Highly Educated? Don’t Bother Coming to the Netherlands


The Dutch economy needs highly qualified and highly educated workers and the Kennismigrantenregeling (“knowledge-migrants-measure”) is an important tool to get them. The Netherlands is a frontrunner in Europe in this matter, according to the Dutch government. It’s all one, big lie.

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Assume that you come from the U.S., are about 25 years old, that you hold a Master’s degree from one of the many top-notch universities, and that for some obscure reason you decided that you want to work in the Netherlands. You’d assume that the Dutch would be welcoming you. Well, they won’t.

The government states that highly educated people can enter the Netherlands via the Kennismigrantenregeling (KMR). Under this arrangement you are allowed to stay in the Netherlands for a year to search for a job. The first massive hurdle is the wage requirement. You can only start working in the Netherlands if you earn more than € 38.141 per year. That is, of course, an astronomical figure – hardly any company pays such figures to starting workers. I just got a job as a strategy consultant in the Netherlands, one of the best paid professions, and I do not even get nearly such a figure.

It is claimed that the greatest advantage of the KMR is that you do not need a work permit. That’s just a lie. Firstly, because no company will start paying you 38K per year without some sort of trial period, such as an internship. Guess what you need to have for an internship, or for any trial period? Indeed, a work permit. Secondly, you can only apply to a list of selected companies that collaborate with the IND (the Dutch immigration service). These, and only these, companies have the necessary work permits for you. So at first they tell you that you don’t need a working permit. But then they require you to work for a company that has the necessary work permits. That’s what I call a lie.

Is such a work permit a problem? Yes it is, because you can only get it if a company enters a bureaucratic process in which it tries to get one for you. Part of this process is that they have to prove that there are no other Dutch or European people who could possibly also do the job. This process is costly and time-consuming, which is why almost every interesting company states on its website that applicants who do not already have the work permit will not be considered.

This is of course not enough – we must do more to keep out promising individuals! Therefore, we require that filing for the KMR costs a staggering 600 euros. This is needed because they have to check your diploma’s – I mean, who has heard about Harvard or Cambridge University, they might well not exist! Oh, and 6oo euros will of course not be a problem for already heavily indebted students, especially if there is no chance of actually getting a job.

Of course, this is still not the end of it. Firstly, because much of the information that is provided is confusing and contradicting. Some say you need a work permit, other say you don’t. Confusions are greatly worsened by translation issues. The Dutch information leaflets are already quite difficult, but the English translations are even more difficult to comprehend (to start with the awkward name of the programme). This is a problem since you probably don’t speak Dutch.

Oh, and when you go to the IND to file for the KMR, you must provide the address where you live. As an expat you will probably want to live in Amsterdam, the Hague, or possibly Eindhoven. The agencies that provide 95% of the places you might live in, however, have strict income requirements (equity does not count and cannot compensate for a lack or absence of income). But hey, don’t you need a job to have an income? Seems like a vicious circle.

The entire process is tiresome, frustrating, and extremely time-consuming. You can visit the local town hall, where you need to register before you can file for the KMR, or call the IND, but it won’t help. The people you talk to don’t know about much what I only learned after hours and hours of researching. Moreover, they don’t admit this, but they’ll give confusing and contradicting answers to your questions.

So, now what?

A good friend of mine listened and responded by publishing about it. I hope more people will pick up on it, so that the government will be forced to do either of the following two things: open the Netherlands up to individuals that may eventually revitalise the economy in times of recession when it is so much needed, or openly and honestly declare that if you are a highly educated individual with a potentially bright future, you shouldn’t bother coming to the Netherlands. You’re not welcome.

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