A report commission by the Dutch Ministry of Security & Justice found that quality of life is an important draw for talented foreigners, and expat centers are key to attracting and retaining them.
The report, “The Appeal of the Netherlands to Knowledge Migrants”, consulted 1,116 highly skilled migrants to find out more about their personal experiences with immigration processes and welcome practices in the Netherlands.
The main findings of the research were that international people hold the network of expat centres around the Netherlands in high regard. The international population in Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe is served by the International Welcome Center North (IWCN), as part of this network.
Those surveyed who have worked in multiple countries rated the Netherlands highest, and around 80 percent of internationals who have moved to the Netherlands would recommend moving here to a friend. The research also looked into what draws highly-skilled foreigners to the Netherlands in the first place: the major attractors were quality of life, job opportunities, and an easy progression from the so-called search year to residence permit. Dutch companies are also generally seen as having a good reputation, and knowledge migrants also appreciated the opportunities for learning (a ‘knowledge infrastructure’) and financial schemes, such as the 30 percent ruling.
Shortfalls in the process of coming to the Netherlands as a highly-skilled migrant include issues with translating and formalising documents, problems with gaining a provisional permit from Dutch embassies overseas, and the complexity of getting an extension to a residence permit. However, approval ratings for institutions such as the IND, municipalities and expat centres were extremely high.
There is more work to be done regarding integration: some respondents reported having trouble finding opportunities to learn Dutch and their spouses struggled to find employment. Another issue named by those surveyed was perceptions of international people.
Based on the experiences of those questioned, the research also offered some recommendations for ways to improve. Some of the suggestions relate to social integration,and improving access to becoming part of Dutch society, whilst others are procedural, such as simplifying the procedure for legalizing documents.
In the north, the IWCN is working towards mitigating the issues identified in the report, by streamlining processes and increasing the opportunities for language courses, acculturation, and inclusion in the job market. The IWCN is leading efforts to internationalise the North of the Netherlands, with an increase in the numbers of people it serves each year.
One of the larger projects that the Center is involved in is called Make It In the North: an online platform to make it easier for international talent and companies to find each other, and for both to find the various opportunities presented in the North. The initiative is run by the IWCN, and supported by over 30 different businesses and organisations, from across the Northern Netherlands.
Thomas Ansell is the Internationalization Coordinator at the International Welcome Centre North and a contributor to The Northern Times.
Photo source: Dutch Scientific Research and Documentation Centre