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NETHERLANDS: Business Immigration Laws and Regulations Amended on a Wide Scale

Laws and regulations relevant to business immigration were amended on a wide scale on January 1, 2014.

Most of the new changes improve options to deploy foreign staff in the Netherlands, such as the introduction of short-stay highly skilled migrant (HSM) permits. Some changes, however, are restrictive, such as the increase of the term for obtaining full labor market access (from 3 to 5 years). An incidental legislative fluke raised considerable concern over work permits for business meetings. That was temporarily mended. More about this below.

Business Meetings

On January 1, 2014, the government, by mistake, drastically limited business travel. Due to a legislative error, the work permit exemption for business visitors was limited to a single business trip per year. Although the period during which the exemption applies was extended from 4 weeks (within a period of 13 weeks) to 13 weeks (within a period of 52 weeks), the word "uninterrupted" was added so that, effectively, only one trip per 52 weeks is allowed, whereas under the existing rule several trips per year were allowed. Given that business is generally not conducted in one trip, this amendment seemed to work out in practice as a limitation rather than an extension of the existing possibilities. Kroes Advocaten, together with several other parties, including the Amsterdam Expatcenter, lobbied for a quick solution. On January 10, the Ministry of Social Affairs confirmed that until further notice, the work permit exemption for business meetings remains as it was before January 1. This means that business meetings are allowed again for a period of up to 4 weeks, whether interrupted or not, within a period of 13 weeks. In the meantime, the Ministry is working on a more permanent solution.

Intra-Company Transferees: Salary Threshold for Trainees Introduced

Multinationals transferring trainees to their entities in the Netherlands must offer their trainees at least the gross annual salary of €38,145 (€3,205.44 per month) to receive a work permit. This regulation took effect January 1, 2014. Under the existing rules, the salary requirement was at "market level" without a specific threshold amount.

Highly Skilled Migrants: Work Permits for Short Stays

As a residence permit scheme, the HSM scheme did not until recently offer solutions for short stays (fewer than 90 days). A temporary pilot for short stays was launched in 2013 and was successful. It was introduced as a permanent option on January 1, 2014. The Labor Office issues a work permit for up to 3 months for work as a highly skilled migrant. In addition, employees from non-visa exempt countries must apply for a Schengen visa. As with the regular HSM scheme, the employer must have recognized sponsor status, and the HSM salary thresholds also apply; i.e., employees under the age of 30 must earn a gross monthly salary of at least €3,205.44, and employees of 30 years and above must earn €4,371.84.

New Work Permit Exemptions

Employees of multinationals transferred temporarily for the purpose of attending in-house company training in the Netherlands are, as of January 1, 2014, exempt from the work permit requirement. The maximum period for this work permit exemption is 12 uninterrupted weeks within a period of 36 weeks.

Revision of the Employment of Foreigners Act

The Employment of Foreigners Act was revised as of January 1, 2014. Work permits will only be issued for a maximum period of 1 year; previously it was 3 years. The Labor Office also no longer must assess whether registered job applicants are available and suitable for the vacancy. The Labor Office can simply refer to any job-seekers registered for the job function in the database to refuse a work permit application, regardless of whether these job-seekers are actually fit for the job or even interested. The Ministry of Social Affairs can also set a quota each year for the maximum number of work permits that can be issued for a specific sector.

Another change is that foreign workers who have held a residence permit for the purpose of working for 5 consecutive years will no longer face any labor market restriction. Under the previous law, the restriction could be lifted after 3 years of stay.

EU Nationals: Registration at Immigration Office No Longer Required

European Union (EU) nationals no longer need to register with the Immigration Service (IND) and obtain a sticker in their passport confirming their legal stay as an EU citizen. A valid passport or identity card is now sufficient proof of legal stay in the Netherlands. The new rule also applies to nationals of the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

Biometrics Introduced: Fingerprints

Residence permit applicants no longer must provide a passport photo and a signed photo form. Instead, they must visit an IND office where a digital passport photo is taken. In addition, fingerprints are taken, which were not required previously. These biometric data will be stored in a database of the IND pursuant to EU regulations. Applicants with a nationality requiring an entry clearance visa (MVV) must have their fingerprints taken by the relevant Dutch representative abroad, and provide a passport photo that will then be scanned on site, presumably with the exception of Dutch posts that have equipment to take digital passport photos.

Romanian and Bulgarian Nationals Enter the Dutch Labor Market

As of January 1, 2014, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals are free to enter the Dutch labor market. Employers no longer need a work permit for them. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, but pursuant to transition provisions the Dutch government was allowed to postpone the free movement of workers from these countries until January 1, 2014. On July 1, 2013, Croatia became the 28th member state of the European Union. Under comparable transition measures, the Dutch government has kept the work permit requirement in place for Croatian nationals.

Highly Skilled Migrants/EU Blue Card: New Salary Thresholds and Government Fees

The salary threshold for highly skilled migrants wishing to obtain an EU Blue Card residence permit in 2014 is €61,470 gross per annum.

The salary thresholds for highly skilled migrants (knowledge migrants) and EU Blue Card applicants have been slightly raised as of January 1, 2014. The HSM salary threshold now applies monthly and, in addition, the salary must be transferred monthly to a bank account in the name of the highly skilled migrant.

The government application fees for HSM and EU Blue Card applicants were raised as of January 1 to €861. The IND fee for renewals of these permits is now €360.

The link to the chart below shows the gross salary amounts that apply as of January 1, 2014.

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