The graduation season is approaching and most students are probably facing a tremendous amount of stress from both the thesis writing and the sluggish job market caused by the coronavirus crisis. Some are holding an expectation that the situation may alleviate soon with their extended stay in the Netherlands on their Orientation Year Visa (also known as search year visa or zoekjaar hoogopgeleiden). This article will tell you some hidden secrets about the Dutch search year visa.

According to the Dutch Immigration Decree, applicants can apply for the search year visa within three years after their graduation. The validity of the search year visa is one year. If you are capable of finding a job within the validity of your search year visa, you will be able to convert your purpose of stay from “search year” to “highly skilled migrant” and you only need to meet the reduced salary threshold of €2.423 gross per month (standard 2020). For instance, if your search year visa is valid from 1 January 2020 to 1 January 2021, you must get a job, earning a minimum gross salary of €2.423 per month before 1 January 2021. You may then convert the search year visa into highly skilled migrant visa once you get employed and sponsored by a recognised sponsor (‘erkend referent’ in Dutch). If you cannot find a job as a highly skilled migrant before the expiry date of your search year visa, the income threshold will then increase from €2.423 to either €3.381 (applicable to people aged below 30) or €4.612 (applicable to people aged 30 or above).

Nevertheless, what is untold is that the €2423 threshold is still applicable even if the fresh graduate chooses not to acquire the search year visa. The latter is actually the preferred option. Why? Thanks to the Dutch Royal Decree of Foreigners’ Employment, the €2423 threshold remains applicable if the graduate fulfils the conditions of applying for the search year visa even if he does not apply for a search year visa. For example, Andrew graduated with a bachelor degree from the University of Amsterdam on 26 April 2020. Given that the applicants have three-year time to apply for the search year visa after graduation, Andrew can principally apply for the search year visa before 26 April 2023. By getting the search year visa on 26 April 2023, the €2.423 threshold will remain applicable until 26 April 2024 (ie. before the expiry date of the search year visa). So, the hidden secret is that: Do not hurry to get your search year visa!

Let us give you two vivid examples.

Andrew

Andrew, a fresh graduate in the Netherlands, obtained his degree on 26 April 2020. On the same day, he applied for the search year visa. Later on, the IND granted his search year visa application, and Andrew got a search year visa retroactively as from 26 April 2020. The search year visa is valid until 26 April 2021. Later, Andrew gets a job offer from the Dutch headquarters of a US multinational. His contract with the US multinatinal begins on 26 July 2020 and it is a six-month temporary contract.  Andrew works there as a marketing assistant. The US multinational is also willing to help Andrew apply for a highly skilled migrant visa straightaway. Andrew happily accepts this offer. Then, Andrew gets a highly skilled migrant visa as from 26 July 2020. The highly skilled migrant permit is valid until 26 January 2021. Unfortunately, Andrew gets informed around mid-December that the US multinational does not want to renew his employment contract and he will be dismissed by operation of law as from 26 January 2021. Andrew realizes that there will be only one-month left from the time he gets informed about until the termination date of his employment agreement. He tries to look for jobs but there is no reply at all due to Christmas holiday. Eventually, Andrew’s visa expires and he remains unemployed. As he applied for the search year visa when he graduated, Andrew cannot apply for the search year visa again. More tragically, Andrew turns 30 years old on 1 December 2020. This means that the income threshold for a highly skilled migrant without holding a valid search year visa is €4612. At the end, Andrew has to leave the Netherlands in spite of the huge amount of money, time and energy he has invested in his potential career in the Netherlands.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth is Andrew’s classmate. She graduated on the same day (ie. 26 April 2020) as Andrew did. However, she did not apply for the search year visa right away. Instead, she kept her student visa and is able to get a job within three months after her graduation. Coincidentally, she enters the same US multinational as Andrew does and gets the same job with the same employment conditions. The US multinational is also willing to help Elizabeth apply for a highly skilled migrant visa right away. Elizabeth gets her highly skilled migrant visa, valid from 26 July 2020 to 26 January 2021. In mid-December, Elizabeth also gets informed that her employment contract will not be extended. She starts looking for jobs in the Netherlands and there are two scenarios.

The first scenario: Elizabeth does not manage to find a job in the remaining one-month period before her highly skilled migrant visa expires. Therefore, she decides to apply for the search year visa as she has never applied for it before. The application gets approved and then her stay in the Netherlands can be extended by one year, with the purpose of looking for another job.

The second (better) scenario: Elizabeth manages to find another job during that one-month period and her new employment begins on 26 January 2021 as a permanent employee at a Dutch company. Pursuant to the Dutch Royal Decree of Foreigners’ Employment, the €2423,- income threshold still applies to Elizabeth as she has never applied for the search year visa before. At the end, Elizabeth gets a new highly skilled migrant visa valid for five years.

You may ask how Elizabeth manages to stay in the Netherlands without applying for the search year visa after her graduation. In fact, Elizabeth did it legally and there are various ways to do it. Hereafter, we tell you about the ‘administration period’.

According to the Migration Policy of the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security, graduates in the Netherlands enjoy an “administration period” of three months. In other words, if your student visa expires within three months after the date of graduation, the Dutch Immigration Department (IND) will not revoke or curtail the validity of the visa even if your school informs IND that you have graduated. On the other hand, if your student visa is valid for more than three months after your graduation, IND will only curtail it to the end of the three-month period after your graduation. To conclude, generally, you will have a three-month period of legal stay in the Netherlands after your graduation without the need of applying for the search year visa.

With regard to the other ways of extending your legal stay in the Netherlands, please refer to our article “Search year visa about to expire? But you have not found a job yet?

Should you have more questions about the search year visa, please feel free to contact Mynta Law.

Tel: +31 (0)70 205 1162 / 1160

E-mail: info@mynta.nl