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Dutch News
Dutch immigration policy holds innovation city back 1/24/2007
23 January 2007

AMSTERDAM — Eindhoven is failing in its efforts to become a top economic area and a region of innovation, due in part to strict immigration laws hindering the entry of knowledge workers and the poor accessibility of the city.

The negative assessment was issued by economists from the bank ABN Amro in an assessment report on ''Brainport Eindhoven'', newspaper ''Trouw'' reported on Tuesday.

The term ''brainport'' refers to the cluster of activities in the area, highlighted by multinationals such as Philips and ASML, the Technische Universiteit, research bureau TNO and various other academic institutes.

The national government believes the possibilities of Eindhoven should be fully capitalised on, but the region is trailing behind other European innovation regions, the economists said.

This is primarily due to the entry of specialised foreign workers. Regulations for knowledge migrants were eased in 2004, but companies in the region claim that immigrations laws are still too tight.

Eased immigration laws only relate to salaried workers and not for self-employed expats. No solution has been found either for talented students who wish to stay here and for highly-educated asylum seekers who are already living in the Netherlands.

The fees for residence permits and a work permit are still much higher than neighbouring countries.

The income demands in the Netherlands are also too high. A knowledge worker under the age of 30 must earn almost EUR 34,000 in order to obtain a residence permit.

And workers who have lived and worked here longer than five years must complete an obligatory integration exam.

The emphasis of Dutch government policy is aimed at restricting immigration instead of making the country a welcoming investment land, the ABN Amro report found.

The director of economic affairs at the employers association VNO-NCW, Cees Oudshoorn, confirmed there are problems around the entry of skilled expats.

"We are now talking in the Social Economic Council about migration, especially about higher educated workers and what steps the following cabinet should take," he said.

The recommendations are expected to be presented in March.

The ABN Amro economists a lso said the accessibility of Eindhoven remains a problem, despite the fact that peak-hour lanes have been constructed on the ring road and that the A2 motorway has been widened.

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