Access to the labour market


Country Report: Access to the labour market Last updated: 22/05/23


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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:[1]

  • 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,[2] 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 within the time limit foreseen in law.[3] 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 they can in fact exercise it.

Currently, there is a lack of labour forces in manyproductive sectors in the Netherlands, and therefore employers have more interest in finding new employees. It is one of the main reasons why there is more attention by the media and politics for earlier participation of asylum seekers in the Dutch labour market. Recently, the Minister of Social Affairs requested for a research on the legal and practical barriers for asylum seekers to access the labour market.[4] The report will probably be published in the first quarter of 2023.

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 €226 per month.[5] In case their monthly income transcends the required contribution to accommodation costs, they can keep any surplus income.[6] This depends on how much they earn and it can never exceed the economic value of the accommodation facilities. Once an asylum seeker surpasses such threshold,Another issue that arises is that beneficiaries of international protection receive the reclamation by the COA after they have been housed in a municipality. As a result, these beneficiaries start with a debt to the COA.

Asylum seekers are also allowed to take part in voluntary work. This is possible from the moment the asylum application has been lodged. 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.[7]

Minor asylum seekers are allowed to do an internship when this is an obligatory part of their study path. The rules explained above (after six months in procedure and with a permit (“tewerkstellingsvergunning”) do not apply to them. The internship is allowed directly after lodging the asylum application and a permit is not required.[8]




[1] Article 6.2 Aliens Labour Decree and paragraph 8.2 Annex I Aliens Act Implementing Regulation 2022.

[2] Article 6.2 Aliens Labour Decree and paragraph 8.2 Annex I Aliens Act Implementing Regulation 2022.

[3] Article 6 Aliens Labour Act.

[4] KST 35 680, nr. 22, 15th of April 2022, available at:

[5] Article 5, lid 3 Reba 2008.

[6] Article 5(4) Regeling eigen bijdrage asielzoekers met inkomen (Reba).

[7] Article 1a(b) Aliens Labour Decree.

[8] Article 3.2 Aliens Labour Decree.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation