepik

In addition to this, a C-type visa is only valid for a single entry to and exit from the Schengen Area. In other words, you cannot leave and enter the Schengen Area multiple times whilst on this visa.

Multiple-entry Schengen visas: Best for travel flexibility

C-type Schengen visas are single-entry visas, which only permit one entry to and exit from the Schengen Area.

In comparison, a multiple-entry visa allows you to leave and re-enter the Schengen Area multiple times.

Like the short-stay Schengen visa, the maximum time you are allowed to remain in the zone is 90 days.

Visas and residence permits to live in the Netherlands

Well, what if you’re in search of a bit more commitment and want a longer stay in the Netherlands? It sounds like you may want to apply for a Dutch residence permit!

READ MORE | Registration in the Netherlands: the complete guide for 2023

There are many different types of residence permits, so let’s walk through some of the most common ones and the steps involved. 👇

Long-stay visas (MVVs): Best first step to a Dutch residence permit

Also known as an authorisation for temporary stay, an MVV is a provisional residence permit granting the right to stay in the Netherlands for up to 90 days.

As an MVV is meant to be the stepping stone to long-stay residence in the Netherlands for most foreigners. To stay longer, you will need to apply for a Dutch residence permit within your 90-days.

Want special treatment? Residents of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Vatican City, United States, and South Korea can apply for Dutch residence permits without needing an MVV first.

Student residence permit: Best for international students

If you’re dreaming of studying at a Dutch university or have already applied to one, then you will likely require a student residence permit.

group-of-international-students-in-the-netherlands-on-a-dutch-student-visa
If you’re dead keen on studying in the Netherlands, arranging a Dutch student visa will be your first port of call after acceptance from your university of choice. Image: Freepik

Thankfully, Dutch universities generally help facilitate the visa and residence permit process, so you won’t need to tackle the beast of bureaucracy on your own.

The Dutch student visa process

Residence permits for partners and family (where one person is a Dutch resident)

Found yourself a Dutchie to love? Great! The good news is that a relationship visa is relatively simple to receive.

This visa is primarily for partners, spouses, or foreign family members of Dutch nationals, who are hoping to stay in the Netherlands for longer than 90 days.

Not sure of the steps involved? Let’s have a look!

1. Pass the Civic Integration Abroad Exam

2. Apply for an MVV

3. Apply for a residence permit

Done and dusted? Gefeliciteerd, you’ve just finished applying for a partner/family residence permit!

Dutch-man-and-his-foreign-partner-on-a-netherlands-residence-permit-for-partners-and-family-celebrating-in-their-kitchen
Arranging a partnership/family visa is one of the easiest ways to ensure you and your loved one can start a life in the Netherlands. Image: Depositphotos

These visas are typically valid for five years. However, if the sponsor only has a temporary residence permit, the relationship visa expires at the same time as the sponsor’s permit.

Working holiday residence permit: Best for Dutch work experience

Maybe a cultural exchange permit to the Netherlands sounds like a dream come true, but you also need the funds to support yourself.

We’ve got great news: you might be eligible for a working holiday residence permit!

Like the general cultural exchange residence permit, you’ll need to be between 18 and 30 years of age to apply. You will also need to be a citizen of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, or Uruguay.

As the main purpose of this permit is to experience Dutch culture, applicants can only carry out work to support their stay financially — and not undertake full-time, contractual employment.

In addition to this, this permit is only valid for one year.

Cultural exchange residence permit: Best for experiencing Dutch culture

Have you ever dreamed of living in the Netherlands for up to a year and learning all about Dutch culture and society? 

tourist-taking-a-photograph-of-canal-side-scenery-in-the-netherlands
A cultural exchange residence permit is ideal for a leisurely year spent tiptoeing through the tulips. Image: Depositphotos

Are you also between 18 to 30 years old and a citizen of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, or Uruguay? 

Then you may want to consider a cultural exchange residence permit. 🌷

Because this is a cultural exchange, you are not allowed to work in the Netherlands whilst on this visa.

Residence permit for orientation year: Best for graduates from Dutch universities

If you’re a recent graduate of a Dutch university, you can also apply for an orientation year residence permit.

This Dutch visa will allow you to spend an orientation year (or zoekjaar) in the Netherlands, easing you into one of the world’s most future-facing job markets.

Qualifying for this residence permit will give you free access to the Dutch labour market — meaning that your employer doesn’t need to apply for a work permit for you.

What if you haven’t graduated from a Dutch university, but would still like to take advantage of the zoekjaar visa?

graduated-university-student-greets-friend-in-hallway-after-applying-for-dutch-zoekjaar-visa
Securing a zoekjaar visa after they’ve graduated from a Dutch university is how many international students kickstart the journey towards permanent residency in the Netherlands. Image: Depositphotos

Well, if you possess a foreign diploma (i.e. a degree not provided by a Dutch university), it will need to be assessed by Nuffic (the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education) before it is approved and your zoekjaar visa is granted.

The only exception to this assessment rule are diplomas from higher education programmes in Flanders (Belgium), which are automatically accepted.

Residence permit for self-employed individuals

Not to be confused with the working holiday residence permit, a residence permit for self-employed individuals is exclusively for freelancers.

Enterprising freelancers from in-demand fields who want to launch their own business in the Netherlands can also apply for a special residence permit for foreign start-ups.

This permit allows you to live in the country for up to one year, learning handy tips and tricks to boost your entrepreneurial skills. 🚀

photograph-of-a-freelancer-with-a-dutch-residence-permit-for-self-employed-individuals-typing-on-his-laptop-in-a-cafe
Whilst this residence permit might sound alluring, there are plenty of terms and conditions that apply! Image: Freepik

However, let op: in order to be eligible for this residence permit, you will need to undertake work that will be especially beneficial for the Dutch economy — or completely new to the Netherlands.

