How to Stay in Europe for 2 Years with the DAFT Visa

Over the past six years, I’ve spent increasingly more time in Europe. But there has always been a limit: U.S. citizens can only stay in the Schengen Area (the visa-free European travel zone) for 90 days out of any 180-day period.

This means you can stay for three months, but then you need to leave for three months. Or come for a month, leave for a month, repeat. No matter how you slice it up—try this calculator—Americans can only stay in Europe for half of the year, and no more than three months straight.

The Schengen Area (more details on Wikipedia)

Eventually I found this situation intolerable, and I went looking for long-term visas.

There is no singular European visa. Each country issues its own, and those visas will allow you travel freely within the entire Schengen area. There are loads of options, and they all have strings attached.

Here’s what I didn’t want to do to stay in Europe:

  • Get married
  • Take a full-time job with a European company
  • Invest in real estate or proof I have a ton of money (for a “golden” visa)
  • Start a business that I can prove to be of vital interest to a foreign country (most self-employment visas)
  • Secure multiple foreign freelance work contracts in advance (see: the German freelance visa)
  • Work full-time remotely for a U.S. company (see: the Estonian digtal nomad visa)
  • Commit to 20 hours/week of pricey language classes (see: the Spanish or German language learning visa)

Finally, I didn’t want to jump through a bunch of hoops to just stay for one year (as with the Portuguese digital nomad visa). I wanted a long-term visa that would let me stay for multiple years before I need to worry about bureaucracy again.

Enter: the DAFT

Last year, a friend I met in the European dance world—an American living in the Netherlands—alerted me toward something called the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT).

An obscure bilateral treaty between the USA and Netherlands created in the 1950s, the DAFT makes it easy for entrepreneurs from one of these countries to start a new business in the other country—and live there legally for two full years.

No major capital investment is required. No need to prove how special or important your business is. No language requirement. No full-time work requirement. In other words, perfect!

Between April and June 2024, I completed my DAFT application. From start to finish, it took two and half months to complete all the steps. Now I’m entitled to stay in the Netherlands—and by extension, the Schengen area—for two full years. (Technically, there are some restrictions: see here and here.)

When researching the DAFT, I only found partial summaries of what to expect and little advice about organizing your efforts. So now I’m writing the post I wish existed.

Applying for the DAFT visa, step by step


If you’re going to follow in my footsteps, here’s what you’ll need to get started.

  • A United States passport
  • An official copy of your birth certificate, certified with “apostille” (which I obtained while in the U.S.)
  • A free online bank account with where you can park €4500 for two years
  • Approximately €500 for application fees

1. Secure a host in the Netherlands

Before applying, you’ll want an address in the Netherlands where you can legally register and receive postal mail. This might be a friend with a spare room, an official rental (try Kamernet), or another trusted party. Fortunately, I had a friend in Amsterdam who was happy to play host and postmaster.

2. Travel to Europe with plans to stick around

Fly into Europe like normal, with your 90 days of visa-free travel. You don’t have to go straight to the Netherlands—I started my trip in Spain and Germany—but plan on being in the Netherlands starting in about a month.

3. Print, complete, and mail the DAFT visa application

It’s form 7524, found here. I printed the form, completed it, and mailed it from Spain. Do this as soon as you arrive in Europe! Here is how I responded to the questions.

1. What is your situation?

2. Tuberculosis

3. Means of evidence

Don’t let this part scare you away! You don’t actually need to provide the “supporting documents” when you first apply. They don’t make that clear.

4. Biometric information, signature and Antecedents certificate

Fulfill this by completing the “Appendix Antecedents Certificate.” Hopefully you haven’t committed any war crimes.

5. Your personal details

Complete this section with the home address of your host in the Netherlands. Use your name, not your friend’s name. (This didn’t create a problem with mail delivery for me.) Ignore the V-nummer, Citizen Service Number, and Chamber of Commerce Registration number. You don’t have these yet.

6. Identification

As instructed, make photocopies of your passport, including all the pages with travel stamps. (This is why I believe you cannot mail this application from outside of Europe; I assume they check the stamps to see that you’re already in the Schengen area.)

7. Statement due to European sanctions against Russia and Belarus

This did not apply to me, so I did not complete the appendix.

8. Signing

When I signed and mailed the application, I was in Valencia (Spain), and I truthfully noted this.

9. Submitting the application and payment

I submitted pages 1-7 of the application, the Appendix Antecedents Certificate, my passport photocopies, and a homemade “Personal Appendix” that stated why certain parts of my application were missing.

Write your name and date of birth on every page (as instructed), then mail everything to the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service) at the address noted. You don’t have to pay anything yet.

I sent the paperwork from Spain with tracking. It took a week and half to arrive. Less than a week later, my friend in the Netherlands received a response letter from the IND, indicating that my application had been received. In the letter I was assigned a V-nummer (a personal identifying number with the IND) and Zaaknummer (IND case number).

They informed me that they would make a decision about my case within three months of receiving the application. In my case, they received it April 17th, and they promised to make a decision by July 17th.

4. Schedule an IND biometrics appointment and Gemeente registration appointment

Now that you’re in the system, it’s time to schedule some in-person appointments in the Netherlands:

  • A biometrics appointment with the IND. (A V-nummer required to make an appointment.)
  • Registering yourself with the local Gemeente (Dutch municipality). You can make this appointment anytime; it’s separate from the IND. Here’s the registration page for Amsterdam’s Gemeente.

