The first question we are typically asked after explaining that our family moved to the Netherlands from the US is how we managed to do it. The most common ways to apply for a residence permit to reside in the Netherlands are:
- as a spouse or registered partner of a Dutch citizen;
- as a highly skilled migrant through a recognized sponsor (typically a company); or
- as a self-employed, independent entrepreneur. A special treaty, the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT), between the US and the Netherlands (and also interestingly, between Japan and the Netherlands) allows for a much easier path to residency for US citizens.
We took advantage of the DAFT treaty to move to the Netherlands. Without the treaty, as self-employed, non-EU citizens, we would have had a pretty high bar to reach to prove that our business served an essential interest for the Dutch economy. We would have had to satisfy a points-based test and to have invested a significantly higher amount of capital into the business. Under DAFT, the requirements are pretty basic. My partner and I each had to provide Dutch immigration (IND) with the following:
- a bank statement indicating that we each had the investment amount (€4500) in a Dutch bank account;
- a partnership agreement showing that both of us were planning to be employed in a business; and
- a business plan describing our business. A business under DAFT may be almost any business that is engaged in commerce, except a legal or medical practice.
We hired a Dutch immigration attorney to handle our DAFT applications and the application for my son as my minor dependent. Once my daughter had been accepted into her university program, she applied for a student residence permit separately. Although we might have been able to handle the DAFT application on our own, we wanted to make sure that the application was handled properly when first submitted. I had read that it was very difficult to rehabilitate a rejected DAFT application. Another factor we considered in hiring a lawyer was that we could not legally perform any work in the Netherlands until our residence permit was approved.
Certified and apostilled copies of birth, marriage, divorce, adoption or name change certificates are required for the application. First, we obtained certified copies of the documents according to state rules about what documents may be apostilled. Then, we presented those documents to the secretary of state for apostille. This can take quite some time, so all documents should be obtained in advance, knowing that there might be a delay when working with multiple state agencies. Our immigration lawyer also required us to submit an FBI criminal records check in our application to the IND that indicated that we had no criminal records.
Once our lawyer submitted the application, it took only five weeks for it to be approved, well before our arrival in the Netherlands. We successfully avoided the situation I’d read about when a DAFT application languished for more than six months when there was no professional follow-up with the Dutch immigration authorities. As as US lawyer, I wouldn’t have wanted to handle the application without the assistance of a Dutch-speaking professional. We were very happy with the service the lawyer provided, and he’s continued to advise us on matters when necessary.
We were simply moving an existing business to the Netherlands, so for our business plan, we simply provided a description of our business and list of assets along with past business sales amounts to our lawyer, and he drafted the report.
Because M and I were both employed in the business, we needed a partnership agreement. This document was prepared by an accountant recommended by our lawyer. Having an accountant is absolutely vital when you make your mandatory appointment with the KvK – Kamer van Koophandel which is where all new businesses must register and receive the all-important KvK number which must appear on your website and on your invoices in the Netherlands. In order to register with the KvK, you must have a Dutch tax number, but in order to get a Dutch tax number, you have to be registered at the KvK. This creates a crazy, circular situation that was resolved in our case by simply having the KvK employee call our accountant to handle the tax issue during our appointment. One of the most important aspects of the KvK registration is compiling a complete list of all the expected business activities you’ll be undertaking in the Netherlands.
The search for an accountant for our business was one of the most difficult aspects of moving our business to the Netherlands. I found that my e-mails went unacknowledged and unanswered for weeks at a time and phone calls were not returned, even with tax deadlines approaching. It remains an ongoing issue, but so far, we’ve been able to file reports and tax returns on time.
The residence permit is good for two years, but may be renewed. Ours was renewed last year for an additional 5 years. We plan to apply for permanent residence when we have lived here for 5 years or for naturalization, which could require us to renounce our US citizenship, although there are some exceptions that allow dual citizenship. There have been efforts by the Dutch legislature to extend the waiting period from 5 to 7 years before someone may apply for permanent residency or naturalization, but so far it has not passed into law.
23 thoughts on “Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT)”
About how much $ were the services with the lawyer?
