Working in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands job market policy follows very progressive trains of thought.

There are numerous alternative models to promote employment contributing to the fact that the unemployment rate is among the lowest in Europe with an average of less than 5%.

Apart from part time and temporary employment being frequent, also flexibility within work contracts is exemplary.

Additionally, careful restraint with regard to rises in salary has led to the very low number of unemployed within the Netherlands. However, the worldwide economic weakness has also had its effect on the Netherlands and has kept the economy from growing at the same rate as it used to until the end of the 1990's.

Since the Netherlands are a neighbour state of the Federal Republic of Germany, taking up a job across the border is especially attractive to lots of commuters. Job offers can be found in the hotel and catering industry, in the building sector, the health sector as well as in the education sector. In all of these areas highly qualified workers and university graduates are high in demand. Even though in many sectors one can easily get by with a good knowledge of the English language: people not in command of the Dutch language should at least show a willingness to learn it.

Although on the average salaries are lower in the Netherlands than in Germany work contracts are normally set out with much greater flexibility and may differ substantially with regard to additional social employee benefits. In this respect, some companies will grant their employees in excess of the statutory 20 days of vacation per year. Even vacation allowances or Christmas allowances are negotiable. In most cases, between 38 to 40 hours per week are required for a full time job.

Requisites for taking up a position in the Netherlands

EU citizens

For EU citizens there are no restrictions with regard to entry in the job market.

Citizenship of one of the Member States to the European Union also automatically means receipt of a work permit in the Netherlands. If one also wishes to take up permanent residence in the Netherlands, it will be necessary to register at the Dutch Alien Police (Vreemdelingenpolitie) which should be done straight after having entered the country. After a period of three months of residence, a residence permit becomes mandatory, which is granted without problems on presentation of a valid passport, a document of the employer (or a document certifying self-employment) as well as a registration card.

Non-EU citizens

In order to qualify for taking up a job in the Netherlands, non-EU citizens must be in possession of a Residence Permit (Verblijfsvergunning) as well as a work permit (Tewerkstellingsvergunning: TMV).

Resident permit

In order to reside in the Netherlands for a period longer than three months a Residence Permit must already have been applied for prior to entering the country. If the Residence Permit is received before having entered the country a visa is no longer necessary.

On application for a Residence Permit the intention of working in the Netherlands must be expressly stated. A work permit is only granted on the condition that the special Residence Permit applied for in advance has already been granted.

Work permit

The prospective Dutch employer has to apply for an employment permit for the vacant position in question. The employer needs to be able to prove that there is no supply of labour within the Netherlands or the EU who could adequately fill the position and that this position can neither be filled with a trainee (first training on the job, training of another company employee etc.) in due time. The employee must be paid the common minimum salary for his job.

This is not the statutory minimum salary but an average salary corresponding to the sector.

The purpose of this regulation is to prevent employment of cheap foreign labour and wage dumping in general.

What are the documents necessary to obtain a work permit?

Details on the employer (current number of employees, document certifying the corresponding chamber of commerce where the company is listed):

  • Official job offer of the employer
  • Description of the position and working conditions
  • Proof that the employer has not been successful in finding a suitable Dutch candidate
  • Qualification of the foreign employee (translated into Dutch and certified by a notary public)
  • Curriculum vitae of the candidate 
  • Copies of the valid passport
  • Document certifying application of a Residence Permit or visa
  • If applicable: List of previous job-related periods of residence in the Netherlands

Facts about labour law in the Netherlands

Social security

Each resident of the Netherlands irrespective of whether being a Dutch citizen or not is a member of the so called national insurance schemes. In the case of old age, death and exceptional medical costs these compulsory insurances offer corresponding benefits. Apart from that, the employee insurance schemes for all employees also provide insurance cover for unemployment, for sick pay, for invalidity as well as medical care.

Only employees whose income does not exceed a certain limit are entitled to insurance cover for normal medical costs arising from illness.

Since the national health insurance only covers basic medical care, additional private insurance must be regarded as absolutely necessary in the Netherlands.

As soon as proof of permanent residence is obtained, one has to register at the population registry (Bevolkingsregister) of the local municipality.

In addition, it is required to register at the Dutch Alien Police (vreemdelingenpolitie) and to apply for a tax number or social security number at the non-resident taxpayers' office of the Tax and Customs Administration. However, registration for the national insurance schemes is part of the employer's obligations.

The employee, for his part, only has to apply for health insurance free to chose, from a large number, the respective insurance company. Contributions into the national insurance schemes are withheld from the salary by the employer and transferred to the corresponding government facilities. On demand, the employer must be able to render account about the amounts in question. Self-employed persons must contact their respective office of the Tax and Customs Administration to receive information on premiums due.

Job Search in the Netherlands

In contrast to Germany, on the Dutch job market temporary employment agencies, the "Uitzendbureaus", are still playing an important role next to the Employment Offices.

Especially German employees from the border area are often hired by Uitzendbureaus on a temporary basis. As in all foreign countries, recognition of professional qualifications or diplomas is difficult to obtain. The EURES organisation of the European Union has made the most important advice in this context available.


Although you should be in command of the Dutch language, also applications in English are accepted.

Apart from a short letter, the application should also contain a CV.

It is not customary to include certificates or diploma as these documents can be presented on the occasion of an interview. Next to online job boards, also daily newspapers (Algemeen Dabgland, NRC Handelsblad or De Telegraaf) have a section of current job offers.

Additionally, speculative applications are equally common in the Netherlands. You should gather information on the company in question in advance and establish contact by telephone to see whether there are any vacancies.

In your application you should on the one hand explain why you consider the company interesting and on the other hand, give a short overview of your professional experience (including internships).

However, it is equally important to give an impression of your own personality for example by mentioning your hobbies.