Non-EU residents can take self-employed benefit without hurting legal status, gov’t confirms

Non-EU citizens living in the Netherlands as residence permit holders are entitled to claim a special financial support benefit set up for self-employed people in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the State Secretary of the Justice and Security Ministry confirmed on Friday. Eligibility criteria around Tozo, a type of financial assistance for entrepreneurs, sole proprietors, and other business owners has caused confusion ever since late March, after the government announced its plan to support the business community by injecting between 10 and 20 billion euros into the economy.

The confirmation from the state secretary, Ankie Broekers-Knol, comes after members of Dutch left-wing party GroenLinks pressed the government on Apr. 9 as to whether or not exceptions would be made for people holding a non-temporary residence permit who were already working in self-employed capacity leading up to the Covid-19 crisis. Normally, those people living legally in the Netherlands could jeopardize their future residency status by accepting the welfare benefit which was expanded to form the Tozo program.

“An exception exists for foreign nationals with a regular temporary residence permit under the ‘work as self-employed person’ limitation who make use of the Temporary Bridging Scheme for Self-Employed Entrepreneurs (TOZO),” wrote Broekers-Knol in a document published by the Cabinet on Friday night. “In view of the special circumstances and the temporary nature of the scheme, recourse to this scheme will have no consequences for the foreign national’s right of residence.”

GroenLinks had noted that anyone whose temporary residence permit is contingent on their ability to adequately provide for themselves without state support would require an exception to the law governing their legal right to stay in the country according to the document, which laid out questions from Parliament against answers from the Justice and Security Ministry.

Broekers-Knol also repeated the ruling Cabinet’s pledge to be realistic and practical when it comes to dealing with foreign nationals at risk of overstaying the amount of time they are legally allowed to remain in the Netherlands because of the coronavirus crisis. “Those holding an expiring regular regular residence permit can still apply for an extension at the IND. If they do not apply for an extension, they should normally return to their country of origin,” she said.

“Currently, this is more difficult than normal or not at all possible for many foreigners. If foreign nationals can demonstrate that they are currently unable to return to their country of origin, they can temporarily stay in the Netherlands, despite their expired residence permit,” she said. Remaining in the Netherlands on an expired residence permit will not have any impact on someone’s ability to apply for a new short-stay visa or residence permit in the future, and they will have no trouble legally exiting the Netherlands when the situation allows for it, Broekers-Knol continued.

“Because this situation is expected to be temporary in nature, a pragmatic solution has been chosen.”

Tamara van Ark, the State Secretary of Social Affairs and Employment Opportunity, also responded separately from Broekers-Knol, saying that legal residents can indeed make use of the Tozo scheme, as well as unemployment insurance and general need-based social assistance. She also pointed out that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND), a part of the Justice Ministry, is “being lenient for people whose residence permits are expiring and who are not applying for a renewal.”

However, she affirmed that people without a valid immigration status “cannot make any use of social assistance”.

Those seeking asylum in the Netherlands will continue to be allowed to live in the Netherlands legally at least for the duration of their asylum procedure, Broekers-Knol said. Most asylum procedures have been temporarily suspended in the country since mid-March. “Given the contact-intensive nature of the asylum process, no other choice is currently considered justified,” she said.

“There is therefore no need to offer another temporary right of residence,” to asylum-seekers, she said, since they already have legal residency until a final decision is rendered in their cases.

GroenLinks had said that it was “concerned about groups that still seem to fall between the cracks”, in spite of the “generous support schemes that have been set up.” ​