Zoekjaar for highly educated graduates

Zoekjaar for highly educated graduates

Zoekjaar or translated literally “search year” does not mean that rescue squads are out with helicopters scanning the countryside for missing persons.  Actually it is more the reverse—the government is seeking highly educated graduates with advanced education who would like to work in the Netherlands after graduation.


Think of a zoekjaar as an orientation year or a search year for graduates who want to work in the Netherlands after they get their degrees. The government is aware of their skills and the great value of their knowledge and expertise to the Netherlands, so it provides a status for one year to experience working here.

Can someone in my situation be eligible for this orientation year?

Here is what you need to know. If you are a graduate of an accredited bachelor’s or master’s program in the Netherlands, or a MA/MS or PhD level from a Dutch university or a high ranking foreign university, you can apply!  You do have to apply within three years of getting your degree (see more below).

Lists of accredited academic institutions can be found on several websites:


Before you apply, you must have in your hand a diploma or a declaration from your university that you have fulfilled all the requirements for earning your degree. Your diploma and a valid passport are the only things the Dutch immigration service (IND) requires for you to apply for the orientation year status.


The application is called “orientation year highly educated persons” and you can fill it out yourself.  There is an application fee that you will find here The IND fee (in English).


Are you not in the Netherlands when you apply for the search year? You will need to start the Entry and Residence Procedure (TEV procedure) at a Dutch embassy or consulate in your country. That is where you  get a residence permit, which we call the MVV (in Dutch, stands for machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf).


If you are in the Netherlands when you apply: If the status on your residence card is “education,” it is valid until three months after your program ends or until the start date of your search year if you are doing that right after school.

Why do you get three years in which to apply?

The rules allow three years in which to apply because people may want to go home to visit family and friends, spend some time there after a long time away, or go on vacation, before settling down to a career. It is a nice gesture from the Netherlands.

What are you allowed to do during the orientation year?

During your orientation year, you are free to work in the Netherlands. The only condition that needs to be adhered to is the required IND salary. You can find the current required salary level on our website.


Please use our handy dandy calculator to figure out what your take-home amount will be and what our solution will cost your employer.


Your employer during the orientation year does not need to have the recognized IND sponsorship to hire you..

What happens after the zoekjaar?

Should you end up loving it here and want to work and live in the Netherlands after your orientation year is up, you can extend your stay as what is called a Knowledge Migrant. Note: This is extremely good news for you. Check out our website Payingit International for what you should consider.


Small print:  you need to submit an application for Knowledge Migrant status before the end of your orientation year.


To apply, you need to be employed by a company that is a recognized sponsor with the IND. You can discuss this with your employer or ask us—we are a sponsor and can set everything up properly.  You can get more information here : I am a Knowledge Migrant. How should I act??


Zoekjaar for highly educated graduates


You found your dream job – now what?

Did you find your dream job during the zoekjaar and now the company would like to extend your employment and sign you up as an employee?  First of all, congratulations!  And second, you and your employer are doing a great job since that is the whole point of the search year program—that the Netherlands gains a highly skilled person and you have proved your skills in just a year!


About that contract—a company has to be what is called a recognized sponsor (a referent in Dutch) in order to hire you, and some companies don’t have that status. Don’t worry though; contact us as we have a solution to get it organized. Payingit International is able to put you on our payroll on behalf of your employer with our Payroll Umbrella Services. We are a recognized sponsor with the IND and we can arrange the Knowledge Migrant status for you.

I have a family with children—what about them during a zoekjaar?

Should they already have a residence permit, nothing has to be done. In case your family members do not have a residence permit, you need to prove to the IND that you meet the terms and conditions or have the sufficient means to support yourselves for one year to be eligible for a family reunion.


The mandatory financial requirement can be found on this IND website.


During the zoekjaar, members of your family are also allowed to work free of restrictions in the Netherlands. (This is a great advantage in case your wife/husband/partner has a career. Not to be underestimated!)


If you would like more information or would like to discuss your particular situation, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be glad to help you with this important stuff of your career in the Netherlands.


Do you have a question?

Leave your details and we will call you back within 1 day!

+3120-2252580 Get in touch Make an appointment right away

Katarzyna Szafranska, Katarzyna Szafranska