It’s been a long run. Actually, it’s been a long year. I made it to the finish line. The final touch down. A home run. Mission complete 2015. Bada Boom, Bada Bing! 

Gosh, where do I begin? To the readers who’ve wondered where I’ve been for the last 8 months, if you’re out there, and you’re not just my mother, I’m sadly my own worst enemy in terms of being a writer. “Amanhã” Portuguese for “tomorrow,” has been my latest catch phrase as I continue to be bombarded by things which we call, “LIFE.” 

What’s left on my bureau is but a lonely travel journal eagerly pleading days on end, “Write! Write! oh would you write in me, Katie!!”

Oh dear.

After a trip to Bamberg, Germany in November, and my final trip back home to the American roots, I’ve managed to jot down a few thoughts in the airport and during a long-hauled flight across the Atlantic to the shores of Boston. 

I bring good news. Although this article has been rewritten and amended throughout the year due to my 3 types of visas, I’ve finally settled down with one, all mighty visa, which I will explain. Bear with me.

I admit it. It wasn’t as easy as I thought when I first naïvely arrived in the Netherlands; I wore my rose colored glasses.

Photoshopped the glasses. Just to prove a point how naïve I was....

 

Like most newcomers who are citizens outside the EU, we can get set back by a number of obstacles when we arrive in the Netherlands. Finding a job and acquiring a long-term stay, or in other words, a residence permit, is overwhelming. You probably have a 3 month deadline to figure out your long-term stay reason in the EU. Trust me, you will need every single day to figure it out and make hast. And if you still didn’t find an apartment, please take a look at my Getting Settled in Amsterdam: Expat Series Part 1: Getting an apartment, because you must have a registered a legal address before you pursue ANY visa or residence permit. If you don’t have a job or substantial income, getting an apartment can be quite difficult. Actually insanely difficult. Marcio and I moved recently this month, so that is another long story. But let’s rewind, the dilemma is, how can you get a work visa if you still can’t find housing? What comes first? The chicken or the egg? It’s a vicious cycle, my friends.

I want to note that the first two options you’re about to read are applicable for non-EU citizens, except the last option which is only applicable for American and Japanese citizens.

1st: The High Skilled Migrant Visa Option

Don’t let the title discourage you. “Highly skilled” doesn’t mean you need to be a world renowned writer, chef, investor, etc. It’s rather a suitable and easy option for folks who’ve crafted their skill-set in a certain field, and in my opinion, have at least 3 years experience under their belt. And no, you do not need to have a fancy pants Ivy League degree either. I have this visa now, as of October this year. Never would have guessed it, but I finally managed after 10 months of scavenging for work. My first visa that I acquired is listed in #3. Read on, friends.

The good news is that with this option, your employer does not need to apply for a work permit or sponsorship on behalf of you. We all know that HR shuns you, if you’re a complication in terms of employment. The purpose of this option is to attract viable skilled professionals to contribute to the Dutch economy without having to go through a sticky sponsorship process. Here’s some criteria you should know.

If you’re under the age of 30, your employer must give you an offer of at least 3,071 euros a month, which is about a 37,000 year gross. If you’re over the age of 30, you must make a monthly income over 4K a month.

How I felt while unemployed. The worst feeling ever.

How I felt while unemployed. The worst feeling ever.

However, it’s easier said than done. I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences while trying to pursue this option.

In April, I’ve interviewed for two jobs that would have qualified as a High Skilled migrant, but I faced absolute absurdity. In one situation, an HR woman refused to consider me for any right to employment even though the salary and qualifications was spot on. To this day, she had the audacity to not email me and the government official back (who I CCED in the email) regarding my plea on why I was suitable to legally work under the HSM option. Still waiting for a generic rejection letter in my mailbox, which never came. But I’m glad it didn’t work out. What a joke.

Another situation happened while I was interviewing for a “Marketing Expert” position. Yes, that really was the title. The role was pretty high level, and even I had doubts if it was a good fit. The conversation went smoothly with the founder until I addressed his employment question, to which he flat out laughed at me in disbelief that I would even dare propose HSM as an option. I guess it’s a “starving start-up.” How could I be so greedy to ask?  

The moral of the story is, be careful who you ask if you want the option. Although, you never really know how they will react. Nothing to lose, but an awkward “no”..

2nd: Good luck on this one! (tewerkstellingsvergunning) or TWV

As strange and unfair as it sounds, there are many suitable international organizations that sponsor according to the Immigration Office site.

https://ind.nl/EN/individuals/residence-wizard/other-information/recognised-sponsors , but from my experience, once you begin to interview with them, they refuse to consider any sponsorship. It’s as if the word “sponsorship” equates to the black plague.

February 2015…in an interview, I plead, “But you’re company is listed on the government sponsorship site?!  

Sorry we are not offering sponsorship.” one HR woman says. She stares blankly. She has those eyes which suck you into a lifeless black hole. 

Sometimes they play dumb, “Can you legally work in the Netherlands?”

What I would like to say is, “Why no, I just arrived, and like, isn’t that what you’re supposed to help me with?! Aren’t you a sponsor?!”

