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How to hire through the Netherlands’ Highly Skilled Migrant scheme

Are you a Dutch employer looking to hire a foreign worker for a high-level position in the Netherlands? In that case, you should look into the Highly Skilled Migrant (HSM) scheme.

Jemima Owen-Jones
Written by Jemima Owen-Jones
July 15, 2022
Contents
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What is the HSM scheme in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands introduced the highly skilled migrant scheme so talented internationals can fill in gaps within the Dutch job market.

The HSM scheme enables skilled individuals outside the European Union, EEA, and Switzerland to obtain a Dutch resident permit to live and work for a company in the Netherlands.

As we will explain later, other visas and permit types grant third-country nationals (non-EU citizens) permission to work in the Netherlands. Still, the HSM scheme is the most used, cheapest, and fastest option.

Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

What are the advantages of hiring a highly skilled migrant?

There are many benefits to hiring highly skilled immigrants. They can help expand international and local markets, increase corporate diversity, and boost innovation efforts by developing new ideas.

Engaging international talent also has tax benefits. Internationals recruited from abroad for a position in the Netherlands may be eligible for the 30% tax reimbursement ruling. This tax ruling, known as the 30% facility, is intended to help workers cover relocation expenses. However, the employer is not obliged to pass on the advantage of the ruling to the employee. In practice, the employer can partially or fully take the benefit.

Who qualifies as a highly skilled migrant scheme?

Third-country nationals may be eligible for a highly skilled migrant scheme if they:

  • Are highly skilled migrant or international student who has graduated from a Dutch university or top university abroad in the past three years
  • Have received an employment offer from a Dutch employer. The work arrangement must exceed four months and meet income requirements (under 30 years old: €3549 gross per month / over 30 years old: €4840 gross per month / post-graduate: €2543 gross per month) and entitle the worker to an 8% holiday allowance.
  • Are willing to undergo a tuberculosis test upon arrival in the Netherlands
  • Have a valid passport or ID

Who is considered a highly-skilled migrant?

Highly-skilled migrants, sometimes called knowledge migrants, are foreign nationals with certain in-demand skills that can contribute to the knowledge-based economy in the Netherlands.

In-demand skills are constantly evolving. However, the Netherlands is always on the lookout for qualified professionals that have:

  • Skills and experience that are relatively scarce
  • A higher educational level (Bachelor's minimum).
  • Some years of work experience
  • A specialization

Typical in-demand professions include:

  • Architects
  • Engineers
  • ICT and communication specialists
  • Software developers
  • Project managers
  • Advertising and marketing specialists
  • Business and organizational analysts
  • Innovative minds in creative industries
  • Health care professionals
  • Veterinary specialists
  • Guest lecturers
  • Scientific researchers
  • Education

How do you find highly skilled migrants to work for your company?

Highly skilled workers will come to you if you do a thorough job of advertising opportunities online. Make it clear in the job description that you will assist job applicants in securing work authorization and residency under the HSM scheme.

Highly skilled workers are constantly seeking job opportunities that will enable them to live and work in the Netherlands. These individuals turn to:

  • Job search platforms and boards
  • Company career pages
  • Company social media accounts
  • Specialized recruitment agencies

Note: Your job descriptions must meet the income requirements and minimum contract lengths mentioned above to qualify the worker for the HSM scheme.

How do you assist candidates in securing HSM status to work for your company?


The Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) that oversees the application process requires a recognized sponsor to submit an application for the HSM scheme on behalf of the candidate. There are a few ways to go about this:

  1. You can apply to obtain recognised sponsor status for your company via the IND website and then submit an application on the worker’s behalf.
  2. You can use an umbrella company to sponsor your worker and submit an application on their behalf.
  3. You can use an employer of record (EOR) to sponsor your worker and submit an application on their behalf.

Below we briefly explain what each of these routes entails:

1. Become a recognized sponsor

Suppose your company intends to regularly bring highly skilled foreign nationals to the Netherlands from abroad. In that case, it might be worth becoming a recognized sponsor. Recognized sponsors can use a fast-track application procedure for residence permits for highly skilled migrants.

Almost any company can apply to become a recognized sponsor if they meet the following criteria. They must:

  • Be registered in the Netherlands with the Chamber of Commerce
  • Be registered with the Tax Authority
  • Be in good financial standing, i.e., the organization and its directors are not bankrupt or under suspension payment
  • Not have been tax negligent in the past four years;
  • Meet their sector’s Code of Conduct.
  • Comply with specific obligations set by the IND

Companies must also pay a fee to apply for recognized sponsor status; €2105 for companies with less than 50 employees and €4212 for companies with more than 50 employees.

