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Visas for Postgraduate Study in the Netherlands

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If you’re thinking about studying a Masters in the Netherlands, you may need an entry visa to arrive in the country and / or a residence permit to live there.

We’ve written a guide that covers everything postgraduates need to know about the Dutch immigration system, from applications and employment conditions to health insurance and long-term job opportunities.

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Visa types & conditions

The Netherlands is one of the most multicultural and outward-facing countries in the world, with a visa system that reflects this international outlook.

Who needs a visa to study a Masters in the Netherlands?

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss national, you won’t need a visa or a residence permit to study and live in the Netherlands.

If you’re from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Vatican City or the USA, you won’t need an entry visa but you will need a residence permit known as a VVR (verblijfsvergunning regulier).

Citizens of other countries will need an entry visa known as an MVV (machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf) as well as a VVR residence permit.

Financial requirements

If you’re applying for an entry visa and / or a residence permit, you’ll need to provide proof that you can support yourself financially for the first year of your course. The Dutch Government requires that you have at least €900 per month (or €10,800 annually). This amount is just for your living expenses – it doesn’t include your tuition fees.

You’ll supply this proof during the application process. It can come in the form of a bank statement or a scholarship offer. Bank statements should usually be:

  • Certified by the bank
  • In Dutch, English, French or German
  • Less than three months old

If you can’t provide adequate proof through a bank statement, it may be possible for you to deposit funds with your university instead. They will look after your money until you’ve arrived in the Netherlands and set up a Dutch bank account.

Language requirements

If English isn’t your native tongue and you haven’t already studied at university level in an English-majority country, you’ll usually need to provide proof of your language proficiency.

This will normally be handled through your prospective university during the application process for your Masters. Find out more about English language tests.

If you’re studying a Dutch-language Masters, you may have to show that you’re proficient in Dutch. This is usually done through the ‘State Exams Dutch as a Second Language (Nt2)’ test.

Health insurance

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss national with an EHIC card, this will cover your health expenses while in the Netherlands.

Other international students will need to make sure that they have an existing home health insurance policy that’s valid in the Netherlands, or take out a new private health insurance policy that will cover them during their studies.

Whatever your nationality, if you decide to work during your Masters, you’ll need to pay for public Dutch basic health insurance cover. This costs around €1,500 a year.

Some universities may ask international (non-EU / EEA / Swiss) students to take out liability insurance as part of the conditions for granting a residence permit.

Students from certain non-European countries will need to take a tuberculosis (TB) test within three months of arriving in the Netherlands. You’ll need to sign a form declaring your intention to do so.

You’re not required to take a TB test if you’re from an exempt non-European country (PDF), but you’ll need to sign a declaration confirming this.

Applying for an entry visa (MVV) and residence permit (VVR)

If you’re not from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Vatican City, the USA, Switzerland or an EU / EEA country, you’ll need an entry visa (MVV) and a residence permit (VVR) to study in the Netherlands.

The process for gaining these two documents is combined and sometimes referred to as the TEV procedure.

After being accepted onto a Masters course, you’ll begin the application process for an entry visa and residence permit with your university. You’ll need to submit the following documents through their online system:

  • A copy of your passport
  • Proof of your financial means to cover living costs and tuition fees
  • An antecedence certificate, essentially declaring that you don’t have a criminal record
  • Your health insurance policy
  • Tuberculosis test declaration

You’ll also need to provide original copies of your bank statements and pay an application fee of €171.

Your university will pass your information on to the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), who process most applications in two to six weeks.

Once the IND has approved your application for a residence permit, your university will let you know that you can make an appointment to apply for a Dutch entry visa (MVV) at your nearest Dutch embassy or consulate.

At this appointment you will bring your passport and provide your signature, fingerprints and a facial photograph. After around five days you will need to return to the embassy / consulate to pick up your passport, which will now have the MVV entry visa sticker necessary for your arrival in the Netherlands.

When you arrive in the Netherlands, your university will let you know when you can attend your local IND office to pick up your residence permit.

Deadlines

Universities set their own deadlines for applications. Generally speaking, if you’re starting a Masters in September you should submit your application by June, and if you’re beginning a Masters in February you should submit your application by December.

Schengen Long Stay Visa

If you’ve already got a long stay visa or residence permit granted by a Schengen country, you won’t need an entry visa for the Netherlands.

