Migrate to Europe as an American

Feb 15, 2024

Are you looking to migrate to Europe from the United States? There is no European country where an American can get a permanent visa easier than in the Netherlands. The Netherlands has a centuries long strong bond with the United States. Dutch settlers originally founded New York, which they called “New Amsterdam” after their own capital city. The Dutch traditions of freedom and entrepreneurship have always resonated strongly with Americans. Below you will see the Netherlands on a map of Europe, just to refresh your memory.

The Dutch-American Friendship Treaty Visa

During World War Two the Netherlands was liberated by the Americans. The Americans continued their support afterwards during the restauration period, as part of the so-called Marshall Plan. As part of this plan, the Netherlands and the United States entered into a special treaty called the “Dutch-American Friendship Treaty”, or “DAFT” in short. This treaty was meant to stimulate the economic ties between the two countries. Why is this relevant for you in the 2020's ? Well, the DAFT treaty to this day still allows for Americans to move to the Netherlands and live and work there, under very favorable conditions:

  1. You must have a US passport. You don’t have to be actually born in the US.

  2. You must set up a Dutch company (for example as a digital nomad, freelancer, or continuation of your US work or business). You must own a stake of at least 25%.

  3. Put € 4,500 (approx USD 4,900) into the Dutch company’s bank account. This remains your money, you just need to keep it in there for the duration of the visa. 

  4. The visa is valid for 2 years, after which it must be renewed. Renewal happens against the same conditions.

  5. Do not have a criminal record within Europe.

And that’s it ! You just need to make sure you can work self-employed. That can include anything from continuing your current work on a remote, self-employed contracting basis, to setting up a Dutch entity of your pre-existing US company. Heck, we’ve even seen an American freelance tattoo artist settle in Amsterdam under DAFT.

The position of family members under DAFT

The Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) visa allows you as a main applicant to live and work self-employed in the Netherlands for 2 years. If you bring a spouse or a minor child with you under DAFT, they can work self-employed and in regular employment too. Children can come along under DAFT as long as they are under 18. If they are over 18, they must obtain a separate visa (such as a family unification visa under article 8 of the ECHR). If your children become 18 during the course of the DAFT visa, they can remain dependent under DAFT regardless of their having become an adult. The entire education system of the Netherlands is open to DAFT visa applicants and their dependent family members.

What does the Netherlands have to offer

The Netherlands, country of windmills, cheese and clogs? Forget about all that. The Netherlands is an independently minded and internationally orientated country. Here's 11 things you need to know about the Netherlands:

  1. 99% of Dutch people are fluent in English. That includes the grandma’s and the school dropouts. You will never encounter a language barrier in the Netherlands. Don’t be surprised if a Dutch person corrects your English. 

  2. The Netherlands has a highly functioning healthcare system. Once you obtain your Dutch BSN number (weeks after your arrival) you can take out a Dutch healthcare insurance. Premiums start at € 100 per month and cover all major medical expenses. Medicins are either covered by health insurance or priced normally. 

  3. The Netherlands has a very good infrastructure. Toll-free highways and well connected trains between the major cities, and the cities themselves are compact enough to be navigable with bicycles and a very good public transport system. Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is a major European airline hub with round the clock connections to destinations around the world, and cheap connections to other European cities.

  4. The Netherlands does not have an opioid or drug problem. True to the Dutch liberal spirit, the Netherlands has not treated drug addicts as criminals but as patients. Controlled legalization of opioids makes for very few rough sleepers in the major cities. And if you’re that kind of person that wants to light up a “J” every now and then, you will not find yourself behind bars because of it. 

  5. The Netherlands has been a trading nation for hundreds of years, and you will notice that in their open, accepting and tolerant culture. If you are part of the LGBTQ community, or you sympathize with them, you will find a warm welcome here. 

  6. The Netherlands working culture has a healthy work life balance. Employees of big companies will work for 40 hours per week tops, and that’s it. Employees have 20 statutory holidays per year, and remain paid during periods of incapacitation. 

