With an American passport, the DAFT is an excellent path to a residence permit in The Netherlands.

Most people assume that I’m legal here in The Netherlands thanks to my wife being Dutch. Not so fast, broertje! Yes, if she had an (at least) one-year contract with a company that showed that she could support us even if I sat around and counted tulips all day, I could stay legally. My wife doesn’t have that. So I’m pretty much on my own.

Enter the DAFT: The Dutch American Friendship Treaty. From Wikipedia, “The treaty allows US Entrepreneurs to acquire Dutch residency for the purpose of starting a business.”

That pretty much sums it up. If you have an American passport, you can come over here, set up a business and get a residence permit. It’s just about that easy. Of course, Click and Clack (NPR’s infamous radio show about car maintenance) said, in order to replace the engine of the car, there were just two steps:

  1. Remove old engine.
  2. Drop in new engine.

See? Easy peasy.

The Dutch American Friendship Treaty. This is the stamp you're shooting for.

The Dutch American Friendship Treaty. This is the stamp you’re shooting for.

If you’re an American and thinking of coming to Holland and would like to stay longer than the 3 months you’ll get as a tourist, here’s what you need to do. NOTE: I’m going to list the requirements quickly so as not to get bogged down in the details of each element.

What do you need to meet the requirements of the DAFT?

  1. An American passport.
  2. The form (here’s the PDF in Dutch: Aanvraag voor het verblijfsdoel ‘arbeid als zelfstandige’ (vreemdeling)). Much of the form is stuff you won’t need if you’re doing the DAFT and are from the U.S. (e.g. all of the tuberculosis stuff).
  3. A BSN (Burger Service Nummer): for Americans, it’s like a social security number, but does more and is even more important. This means you’ve registered with the city hall. If you don’t do this, you don’t exist. Like ketchup in Holland barely exists for fries, but worse.
  4. A KvK number: KvK is the Kamer van Koophandel or Chamber of Commerce. This is the number you receive when you set up your business.
  5. A business bank account: you’ll need to set up a business bank account and make sure 4,500 Euros are in there (and print out a page from your online account showing proof of this)
  6. 1,296 Euros. If you have your bank account set up and already have your ATM (pinpas) card, you can pay with that. If not, I think you can pay in cash. Yes, it’s a lot of money. See above about trying to find a Dutch wife who has a job …

At this point, would you rather replace the engine in your car? 😉

The Dutch American Friendship Treaty. It's a bit of paperwork, but rather straightforward.

The Dutch American Friendship Treaty. It’s a bit of paperwork, but rather straightforward.

Are you ready to hire an law firm to help you out?

I did all of this in a matter of weeks and did it all on my own. DISCLAIMER: my wife is Dutch, I speak fluent Dutch, I have lived here before. During my meeting (last week) at the immigration office, chatting with the woman helping me on my application, she said that she was surprised that so many Americans had attorneys with them to apply for the permit. Granted, she’s telling me this, who speaks Dutch and who has just done it on his own. But she said she didn’t really understand why all of the attorneys because the process was quite straight forward. As I look back, it is straight forward–it’s just several steps and you need to be patient, persistent and, yes, it would help if you speak Dutch, but it’s not at all a requirement.

It also depends on the type of person you are. Are you an entrepreneurial go-getter who’s going to figure it out, fill in the form and set up appointments with the bank? Or would you rather, if you have the luxury, just pay an attorney who’s done this 42 times before and knows exactly what to do?

I’ll paste some links and summaries below with more information about the DAFT below. Feel free to chime in down in the comments if you have any questions or tips.

  • Wikipedia: The Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (also known as DAFT or Dutch American Residency Treaty) is an agreement between the United States and the Netherlands signed into law at The Hague on March 27, 1956.[1] The treaty is a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation with protocols. The treaty allows US Entrepreneurs to acquire Dutch residency for the purpose of starting a business. The treaty also allows Dutch traders and investors to enter the US and engage in business in the US.
  • IND.nl.: This is the immigration service website itself. You can find the form here and phone numbers. They were very helpful on the phone. Make sure you ask about the DAFT (actually ask for the full name, Dutch American Friendship Treaty) as not everyone knew about it.
  • Expat Law: Many Americans applying for residence permits under DAFT have little or no experience establishing a business in the Netherlands. Expatlaw specializes in DAFT applications for American citizens which include business advice for the entrepreneur regarding local conditions.
  • Dutch Immigration Partners: A very helpful and straightforward site all about the DAFT. I also like this, “We provide immigration services to US entrepreneurs at a fixed price.” So you know what you’re getting and for what price.
  • DAFT: Step by Step Guide: this guy went made the effort to write out the process in great detail. Very helpful site especially if you want to go it on your own.
  • I AM Expat: DAFT & Self-employed Americans in the Netherlands: De Vreede Advocaten talks about DAFT (Dutch American Friendship Treaty) and how it affects American entrepreneurs who want to live in The Netherlands.
  • De Vreede Advocaten: “We can assist American citizens seeking to establish a obtaining a DAFT residency permit; from registering a qualifying company in the Netherlands, opening a bank account, to ultimately preparing a successful DAFT application.”
  • Adam & Wolf Immigration Lawyers: “For a U.S. citizen who wishes to obtain a residency permit in The Netherlands, the two most common immigration procedures is to apply for a family reunification visa or for a permit as a Highly Skilled Migrant Worker. But if these options do not accommodate your immigration situation, a third option is available under DAFT, the Dutch American Friendship Treaty.”
  • How to move your American startup to the Netherlands: Many Americans have been declaring for the last few weeks “If Trumps wins, I’ll leave the country.”

You get the idea. Hope this was helpful and if it works out, see you in Holland!

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