In 2020, the Netherlands received 121 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), -21% compared to 2019. This figure comprises 61.9% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 12.2% labour migrants, 21.4% family members (including accompanying family) and 4.4% humanitarian migrants. Around 12 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students. In addition, 390 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2020, an increase of 78% compared to 2019. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

Poland, Romania and Germany were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2020. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Syria registered a slight increase (+69) and India the largest decrease (-6 400) in flows to the Netherlands compared to the previous year.

In 2021, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 81% reaching around 25 000. The majority of applicants came from Syria (8 400), Afghanistan (3 000) and Türkiye (2 500). The largest increase since 2020 concerned nationals of Syria (4 300) and the largest decrease nationals of Nigeria (-220). Of the 17 000 decisions taken in 2021, 73% were positive.

In July 2021, amendments to the Aliens Employment Act were designed to make Dutch labour market policies more flexible so as to cope better with future uncertainties. One of the measures introduces a work permit for a maximal duration of three years. Other measures included proposals to strengthen the position of the employee (e.g. requirements regarding the monthly payment of salary and payment by giro). The amendments entered into force on 1 January 2022.

In early 2021 a new residence scheme came into force initially in the form of a four-year pilot. It followed the announcement in July 2019 by the Minister for Migration of such a scheme for essential staff of start-ups founded in the Netherlands. The new regulation allows innovative start-ups to hire highly skilled migrants from third countries who are essential to their growth. The start-up staff attracted via this scheme must meet a lowered salary criterion compared to that for highly skilled migrants; in addition, they must be given a small share (minimum of 1%) in the company. A start-up may attract a maximum of five employees via the new scheme.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, several measures were taken in 2020 in support of knowledge migrants. Employers temporarily unable to meet the income criterion were not fined and there were no implications for the residence permit of the employee. Additionally, self-employed persons, even with a non-permanent right of residence, may make use of the support measures for entrepreneurs, although this is contrary to the conditions attached to their right of residence.

The crisis exacerbated the already unfavourable position of many EU workers in the Netherlands in terms of housing and dependency on their employer. In 2020 and 2021, the government provided a budget of EUR 100 million for the housing of vulnerable groups, including labour migrants. Measures to support international students were also taken. Any delay to their studies due to the COVID-19 pandemic would have no consequences for their residence permit. In addition, specific measures were introduced to allow registration for a study programme with an online language test or to use this test when applying for visa documents.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, UK nationals and their family members who were legally resident in the Netherlands before 1 January 2021 had until 30 June 2021 (later extended to 1 October 2021) can apply for a residence document. They may be eligible for a temporary residence document (5 years validity) or a permanent residence permit (10 years validity), depending on their period of residence in the Netherlands.

Chinese Taipei, Uruguay and Japan joined the Working Holiday Programme in 2020. Those aged 18 to 30 can reside in the Netherlands temporarily in the context of the cultural exchange programme.

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