Personal experience of a Belorussian audio producer
I moved to the Netherlands in March 2019 from Minsk as a highly qualified specialist: I created sound effects and music for games. The company, that I previously worked for remotely, helped me with the move and with such a beautiful status in a permit as an entry permit. In fact, it was an offer of relocation.
While I worked remotely, I also worked as an individual entrepreneur freelancer for a couple of Belarusian companies. The Dutch permit allowed me to continue doing this, and given the fact that I emigrated alone and had plenty of time, I began to work even more.
This saved me when I had to leave the company two years later. The permit expired together with dismissal. But I was quickly headhunted by one of the firms that I outsourced to outside of office hours – the one from Estonia. The question arose of what to do in order to work legally. I didn’t want to lose two years of my stay and suffer from moving during the coronavirus lockdown. I googled a little bit and realized I needed the help of professionals – preferably Russian-speaking ones, in order to feel more confident. I arranged for a consultation with accountants who had previously calculated taxes for me, and with local Russian-speaking lawyers. Both consultations cost about 700 euros. I thought it was a little expensive, for me it was just half an hour of chat with both of them. Oh sweet summer child I was. As a result, I was offered three options: Through an agency – simple, but a lot of taxes, you can not freelance. Create a BV – like an LLC, also a lot of taxes, and you have to create it personally with the director of the company that hires me. IE (individual entrepreneur) – 10.2% tax, the most difficult to obtain a residence permit. Well, I decided to take a chance. I discussed the transition of contracts to the Netherlands with all the clients, learned from accountants how to start a ZZP – that is the name of an individual entrepreneur in the Netherlands – paid a lot of money to lawyers for immigration support, and so it all began. To begin with, it was necessary to start a local IE, which is called ZZP (zelfstandige zonder personeel – IE without employees), the legal form is eenmanszaak. ZZP has several of these forms and this is the most popular. The main requirements for Eenmanszaak are three clients per year, 1225 working hours per year, and no more than 70% of hours per client.
Registration as an Individual Entrepreneur
To do this, you need to sign up at KVK – a chamber of commerce, to tell about your business at the reception and, together with a KVK employee, choose the types of activities. I had “creation and production of sound recordings”, “reproduction of recorded media”, and “communications and graphic design” – to voice animations.
5920 – Maken en uitgeven van geluidsopnamen
1820 – Reproductie van opgenomen media
74101 – Communicatie- en grafisch ontwerp
Gameowdio is the name of my company. Remember the meme that you can’t just take and forget that the word “homeowner” has “meow” in it? Same stuff here.
KVK immediately submits the data to the tax office. A few days later, the tax office sends you a letter with a BTW (VAT) number. It is required to calculate VAT. I do not calculate it, but my lawyers and accountants do. And that’s 21% of every invoice. VAT is not required for B2B (business to business) work. For EU clients, write “eu VAT reverse charge mechanism” and 0% for clients from the CIS, with whom you could work until March, but now I don’t know – probably also 0%. If you are selling something tangible or B2C, VAT is required.
After KVK, you need to go to the bank and open an account. It is better to open a business account called zakelijk. If you don’t feel sorry for accountants who have to wade through shopping for panties and food, you can use a personal account, in general, no one cares (except for accountants, they really suffer a lot).
The ability to open a business account depends on the bank. In my native ABN-Amro, they told me “******** to my Belarus” (a little more polite), but they brought me to ING without any problems. You can also go to BUNQ – there you generally get a credit card and pay to whomever you want. You can link your account to your local PayPal.
For each account from which you make business-related payments, you must provide an extract for accountants at the end of the month, otherwise, remember? they suffer A LOT. They need to file tax returns for you.
There are people who do their own bookkeeping, and these are titans, I’ll tell you. Then just work and get paid. Sometimes there are incidents, such as a correspondent bank finding me on the US sanctions lists, but when I presented my passport, it turned out that some Belarusian official was on the list and not me.
Before my dismissal, I had a “30% ruling” – the opportunity not to tax 30% of my salary and not to advertise any foreign income. It is tied to the place of work (by offer), and if you quit, you lose it. At this point, I had to start the procedure for closing the Belarusian IE.
Now let’s talk about lawyers. In order to transform from a highly skilled migrant to an individual entrepreneur and be able to live and work in the Netherlands, you need a new permit. This is where the most interesting part of the story begins. “Immigration escort” is a rather expensive (3600 euros for me) service that you pay for once, but:
- You have to pay extra for translations and apostilles
- You still have to collect documents yourself and directly participate in the process. It’s not all-inclusive.
There is a point system for an entrepreneurial permit: you must provide evidence that you are valuable and professional, and the commission evaluates you. Points are awarded for education, innovation and importance to the NL market, experience, income level, etc. – will talk more about that later.
