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Orientation Year Visa Guide

Moving to the Netherlands from your home country can present unique challenges, particularly if you are a non-EU citizen. Unlike EU citizens, non-EU citizens need to obtain a valid residence and work permit (visa) to legally reside and work in the Netherlands. It's important to note that as of 2021, this requirement also applies to British citizens.

The Dutch government offers various types of visas, and this article will specifically focus on the Orientation Year Highly Educated Persons residence permit, commonly known as the Orientation Year Visa or the Search Year Visa. This visa is designed for highly educated individuals who have completed their studies in the Netherlands or at a recognized institution abroad.

The Orientation Year Visa allows holders to stay in the Netherlands for a period of 12 months after completing their studies to search for employment or start a business. During this period, visa holders have the freedom to work without any restrictions and can gain practical work experience in their field of study.

Obtaining the Orientation Year Visa can provide non-EU citizens with an opportunity to explore the Dutch job market and potentially secure long-term employment in the Netherlands. It's crucial to carefully review the requirements and guidelines provided by the Dutch immigration authorities to ensure a smooth application process.

Remember that visa regulations can change over time, so it's essential to consult official sources or seek professional advice to obtain the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding your specific circumstances.

Who can obtain it?

The Orientation Year Visa, also known as the search year visa, is primarily intended for young graduates who wish to live and work in the Netherlands. This visa allows holders to reside in the country without restrictions for a period of 12 months. However, there are specific eligibility conditions that must be met in order to apply for this visa.

To be eligible for the search year visa, you must meet one of the following criteria within the past three years:

Completed a Bachelor's or Master's degree program in the Netherlands.

Completed at least one academic year of a post-Master's program in the Netherlands.

Hold a Master's degree from one of the Erasmus Mundus Master courses.

Hold a Master's or PhD degree from one of the top 200 educational institutions worldwide. Please note that additional requirements, such as proof of language skills, may apply for this condition.

These are some of the common cases that make applicants eligible for the search year visa. It's important to note that there may be additional requirements and conditions depending on your specific situation. It is recommended to review the official guidelines and consult the Dutch immigration authorities or an immigration lawyer to ensure you meet all the necessary criteria.

You can find more detailed information about the eligibility requirements and conditions for the search year visa on the official immigration websites or by contacting the Dutch immigration authorities directly. It's essential to thoroughly understand the requirements and provide the necessary documentation to support your application.

Application processes

When applying for the search year visa, it's important to ensure that your documents are in Dutch, English, German, or French, as these are the accepted languages by the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). If your original documents are in a different language, you will need to have them translated and authorized by the competent authorities in the country of issue. This typically involves obtaining an apostille seal from the court on the translated documents. Please note that a fee is usually required for this translation and authorization process.

The current fee for the search year visa is 192 EUR, but there are exceptions for certain nationalities. Turkish citizens may have a lower fee, and citizens of Israel and San Marino are exempt from paying the fee altogether.

If you are already in the Netherlands, you can submit your application online or make an appointment at the IND to personally submit your documents. If you reside outside the Netherlands, you will need to submit your application at the Dutch embassy or consulate in your country of residence. It's important to provide certified copies of your documents rather than the originals. After submitting your application, you should receive an official letter with instructions regarding the payment process.

Please note that there may be additional conditions that apply specifically to Turkish citizens. It's advisable to consult the official website of the IND or contact the Dutch embassy or consulate for detailed and up-to-date information about the application process, required documents, and any specific requirements based on your nationality.

After submitting your application for the orientation year visa, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) may take up to 90 days to make a decision. However, if your application is submitted without errors, you may receive a response much sooner, typically within a week or two. In the event of a negative decision, you have the option to request a review of the decision.

If your application is approved and a positive decision is made, you will have three months to collect your visa. To do so, you will need to schedule an appointment with the appropriate authorities.

The start date of your orientation year visa will depend on your specific situation. It can begin on the day you receive the visa, the expiration date of your previous residence permit, or the day you arrive in the Netherlands. If you previously held a student visa and have applied for the orientation year visa, the new visa will start on the day you collect it. It's important to carefully consider the timing of your application to ensure a smooth transition.

Applying too late can result in a gap period during which you do not have a valid residence or work permit, which may have legal consequences. On the other hand, applying too early may shorten the overall duration of your stay in the country. Additionally, it's crucial to ensure that your passport remains valid for a minimum of 6 months after you receive your visa.

Please note that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to adjustments in the working hours and methods of the IND. It's advisable to check the official website of the IND for the latest information and frequently asked questions regarding the current situation and any potential impacts on the application process.

You obtained it, now what?

Having obtained a valid residence and work permit for the next 12 months through the orientation year visa, you now have various options available to you. Whether you're applying for jobs, internships, considering freelancing, or starting your own company, it's crucial to keep your potential employer or clients informed about your visa situation.

Make sure you gather as much information as possible about the specific requirements and conditions of your visa, and be prepared to explain these to your potential employer or clients. Understand that not all employers or hiring managers may be familiar with the intricacies of different visas, so it's essential to proactively communicate your legal status and demonstrate your understanding of the requirements.

During the application or interview process, inform your potential employer about your orientation year visa and clarify that you are fully aware of the legal framework and restrictions. Clearly outline your plans and intentions for the duration of your visa, including what you aim to achieve and any potential steps you plan to take once your current visa expires.

By effectively communicating your visa situation and demonstrating your knowledge and preparedness, you can help alleviate any concerns or confusion on the part of your potential employer or clients. It is important to establish a clear understanding of your visa-related responsibilities and ensure that both parties are aligned regarding the terms of your employment or engagement.

Remember, being proactive and transparent about your visa status can help build trust and facilitate a smoother transition into your professional journey in the Netherlands.

What to do when the visa ends?

If you wish to stay in the Netherlands after your orientation year visa expires, one common option is to obtain a highly skilled migrant visa. It's important to note that only your employer can apply for this visa on your behalf, so you need to ensure that the company you want to work for is open to hiring individuals from outside the EU.

To simplify the application process, you can look for companies that are recognized sponsors. These companies have previously hired non-EU workers and are familiar with the visa application procedure. Being a recognized sponsor not only increases the likelihood of the company being willing to apply for your visa but also makes the process smoother due to their experience with the requirements. Keep in mind that becoming a sponsor involves certain criteria and costs for the employer, so finding a company that is already on the list can be advantageous.

One significant advantage of transitioning from the orientation year visa to the highly skilled migrant visa is the salary requirement. For individuals who previously held the orientation year visa, the minimum salary requirement is currently set at 2,497 EUR. However, for those without the orientation year visa, the minimum salary requirement is significantly higher. This lower salary threshold for orientation year visa holders can be beneficial.

It's important to consider that obtaining the highly skilled migrant visa means you won't be eligible for the 30% ruling. The 30% ruling provides a tax advantage for eligible expatriate employees, but it does not apply to individuals with the highly skilled migrant visa. Depending on your field of expertise, skills, and years of experience, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons to determine the best option for your situation. Keep in mind that the orientation year visa is designed to facilitate easier access to entry-level positions on the Dutch labor market for young graduates.


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