Young companies less than 1,5 years active in the Netherlands will need to draw up a business plan, which the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) will assess.

The immigration and Naturalization service has 90 days to decide on the application.

2. Use an umbrella company

The second option is to partner with an umbrella company. An umbrella company employs your worker on your behalf. They will act as a recognized sponsor and assist the candidate in securing HSM status.

3. Use an employer of record (EOR)

The final and most convenient option is to partner with an EOR. Like an umbrella company, EORs employ workers on your behalf. EORs with recognized sponsor status can assist the candidate in securing HSM status in just two weeks. In addition, EORs take care of the HR and administrative aspects of employment, arranging employment contracts, onboarding, contributions to Dutch tax authorities, legal guidance, labor law compliance, and ensuring compliance with all obligations set by the IND.

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How does the HSM scheme application procedure work?


The sponsor must apply on the worker’s behalf. The application process is your responsibility if you choose to become a recognized sponsor. If you use an umbrella company or EOR, they will navigate the application process for you.

The worker's nationality dictates the HSM application process as explained in the following two scenarios:

Scenario one: If the worker’s nationality is not listed below, they will require a regular provisional residence permit (MVV) and a residence permit. The MVV is a sticker added to the worker’s passport that allows them entry into the Netherlands while waiting for their residence permit application to be processed.

In this scenario, the sponsor must apply for both the MVV and the residence permit while the worker resides in their country of origin or where they have been living for more than three months. You can apply for both the MVV and the residence permit in the same application form as explained below in The Entry and Residence (TEV) application process section.

The worker does not need an MVV if they have the nationality of one of the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Vatican City
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Countries in the EU and EEA

The worker does not need the MVV if they already reside in the Netherlands on an (expiring) visa or if they are a family member of a citizen of the EU, EEA, or Switzerland. Check the list of exemptions for a provisional residence permit.

Scenario two: If the worker’s nationality is included in the list above, they do not need an MVV. In this scenario, the worker can travel to the Netherlands, and the sponsor must apply for a residence permit within 90 days of the worker’s arrival.

The easiest way to navigate the application process is to enter the worker’s nationality on the IND website and follow the instructions.

The Entry and Residence (TEV) application process (MVV required)

1. Check worker requirements

Check the worker meets the requirements for the MVV and residence permit.

2. Collect documents from the worker

There is a list of documents that the sponsor must collect from the worker to submit with the application.

You may need to request that the worker has their official documents from abroad legalized and translated into Dutch, English, French, or German.

3. Submit the application

Submit the application form for the MVV and residence permit online or in writing by post. You can apply for both the MVV and the residence permit in the same application form.

4. Pay for the application

To apply, you must pay a fee of € 345,00. See the IND fees page for more information on costs and payment methods.

5. Decision on application

The processing time is typically 2-3 weeks. However, the IND has 90 days to decide. The IND can extend the decision period if the application is incomplete or missing information.

Once the IND has made a decision, the worker will receive a letter confirming the outcome of the application. The decision will be positive or negative.

Positive decision: they will get an MVV and a residence permit.
Negative decision: they will not receive an MVV and residence permit. You can object or appeal this decision.

6. The worker collects the MVV and travels to the Netherlands

If the application is approved, the applicant must make an appointment with the Dutch embassy in their country of residence to collect the MVV sticker. The sponsor will specify the location when filling out the application.

Once the worker has the MVV sticker in their passport, it is valid for 90 days. They can travel to the Netherlands within this time to collect their residence permit.

7. Worker collects residence permit in the Netherlands

When the residence permit is ready at an IND desk, the worker will receive a letter and must make an appointment to collect the residence permit.

The resident permit application process (no MVV required)


1. Check worker requirements

Confirm the worker meets all the eligibility requirements before they travel to the Netherlands.

If both worker and company meet the eligibility requirements, the worker can travel to the Netherlands. The sponsor must submit the resident permit application within three months of the worker arriving in the Netherlands.

2. Collect documents from the worker

There is a list of documents that the sponsor must collect from the worker to submit with the application.

You may need to request that the worker has their official documents from abroad legalized and translated into Dutch, English, French, or German.

3. Submit the application

Submit the application form online or in writing by post.

