Cultural mobility made easier in the Netherlands

June 2006 -

Artists have always traveled. Even in the Middle Ages, singers, musicians, actors and performers traveled from one court to another. Country borders and the relevant immigration regulations are much more recent inventions. Competing with the international market is of vital importance to artists. An artist needs inspiration and develops from confrontations with colleagues and audiences from other cultures.

Stimulating the mobility of artists and artistic productions is one of the policy objectives in the international cultural policy of the Ministries of Education, Culture and Science and Foreign Affairs, under the motto Netherlands Free Port. However, acquiring visas and work permits is so difficult for artists coming to the Netherlands from outside of the EU that it is clear that immigration policy does not take the interests that the cultural sector in the Netherlands has in free international traffic sufficiently into account.

The Service Centre for International Cultural Activities (SICA), TransArtists, the Federation of Artists' Associations and the Employers Association Art & Culture (WKC) initiated the establishment of the Project Group Artists & Visas in 2003. Since that time, two important steps have been taken in the area of work permits.

Three questions (guest's nationality and objective and duration of the stay in the Netherlands) can be used to determine on the website of the Immigration service IND which procedures apply to a foreign guest. For those hoping to go abroad, the website of the Visa service V&V Visumdienst offers much information on the necessary visas and work permits. Also, always consult the website of the embassy of the destination country; these can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Existing immigration policy is based on the fear that everyone wants to stay in the Netherlands. Slowly but surely, however, the departments are starting to understand that some immigrants have something to offer Dutch society. The regulations for knowledge immigrants give a first glimpse of this new insight.