Every year we are in the top 3 of the best law firms in the Netherlands in the field of client satisfaction.

Every year we are in the top 3 of the best law firms in the Netherlands in the field of client satisfaction.

Asylum seekers may work more than 24 weeks per year

On November 29, 2023, the highest administrative body in the Netherlands (hereafter: Council of State) ruled on the so-called ’24-week requirement.’ The Dutch Foreign Nationals Employment Act stipulates that asylum seekers may work a maximum of 24 weeks within a period of 52 weeks. However, there is a waiting period of at least six months after submitting an asylum application. For the remaining 28 weeks within this period, asylum seekers have no access to the labour market. This rule has been contested for some time, as questions arise about its compatibility with European regulations. The Council of State has now ruled that the 24-week requirement is contrary to European law.

The European Reception Directive states that asylum seekers must have “effective access” to the labour market, implying more than mere access. It includes a fair opportunity to participate in the labour market. Article 15, paragraph 2 of the European Reception Directive allows member states to determine for themselves the conditions under which asylum seekers may work. However, the Court of Justice has determined that member states cannot establish measures or conditions that detract the purpose and useful effect of the directive. According to the Council of State, the 24-week requirement detracts from the directive and is therefore in violation of European law. The Council of State’s decision confirmed the ruling by the Arnhem court, as well as a verdict in a similar case handled by the court in Utrecht.

In its ruling, the Council of State refers to the final report prepared by the research agency Regioplan in April 2023 at the request of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The report indicates that the 24-week requirement obstructs effective access to the labour market for asylum seekers. The rule forms a barrier for employers to hire asylum seekers as employees, as they prefer long-term personnel. For many employers, it is not worthwhile to invest a lot of time and effort in applying for a work permit if the asylum seeker is forced to stop working after 24 weeks. The 24-week requirement makes the asylum seeker an unattractive employee.

As a result of the ruling, the 24-week requirement is void and can no longer be applied. The work permit can now be issued for a longer period, namely, up to the duration of the residence permit of the asylum seeker.