  7. The Netherlands harbors a lot of religious people, but being religious is not expected of you. When you stick to the big cities and do not actively seek it, you will barely notice the existence of religion at all. If you seek it, you will find your place of worship for your religion in the Netherlands.

  8. The Netherlands is a safe country with a low crime level. Mass shootings do not exist. Weapon possession is non-existent and very heavily regulated. Where crime exists, it is mostly confined to petty theft or of the invisible, internecine sort. 

  9. The Netherlands has an egalitarian education system, with high quality schools accessible for all kids. When they’re grown up, they can choose from a couple of world class universities with tuition fees at about € 2,000-€2,500 per year (a 50% reduction applies during the first year). Universities don’t have extensive application processes (bar a few specific studies like medicine), and will allow your kids onboard as long as they have finished the appropriate curriculum. 

  10. The Netherlands is steeped with culture and history at every corner, with museums flaunting their Dutch masters and Golden Age reverie. Then there’s cities like Rotterdam that offer modern art and architecture.

  11. The Dutch, being a nation of traders and entrepreneurs, have a tradition of directness. They will not beat about the bush when they mean to say “no”. You may need to adjust to this at the beginning, but you will quickly appreciate you at least know where you stand with them.

Tax system Netherlands

In the Netherlands, regular income is taxed at 36,97% up to € 75.518 and 49,50% above that. As a self-employed person under DAFT, different taxation rules apply, and you can obtain a very favorable 30% tax break on your Dutch salary. If you set up a Dutch BV company with a 30% ruling, you would be looking at roughly 29-30% in taxes over a € 100,000 income (USD 108,000).

Taxation on your US assets and income

The Netherlands has international tax treaties with almost every country in the world. That includes a double-taxation treaty with the United States. This treaty does what it says on the packaging: prevent people from paying double taxes. Such treaties are especially designed for persons looking to invest in, or make the jump to, the other country while not having to be afraid of the tax man’s ire. So whatever happens, you will never pay a tax rate higher than the highest tax rate applicable in either of the two countries. If you work and pay taxes in the Netherlands, you will never be taxed again on that salary from the United States because of this, despite the IRS’s international tentacles. We have explained in more detail in this article.

Recent political developments in the Netherlands

The entire western world currently experiences a reaction towards immigration of one kind of another. In Europe, this started out with refugees from the North African spring revolution and the Syrian civil war in the 2010’s putting a strain on the capacity to welcome asylum seekers. In the 2020’s we’ve seen populists getting the better of that situation all over Europe, and the Netherlands is no exception. During the 2023 election, the populist and anti-immigration Dutch PVV party got the biggest share of the vote in the Netherlands. But the Dutch political system is very fragmented, which means even the biggest party must play nice with the rest because they need to form a majority. Secondly, where anti-immigration sentiments exist in the Netherlands, they are not aimed at self-sustaining, high earning and/or highly educated immigrants such as DAFT applicants. Any existing negative sentiments towards foreigners are reserved for seasonal laborers and asylum seekers (which is still sad of course). 

Housing in the Netherlands

One notable exception to the aforementioned may be the surging house prices in Amsterdam, which have been attributed to high-earning expats buying property. But this omits the fact that the Netherlands has just been too slow in building new homes for people, driving the prices for living space in Amsterdam especially to new highs. When you are looking to lease a place for 1-2 people in Amsterdam, expect to pay about € 2,000 to € 2,500 per month. It is therefore advisable to look beyond Amsterdam, where you will find much better prices.

Schengen travel in Europe

Having a valid visa in one European country does not automatically give you any additional visa or travel rights to other countries. If you want to travel within Europe, you will still need to stick to the 90-day Schengen rule (90 days of free travel within 180 days, after which it resets). This applies before you have a DAFT visa and afterwards likewise. If you are going for the digital nomad lifestyle, it is very well possible to register yourself in the Netherlands under DAFT, and spend your winters working from Spain or Italy, and then returning back to the Netherlands once the sun kicks in there. 

So what's next?

If you are interested in the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty visa, another article explains how to obtain the DAFT visa in 5 easy steps. If you want to test the waters first, we recommend you reach out to the DAFT visa community in this Facebook group to shoot away any questions you may have.