The zoekjaar is a year visa that can be obtained after graduating from a Dutch university or higher educational institution, which is designed to give graduates the time and space to set themselves up in the Netherlands after their studies. During this year you are generally able to do whatever you want, you can work, you can become self-employed and you can also not work, with the idea that you get ready for the next visa that you want to apply to.
For more comprehensive information, and a guide to applying, go here(opens in a new tab). There is also this support FB page(opens in a new tab) for those applying for a zoekjaar visa.
What is the artist visa?
The artist visa is a self-employed residency permit, which is a broad two year visa for entrepreneurs and those who run their own company. However, the application process and the criteria for artists is different. The normal self- employed residence permit is actually very difficult to obtain, requiring that the applicant fill a fairly unique economic interest of the Netherlands and put together a much longer application including a comprehensive business plan, market research, finances and contracts lined up. Artists are exempt from most of this and the IND refers the application to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science instead of the Ministry of Economic Affairs for consideration. Artists still need to be registered as a business, provide a business plan (albeit a much shorter one), a profit and loss projection and proof that they will be doing culturally significant work via letters of intent from institutions and potentially references. The majority of this application only takes into account things that you have not yet done, what they want to see is that you have work planned for the future and a clear plan for moving forward.
In terms of income you need to have a profit and loss projection drawn up by a bookkeeper that explains how you are planning to make around €1.500 a month after the start of the residence permit. This can be made in a number of ways; selling work, artist fees for exhibitions, running workshops, acquiring funding, teaching etc. This doesn’t necessarily need to be work that is already lined up.
Regarding the proof of the significance of your work in the cultural field, this is defined by obtaining invitations from institutions or cultural spaces that are deemed nationally important, and letters of reference from these institutions explicitly stating that they will be working with you in the future. Letters of reference from important figures or ex-tutors are helpful for padding out your application and showing a degree of professionalism, but your application will not be accepted without letters from culturally important institutions committing to work with you in the future. This should always be your main focus. An institution is defined as being of national importance by where its funding is from. So an institution that gets funding from any of the big national funding bodies qualifies, for example if it gets money from the Mondriaan Fonds or the Netherlands Film Funds. Or if it gets money from one of the four big city funds, Amsterdam (AFK), Rotterdam (CBK), The Hague (Stroom Den Haag) or Utrecht (Utrecht voor Cultuur). The amount of letters will vary depending on the importance of the institution and the project they are supporting. But what is regularly done, is having at least three intent letters from institutions and then you can add any that you get from individuals on top of that.
The application cost is €350. On top of that, you can get a lawyer to help with the application, this can cost around €1.000 extra. Having a lawyer help you in the process has a 100% success rate on artist visas, and would allow you to see if an application will be rejected beforehand, saving time, money and hopefully rectifying any problems before it’s too late. Being said, this isn’t necessary. If you are confident with your application and you can follow all the rules on the paperwork, it is doable to make it by yourself.
After the two years you can apply for another two through a renewal process. For this process they are no longer interested in your cultural significance and instead are exclusively interested in your financial situation as an artist. At this point you need to be able to show that you have earned on average €1.300 each month since the start of your artist visa. So it is important to focus on finances over the first two years.
For a comprehensive overview of the artist visa process, DIWAN organised a talk with lawyer Nikki Vreede about the application process that you can watch here(opens in a new tab). This seminar is also held yearly and also addresses questions such as a) how to obtain a residence permit that allows you to work as an artist or performer, b) what is an orientation (or job-seeking) year? and c) how long can you stay after completing your studies? Keep an eye out on your school email box for more information about this event.
One visa option for staying in the Netherlands after you graduate is the partnership visa, for this you need to be in a relationship with a Dutch or EU person and meet a number of requirements, these requirements are different depending on your nationality, and whether your partner is Dutch or EU (it is an easier process if your partner is EU).
For more information about getting a partnership visa with your Dutch partner, go to the IND website(opens in a new tab). It is advised to get a lawyer for this process.
For more information about getting a partnership visa with your EU partner, go here(opens in a new tab).
Another visa option is to apply for asylum in the Netherlands. You can read more about the process and requirements for applying for asylum in the Netherlands here(opens in a new tab).
Employment is another option through which you can be granted a visa to stay in the Netherlands. However, this employment has to meet specific conditions, namely that the institution or company that employs you has to sponsor you.
Highly Skilled Migrant Residence Permit
The best way to understand this distinction is really to say that it is a highly paid migrant visa, as this is really what the IND is asking for proof of. The standard definition is that you need to be paid €5.008 a month by an employer to qualify for the highly skilled migrant permit. Only an employer recognised by the IND can apply for a residence permit for you. There are a number of reductions if you fit into specific circumstances, for example if you are under 30, graduated from a Dutch university within three years, or apply during or immediately after having the zoekjaar visa, you can qualify with a lower monthly wage. For those who graduated less than three years ago, the income is €2.631 a month, or if not, but are under 30, €3.672 a month. Obviously, these are extraordinary amounts for art school graduates, so it is rare that this permit is applied for.
You can read more about this visa type here(opens in a new tab).
PhD, Scientific Research Status or Residencies
A third option open to those who work in the arts is to obtain a PhD candidacy or some other research position at a university or a higher education institution. With this option you do not need to make a particular income and this residency permit allows you to work as much as you want outside of the institution that is sponsoring you.
Another option is to apply to residencies such as Rijksakademie, Jan van Eyck or de Ateliers, in which they would take care of your visa for the years you are participating in their programs.