The Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) visa for American immigrants in 5 steps

Feb 14, 2024

On 27 March 1956, the USA and the Netherlands signed the Dutch American Friendship Treaty. At that time, the Netherlands wanted to attract capital from abroad to build up the country after World War 2. Under this Treaty, an American citizen can acquire a Dutch residence permit for the purpose of entrepreneurship, provided that he/she invests a substantial amount in his/her Dutch business.

What is the DAFT visa?

The DAFT visa is a work and residence permit for American immigrants to the Netherlands, which is tied to a self-owned business in the Netherlands. It is a more accessible version of the regular Dutch Self Employed visa. The latter visa works with a more elaborate “point system” to evaluate whether the entrepreneur (and their new business) are of enough “added value” to the Dutch economy. The DAFT visa does not have this requirement, because of the special friendship relationship between the United States and the Netherlands.

For American immigrants to the Netherlands with an entrepreneurial spirit, the DAFT visa is a very attractive option to quickly and easily acquire a work and residence permit for the Netherlands. Entrepreneurs of all sizes are accepted under this visa: self-employed freelancers are just as eligible as big business owners setting up a Dutch branch of their thriving American business. There are no requirements as to the type of business, the type of customers of your business, or their origin. In this article we will explain the process in a few steps, and add some useful tips in the process.

Step 1 : Preparation

Your first step is outlining everything you need to obtain the DAFT visa. A good place to start would be the FAQ on the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (scroll down). These are the main boxes you need to tick:

- You have a US passport.
- You don’t have a record of “misbehavior” in the Netherlands: stayed here illegally, have a criminal record, and such.
- You will migrate to the Netherlands, to live and start a business here (see also step 2).
- You are able to bring in a starting capital of EUR 4,500 into the business. Make sure you calculate your business run-up costs on top of this, because you are required to keep this amount there for the duration of your visa.
- Bring an original apostilled birth certificate for you, and for any dependents you bring along. If you were born in the USA you can get one here. If you were born outside the USA and are a US naturalized citizen, a naturalization certificate will usually also work if you register in one of the major Dutch cities.

Another article goes into more detail about bringing your family under DAFT. For family members, additional requirements apply, depending on circumstance:
- If you are married you need an apostilled marriage certificate.
- If you are divorced you need to bring an apostilled divorce certificate.
- If you bring a child from a deceased ex-spouse, you need to bring an apostilled death certificate.

Make an appointment with us to get everything started before you move. This way we can fill you in on the exact requirements in terms of documents. We will then file your application ahead of your arrival, so you can plan your IND and municipality meetings immediately after you arrive. You will then get your residence endorsement sticker in your passport and your BSN number, after which you will have all DAFT rights straight from the beginning.

Step 2 : Choose a business type

The DAFT visa is meant for business owners migrating to the Netherlands. But that doesn’t mean you need to be the next Zuckerberg. Setting up a small business will also get you there - that includes working as a freelancer in the Netherlands. The DAFT process starts with deciding what kind of business you are going to set up in the Netherlands. We have a dedicated article that explains the available tax benefits under DAFT, and these will likely dictate your choice between company types.

We advise to start with answering two questions :
(1) Do you expect to earn more than EUR 66,000 from your business each year?
(2) Have you never lived or worked in the Netherlands before?

If both answers are YES, we advise you to set up a BV because you are probably eligible for the Dutch 30% ruling. The 30% ruling is the holy grail for expats coming to the Netherlands, and for good reason. This ruling in effect gives you 30% of your income tax free and only taxes the remaining 70%. This is a huge benefit to your personal income. For this you need to set up a BV, because it requires an employment relationship with your own company. An eenmanszaak (ZZP) doesn’t provide this. You need to setup this BV and enter into the employment contract with it before you migrate. Otherwise you cannot get the 30% ruling.

