Oleksandr Savin started working for one of our Dutch clients in 2014 as a QA engineer in our Kharkiv office. One year later he moved to the Netherlands to work at the company’s headquarters in Amsterdam.
A few weeks ago we had a chance to catch up with Oleksandr and ask him all about the decision to relocate and the migration process that followed.
Using his insights and our internal knowledge, we created this step-by-step guide on how to move to the Netherlands as a highly skilled migrant (otherwise known as knowledge migrants or kennismigranten, a category comprising various skillsets that are in short supply throughout the Netherlands).
While working your way through the text, bear in mind that Oleksandr relocated to the Netherlands from Ukraine, and some steps may be slightly different in your case depending on your country of origin. We’ve placed useful links throughout the article so that you can build on our experience with your own research.
Only companies recognized as sponsors by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) can legally hire highly skilled migrants. That means the first thing you need to do in order to move to the Netherlands is find an employer that’s on the public register of recognized sponsors.
If the company you want to work for isn’t a sponsor, it can become one by undergoing a special procedure.
Once you’ve found a recognized sponsor interested in bringing you to the Netherlands, the next step is to sign an employment contract.
There are certain salary requirements for highly skilled migrants. Right now, the minimum monthly income is €3,108 if you’re under 30 and €4,240 if you’re 30 or older. A quick note: these figures are for pre-tax, or gross, incomes and exclude vacation pay.
After you’ve signed the contract, your employer will have to submit a lot of paperwork in order to get you a residence permit. It’s your responsibility to fill out all the forms your new employer needs to make it happen.
Depending on your country of origin, your employer may have to obtain either a regular residence permit, or both the residence permit and a provisional residence permit (abbreviated MVV in Dutch). An MVV is a visa allowing you to enter the Netherlands and start working immediately (click here to find out if you need an MVV).
Remember that if you’re planning to bring members of your family with you to the Netherlands, your employer will need to submit an individual set of documents for each of them.
Since Oleksandr moved to the Netherlands with his wife, he had to sign a document stating that he would financially support her.
“I recommend you get authorized translations for passports, diplomas, birth and marriage certificates in Ukraine,” he adds. “It will cost you much more in the Netherlands.”
You’ll need the translation of your university diploma to be eligible for the 30% ruling if you’re under 30 (see step 10), and the other documents to register in your new local municipality (see step 5).
Another thing Oleksandr suggests you do before the move is getting a driver’s license if you don’t already have one. Getting one in Holland is expensive, but if you already have a valid license issued in your home country, you’ll be able to exchange it for a Dutch one for less money (see step 12).
The IND can take up to 90 days to make a decision on your combined application for a regular residence permit and the MVV your employer submitted on your behalf.
If your application is successful, you’ll have another three months to collect your MVV. To get it, you’ll have to provide your international passport and a recent passport photo to the Dutch embassy. You passport with the visa should be ready within 10 days.
“The Dutch embassy in Kyiv has very strict rules governing passport photo specs,” Oleksandr warns. “Don’t waste your money on photos taken by a third-party photographer. Just have your picture taken by whoever they recommend at the embassy. You’ll also be able to use these photos later when getting a Dutch driver's license and other documents.”
Your MVV allows you to enter the Netherlands within three months of the date you receive it, and you’ll have to register with your local municipality within the first five days of your arrival.
You or your employer will need to make an appointment with the local expat center or city hall to register. While the expat center charges a fee, registering at the city hall is 100% free.
Oleksandr recommends scheduling an appointment two weeks in advance to make sure you can register in time.
When registering for the first time, you’ll need to present your employment contract and authorized translations of any relevant identification documents like birth or marriage certificates.
Another thing you’ll need in order to register is a permanent address in the Netherlands, which puts you in a very tricky position. How are you supposed to find a place to live and sign a lease within the first five days of your arrival?
Oleksandr filled us in on one good strategy to get out of this bind.
“You can stay registered at your company’s legal address (your employer will need to provide written consent) for as long as three months, and take your time looking for a suitable place to live in the meantime.”
Upon registration, you’ll get a personal public service number (BSN), which allows you to work in the Netherlands, use the services of a healthcare institution, open a bank account, and apply for unemployment benefits.
Your regular residence permit will already be waiting for you when you arrive in the Netherlands. You’ll only need to collect it at the IND or the expat center within two weeks of arriving.
You’ll obviously need a bank account to get your salary, transfer money, and go shopping. Regardless of the bank you choose, you’ll need to bring your ID, a lease, a BSN, and your residence permit to open an account.
You may have to undergo a TB test within the first three months of arrival in the Netherlands depending on your country of origin (check if you’re exempt from TB screening here). TB tests for immigrants usually take place between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Everyone who lives in Holland is legally required to take out basic health insurance. All health insurance companies offer the same standard package, so you’re free to choose any insurer you like (Oleksandr recommends taking out health insurance here). You can change your health insurer once a year.
Highly skilled migrants can apply for the 30% reimbursement ruling, which grants you a tax free allowance equaling 30% of your gross salary subject to Dutch payroll tax.
You can take a closer look at this tax advantage and its conditions here, but the one thing you should know right off the bat is that the 30% ruling allows you to exchange your national driver’s license for a Dutch one.
Rental property falls into three categories: social, corporate, and private. Since social housing is for people with little to no income, knowledge migrants aren’t allowed to rent it.
“I think it’s perfectly reasonable, because otherwise rich people would take all the affordable housing, and poor people would have nowhere to live,” Oleksandr said.
Corporate apartments are nothing but empty concrete boxes, so you’ll need to do all the decorating by yourself. It’s definitely not worth it if you’re not going to live in the Netherlands for more than five years, or if you’re planning to purchase your own property at some point in the future.
Oleksandr noted that it’s safer to look for an apartment through an agency.
“Since agencies deal with a lot of legal issues, a homeowner who rents out their property without an agency makes you wonder about what they’re hiding.”
It took Oleksandr two months to find the apartment where he and his wife live now.
A Ukrainian driver’s license is valid in the Netherlands for six months. After that, you can apply for a driver’s license exchange at your local district council. The application costs €38.83, and you’ll need to pay it in advance.
To apply, you’ll have to submit a passport photo, your driver’s license issued in your home country, your residence permit, proof of your eligibility for the 30% ruling, and in some cases a certificate of fitness.
Oleksandr recommends getting the certificate of fitness right away. To get one, you need to register with a GP and fill out an online form, which will cost another €33.
Your Dutch driver’s license will be ready in about two weeks.
No matter where you come from, there’s probably someone who’s made the exact same move before you and can help you settle in.
He also likes Amsterdam Shallow Man, a channel showing “life in Amsterdam and the Netherlands through the eyes of a sarcastic expat.”
We've also posted an additional interview with Oleksandr in which he shares his experience living and working in the Netherlands.
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