We’re three months out from our move to the Netherlands! With the Christmas holiday in full swing, we figured that would be a great time to speak with an immigration attorney. After researching a bit online and sending a few emails, we settled on speaking with Franssen Advocaten in Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands, a firm that was recommended by American friends in Hong Kong who ultimately decided not to emigrate to the Netherlands. A €123.97 fee (no VAT for residents outside of the EU) secured our hour-long Skype consultation.
Following our Skype chat that went over by about 15 minutes, we were extremely happy with our choice to go with this firm. The attorney we spoke with had answers to every question and even provided a little bit of background for some of the answers. Here’s a bit of a synopsis of our conversation with questions and answers, but note that this is not verbatim and just a summary of the notes we took in the Skype call.
About us: We’re a legally married couple living in Los Angeles, California. We’re both American citizens and would like to apply for residency in the Netherlands under the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT). Both of us are easily able to freelance; so the “business owner” requirement of DAFT is not a problem.
- Of course, the Netherlands was one of the first countries in the world to recognize gay marriages; so that won’t be an issue. Some people try to enter the country under DAFT and then search for employment. That is not allowed, and your documents will certainly have a stamp in them stating that employment is not allowed under the DAFT residency status.
What documents do we need to bring from the U.S.?
- Apostilled marriage certificate, easily obtainable in person at the L.A. office of the California Secretary of State.
- Apostilled birth certificates for both of us.
- About ten per year. Side note: They have always been successful.
We will be renting an apartment from a friend, where we will be able to register for our burgerservicenummer (BSN).
- If we weren’t able to access housing so easily, the law firm would help arrange for temporary accommodations.
- About BSN: In order to access public services or open a Dutch bank account, a BSN is required. This is akin to an American Social Security number.
Summary of the steps from start to finish, beginning three to four weeks before arrival and assuming a completely smooth process, which isn’t guaranteed:
- One month before moving: Contact immigration attorney to start setting up appointments with proper authorities.
- Day 1: Meet with the immigration attorney.
- Day 2: Meet with IND (Immigratie en Naturaliesatiedienst, the Dutch immigration authorities) for appointment that’s already been scheduled ahead of time. Bring along the completed application packet prepared by immigration attorney.
- Day 3: Meet with the Expatcenter Amsterdam for registration appointment and to receive burgerservicenummer (BSN, kind of like a Social Security number).
- About Expatcenter: “The cities of Amsterdam, Amstelveen, Almere, Haarlem, Hilversum, Haarlemmermeer and Velsen, together with the Immigration and Naturalisation Services (IND) and the Tax Office, have joined forces to create the Expatcenter. The Expatcenter, situated in the World Trade Center in Amsterdam Zuid, provides a one-stop-shop service for highly skilled migrants and scientific researchers.”
- Day 4: Walk into an ING branch and open up a personal bank account.
- Note: Our attorney recommended ING over ABN-AMRO for its customer service.
- Day 5: Start the KvK (Kamer van Koophandel, or Chamber of Commerce) process by registering our freelance businesses.
- Day 6: Meet with a Dutch accountant specializing in American expats.
- Day 7: With KvK registration information, open a business account at ING.
- Day 8-9: Set up wire transfer from American bank to Dutch business bank account.
- Note: The deposit amount for a business under DAFT is €4500, and unfortunately, both of us will have to make the deposit, for a total of €9000. We were hoping we’d only have to make a single deposit of €4500, but it appears that is not the case since the Dutch government considers each freelancer to be a separate business. Of course, the money returns to us after five years if we complete the entire DAFT process or if we leave the country before then.
- There is a possibility this requirement for two deposits for a married couple will be changed in the not-so-distant future, at which point we’d get a nice bonus of €4500. But since that’s not a given, we have to plan for the full amount to be untouchable for five years.
- Day 13-15: Initial deposit arrives in Dutch business bank account. Send bank statement to Dutch accountant for preparation of financial report, then send financial report to immigration attorney for forwarding to IND and completion of immigration process.
- Then we wait and see what the decision is!
- Approximately €1200 per couple, including initial consultation fee. Immigration attorney fills in forms for us, drafts a cover letter, makes all appointments and guides us through the KvK process.
What are the government application fees?
- €1279 per person (cash or Dutch PIN only)
What does the acccountant charge and what does that include?
- Approximately €400 per person. Accountant prepares a profit & loss projection, opening balance statement.
All-in, what’s the damage?
- Total initial costs including business bank account deposit, attorney fees, government application fees and accountant fees: Approximately €13,600, of which €9000 is returned after five years.
Assuming we do gain residency under DAFT, does that allow us to perform business activities in Europe outside the Netherlands, or does that default to what is allowed under my US passport?
- As Dutch businesses (as freelancers under DAFT are considered Dutch businesses), we will get special treatment, allowing us to perform services all over the EU Schengen area.
In the end, it seems like we made a great choice of immigration attorneys and are going into the process with as much information as we can possibly have. The more we know and prepare for, the higher the likelihood of success. Pretty soon our posts will be updates about how the immigration process has worked out for us!
Also published on Medium.