Visa for startup founders

The Dutch immigration law will be changed as of January 1st 2015 to allow for special visa for startup founders. Although there are many questions about how the new law will work in practice, this is a major step in making The Netherlands more innovative and startup-friendly.

Immigration law is a tricky issue for many countries. Traditional immigration law is written to keep people out as there are often more people applying than can be accommodated. On the other hand, countries are competing for global talent and therefore need procedures to allow talented professionals and entrepreneurs access. Dutch politicians have therefore worked hard to ‘fix’ the current immigration law and create a separate startup visum track for innovative entrepreneurs.

The fact that there is a startup visa law is a major step forwards, as this is official recognition from the Dutch government of the value of startup entrepreneurs to the Dutch economy. "Two years of hard work have come to a very happy conclusion" wrote David van Traa, director of the Dutch expat center. "We now have one of the most welcoming immigration procedure for international innovative entrepreneurs". The law is one of the first visible outcomes of the startupNL manifesto by member of parliament Anne-Wil Lucas.

The Dutch government expects dozens of applications per year. Unfortunately the current law does not provide in a visitor friendly website with clear definition and explicit criteria. It is clear that there is a startup visa opportunity, but no-one knows yet who qualifies, how to apply and how long to wait. In the meantime, here is an overview of the most important points of the new law:

1. Note that the startup visa is only for innovative companies. Have a clear pitch on what is innovative about your product.
2. Get your startup supported by a known startup accelerator or incubator: Startupbootcamp, Rockstart, Utrecht Inc, Yes Delft or ACE Venture Lab. You need some form of official recognition.
3. Get a bit of seed money. You need some means to support yourself. To give you some idea of the money needed: A typical Dutch startup pays each founder at least 1800 euro per month.
4. It is an extension of the current law, so applications have to be made through the current process, which starts at IND.
5. Maintain speed. The startup visa is for one year only. After that the regular process applies so you need to have made some business progress after one year.
6. Track the progress. Even if you do everything correctly, it is common for visum applications to get misjudged or delayed. Remind the authorities politely if you do not get a response. Also let your accelerator or incubator remind the RVO and/or IND of any delays if you have not heard anything for three weeks.


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