Appeal to extend the search year visa (zoekjaar visum) by international students

Orientation year visa in the Netherlands
Photo credit: Adam Multilingual Recruitment

The first month of 2020 witnessed an economic downturn, due to the COVID-19. Many workers lost their current jobs, and for the ‘search year visa holders’, they face an undetermined situation, as the time left to build a career in the Netherlands is decreasing.

Recently, a group of international graduates from across the Netherlands have appealed to the Immigratie- en naturalisatiedienst (IND), calling for their search year visas to be extended, since the job market has been frozen under these unprecedented circumstances and they are only allowed to stay for one year after their studies find work with the zoekjaar visa.

“I invested everything I had for the hope of a great future. We – the non-EU students, have to pay about 9 times more than the locals do, in terms of tuition fees in the Netherlands. Now, with the recent pandemic, my worries are being mounted every day and I am horrified about my visa extension, my daily expenditures, and possibilities of employment in the area that I have invested everything in.”, Armaghan Azhar, – a Law Master student at Leiden University, shared with Eindhoven News. Similarly Yuvendran Muniandy – a PhD scholar in Biology at Leiden University, also feels uncertain about his future ahead, as he already applied to about 1000 jobs up till now and has not had any luck yet.

“Therefore, an extension of zoekjaar visum by a year is necessary and is beneficial for international graduates and also for the improvement of the Dutch economy”, the representatives clearly stated in their Appeal and Recommendation letter to the IND. “We collectively believe that the contribution of the foreign highly skilled and educated individuals is necessary to improve the economy of the country, and that is what you can expect from these individuals who have invested their time, energy, and capital here.” And for the graduates, this extension will give them the chance they need to get a positive return on the high cost of their tuition and their expensive living expenses here as international students.

Since the start, at the end of March 2019, after nearly three months, their public group on Facebook called “Orientation Year Fellows & Covid-19” has attracted more than 1.200 members, who also have the same concerns about their search year visa, as well as their job prospects in the Netherlands. Moreover, by Friday morning (3 June), their “Extend the ‘search year’ visa” petition on has received a huge number of signatures, with more than 2935 people who are both Dutch citizens and international graduates. This is the solid evidence showing that the locals also believe in how the Dutch economy could benefit from the foreign highly skilled and educated individuals.

However, until now, the appealing group have not received a proper response from the authorities. As the clock is ticking, their potential future in the Netherlands is on the edge of being crumbled. An intervention from the Government, as well as the approval from the IND, will help them have a stable career to continue contributing to the economic recovery of the Netherlands.

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