What "main residence" is, and why it is important for your right of stay in the Netherlands

According to the Immigration Act, all holders of temporary residence permits and some holders of permanent residence permits need to have their “main residence” in the Netherlands. In this article we explain what the notion of “main residence” means, what exceptions apply, and what consequences it may have if you move your “main residence” outside the Netherlands.

What does main residence mean?

Consequences that may ensue from having your main habitual residence elsewhere could be severe: you may not be able to restore your right of abode in the Netherlands unless you return to your home country and start from scratch again. According to the ‘Immigration Policy’ announced by the Department of Justice, the IND must base a review of a particular habitual residence on objective factors; for example, if the permit holder has been away from the Netherlands for over six months, the IND could determine that he/she no longer fulfils the requirement relating to a main habitual residence.

Nonetheless, according to the policy, flexibility can be applied to certain groups. For instance, students and highly skilled migrant are allowed to remain abroad for a longer period. In the case of students, provided their study abroad programs (i.e. Erasmus, exchange) is for a period of less than 12 months, their main habitual residence would be identified as still being in the Netherlands. When applied to highly skilled migrants, the period is 8 months.

You must be aware that this calculation is not subject to a period within one calendar year; rather, it is reckoned on an accumulated basis within one 12 month period.

For example, highly skilled migrants might think that if they leave on 1 September 2020, they could return to the Netherlands on 1 August 2021 because there are only four months left in 2020 and, from the beginning of 2021 the counting starts from zero again; however, this is not true. In fact, the IND can select any period, regardless of the calendar year, and check if the total accumulated time of being abroad exceeds 8 months. The chart below provides you with a better illustration of this.

Case One: Jennifer (Highly Skilled Migrant)

Time abroad

1 September 2020 – 31 May 2021

The total period spent abroad is 9 months. The main habitual residence is no longer regarded as being in the Netherlands.


Case Two: Peter (Highly Skilled Migrant)

Time abroad

1 September 2020 – 31 December 2020

(Resident in NL for the whole of January)

1 February 2021 – 30 June 2021

The total period spent abroad is 9 months, within the year beginning September 2020 and ending September 2021. Despite a one month stay in the Netherlands in January, the calculation is on a cumulative basis rather than continuous.


In practice, the IND often uses the census database (BRP) to check whether your address is still valid. If there is no valid address in your profile, or the BRP registers you as a non-resident (Register-Niet-Ingezetenen), then the IND has reasonable evidence to assume that your main habitual residence is not in the Netherlands. According to the ‘BRP Act’, your address in the BRP system will become invalid if the municipality confirms that you no longer reside at that location. For instance, the IND sometimes requests employers to provide a full copy of the passports of foreign employees in order to verify their identities and addresses. Also, the Dutch education authorities may visit your home if your child has not been attending school for an unreasonably long period, and they would report back to the municipality should no one open the door. Therefore, if your child also holds a Dutch residence permit, you should pay due attention to the requirements relating to main habitual residence under the Dutch Immigration Act. All this evidence is recorded in the IND and it might have an impact on your future applications with them.