What you need to collect in order to send an application to the IND (immigration service):
- Full scan of the passport at the time of submission. Belarusians have one passport for everything, I won’t say for the rest, who have foreigner passports.
- In my case, an old permit.
Birth certificate (scan) with translation and apostille
Apostille it through local authorities (I did this in Belarus for moving on an offer). Apostille Dutch documents for the Belarusian consulate in a court in the Netherlands. All translations must be certified, and made in English/Dutch.
Diploma (with translation and apostille) and a list of subjects with grades, if any
The diploma must be sent to some authority for evaluation (lawyers were engaged in this), – they return it with a verdict, whether it is normal or not. My diploma from the Belarusian Academy of Arts was a little bit screwed up, but the IND liked it.
Resume / CV
Just an ordinary CV, at least try to write it with Google Docs. It is important to show yourself as an entrepreneur in a good position, if possible. Experience, clients, projects, everything is as usual.
How does your site accept payments?
Connect the most popular payment methods from around the world in a few days. This is also a typical all-inclusive service (in fact, with luck, I had to create it with the help of a marketer). It costs 1200 euros, there is a description of your activities, market analysis, and a financial plan (a lot of numbers, accountants are counted and issued). It sounds simple, but we suffered with this plan for a month and a half. And then IND dug into too bold figures in financial terms (for the next five years), and even requested an investigation from the Ministry of Finance. They lagged behind only when they saw my declarations – how incomes grew from 2017-2019.
Any certificates – for completed courses in the profession and about, for language exams.
I passed my Dutch B1 at the DUO (the official body) for fun, which gave me a full two points out of 146 in the final score.
Letters of recommendation (should be asked from clients) and letters of intent to cooperate (should be asked from friends, colleagues, and everyone from the Netherlands). Letter writers are not responsible or obligated to cooperate with you, but they may be called by the IND and asked if they know you.
All contracts you have with non-Dutch clients
If you previously had a different IE, translate old contracts and tax returns – this is proof of your entrepreneurial experience. Sworn translation costs money. You can translate and order proofreading, it’s cheaper. I know about this life hack, because when I applied for a 30% ruling, I had to show declarations, and I was a homeless person with no money and translated myself.
Agreement with someone from the Netherlands
If there is a possibility to make an agreement with someone from the Netherlands – this is a super topic, it gives a lot of points. @shakti_tremere helped me a lot here – I’m going to write music for her for Thai massage under the contract.
Documents about your company
With the description and type of activity, you were given in KVK + a letter from the tax office about BTW-nummer (which is for VAT). Just make a scan. The scans, that the Dropbox application makes on the phone, were enough for me.
Bank statements for each month of your activity
And in general, all the documents that accountants send to the tax office. If there are not enough of them at the time of submission – it’s okay, if the IND does not have enough, they will request it, so it’s better to have it on hand.
The term of consideration is up to 3 months, so the sooner the better. I applied two months before the end of the old permit, and this was a fatal mistake. First, my deadline was extended by a month because of a bold business plan, and then by another six months because of the coronavirus. While your application is being processed, you can get a sticker on your passport (which allows you to stay in the Netherlands) and a work visa (which allows you to leave). For a work visa, you need to collect vouchers from clients from other countries that they need your presence in their country on specific dates. Physically.
If there are several vouchers, there is a high probability of obtaining a multi-entry visa. This also applies to the European Union. If you get caught somewhere abroad in the Netherlands with a sticker without a visa, you risk not entering back. Again, I’m paranoid, I only know in theory. So the second fatal mistake on my part was to miss the fact that passport pages for visas have run out.
I was given a sticker on a leaflet. As for a visa – sorry, it can be given only in a new clean passport. So I was banned from travelling until August. In January, I applied for a new Belarusian passport – I had to collect a package of documents of approximately the same size, only for the consulate. And the mail lost my sticker while it was flying to be apostilled. Found in two weeks, but the sediment remained!
Lyrical digression: from 2021, while you are waiting for a permit, you are not entitled to normal medical insurance and can only get temporary, such as for travelling. And also, as soon as the permit ends, they call you from your banks and medical practices and ask when you get off. At the end of January, I was completely unaware of my fate and without the opportunity to leave, I was waiting for a passport (the consulate gave me 3-4 months for this). In order not to go completely crazy, I start working on a plan B – I dream about Portugal.
I had already begun to dream of a house overlooking the ocean. So almost the whole of February passed before the “military operation” began.
Just for a minute, my whole business is based on the fact that I find talented guys (mainly from the CIS), give them the opportunity to make a sound in cool projects and mentor them along the way.