Additional benefits of having a BV + 30% ruling include:
- Expensing of relocation costs to the Netherlands for you, your family and your household goods, as business costs in your BV;
- Expensing of additional generic relocation costs up to € 7,750 (2024), as business costs in your BV;
- Expensing of schooling costs for your children on an expat school in the Netherlands, as business costs in your BV;
- Swapping your foreign driver’s licence for a Dutch driver’s licence without additional requirements.

If you earn less than EUR 66,000 per year, you might want to look into setting up an Eenmanszaak/ZZP, instead of a BV + 30% ruling. But then you will be missing out on all the above benefits, too. This means no cost expensing as business costs, and obtaining a new driver’s license the regular way. Swapping to a BV + 30% ruling later is not possible. You can only make this call straight at the beginning, after which you will lose this option forever. We have a specific article that explains the difference between the ZZP/eenmanszaak and the BV+30% ruling setup.

Step 3 : Go to your appointment at the IND

Please make an appointment at the IND for your residence endorsement sticker. Go to the IND appointment and make sure that payment of the IND invoice is done and bring your US passport. The IND will issue you your “verblijfssticker” (residence sticker) which entitles you to stay and work in the Netherlands in expectance of the final verdict for your DAFT. You will need to make a separate appointment at the IND for your biometrics. This appointment can be done later, but if you're lucky you can plan them on the same day, so you don't have to travel back and forth.

Step 4 : Get your BSN Number

Please make an appointment at the Dutch municipality of your residence (“Gemeente”). Please take the following documents with you: your passport(s), apostilled birth certificate(s), and (if you bring a partner or spouse) your apostilled marriage certificate or certificate of unmarried status. Don't forget to bring the IND confirmation letter (see step 3) and a rental agreement or a statement of consent at your Dutch residential address. Within a few days after this appointment the Gemeente will issue you your BSN number via mail at your chosen address. Please make sure your appointment at the municipality (step 4) takes place after the appointment at the IND (step 3), because you need to show your residence endorsement sticker at the Gemeente.

Step 5 : Complete the file your DAFT application

We will finalize your DAFT application for you. For this we need the following from you.

- A copy of your full passport which includes travel stamps. If we setup your Dutch BV, this will already be in our file.
- A Chamber of Commerce extract of your new Dutch business. If we setup your Dutch BV, this will already be in our file.
- A bank statement reflecting the fact that you hold EUR 4,500 in your business bank account. This doesn’t have to be a Dutch bank. You can also use Revolut, or any of the international banks.
- An opening balance of your Dutch business, drawn up by an accountant or bookkeeper with a BECON number. For this, feel free to reach out to our accounting partners at UWBS via here. They offer accessible accounting services for a reasonable price. They usually include your personal income tax returns as a free extra service.

With a complete file you can expect the DAFT verdict to land in about 2-3 months. In the mean time you are free to live and work in the Netherlands as though you already have the DAFT visa. As a DAFT visa holder you can bring your partner and minor children to the Netherlands. They are able to obtain a family member residence permit at the IND. If the partner is not married to the DAFT holder, you need to prove there is a durable relationship. The partner can (of course) be of the same gender as the DAFT applicant. Both the partner and the children of the DAFT applicant are free to work in whichever capacity within the Netherlands. This is actually a broader work permit than the one granted to the DAFT holder, because the family members can enter into regular employment or start their own business. The DAFT holder is required to stay self-employed in the business with which the application was made.

Further reading

Make sure you use all the tax breaks available to you under DAFT. If you bring along family members, we have a dedicated article explaining the position of your family members under the Dutch American Friendship Treaty. Finally, we have a dedicated article explaining the US - Netherlands tax treaty that applies if you have businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.

Changes to be expected in 2024

As widely reported, the Dutch 30% ruling has been 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.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Cardon & Company offers a complete DAFT + BV + 30% package, servicing you from A-Z. This means we take care not only of your DAFT application, but also of your BV incorporation and 30% ruling, and all the timelines involved. Reach out to us for more information.