Other visas and residence permits

If none of the options above fit your situation, don’t stress! There are also a few more niche  visas and residence permits available:

Dutch-American Friendship Treaty: Best for American citizens

If you hold American citizenship and want to work as a freelancer in the Netherlands, you can apply for this residence permit.

woman-holding-a-big-american-flag-in-the-netherlands-thanks-to-her-dutch-american-friendship-treaty-residence-permit
Americans have a spectacularly easy go of travelling to and living in the Netherlands with the DAFT visa. Image: Freepik

The permit is valid for two years, after which it can be renewed for another five years.

However, the IND requires that you invest at least €4500 in your business to be eligible.

Dutch-Japanese Trade Treaty: Best for Japanese citizens

Are you a Japanese citizen that wants to freelance in the Netherlands? Hoera, you can opt for this residence permit.

Like the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty, the Dutch-Japanese Trade Treaty requires you to invest at least €4500 in your business and is valid for two years.

Au pair residence permit: Best for internationals seeking au pair work in the Netherlands

If you’re dying to visit the Netherlands and don’t mind picking up some au pair work along the way, the au pair residence permit might be right up your alley!

You will need to register with an au pair agency, as they will need to apply for this residence permit on your behalf.

However, let op: the requirements for this residence permit can be rather strict.

Some of these requirements include being between 18 and 25 years of age, being registered with a recognised au pair agency, and working for a host family that meets the IND’s income requirements.

How to apply for a visa or permit in the Netherlands

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably champing at the bit to arrange your very own Dutch visa or residence permit.

young-couple-checking-paperwork-for-their-dutch-residence-permit
The visa/residence permit process isn’t that complicated, but can be a bit finicky if you’re unused to Dutch bureaucracy. Image: Depositphotos

There are two ways to go about this: either arranging the visa/permit yourself or having a sponsor do it for you.

Applying for a visa/permit yourself

Although the process of applying for a Dutch visa or residence permit can seem daunting at first, it’s thankfully quite straightforward.

Requirements for a Dutch residence permit

To apply for a Dutch residence permit, you will need to provide the IND with several important documents. This can all be carried out online, so don’t stress about needing to head to a Dutch immigration office.

These documents include:

  • Bank statements to indicate that you have sufficient funds to cover your living expenses, insurance, and other costs during your stay
  • A copy of your passport or ID that will remain valid throughout your stay
  • Health insurance coverage for the full duration of your stay
  • A completed antecedents certificate

Having your sponsor apply for a visa/permit on your behalf

In certain situations, like for when you’re applying for a visa to reunite with your partner of family, your “sponsor” will need to apply for your visa on your behallf.

woman-looking-at-documents-with-sponsor-applying-for-dutch-visa-or-permit
Having a sponsor arrange your visa for you can be far less stress-inducing! Image: Freepik

Requirements for a sponsored Dutch residence permit

If you’re looking to sponsor a foreign national or have a Dutch resident sponsor you, several conditions will need to be met. A sponsor will need to:

  • Reside in the Netherlands
  • Have a valid BSN (citizen service number)
  • Earn at least the minimum gross income
  • Fill in a proof of sponsorship (or private accommodation) form

In addition to these conditions, potential sponsors may also have to file certain documents. These can include:

  • Proof of identification, such as a copy of their ID/passport/Dutch residence permit
  • Proof of employment if you work for a Dutch company, such as a copy of their employment contract, their last three payslips, and an employer’s declaration
  • For Dutch freelancers, this can include proof of registration with the KvK (Dutch Chamber of Commerce), a profit and loss statement for their business, and their most recent income tax assessment

What do I do if my visa to the Netherlands has been denied?

Helaas, stuff happens sometimes, and your visa may not meet all the requirements set by the IND.

Whilst this setback can be scary and frustrating, it’s important to remember that you can still lodge an objection to the IND’s decision.

First, write an objection letter that clearly states why you are opposing the IND’s decision. Your letter must also include your name, address, the date of its compilation, and your signature.

Next, enclose the official document you received from the IND with your objection letter and mail it to the IND’s general postal address. That’s it, done and dusted!

However, it’s important that you submit your objection in time. This window of time can vary from 15 to 90 days, depending on which visa you’re applying for, so it’s best to check the official IND website for any queries.

Tip: If you don’t want to face the decision alone, you can also have a lawyer or other legal representative lodge the objection for you.


Whether you’re here to earn a degree, marry the love of your life, or simply tiptoe through the tulips, there’s likely to be a visa/residence permit that’ll allow you to do just that.

Are you applying for a Dutch visa or residence permit? Tell us all about your journey in the comments below!


Dutch permits and visas: Frequently asked questions

Permits and visas can be tricky beasts to get one’s head around, even without Dutch bureaucracy muddying the waters.

It’s understandable that you have some questions, so we’ll do our best to clear up some common doubts! 🙌

How do I get a visa to the Netherlands?

What types of visas are available for the Netherlands?

Can I stay in the Netherlands for longer than 90 days?

How can I apply for a Dutch residence permit?

Feature Image:Freepik
Liana Pereira 🇱🇰
Liana Pereira 🇱🇰
Liana juggles her role as an Editor with wrapping up a degree in cognitive linguistics and assisting with DutchReview's affiliate portfolio. Since arriving in the Netherlands for her studies in 2018, she's thrilled to have the 'write' opportunity to help other internationals feel more at home here — whether that's by penning an article on the best SIMs to buy in NL, the latest banking features, or important things to know about Dutch health insurance.

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