4. Pay for the application

To apply, you must pay a fee of € 345,00. See the IND fees page for more information on costs and payment methods.

5. Decision on application

The processing time is typically 2-3 weeks, however, the IND has 90 days to make a decision.

The decision period can be extended if the application is incomplete.

Once the decision is made, the worker will receive a letter confirming the outcome of the application. The decision will be positive or negative.

Positive decision: the worker will get a residence permit.

Negative decision: the worker will not receive a residence permit. You can object or appeal this decision.

6. The worker collects the residence permit in the Netherlands

When the HSM permit is ready, the worker will receive a letter and must make an appointment with an IND desk in the Netherlands to collect the document.

How long does the highly skilled migrant status last?

HSM status is granted for the same duration as the employment contract, with a maximum of five years. Permit holders may apply, with the help of their sponsor, to extend the permit three months before it expires or apply for a permanent residence permit.

Can family members accompany highly skilled migrants?

Yes. Family members of a highly-skilled migrant—spouse, registered partner, unmarried partner, and any minor children—can accompany highly-skilled migrants in the Netherlands and receive the same residence status as the worker.

The sponsor is responsible for submitting family MVV applications (if required) on behalf of the worker’s family.

Can start-ups hire highly skilled migrants?

Yes. Start-up companies that have found an international worker essential to their start-ups’ development and growth can apply for a residence arrangement for essential personnel for a start-up permit. This permit enables you to hire foreign personnel easier and faster as long as you and your worker meet the requirements. You do not need to be a recognized sponsor to apply.

What are some alternative permits?

Suppose you want to employ expats in sectors that do not require specific in-demand skills. In that case, there are other residences and work permits available.

Work permits in the Netherlands are called Tewerkstellingsvergunning – TWV. Employers need to apply for a TWV for each foreign worker from the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen – UWV) before they can start working in the Netherlands.

Most foreign workers need a TWV and a relevant visa or residence permit. However, some positions, such as specific academic research posts, don’t require one.

Long stay visas

The EU Blue Card scheme: Similar to the HSM scheme, the EU Blue Card scheme provides a combined residence and work permit for highly qualified expats who are not EU citizens. The difference is that blue card holder expats must hold a higher education degree from a program abroad that lasted at least three years. The degree must align with the profession or relevant sector and meet higher income requirements.

ICT permit: An intra-corporate transferees (ICT) permit is a combined work and residence permit that allows intra-corporate transferees – managers, specialists, and trainees – to be assigned from a company outside the EU to a branch in the Netherlands. The permit is only for workers who are nationals of a country outside the EU, EEA, or Switzerland.

The ICT permit overrides other schemes, such as the highly skilled migrant scheme.

Applications for highly skilled migrant visas are checked against the conditions of the ICT directive. In the case of an overlap, only an ICT permit will be granted.

Combined residence and work permit (GVVA): The GVVA is for most forms of work in the Netherlands. It is valid for up to three years and renewable, usually up to five years.

Researcher visa: The research visa is for those who wish to carry out academic or professional research work, valid for five years.

Short stay visas

Schengen category C visa: This Schengen short-stay visa is for stays of up to 90 days, or a maximum of 90 days within any 180 days. Workers can use this visa for work-related trips, business trips, and short-term work contracts lasting less than three months.

Temporary work visas

Seasonal worker visa: The seasonal worker visa is for work in the Dutch agricultural sector. This visa is valid for a maximum of six months.

Working holiday program (WHP) visa: The WHP visa is available to nationals aged between 18-30 from nine countries and is valid for up to one year.

Au pair visa: Those aged 18-30 can use the au pair visa to work as an au pair in the Netherlands for up to one year.

Volunteering or work experience visas

Schengen short-stay business visa: workers can use the Schengen short-stay business visa to cover short-term voluntary or work experience placements lasting 90 days or less. This visa costs €80.

Cultural exchange visa: The cultural exchange visa is for foreign nationals aged 18-30 to stay in the Netherlands for up to one year. This visa permits voluntary work but not paid work and costs €345.

Work experience visa: The work experience permit is for foreign nationals to take up a placement with a sponsoring organization as a trainee or apprentice. The permit is valid for up to a year and sometimes allows paid work. It also costs €345.

Working holiday program (WHP) permit: The WHP permit is valid for up to one year. This visa allows residents aged 18-30 from nine countries to volunteer and carry out limited paid work to finance their trip. It costs €69.

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