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! For some, the Dutch wheel of bureaucracy can sometimes have the annoying 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 country legally is to satisfy the Netherlands entry/visa requirements. EU/EEA/Swiss nationals are free to come and live/work in the country. Everyone else needs to get a residency permit sorted with many nationals requiring a provisional entry visa as well.
You should visit the immigration service (IND) office within 2 weeks of your arrival who can take your fingerprints and process your residence permit card. The IND Desk is at Pieter Calandlaan 1, 1065 KH Amsterdam – this is near Amsterdam Lelylaan station. It is open Monday to Friday 0900-1600 and you can arrange an appointment online at ind.nl. There are also IND desks in The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Den Bosch and Zwolle.
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 arranged a flat/apartment or house rental before you arrive. Many new expats stay temporarily at a hotel, short stay apartment or with a friend until they can get themselves a place. Obviously if you don’t have a job and you are not swimming in cash then getting a decent place can be rather a challenge.
Rentbird is a new subscription-based search bot that scans around 1,400 local housing sites covering virtually all rental properties in the Netherlands. You sign up and enter your desired housing search parameters and when a suitable house/flat comes on the market you immediately get notified by WhatsApp and email. This means you can be one of the first to react and increase your chances of securing a rental.
3. Register with the council – 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, 1011 PN or at one of the following satellite civil affairs offices:
Nieuw-West (Osdorpplein 1000), Noord (Buikslotermeerplein 2000), Oost (Oranje-Vrijstaatplein 2), West (Bos en Lommerplein 250), Zuid (President Kennedylaan 923) and Zuidoost (Anton de Komplein 150).
You can book online at amsterdam.nl (mainly Dutch) or call 14020. For other cities, you should book online at the relevant city civil affairs website.
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. In some cases they may also ask 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 one of the Expatcenters. The IN Amsterdam office can do this and is located in Amsterdam Zuid at the World Trade Center, I-Tower ground floor, Strawinskylaan 1767, 1077 XX Amsterdam.
4. Get your BSN number – if the Expatcenter or council is satisfied with your documentation they will issue you with an on-the-spot 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 bank account – you should try and open a Dutch bank account with one of the main banks such as ABN Amro, ING or Rabobank or with a mobile bank.
You will normally need a BSN number, your passport/ID, proof of address such as a rental contract and proof of income (employment contract). Visit a convenient local branch in person to make your application.
It’s also possible top open an account online in 5 minutes with Dutch mobile bank bunq, even without a BSN number.
If you plan to travel a lot you may also wish to get a credit card in the Netherlands.
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 under 4% 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.
International students should see our guide to studying in the Netherlands
7. Buy health insurance – it is a legal requirement that all Dutch residents over the age of 18 purchase local health insurance. This basic package will cost around €120-€140 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 also 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. Also see our article on utilities in the Netherlands.
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 how to dispose of your rubbish and recycling. If you have children what are the childcare or 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 local dental practice.
Get these 10 steps done and you will be well on your way to settling in.
One final word, 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.
This article was originally published in 2014. Last updated 19 January 2022.