Pathways Towards NL Permanent Residence for (Prospective) Foreign Students

If you are a prospective student searching for a place to study abroad and live abroad post-grad, the Netherlands may be your best option. Some other European nations may have stricter requirements that make staying in the country permanently after your studies more challenging. Luckily, if you are one of the 115,000 international students studying in the Netherlands, there are paths for you to become a permanent resident and even a citizen of the Netherlands. What requirements must you meet to do this and what routes can you take to legally stay in the Netherlands permanently?

There is no one-size-fits-all path that can guarantee permanent residence in the Netherlands, but there are multiple routes that you can take to meet the requirements of the Dutch Indefinite Permit (in colloquial terms: the permanent residency or the PR) and or Dutch Naturalization. The most important requirement that you will need to meet is the time requirement. To successfully apply for the Dutch Indefinite Permit, you must have lived in the Netherlands with a valid residence permit for 5 consecutive years with no  . This article will outline several routes to stay as a legal resident in the Netherlands for the required 5 years.


Step One: The Zoekjaar (Student Orientation) Visa


In the Netherlands, if you graduated from a Dutch university, or a high-ranking university globally, the government will allow you to live in the Netherlands for one year and search for long-term work. The first and simplest step for a non-EU international student to stay in the Netherlands is to apply for the Zoekjaar (orientation year) visa. If you meet one of the following requirements, you can apply for the Zoekjaar visa.

  • You are currently completing a Bachelor’s, master’s degree, or PhD in the Netherlands or have completed one within the last three years.
  • You have completed a master’s degree from a “designated foreign educational institution” within the last three years (additional language requirements may apply), meaning “an educational institution in the top 200 of at least 2 general rankings or available rankings per faculty or academic subject” (IND). These rankings can be found at Times Higher Education, , and ShanghaiRanking Consultancy.
  • You had a residence permit in the Netherlands for research purposes according to Directive (EU) 2016/801

The Zoekjaar visa grants one year of unrestricted access to the labor market in the Netherlands and is not renewable.

If you are an international student who has done a three-year bachelor’s degree, you can apply for a Zoekjaar visa before your student visa expires to avoid a residence gap which could affect your ability to successfully apply for permanent residency or citizenship.

It is important to note that, when applying for permanent residency in the Netherlands, you must be residing on a non-temporary visa, of which the Zoekjaar visa is not. There are many visas of non-temporary nature that can also help bridge the gap if you are not yet at the required 5 years of residency. For more information on the Zoekjaar visa requirements and how to apply please read this article by Mynta Law Partner, George Qiao:


Step Two: The Highly Skilled Migrant Visa


The most common route for non-EU international students to acquire the required non-temporary visa and reach the required 5 years of residency in the Netherlands is to apply for the Highly Skilled Migrant visa.  You must meet the following requirements:

  • You must find employment with a company or organization registered as a “recognized sponsor” by the IND. A list of recognized sponsors can be found on the IND website.
  • Your employment contract must also meet the salary requirements of the IND. As of January 2024, migrants under 30 years old, must earn €3,909 gross per month.
  • Fortunately, applying for a highly skilled migrant visa within three years of the end of your Zoekjaar visa may qualify for the “reduced salary” income requirement of €2,801 gross per month (January 2024).


Other Potential Routes: Dutch (America/Japan) Friendship Treaty / Start-Up Visa


Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) and Dutch Japanese Commerce and Navigation Treaty (DJCNT)

Alternatively, there are even more beneficial visas for individuals with American or Japanese citizenship. The DAFT or DJCNT visas, allow citizens of the two nations to live and work in the Netherlands as a self-employed person for an initial period of two years. Individuals on these non-temporary visas do not have unrestricted access to the labor market and must only earn money through their respective business. The requirements for these visas are as follows:  

  • You must register your company with the KVK (the Dutch Chamber of Commerce)
  • You must invest €4,500 in a Dutch business account. This investment is the minimum funds you must always have in the bank. (IND)
  • You must also pay VAT tax returns once a quarter.


Start Up Visa

For individuals without American or Japanese nationality, there exists another option for legally residing in the Netherlands under a “self-employed” visa person or with the startup visa.

The Start Up visa has slightly stricter requirements but could allow entrepreneurs with exciting innovative ideas to live in the Netherlands for a year as a self-employed person. The requirements for this visa are:

  • You must be guided by a government pre-approved “facilitator
  • Your product or service must be seen as innovative and have a step-by-step plan to profit. For example:
    • Research & Development activities (e.g. inventing new fertilizer)
    • New approach to existing markets (e.g. language learning app)
    • Social innovation (e.g. guiding refugees setting up their own businesses)
  • Sufficient savings in a Dutch bank account to support one year of stay.
    • EUR 16.758, - for a single person
    • EUR 23.940, - for family


Step 3:  Applying for the Dutch Indefinite Permit (“regulier onbepaalde tijd” or Type II permit)


The Netherlands may be one of the best countries to apply for permanent residency after having studied as an international student.  In other EU nations, like Ireland, the time that one spends on a student visa does not count towards residency requirements for a permanent residency permit.  Fortunately, in the Netherlands, as long as you do not have a residence gap between your student residency and your non-temporary residency, all of your time spent as a student counts towards your required years of residence. To successfully apply for the Dutch Indefinite Permit, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have lived in the Netherlands with no residence gaps for 5 years (including student residency).
  • You must pass the civic integration exams (inburgeringsexamen)
  • You also have independent, sustainable, and sufficient income.
  • You must have been registered in the Basisregistratie Personen (BRP) at your local gemeente (town hall).

With the Dutch Indefinite Permit, you cannot reside or work outside the Netherlands.  The Netherlands must remain your main residence. If you are outside the Netherlands for 6 consecutive months or 4 consecutive months for three years in a row, you can have your permit revoked.


Step 4:  How to become a naturalized Dutch citizen.


Another reason as to why the Netherlands is a top choice for international students desiring to stay after graduation is that you do not need a permanent residence permit to naturalize. In the UK, for example, you must go through the process of becoming a permanent resident first, only then can you become a naturalized British citizen. If you want to become a Dutch citizen through naturalization, you must meet the following requirements. 

  • You must have lived in the Netherlands with no residence gaps for 5 years (including student residency).
  • You must be residing in the Netherlands on a non-temporary visa.
  • You must have passed the civic integration exams, and so you must prove you can speak, read, and understand Dutch to a certain level.
  • You must also be willing to renounce your current nationality, with certain exceptions.
  • You must also make the declaration of solidarity, taking an oath that you agree to follow all the laws of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.




The Netherlands has many options for prospective non-EU international students looking to study and stay in the EU. There are many routes in the Netherlands for non-EU international students to become permanent residents or Dutch citizens. Which route you should take is dependent on your nationality, the focus of your studies, and the amount of time you are willing to invest. Mynta Law has successfully applied for each of these visas and can guide you through this stressful and complicated process. Contact us at:





John Whitlock, LL.M.
John Whitlock, LL.M.
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