Our lawyer does not have a set fee but charges by the hour. We had a very complicated situation so most people would incur less legal fees. For a more typical situation, I’d budget a couple thousand dollars for legal fees.
You mention that Dutch Immigration requires an FBI criminal check, but nowhere and no one else has ever mentioned this as a requirement and I can find nowhere at IND’s website where relative to DAFT this needs to be submitted. Did you need to submit this and if so was it because of the specific business/profession that you intended to do, i.e. working with children so they wanted to make sure you weren’t a sex offender or something?
There are general conditions set forth by the IND for all immigrants, see https://ind.nl/en/Pages/General_conditions.aspx. One of these requirements is to provide a signed antecedents certificate stating that among other things, the applicant has no criminal record. Our immigration lawyer required us to provide him with the FBI “no criminal history” summary, see https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks as documentary evidence of our lack of criminal history for our DAFT application. I am not sure if it is considered to be mandatory, but one thing I have learned about the Netherlands is that what is required often changes without notice. When we submitted our DAFT application, the FBI form had to be submitted by mail, so there was a processing time of several months. In our case, it was critical that we got a quick approval so that we could start working in our business very quickly once we arrived in the Netherlands. You are not allowed to work at all until your DAFT application is approved. We submitted the application while still in the US, and it was approved before we arrived in the Netherlands.
Given that there is really no way for the IND to check on an applicant’s criminal history in their home country, it seems logical to ask for proof of this, particularly given the increasingly strict immigration policies under consideration in most countries. Since the FBI document may now be obtained electronically much more quickly, it may not be so much of an issue if it is requested by the IND.
I hope this helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know.
Thank you for sharing. I got the impression from googling that the applicant has to be in the Netherlands physically during the 3 months application phase, which is not your case.
How did you manage completing the following by being overseas during the application: 1) submitting required documents in KvK, IND and Gemeente; 2) providing a Dutch residential address (did you rent just to have an address to fill the IND and Gemeente application) 3) obtaining a local bank account
I am struggling with the above by being overseas while preparing my relocation plan and would appreciate your help. If a Dutch lawyer would help with the above, please do drop me an email with his/her contact. Thanks!
We visited the Netherlands about 3 months before we made our move here. We met with our immigration lawyer, Patrick Rovers, and he gave us specific instructions about what agencies to visit in a certain order so that everything could be accomplished and we could return to the US until time for our move. He instructed us to bring our apostilled documents (birth certificates, divorce decree, name change documents, etc.) to that meeting. We had to make an appointment with the bank to set up a Dutch bank account. We opened one personal bank account that we used for the transfer our investment capital into the Netherlands. It took a few days for the appointment, so be sure and call to book it when you first arrive in the Netherlands.
Next we made an appointment and visited the KvK to register our business and the activities that our business would undertake. This is where the circular thing happens that they want you to to be registered with the Belastingdienst (tax office) but you can’t do that until you are registered at the KvK! They had to call our accountant (who was arranged by Patrick) and get assurances that things would be handled with the tax office.
It took around 5 weeks after we left the Netherlands and our complete application was submitted by our lawyer for our residence permits to be approved. Once we arrived in the Netherlands, we made an appointment with IND to get photographed and fingerprinted, and the actual residence permits came in the mail about 4 weeks later.
I’m sure our lawyer could help you with this. His name is Patrick Rovers, firstname.lastname@example.org. I would not have wanted to do this without his help.
One other thing to be aware of is that the bank allowed us to open an account without a BSN number, but they have a 30 day limit on providing this information to them. We didn’t get our BSN numbers in time, so they froze our bank account. When we arrived, I just had to call them with our BSN numbers to get our account active again.
Hi there 🙂
I’ve read a few posts on DAFT lately and I always wonder what type of business the writers were approved to have in The Netherlands. Is there a particular job list or established income goal that you have to achieve through Dutch clients? For example, could a blogger with income through their website be considered, or are there specific goods that would need to be sold?
My understanding is that any type of business may be allowed except for a law or medical practice. There is no set threshold of income that is required, but the IND must be satisfied that the business is a legitimate one. The more practical rule is that you must be able to support yourself on the proceeds of your business and not draw any bijstand (welfare) from the Dutch government. For an answer specific to your particular situation, you may contact my immigration lawyer for a free initial consultation. Hope this helps!
