Securing a job in the Netherlands can be hard at the best of times, and the process is, notoriously, far more difficult for expats. Facing the additional barriers of language, law and often confusing bureaucracy can be a daunting task. However, here's some good news: Dutch startups are here to help. The Netherlands is a great place for expats to work, with a strong economy, expanding industries, and a more permeable language barrier than most countries. Most importantly, the country’s startup ecosystem is an ideal hub for expats looking for jobs. In this guide, you'll find a rundown of all the essentials you'll need to navigate the tricky territory of finding expat jobs in a foreign country.
Let's get started.
Documentation, Work & Residence Permits
First of all, you'll need to get set up, officially, in the Netherlands. One of the most important things to get sorted out is to get your BSN (Burgerservicenummer), which is essentially your citizenship number. You'll need your BSN for pretty much every interaction with any government entity. You can do this via the Netherlands Belastingdienst.
You'll also need your work permits sorted out. This is often a complex process, as it depends a lot on where you are from, and how long you are going to work in the Netherlands as an expat. You'll have an easier time if you are already an EU citizen, as many of the affordances and protections of the EU will carry over to your work in the Netherlands. However, if you are not an EU citizen, you'll have to get Dutch health insurance, as well as apply to companies recognized by the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Netherlands). For an extensive rundown on the permits you will need given your situation, check out this in-depth guide.
Some startups, and especially larger scaleups, can oftentimes help you through this process by arranging everything for you. This means that you can easily avoid all this complicated paperwork when you land a job at a startup. The startup ecosystem in the Netherlands is an extremely welcoming environment to expats as companies seek to establish an international identity through a wide, multicultural network of people.
If you're planning on being freelance or an entrepreneur, you'll need to register your business with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce. Once you've done this, you'll be given your KVK number, which is the registered number of your company.
Download the DigiD app, which you'll be using to log in to almost all official websites. You'll use it whenever you need to access your information on a government website, or any similar websites that need an extra layer of security.
Banks and Health Insurance
Dutch bank account
As part of living and working in the Netherlands, you'll need to get a Dutch bank account. The application process is relatively simple, and most of the major banks have an expat-friendly means to set up an account. All you'll need is a registered residence in the Netherlands, and your passport. Some good options for your first account are:
- ABN AMRO
Dutch health insurance
The Netherlands boasts one of the strongest healthcare systems in Europe. It's also a legal requirement that you have health coverage. As such, you'll need to choose an insurance company and get coverage. Luckily, once you have done so, you'll be protected and ready to go. Some safe bets for solid coverage at reasonable rates are:
For a deep dive into the specifics of Dutch health insurance, check out this guide on College Life.
As of September 2021, the vaccination rate in the majority of the Netherlands is steadily increasing, and it is no longer a requirement to wear a facemask in most areas (except public transport). Because of this, a lot of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic are starting to recover.
In terms of working as an expat, it is best to keep an eye on the official government website, which constantly updates. Also, it's worth downloading the CoronaCheck app, which can be used as proof of vaccination, and is often necessary for longer forms of travel.
Jobs For Expats
Searching for Work
When starting your job search, the first and biggest wall you'll face is the language barrier. Despite most Dutch people speaking English, almost all jobs require fluency in Dutch, or as close to fluency as possible. Luckily, startups thrive on their international spirit as they often have an English-speaking culture dominating the workforce. Thus, seeking a job at a startup is one of the best solutions to job search as an expat. Find below a few more solutions.
If you optimize your search terms properly, many career platforms can be useful resources for finding positions in the Netherlands. One of the most exciting boards to start your search is Techleap, the largest startup job board in the Netherlands. It gives you a thorough overview of the jobs available at startups and scaleups across the Netherlands.
Other boards include: Indeed, nationalvacaturebank.nl,, Monster, Glassdoor, jobbird,and College Life Work.
One thing to know is that LinkedIn is huge in the Netherlands, with the majority of people finding jobs through the LinkedIn’ jobs postings feature. Be sure to set up job alerts with your first language, such as 'Spanish speaking', and you'll receive job postings tailored to that search.
A great place to start is the various recruitment firms that specialize in placing non-Dutch speakers in jobs. Most famous of these is Undutchables, which regularly posts positions available across the Netherlands, along with the language requirements of the job. Another good firm is Adams Multilingual Recruitment, and also have a look at Randstad. You can find a longer list of multilingual recruitment firms here.
The key to success with these firms is to contact recruiters directly. Good recruiters will potentially schedule a call with you, where you can talk about your skills and the kind of job you are seeking.
Delivery and Warehouse Work
If you're mobile, in good shape, and fast on a bike, then there are even more options available. Rapid delivery cyclists are always in high demand at companies like Thuisbezorgd and Gorillas, as long as you're ready for some intense work.