They give the googly eyes as if you’re crazy enough to ask. They expect you to know all the details on acquiring a work visa with legalities on your own. They really know how to make the situation awkward and uncomfortable. The point is, isn’t their job suppose to assist with internationals with non-native Dutch jobs? 

I lived in Germany for nearly a year and had an HR guy handle my sponsorship with such ease BEFORE I EVEN ARRIVED ON GERMAN SOIL. But maybe that company was an exception. The bottom line is that the immigration office only wants a few things: contract of offer, legitimate passport, address of residence (which comes in time as well as local bank account, given that you receive your BSN social number) all supported from a legally recognized, sponsored organization and probably a fee you pay to process the application. In fairness though, an ex-pat center official (a nice center for new expats in the NL) explained to me that getting the regular work visa (tewerkstellingsvergunning) is a royal pain in the butt. A company must apply for this visa on your behalf and the application can take up to 6+ weeks for a decision. Companies want to take their time hiring, but most don’t wait for the immigration office to approve your work visa. Note: If you’ve pursued this option and you’re not an EU citizen, I would love to hear how you did it. Seriously, I want to know the details. Maybe I did something wrong. Comment below. 

3rd: Self-Employed/Entrepreneur Visa Treaty for Americans (and Japanese)

This is the visa that I acquired earlier this year. In March, I submitted my application for the “Dutch American Friendship Treaty: Freelancer, Self-Employed, Entrepreneur” application. Before submitting the right documents, and painfully paying over a grand for the application fee, I had to register my “business” at the Chamber of Commerce or the KvN (50 euros for the company name). Starting my first business...In a foreign country!? Yes, intimidating to even fathom the thought. I knew little Dutch at the time and had only one Dutch language course completed. But fear not. This special Dutch-American Friendship treaty was established the 1960s (and recent Japanese one respectively). It smoothes the process for American citizens who’d like to bring their business or services to the Dutch market. And I’d like to add that there is no other treaty in Europe like this available for Americans who want to reside in the EU. GO NETHERLANDS!

After you move into your new address and register with the local municipality or known as the “gemeente”, get your BSN (social security) number, and Dutch bank account with Dutch phone number, here are the steps to getting this visa:

  1. Register your business in the NL through the KvN or in other words, the Chamber of Commerce. There are multiple chambers located throughout the Netherlands. The one I frequented was right next to Centraal Station.
  2. Invest over 5K in assets or income into a Dutch bank account, preferably a business one. 
  3. Fill out a completed application with a dutch bank card ready at hand to pay the 1000 Euro plus fee. 
  4. Hire a trusted bookkeeper or accountant to write an official opening balance bank statement letter with your assets and income equating to the 5K
  5. Get an official bank statement showing the total income of 5K

Sometimes folks hire an international lawyer or business consultant who can fill out documents such as business plans, VAT declarations and forecasting plans in case you have a large corporation or if you’re selling products, trading, hiring large teams, etc. 

At the time, I was a sole proprietor and scouted out Dutch clients under my own terms. It’s tricky if you cannot determine your focus which should support something lacking or missing in the Dutch market. But in any case, if you’re struggling to find clientele in the NL, that doesn’t mean you cannot keep working with clients from other parts of the world. As long as you pay taxes to those countries that you’re working for and you continue working with Dutch clients, this is fine too. In addition, if you fulfill your financial requirements by the end of the 2 year period, you can extend this visa for your business.

On the other hand, if your application is incomplete, for example, if you are still waiting for the complete funds in your bank account, I highly advise you to submit before the 3 month Schengen deadline. It can take up to 3 months before they make a decision and they should give you a temporary visa after you apply. I needed the time to move money into my Dutch account. If you’re American with an American bank account, chances are you don’t even want to bother moving money electronically. Banks can have tricky and painstaking security measures of wiring which can cost you a lot of time and energy. Cold hard cash was my only option while I was scouting for income in euros. It’s a pain and you will feel like a drug lord. Yep, carrying too much cash in your pocket in order to make a deposit... So take precaution at your own risk.

You can check out more information here from iamsterdam (http://www.iamsterdam.com/en/local/work/start-a-business/going-freelance), a friendly ex-pat center.

Now, the final wrap up.

There are other options of course to pursue a visa. If you’re a student or you have a Dutch family member in the Netherlands, maybe even an EU partner (partnership visa, not required through marriage apparently) then you may qualify for a visa. But I’m not so familiar with these options, so please see this link to the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation office for more info: https://ind.nl/EN/Pages/default.aspx

It’s going to be a phenomenal year. Finally in September, after 9 months of nearly going insane, I got a new job at a growing mobile marketing software company. The role is an ambitious undertaking, but I'm ready to set sail and excel. However, after running around for the last two years back and forth between the US and in Europe, from Germany, Greece, Portugal, Denmark and now the Netherlands, I can finally rest my two suitcases here. At least until the end of 2016 when my visa and contract will end and perhaps renew? Take it one year at a time. 

Cheers to 2016! And may there be many more explorations along the way. 

Which visa are you pursuing and in which country? What challenges are you facing during the application process? Leave your comment in the box below. Looking forward to reading your comments!

 

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