A chance to stay and find a job

The problem: brain drain. The solution: the search year. It gives international graduates a chance to stay and find work, at a price.

A kinder, gentler version of the highly skilled migrant visa, the search year visa – introduced in 2009 – allows international Bachelor’s and Master’s graduates to remain in the Netherlands and search for work for up to 12 months without an employer-granted work permit.

The IND received 2030 requests for the search year in 2013, and virtually every application was granted the visa. As there is no annual quota, all eligible candidates can theoretically receive one. The non-refundable application fee is €600, which is not exactly cheap, but it is the literal price you have to pay for the chance to stay.

Easy and fast

Larysa Bochkova, a 2012 International Business and Management graduate of the RUG, received the visa and has been working as a Ukrainian language specialist for the hotel website Booking.com since 2013. Bochka was pleasantly surprised by how painless the application process proved to be. ‘I thought it would be worse. With all my prior experience with the IND, I was expecting much more trouble, but for the search year visa application, it was easy and fast. I brought them my documents and I received my permit in one month.’

She feelts the search year is a good way to have some extra time to find a job. ‘But students should start searching for work or an internship even before they graduate’, she advises.

RUG President Sibrand Poppema calls the visa ‘a terrific opportunity’ and encourages international students to use it. ‘In the Netherlands, we are a net loser in the brain gain versus brain drain ratio and I think that is why they have made these  regulations. It’s a good way to make it more attractive to come here, but more effort should be spent on bringing it to the attention of the students’, Poppema says.


  1. Call (0900-1234561) or go online to http://www.ind.nl for an appointment to change your residency permit from ‘study’ to ‘search year.’ You can apply once your graduation date is known and all requests must be within 28 days following graduation
  2. Bring your appointment code, your passport, the completed application form and – if you have received it – a copy of your diploma.
  3. If approved, the IND will indicate in your passport that you can work without a permit. The visa is valid from the application date.