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How to apply for the Dutch Startup Visa

Startup founders are encouraged to think global but often struggle when relocating due to visa issues. To solve this for startups coming to The Netherlands, a special visa has been created since January 1st 2015 for innovative entrepreneurs. Here is our unofficial StartupJuncture how-to guide for getting a Dutch startup visa – by Janneke Boerman and Sieuwert van Otterloo.

startup-visaImmigration policy is not something that startup founders want to worry about (unless that is your startup’s area of operation), but unfortunately some startup founders have to. The traditional immigration rules of the Netherlands and other countries are often startup unfriendly, as they often require employer statements and external income. With a change in the immigration law, informally called the startup visa, the Dutch government has tried to fix this issue. The new law has been in effect since January 1st 2015 and the first visa has been granted. Practical information however has been scarce. In this living document we aim to combine everything you need to know for a successful application: not only the official rules but also background information, best practices and other guidance. If there is something missing or you have remaining questions: please email us or leave a comment.

The structure of this article is as follows:

  1. Background and prerequisites
  2. Criteria
  3. Process
  4. Tips & Tricks


who needs a startup visa?

The startup visa is mostly relevant for non-European, non-American citizens. Under European law, EU citizens can travel freely and work everywhere, so they do not need a special visa. For the United States and several other rich countries, there are special treaties to get visa or permits, and are less strict to obtain. (as an example of rich-country exceptions: Japanese people have received the same rights as Swiss people, based on a still-valid trade treaty from 1913).

For completeness reasons, we would like to point out that even before there was a startup visa, The Netherlands had many international entrepreneurs. The following are the most common ways for getting permission to stay:

Some of these visa options are temporary, but so is the Startup Visa.

What can I do with the Startup Visa?

The startup visa allows you to stay in The Netherlands and start your business for one year. In this year you need to make progress, so that you qualify for a normal Self-Employed visa. If your startup fails you must create a plan B: leave The Netherlands, get a job, marry, etc

What kind of startups can qualify?

The startup visa is intended for high-tech, innovative companies, the so-called startups. These should not be confused with regular companies. If you would like to open up a consultancy business, design company, grocery store, food market stall or import-export business, you are a starter but not a startup. Probably you can apply for a Self-Employed visa.

The definition of a startup that is most often used in The Netherlands is from Lean startup: “a startup is a temporary organisation defined to search for a repeatable and scalable business model” (see Steve Blank ). Most Dutch startups have the following characteristics:

The Netherlands has several other legal options for companies (NV, VOF, CV, Maatschap, or even Stichting). In theory these are allowed, but in practice the BV is the most realistic option. BV means Limited Liability Company  (closed venture with limited liability).

Which parties are involved in the startup visa?

The following parties are involved in the Dutch startup visa

2 Process

What forms and papers do you need to hand in?
You can find the application form on the website of the IND. You also need to have:

Some entrepreneurs from specific countries need to have a Tuberculosis (TB) declaration.

How fast will I get a response?

Officially the IND has 90 days (legal aim term) to decide on the application. Unofficially this will be faster, since the Dutch Government has announced that startup entrepreneurs are a priority.

What are the criteria?

We have found the following official criteria from IND  

Tips and tricks

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – Visit Marechaussee

StartupJuncture welcomes guest authors from the Dutch startup community / ecosystem to publish guest blogs. for more information, send an email to team@startupjuncture.com
  1. We applied. Hope to receive it soon. We are backed by Rockstart. Our compaby is called TabTrader

    • Sieuwert van Otterloo says:

      Good luck Kirill, I am looking forward to hear your experience. I see you are located at Rockstart. Are they your sponsoring organisation?

      • Kirill Suslov says:

        Yes. We received the visas. Everything went well. Except that we had to apply from within the country of our origin, so we had to leave Amsterdam for a month.

  2. Ravi says:

    i was one of the reciepients of startup visa. still waiting to hear on my extension (application of self employed residence permit) application. it’s been two months since i applied. how long did it take for others to recieve extension after one year with startup visa.

    • Sieuwert van Otterloo says:

      Hi Ravi, Sorry to hear that the process is slow. I d not have direct experience. You could try to contact the StartupDelta team and ask for their help to speed up the process.

  3. Abhishek says:


    When applying for the startup visa, do all the co-founders need to register and go through the process? Or is it sufficient for one of the founders to do the same?

    Sorry for the silly query but I’m unable to find information regarding how a team is supposed to pitch their startup plan within this scheme.


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