Warning: the next available appointment with the IND and Gemeente may not be for many weeks.

I got lucky and found suitable appointments on my own. If you’re not so lucky, considering working with iAmsterdam, which apparently helps you jump the queue, for a small fee. You can make IND appointments at any IND office—there are many across the country—but the Gemeente is located within the city where you register. There’s no fee for either one of these appointments.

For the Gemeente registration, you’ll need:

  • a copy of your birth certificate, certified with “apostille” (which you’ll probably need to bring from the U.S.)
  • an official rental contract signed by you and your host (my friend and I used one found here, which I modified)
  • a signed consent form from your host and a copy of their identity document

After registering, you’ll receive your BSN, a.k.a. Citizen Service Number. This number that will unlock many doors.

5. Transfer €380 to the IND

Soon you’ll receive another letter from the IND, indicating that they’re ready to accept your €380 fee for the DAFT visa. This is payable only by direct bank transfer, which is easy to do with a account.

6. Get your DigiD

DigiD is your digital identity in the Netherlands. With your BSN, you can now request a DigiD. You apply online, they send you a security code via postal mail, you confirm it online, and then you’re in. (Note: I had to wait a day or two between receiving my BSN and applying for DigiD.)

With DigiD, you can now sign up to:

6. Register your new business with the KVK (Chamber of Commerce)

Now it’s time to register your new business with the KVK. Their website is loaded with helpful information in English.

What’s beautiful about the DAFT is that they don’t care what your business is. You just need to create any business. I chose to register an online-only consultancy: a European version of my Indie Guidance Counselor service. I registered as an eenmanszaak (sole proprietorship): the quickest, easiest, and cheapest type of business to form in the Netherlands. Here’s the appointment page.

Warning: the next available appointment with the KVK may not be for many weeks! I got lucky and found a next-day appointment in Utrecht (instead of Amsterdam, my first preference), and I snagged it. It doesn’t matter which KVK office you visit.

What you’ll need:

  • €80 registration fee, payable by credit card
  • All the information required on the application form
  • Evidence that you are allowed to do business at your address

For this last point, I decided to create a separate mailing address for my business instead of using my friend’s place. I registered a new address with iPostal1, a virtual mailbox service that I also use in the United States. This way, even if I’m traveling, I can receive and be immediately notified about any business-related mail. To prove to the KVK that I’m allowed to use this address, I showed them my “digital mailbox enrollment receipt” and confirmation email from iPostal1. (Allow multiple days for iPostal1 to activate your account.)

After you in-person KVK meeting, you’ll now have an officially registered business in the Netherlands, complete with a KVK number. Congratulations!

7. Freak out about timing

About the same time I was making my KVK appointment, I had spent 60 of my 90 visa-free days in the Schengen area. The IND had previously informed me that they would make a decision about my visa no later than July 17th… but technically, I would need to leave the Schengen area on the 4th of July (fitting 🇺🇸) if I didn’t have my new visa in hand.

I started to worry, and I booked myself another meeting with the IND for a free “endorsement sticker,” which is essentially a temporary residency extension issued by a European country. An IND official did issue me a sticker, but only until July 17th. (I was hoping they would give me three months.)

The official insisted that I had nothing to worry about, that now that I was “in their system,” I wouldn’t get kicked out. If I needed an extension and I was one week away from the deadline, he said, then I could come back for another endorsement sticker. This didn’t reassure me. I was happy to have the sticker that allowed me to officially stay until the end of my decision period.

8. Open a business bank account (or not) and deposit €4500

Armed with your KVK number and BSN, you can complete the final steps necessary for your visa: opening a business bank account and depositing €4500.

But… a business bank account may not actually necessary! In the DAFT application, it says that a business bank account is required, and it must be verified by an authorized Dutch expert. But when I called the IND to confirm these facts, an official told me that they don’t actually need to see a business bank account or have it verified by a Dutch expert. They only needed evidence that I personally have €4500 in a bank account, somewhere, anywhere. 🤔

I like keeping business and personal accounts separate, so I opened a new business account on for my new Dutch business. This cost €50 and it was ready instantly. I transferred €4500 into it—and there it will stay. As a condition of the DAFT visa, you’re supposed to have at least €4500 sitting in a bank account for the entirety of your stay.

9. Submit final evidence to the IND online

Using the IND upload portal, submit the following documents as a single multi-page PDF:

  • all three pages of your KVK registration document
  • a statement from your account showing a balance of €4500 or more
  • your “Proof of account details,” which shows that your account is based in Europe

10. Wait for the good news

Less than a week after submitting my final evidence, I received a digital message from the IND, telling me that they “intend” to issue me the residency visa within the next few weeks, and that they would let me stay for two full years, beginning on the day they received my paper application: April 18th, 2024 to April 18th, 2026 🥳

A week later, another message told me that the visa is ready, and I should make an appointment to pick it up at the IND office in Amsterdam. Again, I needed to schedule a new appointment. I couldn’t just walk into the office and pick it up. But created some good luck for myself by keeping the IND appointment window open and refreshing it every 10 minutes, eventually snagging a same-day appointment.

Two and a half months after I arrived in Europe, I had my new residency card in hand. No need to leave. Boom.

Stay tuned for the follow-up post where I discuss taxes, healthcare, and other fun stuff I now need to deal with!


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