How to set up in the Netherlands as a young non-EU expat

Published 2022-01-24 18:12:51
Amsterdam, Netherlands - Photo by Ethan Hu on Unsplash

As one of the most popular countries in Europe with its multicultural background, the Netherlands, highly encouraged immigration with its high-quality educational standards and satisfying employment conditions. The attractive side of this reality encouraged a large number of expats to move to the Netherlands. let's look at the cultural and bureaucratic challenges one can experience as a young non-EU expat.

Visa/Permit requirement for non-EU expats

Non-EU expats have to meet certain requirements in order to be able to work within the Netherlands. The largest non-EU expat populations are from Turkey, India, Syria, United States and China. In order to work in the Netherlands, all non-EU expats should obtain either an orientation year visa or a combined residence and work permit depending on the type and length of the accommodation.

The orientation year visa

In my experience, since I studied for my bachelor's in the Netherlands, the application for an orientation year visa was sufficient. This type of visa allows graduates (highly skilled immigrants or knowledge workers) to stay for a full year and search for any type of jobs such as a traineeship, full-time employment.

In order to be eligible for this visa, you need to be either studying or doing scientific research in the Netherlands or be a foreign students who graduated from a top university outside the Netherlands. You can either apply straight away after your studies or within three years of graduating in the Netherlands.

The work permit

There are 2 types of work permit:

  • For the candidates who have a permanent job contract and are planning to stay in the Netherlands for more than 3 months then they should apply for a Single Permit (in Dutch, the short name is GVVA), also known as a combined residence and work permit. 
  • For certain groups, single permit is not required but those expats are subjected to get employment permit (TWV). For example, individuals with a residence permit containing the note ‘permitted to work’), highly skilled immigrants, self-employed foreign nationals, etc. In addition, for non-EU expats who are subjected to TWV permit, the employer must still apply to the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) for an employment permit (TWV).

Since Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) is the final decision maker in every visa and permit-related applications, it is crucial to contact them in case of an emergency or a misunderstanding. Due to the Covid pandemic, the waiting and approval periods might differ per application.

The flat sharing experience of non-EU expats in the Netherlands

When we look at the most popular expat cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, etc., the high living standards take your attention immediately (especially, considering the housing crises in the Netherlands).

The latest research shows that the average rental price has been increased by 10% which resulted in a market where it is challenging to find an affordable place to live. This trend is still growing but the significant peak was back in 2018. International expats and students coming to the Netherlands every year are one of the main causes.

Especially in the main cities (Amsterdam and Rotterdam), the market prices are so high that average rent exceeded its cap (the Netherlands have introduced a maximum rent increases in the private housing sector; you can check rent value here). I have been living in Rotterdam since 2018 when the house crisis had its peak. Currently, I am sharing an apartment with two expats. It was difficult to find this apartment and the search period was more than 3-4 months. So, it is highly recommended to start early if you are planning to move to the Netherlands.

It is interesting to observe how the concept of living differs between countries. In the Netherlands, most of the international expats got cramped up in an apartment with other people and most of them do not have a big common area to spend time in. The individualistic culture has reflected itself in a way where apartments are isolated and minimalized.

Adapting to the Dutch way of living

Dutch people are usually known for their directness and individuality. These traits are helping them to get work done and be effective. However, this is a big challenge for some international expats. For example, in the Turkish culture, people tend to avoid being direct and do not prefer confrontation within the workplace and daily relationships. Even if this feature transformed throughout the years, it is still ingrained in the roots of the culture.

The best work-life balance

In the Netherlands, there are usually no extra work hours. If you have to work 8 hours a day, starting around 8.00-9.00 am and working until 5.00 pm is the most ideal situation. In 2020, the average annual hours worked in the Netherlands was 1399 hours/worker (this is defined as the total number of hours worked per year divided by the average number of people employed). This data covers self-employed workers and employees).

An important aspect of the local culture is the concept of equality (egalitarianism). This school of thought focuses on the social equality on economic, political, and social rights. This outlook can be seen in the workplace as well. All the employees are valued and included in the decision-making process. Everyone within the company is in a 360-degree feedback system where you receive positive/negative feedback from all your colleagues. The main purpose of this is to improve your expertise and skills within your duration in the company.

Overall, according to the 2019 OECD Better Life Index, the Netherlands is the best country in the world for managing their work-life balance. There is a low rate of youth unemployment and therefore the country seems a great fit for young international expats.

Considering all these challenges within the cultural and bureaucratic perspective, the Netherlands is a great country to work for as a young non-EU expat where companies are pushing you to get out of your comfort zone and being exposed to things that you are not used to doing.

Share your experience, participate in the discussion and leave comments in our forum HERE.

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Author: Aslı Gürleyen

For other discussions, advice, question, point of view, get together, etc...: please use the forum.

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