Everything seems to be in order. A former student of the European Master in Renewable Energy is earning a sufficient income and has found a job. He ought to qualify for the highly-skilled migrant scheme, entitling him to a 30 percent tax break on his earned salary.

However, the tax inspector believes that the former student does not meet the criteria for this scheme because he obtained a degree from a university of applied sciences and not a research university. The Master’s programme concerned is offered by Hanze University of Applied Sciences, in partnership with selected international institutions.


The ‘expertise’ of a highly skilled migrant is generally determined on the basis of salary. According to government thinking, anyone earning more than 46 thousand euros a year must be an expert in something and so qualify for the 30% facility.

For employees aged under 30, like the former student in this case, the income threshold is lower, at 35 thousand euros. However, they must still meet the criterion of having obtained a Master’s degree from a research university.

The tax inspector was confused, since, as the name suggests, Hanze UAS is a university of applied sciences and not a research university. So, doesn’t that mean that the former student in question has a degree from a university of applied sciences instead of a research university?

Certain universities of applied sciences in the country offer academic Master’s degrees, however, with the approval of the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO), an independent accreditation body. This is also well known in political circles. The court promptly sided with the former student, ruling that he did indeed have an academic Master’s degree, as required under the facility. He therefore qualifies for the highly-skilled migrant scheme and, on top of that, was awarded costs of 2,400 euros.


This scheme is designed to attract workers with ‘specific expertise’ to the Netherlands. It is maintained that they provide a boost to the knowledge economy, which is facing labour market shortages.

The scheme is politically controversial, with Member of Parliament Pieter Omtzigt (Nieuw Sociaal Contract) among those who believe it is too generous. Why should international employees be allowed to earn more than Dutch nationals doing the same job? He wants to curtail the tax benefit. The scheme enjoys significant backing in the Senate, however, making it unlikely that it will be scrapped or scaled back any time soon.