Hiring from abroad: how does it work?

Are you looking for staff but are you unable to find any candidates on the island for the job? Would you like to bring in someone from abroad to work for you? Then you must adhere to the BES Foreign Nationals Employment Act, and make sure that the foreign employee has a work and residency permit. If and which permit applies, what documents you need to apply, and how long the process takes, depends on the nationality of the foreigner. In this article, we’ll explain various situations and requirements.

Local personnel first

To protect the local labor market, you as an employer on Sint Eustatius or Saba must always first try to recruit local personnel and residents. If you can’t find a qualified candidate on the island, then you may temporarily employ a foreign employee under strict conditions. The work permit is mostly issued for a period of 1 year. After this year, you can apply for a new permit by going through the same process again. It is important to realize that a next work permit for the same positions might not be granted this time, if local workers are now available for the job. Dutch, American and some other nationals (see later on in this article) do not require a work permit.

Check the infographic to see if a work permit is needed. 

All applications for work and residence permits need to be submitted at the local IND Caribbean Netherlands office. The IND handles the residence permit, and the department of Social Affairs and Labour decides if a work permit is granted (via the IND).

Hiring Dutch nationals: No work permit required

European Dutch citizens and Dutch residents from Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Aruba have free access to Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba for a maximum of 180 days per 365 days. This also applies to persons with a nationality from other member states of the EU, member states of the EEA (European Economic Area), Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Vatican City, United States, South Korea and Switzerland. They will be admitted automatically under the sole conditions that they have (i) a Certificate of Good Conduct (VOG), (ii) housing and (iii) sufficient means for living. They do not require a working permit.

If you want them to work or do an internship, they are allowed to do so for a maximum of 90 days without any immigration paperwork. If they want to live and work longer than 180 days or work/do an internship and stay for more than 90 days, they must apply for residency. Depending on the situation, this is either a Declaration by Law (verklaring van rechtswege) or a Declaration of Not Applicable (verklaring niet van toepassing) in case the employee is an “Island Child” (see next paragraph). The IND will acquire the VOG for the applicant.

Application requirements

As an employer, you do have to submit an employer’s statement, a guarantee declaration and a copy of the working agreement together with the application for residency. The new employee can arrange this application in person because he can stay on the island during the application. In other words, he can enter the island without any permits or visa, start working and in the meantime apply for a residence permit. The process time for these applications is approximately 8 weeks.

Forms to submit

MBES03 – application residence permit for a definite period without MVV
MBES08 – declaration by law (IND)
MBES26 – guarantee declaration
MBES29 – employer’s statement (SZW)

Check the details in the forms to see which other documents you need to file together with the forms.

Island children

In certain cases, a Dutch citizen can apply for a Declaration of Non-Application (NVT). This allows him or her to settle (and work) freely on Bonaire, Sint Eustatius or Saba. This applies to the following persons:

  • Dutch people born on Bonaire, Sint Eustatius or Saba;
  • Dutch citizens who were themselves born within the Kingdom and of whom one of the parents was born on Bonaire, Sint Eustatius or Saba;
  • Dutch citizens who have been living on Bonaire, Sint Eustatius or Saba since 10-10-2009 and were registered here up to and including 11-10-2010;
  • Foreign nationals who have acquired Dutch citizenship on Bonaire, Sint Eustatius or Saba;
  • If the law does not apply to one of the parents, then it does not apply to children born within the Kingdom.

MBES03 – application residence permit for a definite period without MVV
MBES09 – declaration of non-application (IND)
MBES26 – guarantee declaration
MBES29 – employer’s statement (SZW)

Check the details in the forms to see which other documents you need to file together with the forms.

Hiring American citizens

The immigration rules for Dutch citizens as described above also apply to American citizens thanks to the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty. Individuals residing in the United States of America must file a Certificate of Good Conduct (VOG) issued by the US Department of Justice (part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation). A national assessment is carried out for this VOG. The VOG must be legalized with an apostille. The VOG and apostille can’t be older than three months at the time of the application for admission.

