Knowledge and talent is welcome in the Netherlands to strengthen our competitive position and knowledge-based economy. Therefore, the Dutch government has introduced the orientation year residence permit  (also known as 'Search Year', 'Zoekjaar' or 'Orientation year highly educated persons').


  • a residence permit for one year
  • free access to the Dutch labour market during the period on this permit. The holder can be employed, do voluntary work, internships, set up a start-up and/or be active in self-employment, all without a work permit being required.
  • a partner/spouse also has free access to the Dutch labour market.
  • more favourable terms to be eligible for the highly skilled migrant residence permit, which makes you more interesting for a possible employer. Generally, an employer needs to pay someone over three or four thousand euro a month, in order to make use of the highly skilled migrant residence permit. But you already qualify for a wage of just under two and a half thousand euro monthly. Make sure you apply for the residence permit for highly skilled migrants in time, meaning before your orientation year finishes, as this offer only stands during your orientation year.

You are eligible for an orientation year residence permit if in the past three years one of the following applies to you:

  • completed an accredited bachelor's or master's programme in the Netherlands; or
  • completed a post-master's programme of at least an academic year (a minimum of 10 months) in the Netherlands; or
  • completed a study in the Netherlands in the context of the Cultural Policy Act; or
  • completed a study in the Netherlands that is provided in relation to the development cooperation policy of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; or 
  • obtained a master's degree in the context of an Erasmus Mundus Masters Course; or
  • completed a higher education programme designated by Ministerial Decree (as of August 2019 there are no higher education programmes designated by Ministerial Decree); or
  • done scientific research at any time. For this, you have had a residence permit in the Netherlands for the purpose of scientific research within the meaning of EU Directive 2005/71/EC, research within the meaning of Directive (EU) 2016/801, or as a highly skilled migrant to undertake scientific research; or
  • completed a master's or post-master's programme or obtained a PhD at a designated international educational institution* abroad and you:

- have achieved a minimum score of 6.0 for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). There are two versions of the IELTS: Academic and General Training. Both of these qualify to meet this requirement; or

- have achieved a comparable minimum score in another accepted English language test (TOEFL, TOEIC en Cambridge English grades & scale) set out in the Code of  Conduct for international students in Dutch higher education; or

- posses a diploma, certificate or document as meant in Article 2.3, first paragraph of the Civic Integration Decree (only in Dutch); or

- have completed a master's, post-master's or doctoral programme in the English or Dutch language.

*A designated international educational institutions is listed in the top 200 of one of the general ranking lists or in the top 200 of one of the available ranking lists by subject field - that correspond with your field of study or research field - of the:

All foreign diplomas have to be evaluated by Nuffic before they can be accepted, except for diplomas from accredited higher education programmes in Flanders, Belgium. Check out the ‘FAQ Orientation year’  for more information. 

Application conditions

  • You need to be eligible (see above)
  • You can apply up to three years after your graduation or finishing research
  • You must pay the application fee of € 174

Other conditions may apply for Turkish nationals and their family members.

Application procedure
If you are in the Netherlands, you can submit the application with the IND. For more detailed information and the application form, go to
pathfinder Career or go to the IND’s website. You can collect the permit from the IND or an Expat center. If the applicant is living abroad, and needs an entry visa, the application can be submitted at the Dutch embassy or consulate.

If you have any questions, please read the FAQs, developed in cooperation with the IND and published on the IND website.

Find out more  through the Pathfinder application