The Dutch government has created a draft law for startup visa and is collecting comments until July 24. The initiative is well intended and has a lot of merit, but the current draft has some serious issues that need to be clarified. We (Janneke and Sieuwert) are therefore calling all startup founders to respond.
Like other European countries, The Netherlands desperately needs visa for startup founders. The Dutch government and accelerators try to promote The Netherlands as an attractive business location. At the same time, other parts of the government are harassing entrepreneurs by throwing them out of the country. Participants of Rockstart or Startupbootcamp for instance can get 3 month visa to participate in the program, but cannot meet with investors afterwards because they have to leave. Luckily politicians have discovered the importance of startups to revive the European economy (starting with leading lady Neelie Kroes but also in the Netherlands by Anne-Wil Lucas and the VVD startupNL action plan) and have taken action to change the laws so that entrepreneurs can stay in The Netherlands. Below we summarize the law proposal, the lawmaking process and our questions and concerns. We invite everyone to place their remarks in the comments and we will translate and submit these.
Summary of the law
Founders of a Startup currently cannot get a visum, since they do not meet the normal criteria. In the proposed startup visa law, an exception will be made specifically for startup entrepreneurs, so that they can get a resident permit for a year to start their company. They need to meet certain criteria, including:
- The entrepreneur should support themselves and not use the Dutch social security network
- The startup should have a facilitator with a track record that helps them.
- The entrepreneur should demonstrate that their product is innovative and has added value.
- After one year the entrepreneur should meet the normal criteria. This will be assessed based on a business plan
The startup visum provides a one year opportunity for starting up. After one year the government can extend the visum if the normal requirements are met. The added value and innovativeness will be examined by a government agency (Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland). The agency will advise the IND (Dutch Immigration Organization) whether the visa can be granted.
The lawmaking process
The current proposal is published for consultation at overheid.nl. Although the target audience is international startup entrepreneurs, as far as we know this article is the first and best English summary. The final deadline for comments is already on July 24 2014. More information about the intentions of the new proposal is here. The law is intended to become effective on January 1st 2015.
Our questions and concerns
We applaud the intentions of the proposal but believe that it can only have a positive impact if the precise criteria are clear. The current proposal raises more questions than it answers, including the following:
- The current proposal does not really define what it means to be founder or co-founder. Should one have 100% of the company shares? 50%? 5%? 1%? The current proposal seems to cover only the simple case of a sole founder.
- The proposal and explanation frequently refer to business plans. Does the Dutch government know that business plans have a low predictive value? Should they not use an annual report or actual sales as a basis for decisions? Or funding raised?
- The proposed visum is only for one year and cannot be extended. Is this long enough? Or will startups be forced to rename and reboot themselves with every pivot in order to comply to visum regulations?
- How can a government agency asses whether the product or service has an added value and is innovative?
- We are also concerned about the mandatory use of a supporting organization. Which organizations will qualify? All investors? Incubators? Accelerators?
- Why is the proposal in Dutch and call for comments in Dutch? Is reading Dutch a qualification for the startup visum? Or will an English procedure be required?
Call to action
We (Janneke and Sieuwert) would like to submit comments in order to clarify the current proposal. Specifically we would like to make suggestions on all the unclear points listed above. It would help us to hear experiences from our readers: what are relevant criteria, on what basis would you have qualified, what is in your view a reasonable time, the right support organization, etc. Leave the feedback in the comments or mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the authors: This article was co-written by Janneke Boerman (co-founder of legal startup MijnEigenJurist, also active on twitter) and Sieuwert van Otterloo.
Photo by Pieter van Marion (creative commons via Flickr)