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The Dutch American Friendship Treaty

The Dutch American Friendship Treaty

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.
  • 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.
  • ahl advocaten: Flip Jansen knows the DAFT, speaks excellent English, and is a good place to start if you’re interested in getting some knowledgeable advice as you embark down this path.
  • 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.
  • 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!


  1. Coco

    Great summary! Does it matter what your business is? I have seen reference that you need to have a business BETWEEN the US & NL …

    And processing time? Your experience?

    • Bradley

      Thanks for the note. I saw that reference too (“between the US & NL”) but I have to admit, I didn’t really understand it. My business now exists for the US or for NL, so I described it that it was for both countries and that I planned on helping Dutch explore American publishing markets etc. Please don’t take this as legal advice, but it seems to me that as an American coming to The Netherlands, one could find a way to make their business serve both markets!

      It took me about a month to do all of the steps (KvK, bank, appointment, etc.) and then you wait 3 months (or so) to get your actual card. I’m actually still waiting on the actual card in the mail.

      Hope that helps!

      • Coco

        Fantastic – thank you for the update! I am impressed that you had this complete in a month! I have been trying to obtain a residency permit in Spain for almost a year with no joy.

        I work as a business consultant so I can angle the business as servicing US corporations that are entering NL. However, you do not mention a business plan? It can be in a shorter form that satisfies the criteria of representing USA etc?

        Relating to my situation – couple of other questions…

        I need to borrow funds for “long term sufficient means of support”. Part of me fears that an accountant would identify this as a recent transfer and determine that I do not have means?

        Do have any reference to the conditions that have to met after the residency permit is granted? Ie. Earning a minimum of 1,500/month; remaining in NL for six months per year – I travel a lot so this might be an issue.

        I don’t want to be a bother with too many questions!? If I rock up at the IND office with all these questions they will take the time to answer me?


        • Bradley

          I also read about having a business plan, but I didn’t have one–at least not on paper that I shared at my meeting or gave in with my application.

          It’s a good question about the “long term sufficient means of support” and I don’t know the answer. I have a few links in this post to accounting firms with experience in the DAFT who might be able to shed some more light on the topic.

          About your other questions (earning a certain amount per month or traveling), I don’t know of those requirements.

          Your last comment is a good one: yes, go talk to them. They were extremely helpful and friendly. You can give them a call or just go into the office–maybe in person is easier and more helpful. Best of luck!

          • Coco

            Thanks again for your comments. Last week I did meet with the immigration office. They gave me plenty of great information – the requirements. In summary:
            – Need business plan with financial forecasting but it doesn’t need to be elaborate
            – The business does not need to be with/for the USA. Just innovative and sound business reasoning.
            – Requirement post approval is to be in NL for 6 months a year however this is only checked at renewal application and only if there questionable details of the renewal application
            – Also there is an expectation to earn 1600 EUR/month

            Again, thanks for input. Very encouraging!

          • Michael

            You mention having ” a few links in this post to accounting firms with experience in the DAFT” but I only see links to Law firms. As I have all ready done all the steps needed except for the accountancy forms / business set up which a certified accountant needs to do I am looking for someone, preferably in Amsterdam or nearby, who has experience with DAFT req. and preferably with Dutch and US tax filing. Did I miss the list of accountants or is it posted somewhere else?


          • Bradley

            Thanks for the note, Michael.
            Oops, you’re right, I mentioned accounting firms but don’t actually list any. To this day, I still could use a good accountant who knows US + NL, but haven’t really done the research yet. Here are a few links I’ve Googled, but haven’t checked out deeper:

            Again, I haven’t checked those out, just searched. If you have any experience in finding someone you like, please share it here if you don’t mind. Thanks, Michael!

        • Bradley

          Thanks for the update, Coco! Very helpful and more details than I got when I went through it all. Good luck with the process and report back here with any news. Thanks!

  2. Mike Robinson

    This is great. I wish I knew about this back when I was traveling in my 20’s. I could’ve stayed for longer in Europe

    • Bradley

      Same here! That would have made things so much easier! Although, I might have never left … !

  3. Foo

    Thanks B for the valuable information. I do have few questions, please.
    1) Is it a temporary residency permit or a permanent one?
    2) What is the length of validity for this DAFT visa?
    3) When can a DAFT visa holder apply for the Dutch citizenship? And what are the requirements?

    Thank you

    • Bradley

      Thanks for the note, Foo.
      1.) It’s 2 years, then you can renew.
      2.) 2 years.
      3.) I’ll find out this year! I think normally a non-DAFT person needs to wait 5 years, but a DAFT holder can start the process after 3 years. Don’t quote me on that one as I don’t even remember where or how of even IF I heard that, but I’m hoping it’s the case because it’s what I plan to do!

  4. Samantha

    Hi Bradley! I am applying for the DAFT self employed visa from NYC to come to the Netherlands. Are you able to send in the application when abroad through the mail?



  1. How to move your American startup to the Netherlands - - […] expat Bradley Charbonneau wrote another very useful article in which even included the link to the form so keen…

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