Unemployed Highly Skilled Migrants: Nine Options to Extend Your Legal Stay in the Netherlands

It is nearly the end of a calendar year. For many people, this may be the happiest moment of a year, as they are about to reunite with their famliy and celebrate the festive holidays. Unfortunately, some companies may be making plans with regard to the new year. Their plans may include reorganization and redundancy. In a reorganization, highly skilled migrants (also known as ‘kennismigrant’ in Dutch) are probably the most affected, as both their income and future residence in Netherlands hinge on the "free will" of an employer. This article will elaborate on various options that may help you stay in the Netherlands legally in case you are laid off as a highly skilled migrant.

1. Make optimal use of the search period

Regardless of the reasons behind the dismissal, highly skilled migrants have a search period of three months to look for another job. This search period starts from the termination date of your employment. For instance, Tony, an Australian citizen, is a highly skilled migrant and his residence card is supposed to expire on 1 September 2027. However, Tony’s employment was terminated on 30 November 2023. In this case, it means that Tony has a period of three months (ie. before 29 February 2024) to find another job as a highly skilled migrant. If Tony cannot find another job that meets the requirements of the highly skilled migrant permit, the Immigration and Naturalization Department (hereafter: the IND) will revoke Tony’s residence permit as from 29 February 2024. In other words, the validity of Tony’s residence permit will be curtailed. Nevertheless, please be aware that, if the residence card itself is going to expire within the coming three months, Tony will not get a search period of three months. Instead, Tony has only the time until the expiry date of his current residence permit to find a new job. 

2. Permanent Residence Permit or Regular Employment Permit

If you have been working longer than five consecutive years in the Netherlands, you may be eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit or a regular employment permit (with the labour market annotation: arbeid vrij toegestaan. TWV niet vereist). For the permanent residence permit, you must have passed the civic integration exam (‘inburgeringsexamen’ in Dutch), whilst there is not such a requirement for the regular employment permit. In fact, the regular employment permit is meant for expats who have been working five consecutive years or longer in the Netherlands. With a regular employment permit (having the labour market annotation: arbeid vrij toegestaan. TWV niet vereist), they are allowed to work freely in the Netherlands without the need of having a recognized sponsor. Moreover, the income threshold is much lower than that of the highly skilled migrant visa. If you are interested in applying for the regular employment permit, please note that you must have worked in the Netherlands legally for more than five years. If you used to hold an orientation year visa (also known as search year visa or zoekjaar hoogopgeleiden), that one-year time can also be included in the calculation of the five-year period. If you are unsure which period can be counted towards the five-year period, please contact Mynta Law and our team can help you conduct a research into the history of your residence permits in the Netherlands. On the basis of the outcome of the research, we can determine whether you are eligible for the regular employment permit.

3. Partner Visa

Do you have a partner in the Netherlands? If your partner has his/her own independent residence permit (such as, highly skilled migrant, search year or student), you may continue your residence in the Netherlands through changing your highly skilled migrant visa to a partner visa. Of course, if your partner is a Dutch or an EU citizen, you can also ask for a partner visa. The partner visa is open to both married and unmarried couples of the different or same gender. Depending on your partner’s nationality and residence title, you need to provide the IND with different kinds of documents.

4. Student Visa

Going back to school is a practical way to extend your stay in the Netherlands. Please be aware that student visa is of temporary nature. You are not eligible for a permanent residence permit when you hold a student visa. This means that you will have to change it back to other types of visa (such as, high skilled migrant visa) after you graduate.

5. Search Year Visa

If you obtained your college degree in the Netherlands or you graduated with a Master’s degree or higher from a Top 200 university worldwide over the last three years, you may still be eligible to apply for a search year visa, provided that you did not obtain a search year visa on the basis of the same degree in the past. This visa gives you one-year time in the Netherlands to look for new jobs.

6. Startup Visa

If you have innovative business ideas and are eager to become an entrepreneur, you may be qualified to obtain a startup visa as an entrepreneur. However, you need to get support from a recognized facilitator. On the site of the RVO, you can find an overview of the recognized facilitators. Please be aware that each facilitator has its own preferences or preferred flavors. Therefore, please do not send the same business idea to all the facilitators at once. With the support from a recognized facilitator, you can obtain a start up visa, which is valid for one year initially. After one year, if your facilitator still supports you, your visa can be further extended for another 2 years.

7. European Blue Card

The European blue card is meant for highly qualified migrant workers. Standing in contrast to the highly skilled migrant visa, the blue card scheme is arranged at European level, pursuant to the EU Blue Card Directive, and it does not require your employer to have the status of recognized sponsorship. Therefore, it can be procedurally easier to obtain a European blue card. However, as from 1 Jan 2024, the income requirement will be 6245 EUR gross per month (excluding 8% holiday allowance).

8. Scientific researcher visa

The eighth method is to look for a PhD or a scientific researcher position. Once you find a scientific researcher position, a Dutch university can help you apply for a scientific researcher visa, which is governed by the EU Directive 2016/801. The beauty of this visa is that the scentific researcher position can be either with or without funding. In other words, if you want to dedicate yourself to pursuing a scientific research, you can self-finance your own research project. Some professors may be interested in "hiring" you, especially when you do not need funding. Of course, another hidden beauty of the visa is that you can get a scientific reseacher visa, even if you work parttime on your research project, whilst the scientific researcher visa allows the holder to carry out all kinds of work activities without a work permit. 

9. Private life

As the last resort, Mynta Law can help you file an application for residence on the basis of your private life in the Netherlands. Pursuant to section 8 of the ECHR, everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. Such an application has, in general, a limited chance of success. The case laws on this issue can be quite divergent as well. It is worth mentioning that, during the process of such an application, you do sustain legal rights to remain, and that you can keep looking for a new job.

Last but not least, stay positive and be proactive. The Netherlands is probably the European land of opportunities. You need to have faith in yourself. Soon, everything will be better. Going through a redundancy procedure is stressful. However, afterwards, people do grow stronger and become more resilient. Should you have any questions about your possibilities of staying in the Netherlands, please feel free to contact Mynta Law.