The Aliens Labour Act and other regulations lay down the rules regarding access to the labour market for asylum seekers. Despite having the right to work, asylum seekers can only work limited time, namely a maximum of 24 weeks each 12 months. Before the asylum seeker can start working, the employer must request an employment-licence for asylum seekers (tewerkstellingsvergunning). To acquire an employment-licence the asylum seeker must fulfil the following cumulative conditions:
- The asylum application has been lodged at least 6 months before and is still pending a (final) decision;
- The asylum seeker is staying legally in the Netherlands on the basis of Article 8(f) or (h) of the Aliens Act;
- The asylum seeker is provided reception conditions as they come within the scope of RVA, or under the responsibility of Nidos;
- The asylum seeker does not exceed the maximum time limit of employment, which is 24 weeks per 12 months;
- The intended work is conducted under general labour market conditions;
- The employer submits a copy of the “W document” (identity card).
Despite the fact that Dutch legislation provides for access to the labour market to asylum seekers, in practice, it is extremely hard for an asylum seeker to find a job. Employers are not eager to contract an asylum seeker due the assumed administrative hurdles and because of the limited time they could be employed for.
The procedure for applying for an employment licence at the Dutch Employees Insurance Agency in practice takes no longer than 2 weeks, which is the time limit foreseen in law. Moreover, although access to the labour market is granted 6 months after the application has been lodged, before the employer can apply for the work permit, a declaration of reception must be obtained. Therefore, the time for obtaining the declaration of reception should be added to the waiting period before employment. In conclusion, the moment the asylum seeker has the right to perform paid labour differs significantly from the moment he or she can in fact exercise it.
If asylum seekers are employed and stay in the reception facility arranged by the COA, they should contribute a certain amount of money to the accommodation costs. Asylum seekers are allowed to keep 25% of their income with a maximum of €215 per month. In case their monthly income becomes higher than the contribution to accommodation costs, they can keep any surplus income. This depends on how much they earned and it can never exceed the economic value of the accommodation facilities. Besides that, the financial allowance can be withdrawn.
Asylum seekers are also allowed to take part in voluntary work. This is possible as from the moment the asylum procedure has started. The employer needs a “volunteer’s declaration” form from the Dutch Employees Insurance Agency. Work usually needs to be unpaid, non-profit and of social value.
Asylum seekers are allowed to do an internship according to the rules explained above (after six months in procedure and with a permit (“tewerkstellingsvergunning”). Only when the internship forms an obligatory part of their study, these conditions do not apply. In that case, the internship is allowed directly after lodging the asylum application and a permit is not required.
 Article 2(a) Aliens Labour Decree.
 Article 2(a)(1) first sentence and (a), (b) and (c) Aliens Labour Decree.
 Article 6 Aliens Labour Act.
 Article 5(4) Regeling eigen bijdrage asielzoekers met inkomen (Reba).
 Article 1a(b) Aliens Labour Decree.
 Article 1g(a) Aliens Labour Decree.