Free movement of labour in the European Economic Area (EEA)

EEA and Swiss nationals are free to work in the Netherlands without an employment permit. Until 1 july 2018, Croatian nationals must have an employment permit to work in the Netherlands. Croatia has been a member of the EU since 1 July 2013. 

Combined residence and employment permit (GVVA)
As of 1 April 2014 foreign nationals from outside the EEA and Switzerland must apply for a combined residence and employment permit (GVVA) if they intend to work here for longer than three months. A foreign national or his or her employer applies to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) for just one permit to live and work in the Netherlands.

Exemptions from the GVVA
Some groups of foreign nationals do not need to apply for a GVVA. However, they must still apply to the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) for an employment permit (TWV).

These groups are:

  • foreign nationals who intend to work in the Netherlands for less than three months;
  • seasonal workers;
  • students;
  • asylum seekers;
  • employees of an international company who are seconded to the Netherlands.

These people must apply to the IND for a residence permit.

Conditions for granting employment permits to workers from outside the EEA

An employer can employ someone from outside the EEA in the following cases only:

  • the employer cannot find a suitable candidate from an EEA country;
  • the vacancy has been open for at least five weeks. For vacancies that are difficult to fill, the period is three months. The UWV determines whether a vacancy is difficult to fill;
  • the employer has taken all available steps to find a worker from the Netherlands or the EEA, including advertising the vacancy in the print media and on the internet.
  • The employer applies to the UWV for an employment permit or to the IND for a GVVA. The employer must also satisfy other requirements for the employment permit or GVVA.

Some groups do not need a permit

Not all employees from outside the EEA need a permit.
Those who do not include:

  • highly educated workers who can contribute to the knowledge-based economy (highly skilled migrants or highly skilled workers);
  • persons with a residence permit containing the note ‘arbeid is vrij toegestaan’ (‘permitted to work’) (sometimes applicable only for a given period);
  • self-employed persons, provided they carry out the work specified on their residence permit.