State Secretary for Culture and Media, Gunay Uslu
PO box 16375
2500 BJ The Hague
State Secretary for Justice and Security, Eric van der Burg
PO box 20301
2500 EH The Hague
Amsterdam, 7th March 2022
Subject: Right of residence & TOZO
Dear State Secretaries Gunay Uslu and Eric van der Burg,
We would like to call on you to fulfil the promise made by the State Secretary of Justice and Security on 17th April 2020 that applying for TOZO will not have consequences for the right to residence for foreigners who hold a residence permit for ‘self-employed persons’ (‘Arbeid als zelfstandige’). If no action is taken, in the next year and a half to two years, dozens or hundreds of self-employed workers in the cultural sector would be forced to leave the country for economic reasons, thereby disregarding their cultural value, which is the basis of their residence status in the first place.
The various measures that the cabinet has introduced since the spring of 2020 against the spread of the coronavirus have and have had major and unprecedented consequences for the cultural and creative sector in the Netherlands. It is certain that the restrictions will have a lasting and structural impact on the cultural infrastructure, as laid out in ‘Unequally Affected, Unequally Supported’ (‘Ongelijk getroffen, ongelijk gesteund’), a report from the Boekman Foundation from May 2021.[i] The report indicates that self-employed people in the sector suffered the hardest blows caused by the measures: in 2020, cultural institutions cut an average of 55% of their personnel spending on self-employed workers, compared to 3% on salaried employees. The way in which self-employed workers in the arts were supported by the government was the generic TOZO, designed so that self-employed people would not fall below the minimum subsistence level.
In April 2020, former State Secretary Broekers-Knol promised that the support would also be accessible to self-employed workers from outside the EU. In response to parliamentary questions from GroenLinks, she stated that an exception could be made for people with a temporary residence permit that depends on the holder’s economic earning capacity, such as in the case of ‘self-employed persons’ (‘Arbeid als zelfstandige’):
‘An exception can be made for foreign nationals with a regular temporary residence permit on the grounds of “work as a self-employed person” who apply for the Temporary Bridging Measure for Self-employed Professionals (TOZO). Given the special circumstances and temporary nature of the measure, applying for this support will have no consequences for the foreign national’s right of residence.’
Unfortunately, it turns out that the IND is not fulfilling the State Secretary’s promise. In recent weeks, several artists have informed Platform BK that their requests to extend their residence permits for self-employed persons were denied by the IND. The reason for this is that TOZO is not considered income for the income requirement. Though the IND does not seem to consider receiving TOZO as a negative factor directly, in this way receiving TOZO is nonetheless the reason the residence permits were denied. Namely, it was impossible for the affected self-employed workers to receive TOZO and at the same generate sufficient income to meet the income requirement. After all, the TOZO support was intended to compensate for loss of income due to the government measures. We can only conclude that the actions of the IND go against the intention of State Secretary Broekers-Knol’s promise. Without your intervention, dozens of artists will have to leave the country before the summer of 2022, despite many exhibitions, performances, and other invitations they have received from cultural institutions in the national infrastructure for this year. From reports made to us and conversations with lawyers and journalists, we conclude that there must be at least dozens of cases currently, and that more cases will arise in the near future.
Without your intervention, the Dutch cultural sector, which working hard to recover from the crisis, will be stricken once again by the forced departure of various artists included in their programmes. In the coming two years, that will amount to at least dozens of artists who will be deported from the Netherlands because the IND is pursuing a policy that does not correspond to the promise made by the previous State Secretary for Justice and Security. Unfortunately, it turns out that the support funding for the cultural sector, the first tranches of which were mainly distributed by institutions, barely reached the self-employed. Due to the unexpected cessation of the funding streams from institutions, self-employed workers in the cultural sector became almost completely dependent on the generic support measures. Now there is a real danger that some of these artists will be hard hit once again by involuntary departure, and thus see the termination of the practices they had established, which could be of inestimable value to the Netherlands.
We sincerely hope that you will recognise the injustice of the situation in which these artists find themselves. It would be embarrassing and painful to lose so many talented people in the cultural sector this way, as the political solution is obvious. Options you may consider: lower the income requirement, include TOZO as income, or even better, drop the income requirement and only consider the importance of the artistic practice for the Netherlands. The latter option is by far the simplest to implement and is in line with the State Secretary for Justice and Security’s practice when an artist applies for a residence permit for self-employed persons for the first time and the State Secretary asks the Minister of Education, Culture, and Science whether the presence of the artist serves an essential cultural interest for the Netherlands.
We trust that you will commit to making the government more trustworthy and take the responsibility to deliver on commitments made literally and in spirit. We are of course happy to answer any questions you may have.
Sepp Eckenhaussen, Co-director of Vereniging Platform Beeldende Kunst
Joram Kraaijeveld, Chairman of Vereniging Platform Beeldende Kunst
[i] Boekman Foundation, ‘Unequally Affected, Unequally Supported: The effects of the COVID crisis in the cultural sector’ (‘Ongelijk getroffen, ongelijk gesteund: Effecten van de coronacrisis in de culturele sector’), 27 May 2021, https://www.boekman.nl/verdieping/publicaties/onderzoek-cultuur-en-corona/.