Warehouse work (usually as an order picker) is usually pretty easy to secure and doesn't require much more than some basic Dutch. However, be sure to do your due diligence with warehouse positions beforehand, as they can be long hours of physically demanding work.
Horeca is Dutch shorthand for 'Hotels, Restaurants and Cafes', essentially referring to the service sector. Since the easing of Corona regulations in the Netherlands, the horeca sector has started to recover. Due to this, there are now far more positions opening up. Most places are in desperate need for serving staff, dishwashers, cleaners - pretty much any spare pair of hands available.
The best advice when searching for horeca positions is to follow your local cafes, bars and restaurants on social media. Doing so will make sure you'll see when they post any new positions on their page. Similarly, be sure to physically go to the same places: sometimes positions like these are only posted in the front window of establishments, and can be easy to miss. Keep an eye out!
Even before the pandemic, the Netherlands enjoyed a culture that encouraged occasionally working from home. As such, many companies have shifted well into offering partially or completely remote work positions. Remote positions are often a great choice for expats as they offer almost infinite possibilities.
As of September 2021, there are two types of remote opportunities: partly remote and fully remote. Many of the startups listed at startupjobs.techleap.nl offer jobs that are at least partly remote. Partly remote is a new benefit as a result of the corona crisis which forced everyone to work from home. Partly remote is therefore usually only mentioned as a perk, while fully remote is often set as the location of the vacancy on the board.
Working for Companies
One of the most appealing options for an expat looking for jobs in the Netherlands is to secure a position at a company. They usually offer stability, benefits, and potentially a career route, as well as ending the anxiety of constantly searching for the next job. Because of this, companies are usually highly subscribed to, but we've got a few tips for where to look, and how to apply.
The Netherlands has become one of the European leaders in the tech industry, which is great news for expats. Tech companies often use English as the business default language, and are extremely open to hiring skilled immigrants - the Dutch government has even relaxed the rules around immigration to allow start-ups to hire skilled immigrants. This means it is easier to get in if you're already skilled up or experienced in the tech field, but don't worry if you aren't. Most companies - especially larger companies - are open to training new employees, if you can show potential and a willingness to learn.
The ideal companies to apply for as an expat are startups and scaleups. Importantly, companies at these sizes are international by default, which makes entry for expats that much easier. Also, being part of a company from the early stages can give you a lot of influence on the success of that company, as well as your own position within it.
If you are interested in applying to startups and scaleups, remember that your best bet is to check out the job board at Techleap. Also check out Angel, which exclusively posts startup roles in new companies, or have a look at Dutchtechjobs, which posts startup and scaleup jobs, although only for the tech sector.
As a similar note, consider applying to universities. International by default, Dutch universities are often willing to accept non-native applicants, in both academic and non-academic positions. The best resource for this is academictransfer, which posts roles in both teaching and support roles, as well as outlining if the position requires Dutch fluency or not.
How to Boost Your Chances
There's a lot you can do to improve your chances when applying for expat jobs in the Netherlands. It's a tough journey that often takes an emotional toll, but once you are prepared with these tips and tricks, you'll be prepared for the bumps on the road.
The timeline on finding an expat job in the Netherlands can be quite long. Being aware of this, and prepared for it, is key. Recruitment is often a long process, sometimes taking as long as six weeks or more from the start of an application to a definitive answer. Sometimes firms won't get back to you at all, or sometimes you'll wait a long time for an answer that is, unfortunately, a decline. That's just the nature of the market. The best way to get around this is to be emotionally prepared for it, and to always have several applications on the go. That way, if and when you are turned down for a position, it packs less of a punch.
Also, be prepared to adapt your tactics. Being less passive and more active can be very effective, especially in the expat job market. Consider adopting growth hacking tools into your skillset. This will involve directly emailing decision makers (instead of recruiters), sending carefully-worded follow up emails designed to incite a response, and embracing an active approach. As ever, the key here is persistence and adaptability.
This is the best investment you can make in your future in the Netherlands. Get started with free sites like Duolingo, then try weekly classes with a tutor. These will help, and go well with any and all Dutch classes you have the time and money to attend.
Look Elsewhere, Ask Around
Not all jobs are posted online, especially basic ones. As we mentioned earlier, horeca jobs are often only posted physically or on social media. This is true of many other positions, and it's often surprisingly beneficial to ask around - especially if you know other expats looking for jobs. They may have spotted the perfect job for you.
We hope this guide has mapped some of the difficult terrain faced ahead of you. The expat job search in the Netherlands is difficult, but not impossible. Just remember:
- Startups are a great place for an expat
- Be prepared for a long process. It will take time.
- Send out as many applications as you can, and keep track.
- Be persistent and follow up.
- Make sure you have all your documentation in order.
- Reach out in the community.
- Keep training yourself as you job hunt.
Remember: you've got this. Keep at it, and soon you'll be celebrating the success of landing your first expat job!