Hiring other nationalities: work permit and entry visa  

People with other nationalities than Dutch or American, who wish to work on the islands or stay on the islands longer than 3 months, must apply for a work permit (tewerkstellingsvergunning or TWV).

Start the process 3 months in advance

The process of applying for a work permit can take at least 10 weeks up to 3 months. In the application you have to prove that your efforts to find a local employee were unsuccessful. In order to do that, you have to publish a vacancy on the island in two different media (such as online and in a newspaper) for 5 consecutive weeks to allow local candidates to apply for the job. The vacancy must also be admitted at the local government’s labour office. After 5 weeks, the labour office will date stamp it for you: you need this document for the application. Make sure to take photos with date stamps of the other publications of the vacancy: those are also required documents to file when applying for a work permit.

Required documents when applying for a working permit

The foreigner you wish to hire, needs to be able to prove that he is qualified for the position you are offering him. Diplomas, certificates, and reference letters from former employers have to be included in the application. He also needs to submit a legalized declaration of good conduct (VOG) in Dutch or English; note that the original has to be submitted with the application so it can take some time to acquire it from the country of origin. Another requirement is the minimum wage; you must submit a copy of the working agreement and an example of the future pay slip.

Click here for a full list of required documents when applying for a working permit (TWV).

Entry visa    

The foreign employee must also request an authorization for temporary stay (machtiging voorlopig verblijf or MVV) before entering. The MVV is an entry visa and provisional residency permit. As an employer and sponsor, you can apply for this permit for them, as long as you have authorization from the applicant. The person has to await the decision in his country of origin. If the person is already on the island, he can submit the MVV application himself, but must then leave the island within 8 days and await the decision in the country of origin. This process takes approximately 10 weeks. After permission is granted, the person must travel to the island within 3 months and apply for a residency permit within 3 days of entry.

Forms to submit for work permit and entry visa:

Also, when applying for an MVV:

From the applicant:

  • Copy valid passport – all pages
  • Declaration of good conduct (VOG)
  • Copy authenticated diplomas and/or work reference letters
  • Home address
  • Resume

From you as the employer:

  • Copy valid passport
  • Statement of Tax Inspection, proving you have no outstanding tax debts (you must request a form for this by the IND and bring it to the Tax Office to process it)
  • A bank statement (when you are a sole proprietor)
  • A copy of your business license
  • Excerpt of your Chamber of Commerce registration (not older than 6 months)

For more information and to download forms, see www.englishrijksdienstcn.com/immigration-naturalisation and https://www.rijksdienstcn.com/sociale-zaken-werk/arbeid/tewerkstellingsvergunningen.

Immigration rules are stated by law in the Ordinance on Admittance and Expulsion BES (Wet Toelating en Uitzetting BES).

After permitted entry

After permission to work (TWV) and the entry visa (MVV) is granted, the person has to travel to the island within 3 months. Within 3 days after entry, he will have to apply for the temporary residency permit with MVV. When this is received, he must register as a citizen on Sint Eustatius or Saba in the person register at the census office. For this, the foreigner needs to submit a legalized copy of his birth certificate with apostille.

Forms to submit at IND:

MBES02 form – application residence permit for a definite period with MVV

Documents to file at census office:

  • A valid residency permit
  • A valid passport
  • Birth certificate (no older than 12 months)
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable, and no older than 6 months)
  • Divorce certificate (if applicable, and no older than 6 months)
  • Declaration of marital status (if never married, and no older than 6 months)
  • Proof of deregistration from former city of residence (no older than 3 months)

If you wish to hire a foreign employee who is already on the island (because he or his spouse is working for another employer), the same process applies as described above. You still have to put out a vacancy and try to recruit local personnel first. He must apply for a new residence permit as well if his current permit is based on his current work permit. He will need to fill in the MBES02 or MBES03 form again, stating the changes in his situation. The only documents no longer required are a certificate of good conduct and the TBC declaration of intent: these apply only at first entry.

There are fees involved for processing applications, depending on the type of permit. You can find more information on the websites www.englishrijksdienstcn.com/immigration-naturalisation and www.english.rijksdienstcn.com/social-affairs-work/employment/work-permits. There you can also find contact information for the local offices.