The orientation year permit for graduates in the Netherlands

On July 1, 2016 by Dutch Umbrella Company

Being an innovative and prosperous country, the Netherlands attaches importance to the knowledge economy, and it thus wants to give highly skilled migrants the time they need to find a job here after completing their studies. Therefore, a highly educated migrant can apply for an orientation year, also known as the search year.

As a highly skilled migrant you can apply for this residence permit within 3 years of completing your study, as long as you graduated from a Dutch university, or if you’re a student who graduated at a Master or PhD level at one of the top 150 universities worldwide. The residence permit enables you to seek work in the Netherlands after your graduation, and it is granted for a maximum period of 1 year.

Applying for a search year permit

To apply for a search year, you should contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) before the end of your studies, since you cannot stay in the Netherlands without a valid residence permit. The process of applying for the search year permit is relatively simple but it can take up to 3 months to be processed; officially the IND has 6 months for their decision. If you are unable to find a job during the search year you have to leave the country.

  • In order to apply for the search year, you must meet the following requirements: you have valid travel documents (such as a passport), and you are not a danger to the public order or national security. You are eligible for a search year permit if you meet 1 of these conditions:
  • You’re a graduate who has obtained a Master’s degree or a PhD from a Dutch university or a high ranking foreign university.
  • You’re a scientific researcher who did research in the Netherlands.
  • Graduates who have obtained a Master’s degree as part of an Erasmus Mundus Course.
  • Graduates who have completed a cultural study within the scope of the Cultural Policy (Special Purpose Funding) Act.
  • People who have completed an education through the Dutch Foreign Affair’s development aid program.

The search year permit will be issued for a maximum period of one year and cannot be extended.

The benefits of a search year permit

The search year permit allows you to spend a year in the Netherlands looking for work, without the need to have an additional work permit. It will grant you free access to the Dutch labour market and you are allowed to work in the Netherlands without any restrictions.

After your search year has ended your employer can immediately hire you as a highly skilled migrant – in this article you’ll find more information about the requirements and rules regarding highly skilled migrants.

If you still have specific questions regarding the orientation year or the IND regulations, you can contact us via