It will soon be easier to come to the Netherlands to work or study. A new law making its way through parliament will streamline residency application procedures.
The Netherlands wants to encourage people to come here. Notwithstanding a perceived anti-immigrant mood in the country, policy makers say the Netherlands is an attractive option for foreigners. And the country needs them.
"We have the need for far more highly skilled people than we can ever produce here in the Netherlands," says deputy justice minister Nebahat Albayrak. She is responsible for Dutch immigration policy.
She is referring to highly skilled immigrants. Under a policy in force since 2004, 19,000 high skilled migrants have come to The Netherlands for work. The new procedures make it easier for such migrants.
But the proposed new policy will also help those looking for work who do not count as highly skilled, as well as those coming here to study.
How will visa applications change?
- In place of two applications for a residency visa, one submitted in the courty of origin and one upon arrival here in the Netherlands, only one application will be necessary.
- The length of a residency visa will be coupled with the reason for being in the Netherlands. For instance, a student pursuing a three-year programme will be granted a visa for three years.
- A number of businesses and universities will be recognized as regular sponsors for immigrants. Their applications will be handled faster.
- The time required for a company to arrange a work visa is reduced from 3 - 6 months, to 2-3 weeks.
- Fees, already higher than in other European countries, likely to rise even further.
- Privacy. Authorities will no longer evaluate an immigrant annually, since visas will be for longer periods. In exchange, more information about an immigrant may be monitored.
- Potential sponsors will be required to provide more proof of their good intentions. Penalties for abuse will become severe.
Competing with US & Canada
The driving force behind the new policies is to help the Netherlands compete with the United States and Canada when it comes to attracting highly skilled immigrants.
The European Union had a chance to offer the US more competition with the introduction of the blue card. But it fell short, because this permit's many restrictions limit the migrants' ability to move within the EU. The Netherlands, together with Finland, wants to go further. Certain categories of residency visas will be recognized by both countries. The hope is that other Scandinavian countries will join.
Some Dutch MPs are concerned about encouraging a brain drain from developing countries. They have urged the government to closely monitor the effect the new policy has on such countries.
The lower house of parliament is expected to approve the new policy in the coming week. If the proposal passes through the upper house, it will take effect in 2011.