The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (“IND”) announced on June 21, 2016 that Japanese nationals will no longer have free access to the Dutch labor market from October 1, 2016. This is a surprising development since the Japanese were actually exempted from the obligation to obtain a work permit during the past two years.

Pursuant to a decision dated December 24, 2014 by the Council of State on the trade treaty between the Netherlands and Japan, Japanese citizens must be treated in the same way as the Swiss with regard to their rights to work, stay and even live in the Netherlands. By virtue of the Netherlands-Switzerland Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Establishment there were already no restrictions for the Swiss to work in the Netherlands. This was also the reason why the Japanese no longer required a permit to work in the Netherlands since last year.

The IND has now however adjusted the policy in respect of Japanese citizens in response to an interpretative statement prepared on the Netherlands-Switzerland Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Establishment. Both countries hereby state that residence, establishment and access to the labor markets of both countries on the basis of the Treaty is governed by national legislation. This statement was published in the Treaty Series on June 20, 2016. Now that Swiss citizens no longer have free access to the Dutch labor market by virtue of the Treaty, the Japanese now also no longer have such rights. They therefore again require a work permit to be allowed to work in the Netherlands.

Transitional period

The Minister of Public Safety and Justice has agreed to a transitional period and will introduce the work permit requirement again from October 1, 2016

During the transitional period, Japanese citizens who are in possession of a residence permit with the labor market endorsement “Work freely permitted and a work permit will not be required” (“Arbeid vrij toegestaan, TWV niet vereist”) may retain this permit as long as it is still valid. A renewal or a new application for a residence permit on or after October 1, 2016 will in principle, however, be subject to review under the Foreign Nationals Employment Act.

Although it appears that this policy change will be implemented, we will closely follow developments in this area. In the meantime, you can contact our immigration team for all your questions about this.

Click here to download the memorandum in pdf format