Dutch American Friendship Treaty: practical tips

Jan 9, 2024

American business owners or investors can emigrate to the Netherlands on the basis of the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (“DAFT”). Under this agreement, American business owners or investors can start a business in the Netherlands. This permit (also known as DAFT Netherlands visa) is valid for two years and the holder can apply for permanent residence after five years. This means the DAFT Netherlands visa needs to be renewed at least once. Starting a business in the Netherlands also creates a lot of other interesting options, such as the BV + Holding structure, the 30% ruling and more tax and accounting benefits. In this article we will explain some of the practical aspects of the Dutch American Friendship Treaty visa application, some opportunities you may want to look into and some things you don’t need to worry about.

1. Secure a residential address

Somehow this one is not on top of everybody’s list. It should be. The housing market in the Netherlands is heavily overheated especially if you are looking in and around Amsterdam. For a successful DAFT Netherlands application you need a residential address in the Netherlands as soon as you can. If you wait for this until the last moment, you may experience delays as long as 3-6 months here. Luckily for you there are parties specialized in your situation.

2. Obtain original documents from the US

For a successful registration at your new Dutch municipality you are going to need an original certified copy of your birth certificate, from the town of your birth. This applies to any family members you bring along as well. If you are born in the USA you can obtain one quite easily via here. But some DAFT applicants were not actually born in the USA themselves. This means they need to obtain their original certified copy of their birth certificate from outside the USA. This can be quite a time-consuming challenge, and can seriously disrupt your planning if you think about this too late.

Depending on circumstance, you may need additional documents. If you are married at the moment of your immigration to the Netherlands, you need to bring an apostilled marriage certificate. Likewise, if you are divorced you need to bring an apostilled divorce certificate. If you bring a child from a deceased ex-husband or wife, you need to bring an apostilled death certificate to prove this.

3. Choose your business type

Many websites will explain the business part of your DAFT application as: simply go to the Chamber of Commerce and register your company. If you do this, you risk missing out on a lot of opportunities. As part of your DAFT application you basically have a choice between an eenmanszaak (or “ZZP”) and a BV, which is the Dutch equivalent of the US Limited Liability Company. The BV can be used by a sole founder (for example freelancer) as well. The Netherlands has no rules against this, unlike some other countries. The difference between the BV and the Eenmanszaak (ZZP) is explained here. The difference between the BV and the BV holding structure is explained here.

4. Don’t forget the 30% ruling

If you choose the BV, you may also be eligible for the 30% ruling. If you are able to draw a salary of approx. € 40,000 per year from the BV, and you have never worked and lived in the Netherlands before, you are probably eligible. If so, you are looking at a hefty 30% reduction in your income tax burden. You also receive some nice additional perks as well, such as an automatic acceptance of your foreign driver’s licence, tax free reimbursement for your children’s expat schooling costs and relocation costs to the Netherlands. The rules for the 30% ruling are addressed in this FAQ here. The rules for the BV + 30% combination are explained on this page. The entire process of DAFT + BV + 30% package is explained on this page and also visualized below.

Visualization of the process : DAFT + BV + 30% ruling

5. Look into the family situation

Your spouse and children can piggy-back along with you as the main visa applicant, but beware the family applications require extra work from your DAFT visa application specialist if you hired one (which you should). Your spouse and children are free to live and work in whichever capacity in the Netherlands. If your partner is not married to the DAFT applicant, you need to prove you have a durable relationship. This can be done by providing a declaration of unmarried status from your home country, both from yourself and your unmarried partner. If you are immigrating to the Netherlands with your children but without the other parent, you are required to prove the absent parent consents to the children’s immigration by way of a certified letter or court order. If you are unfortunate enough to leave a deceased parent behind, you are required to bring a death certificate to show no consent is required from the other parent. These are also not things you want to look into at the last moment. 

6. Check your criminal records

As part of the DAFT Netherlands visa application process, the IND will assess if you are a threat to the Dutch public order or national security. This will firstly be ascertained by checking the Dutch criminal records. If you have never lived in the Netherlands, you can skip this one. If you have lived in the Netherlands before, make sure your name doesn’t pop up here. Criminal offences do not include punishable offences such as traffic violations or parking tickets. 

These are a couple of things you don’t need to worry about.

No worry 1: Business plan

Some websites mention you require a business plan as part of your DAFT application. This is not the case (anymore). It is always sound to have a business plan, and other parties may require one from you (for example a notary) but it is not a DAFT Netherlands application requirement.

No worry 2: Find business between the Netherlands and the USA

Although the DAFT Netherlands visa was intended to foster business relations between the Netherlands and the USA, there is not an actual DAFT visa requirement that your company conducts business (wholly or in part) between those two countries. You are free to choose with whomever you do business, just like any other Dutch entrepreneur.

No worry 3: Prove you can economically sustain yourself

The Dutch IND states that you are required to have an income, savings or other funds high enough to sustain yourself and your family members while in the Netherlands. While this is definitely something you should have lined up for yourself before you move (and you probably have) this does not actually get checked in the DAFT application process. So don’t worry about having to prove this one.

Changes for 2024

As widely reported, the Dutch 30% ruling is going to be scaled back in 2024. Although many DAFT applicants seek to apply for this tax break, the DAFT visa application process itself is not expected to change. The only change that is expected is the yearly update of the IND registration fee, which currently stands at € 350 for the main applicant.