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10 essential steps for expats arriving in Netherlands


So you've decided to make the move over to the Netherlands.

Here is our essential guide for prospective expats on the immediate steps you need to take on arrival so that you can hit the ground running - or in the Dutch case jumping on your bike.

However don't think that this process will always go smoothly. The Dutch wheel of bureaucracy can sometimes have the nasty habit of going round in circles and you may need to change the order of some tasks. It works best if you already have a job and somewhere to live - things should flow for you relatively well. Otherwise a bit of patience may be required...

1. Residency permit - the first step if you wish to live in the Netherlands legally is to satisfy the Dutch entry requirements. EU/EEA/Swiss nationals are free to come and live in the Netherlands. Everyone else needs to get a residency permit sorted with many nationals requiring a provisional entry visa as well.

You should make an appointment to visit the immigration service (IND) desk within 2 weeks of your arrival who can process your residence permit card. The Amsterdam IND desk is at Stadhouderskade 85 in the city centre near the Heineken Brewery. They will require you to be fingerprinted.

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2. Find somewhere to live - you'll need somewhere to sleep and Amsterdam Central station is probably not the best bet. You may have already sorted out an appartment or house rental before you arrive. Many new expats stay temporarily at a hotel, short stay appartment or with a friend until they can get themselves a place. Here are some tips on finding a rental appartment/house in Amsterdam. Obliviously if you do not have a job and are not swimming in cash then getting a decent place could be a challenge.

3. Register with the City Hall - If you plan to stay in Netherlands for more than 4 months and have found a place to live then you are required to register with the local municipal authorities. In Amsterdam you need to make an appointment with the Civil Affairs desk (Burgerzaken) at the City Hall (Gemeentehuis) at Amstel 1 in the centre. Book online at (Dutch) or call 14020.

You need to bring your passport/ID and a document showing you have the right to live at your address. This could be either a rental contract, a letter of permission from the house owner with a copy of their ID or an official letter from a housing corporation. They may also need to see a notarised copy of your birth certificate.

Note, for highly skilled migrants and European citizens working for a company with official sponsor status, the residency permit and municipal registration can be done seamlessly at the Expatcenter - located at the World Trade Center in Amsterdam Zuid.

4. Get your BSN number - if the city hall is satisfied with your documentation they will issue you on-the-spot with a BSN (Burger Service Nummer), literally a citizen service number. This is a key step as you really need the BSN to get anything else done in the Netherlands such as working (it doubles up as the tax fiscal number) and accessing banking and healthcare.

5. Open a Dutch bank account - you should try and open a bank account with one of the main Dutch banks such as ABN Amro, ING or Rabobank. You will need the BSN number, your passport, proof of address such as a rental contract and proof of income (employment contract). If you don't have work you may be temporarily refused an account.

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6. Job/Work - if you are fortunate to have a job to come to then you will have to start working at some point. You may need to orient yourself in the role, get to know your new colleagues and perhaps adjust to the Dutch working culture.

If you don't have work then things could be a little difficult. Netherlands has an unemployment rate of 9% and finding a good job is not that easy - especially if you don't speak Dutch. You will need to be resourceful, use your network and show persistence to get your foot on the ladder.

7. Buy health insurance - it is a legal requirement that all Dutch residents over the age of 18 purchase local health insurance. This will cost about €110 per month and will cover you for doctor visits, emergencies, medical care and rehabilitation. See our Dutch healthcare article for more details. Note that the health insurance company will require a Dutch address, your BSN number and a Dutch bank account for direct debit payments. They will check that you are present on the civil register.

You will receive a Dutch health insurance card shortly afterwards which will have your name, date of birth, BSN number and policy number.

8. Utilities - Depending on your housing status you may need to sort out utility providers - from energy, water, internet, TV, and telephone. You may also want to get a Dutch mobile phone number which start with a 06 prefix. See our primer on utilities here.

9. Orientate around the neighbourhood - start getting to know your local area. Find out where the shops and supermarkets are, the public transport options and where to dispose of your rubbish/recycling. If you have children what are the schooling arrangements?

Try integrating a little into the local way of life. Introduce yourself to the neighbours. Consider buying a bike which is a great way of getting around. And learn a few words of Dutch.

10. Register with a doctor - find a local GP practice that is taking on new patients. Consider asking friends/colleagues/neighbours for recommendations. You will need your Dutch health insurance card to access healthcare. You may also consider finding a dental practice.

Get these 10 steps done and you will be well on your way to settling in.

Finally, if you have come to the Netherlands together with your partner then consider that the success of the expat experience will be that both partners are happy and fulfilled. Often one partner is working whilst the other is left to fend for him/herself. Make sure that the non-working partner is fully supported.


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