Our success is mostly granted by the talent and perseverance of the guys and a little by my expertise. It turned out that my whole business is going to hell: Ukrainians flee or defend the country, Russians and Belarusians flee or remain cut off from any payment methods. I helped the guys to escape a lot, mainly financially and with information. In early March, the IND asked for additional documents – this time about income, they really did not want to believe in my ambitions. It helped to distract and constructively do something other than donations and other help to people.
That’s about it. We sent the documents on March 15th and our case was considered on March 29th. The deadline for consideration was until August 2, so I was kind of lucky. True, the IND website does not show which way the case was considered, so I spent a couple of days in superposition.
Obtaining a permit
Letter from IND. “Congratulations! We will soon send you instructions on where to pick up the coveted piece of plastic with which you will become a person again”. And then a table on the system with points, with explanations. I’ll show you the most interesting part. The residence permit was given for two years from the moment of the request – October 2021. Six months of consideration of the case were also included in this period – on the one hand, it was unpleasant, on the other, I did not lose my precious stay in the country.
An IE permit allows you to work for hire, provided that the employer requests TWV (tewerkstellingsvergunning) for you – evidence that he needs you. Because the priority is employees from the Netherlands, the EU and Switzerland – you can only be hired if no citizens of these countries have been found for the position. You also cannot claim unemployment benefits. Now citizens of Ukraine are legally allowed to work in the Netherlands while your employer is in the process of requesting a TWV. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is working on a law on even greater simplification.
Imagine that you are an entrepreneur from any country except the EU and Switzerland. To obtain a permit to live and work in the Netherlands, you need to score 90 points for:
- Personal business experience
- Your business plan
- The value of your business to the country
Part A: personal experience
They give 35 points for a doctoral degree, 30 for a master’s degree, 20 for a bachelor’s degree, and 10 for a specialized secondary degree.
They look at your CV: how many years you have worked, for which clients, and in what fields. They also look at contracts with clients and accounting. Bank accounts, tax returns and deductions. I have 15 out of 30 points, the business has been in existence for less than a year.
Work experience for hire
A maximum of 10 points. I got 5 for those two and a half years while I worked in an office in the Netherlands. Before submitting the application, I offered the lawyers to translate and send the Belarusian workbook, but they refused.
Maximum 10 points. It is considered for 12 months, but if your business is less, it is your own fault, suffer.
Experience in the Netherlands
Clients from the Netherlands, belong to the culture of the country (the same two points for the language exam) and have education in the Netherlands or work experience as highly qualified specialists. I give special thanks to the company that brought me here.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur and you have a mentor-curator who has taught you for at least 3 months and provided a receipt for this, you can get 30 points for free.
Part B: Analyzing Your Business Based on a Business Plan
Features, application, market need for you, unique selling points. I mentioned everything here, including a personal project about audio engines and controllers. Received 8 points out of 10.
Potential customers, competitors and potential employees, entry threshold, risks, and marketing plan. We suffered a lot with the marketer but finished off by 8 out of 10. Despite the fact that I am an absolute zero in marketing.
How much money can you make from nothing? The immigrant gave me a 4 out of 5 for my juni business approach and how I set up rates for clients.
Organization: the legal form of a legal entity
The chosen form of ZZP/eenmanszaak turned out to be ideal for my case. Plus a few extra points for multidisciplinarity. It’s about whether I can, in theory, hire someone other than sound people.
Can I not be homeless and have enough funds in my account. Here IND wrote down the balance of my accounts on December 31, 2021, 5 points out of 5. Liquidity forecast
How long will it take you to be at the bottom? I am considered to be able to function normally for two years. I don’t know how they figured it out, maybe they wrote the average figure just for fun. Again, I can lie, I am not very good at economic matters.
Freebie points for start-up entrepreneurs
Here, by tradition, I got nothing.
Part C. Benefits you bring to the Netherlands
How new is the business to the market, do you use new technologies? As an inventor of the interactive audio thing and a researcher of sound in VR, guess how much did I get? 0 points and burning ****!
“despite the fact that the applicant is not a game developer (?????), she (not) directly (?????) belongs to the team responsible for the final result.” Are you all right, guys?????
The number of jobs you have created
I have 0 so far because ZZP/eenmanszaak’s legal form of business doesn’t allow anyone to be hired. Only outsourcing and contracting.
Zero points, I am a tomato, I will be grateful for links to courses on this matter. Now let me give you two life hacks: be a beginner entrepreneur or score 90 points for parts A and B (45 for each) – and you automatically get 30 points in part C.
That’s the whole story. A sequel is planned for mid-2023 and several little circles of bureaucratic hell in the coming months, just for fun.
Text by Ressa Schwarzwald (@ressium), the founder of Gameowdio. Original article in Russian: https://vc.ru/migrate/394456-kak-otkryt-ip-i-poluchit-vnzh-v-niderlandah-opyt-belorusskogo-audioprodyusera