Hi, I am an American citizen and thinking of applying for DAFT visa. My question is what happens after the initial 2 years when your business didn’t generate any income. will that be a problem in renewing the DAFT visa or is it okay with if I keep 4500 euros in the bank account? Regards James
I think that it could be a huge problem if the business did not generate any income. However, if there were reasons, such as the business generating a fair amount of sales volume but there is a need to reinvest that capital back into the business, that may be a different situation from the IND’s point of view. The business must be a legitimate one, or the IND has no reason to extend your residence permit to do business in the Netherlands. If there is no or very low sales volume, I very much doubt the initial investment will save you when it comes to renewing the residence permit. However, I am not an expert in Dutch immigration, so contacting an immigration lawyer with your specific concerns in probably a good idea.
Thank you so much for your kind input. How about the issue of low or no sales with KVK (chamber of commerce). I heard that they will close your company registration if there is not enough sales after 1 year. Any truth to that statement?
Best and kind regards
I really don’t know about the KvK issue. I do know that the company must continue to file regular VAT returns even if there are no sales. You could certainly ask that question during your initial appointment with the KvK to find out their policy. I found them to be quite helpful.
Can I ask you about finding a registered address beforehand and how you handled that from outside Holland?
Many thanks to you!
Sorry I am so late to respond. It has been a crazy month. I don’t think that we needed an official address until we went to register at the gemeente after we had actually arrived in the Netherlands. We had already rented an apartment so we had an address to give to the gemeente.
Hope this helps.
I want to know about what the application fee is for a minor child on your DAFT agreement application. Is it still the 1379 per child as well, or is it less for them?
Looking at the IND website, I think the fee would be €168 https://ind.nl/en/Pages/Costs.aspx. I believe that is slightly higher than the amount I paid over 6 years ago for my son. About a year into our stay, I got a refund for a good portion of the fee. I’m not sure why. The fee was definitely much less than the amount for adult applicants. I do know that the fees change often. Hope this helps. Jillian
I found this post via /r/iwantout on Reddit.
Do you know if full-time remote employees are able to apply for this program? Or is it for freelancers and small business owners only?
The rules are rather complicated. I suggest you contact my immigration lawyer, Patrick Rovers, for a free initial consultation. I have complete faith in his advice. info(at)roversmoffat.com
Best of luck!
I’m not sure if we connected on Reddit or not, so I’ll reply here So sorry for the delay. I suggest you have a free consult with Patrick Rovers (info@RoversMoffat.com) to see what might be able to work. He is a wizard at creating workable solutions and is happy to chat with you.
Best of luck!
I was curious about adding minors onto the application. Does your son also have residency and will he get citizenship? Are there any extra guidelines or anything for having a young child?
I tried answering your questions from my personal email but am not sure you received it. You may add your minor children to the application. I believe I remember the fee being less than €100 per child. There are no special rules for children’s applications. You will have to provide birth certificates for them in addition to your own with the application. If there are any custody arrangements, the other custodial parent will have to also give a notarized statement giving permission for the move. Without this, it is not possible to bring a child under a custody arrangement to the Netherlands. My son became a Dutch citizen in Oct, 2019. He was able to keep his American citizenship because the US will not accept a proxy for surrendering citizenship and he does not have the capacity to make this decision himself.
Just let me know if you have any more questions.
Hi Jillian, thanks for sharing all of the helpful information! Could I ask a question? When applying for the initial residence permit under the DAFT, some websites mention a possible requirement “you have sufficient and long-term means of support.” In your experience did any of the authorities in the Netherlands look into your finances or ask you to demonstrate any minimum monthly income as part of your application? Thanks a lot!
I have helped dozens of people with their DAFT applications and have never heard of any of them being asked to prove a certain income. However, you do have to submit a business plan with your application showing what business you will open when you arrive. Many businesses don’t make a profit for many years and many people applying under DAFT are starting new businesses, so I suppose this makes sense. You just need to make sure you can survive on your own funds during process since there is no social safety net (bijstand) available without it affecting your residence status. This is nothing new for Americans, though 🙂