Nuffic certificate for Chinese students

Chinese nationals need to apply for a Nuffic certificate in addition to an entry visa / residence permit. This certificate is an authentication of your English language proficiency and your previous educational qualifications.

Find out more by visiting the Study in Holland portal.

Applying for a residence permit (VVR) without an entry visa

If you’re from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Vatican City or the USA, your university will apply for a residence permit (VVR) on your behalf, dealing with the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) directly. You don’t need an entry visa.

You won’t need to contact the IND yourself – instead you’ll submit the relevant documentation through a digital system maintained by your prospective university.

Once you’ve been accepted onto a Masters programme, your university will invite you to begin the online application process with them. You’ll need to supply the following documents:

  • A copy of your passport
  • Proof of your financial means to cover living costs and tuition fees
  • An antecedence certificate, essentially declaring that you don’t have a criminal record
  • Your health insurance policy
  • Tuberculosis test declaration

You’ll also need to pay an application fee of €171.

After completing the online application process, you may also have to send your university original copies of your bank statements.

When your university is happy that you’ve satisfied the requirements for a residence permit, they’ll send your application to the IND to be processed. This usually takes between two and six weeks and your university will inform you via email when it’s finished.

Arriving in the Netherlands

Once you’ve arrived in the Netherlands, you’ll need to attend a biometrics appointment at an IND office so that they can collect your signature, fingerprints and a passport-style photo of your face.

After this appointment, the IND will create a residence permit card for you, which normally takes a few weeks.

Deadlines

Deadlines vary by institution, but if you’re beginning a Masters in September you’ll normally have to submit your VVR application to the university by June. If you’re beginning your programme in February, you should make sure you apply by December.

Of course, you should always make sure you give yourself plenty of time to gather and send the relevant documents, so don’t leave everything until the last minute!

Registering with your local municipality in the Netherlands

Masters students of all nationalities need to register with their local municipality (town hall) once they’ve arrived in the Netherlands. Some Dutch universities will organise appointments for their students to do this, but in other cases you’ll need to get in touch with the local town hall yourself.

You should bring the following documents with you to the registration appointment:

  • Your passport or an EU ID card – and a photocopy
  • A copy of your letter of acceptance from the university
  • A copy of your rental agreement for the Netherlands
  • Your residence permit (if applicable)

As well as being a legal requirement for anyone staying in the Netherlands for more than four months, registering with the local municipality is how you’ll get a burgerservicenummer (BSN) – your Dutch social security number.

You’ll need a BSN in order to be able to work, open a bank account and access healthcare in the Netherlands.

Working in the Netherlands

EU, EEA and Swiss nationals can work in the Netherlands without any restrictions during their Masters. They don’t need a work permit to do so.

Non-EU, EEA and Swiss nationals

If you’re not a European national, you’ll need a work permit (unless you’re taking part in an internship that’s part of your Masters). Your prospective employer should apply for a TWV work permit through the UWV (Employee Insurance Agency). This process can take up to five weeks.

Once you have a TWV work permit, you can work part-time for up to 16 hours a week during term-time or full-time during June, July and August – you can’t do both kinds of work during the same calendar year.

Dutch basic health insurance

Students of all nationalities need to take out a Dutch basic health insurance policy (basisverzekering) if they have a part-time job – even if they have an EHIC or private health insurance.

If you fail to do so, you face a hefty fine from the authorities. The health insurance costs around €100 a month.

Working in the Netherlands with your Masters

The Netherlands’ vibrant economy and start-up scene makes it a great place to start a career after your Masters. Many large companies have offices or headquarters here and the high standard of English makes it a popular choice for multinationals looking to establish a base in continental Europe.

  • Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland are free to work in the Netherlands without any restrictions after finishing their studies
  • Other international students should apply for an ‘orientation year’ (zoekjaar) permit if they want to stay in the Netherlands after graduating

The orientation year scheme aims to help talented non-European graduates find employment in the Netherlands, giving them the freedom to look for a job for up to 12 months after their studies.

You can apply online for the orientation year through the IND. It costs €171.

Other useful resources

If you’d like to find out more about visas and residence permits for postgraduates in the Netherlands, check out the Study in Holland and IND guides to studying abroad in the Netherlands.

Learn more about studying abroad in the Netherlands

Our guides explain Masters study and student life in the Netherlands. We've also looked in detail at postgraduate fees and funding and current Dutch university rankings. Finally, don't forget that you can search for a Masters in the Netherlands right here on FindAMasters.com.

Last updated - 20/09/2019

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