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An Expat’s Guide to Get Started in the Netherlands

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

expats getting started in the netherlands

When I moved to the Netherlands, it's both exciting and scary because I'm looking forward for new adventures that I will experience, but at the same time there's a lot of uncertainties of what's going to happen. I also wanted to make sure that I'm properly documented. It really helped when my employer hired a relocation agency to help me process my papers so I can come over smoothly. They also helped me in the registration at the municipality and finding an apartment.

I decided to write this guide for long stay migrants because it's a little bit overwhelming to know what you're going to do once you arrived in a new country. The steps on which you're supposed to do first is also a bit confusing. One of the priorities that you need to get is a BSN. You need to register in the municipality to get a BSN. But in order to register, you need an address or apartment because short stay accommodations will not let you register their address. You also need the BSN to open a new bank account. So I hope this article can help you.

Tulips fields during spring season

1. Finding an apartment

Initially, I rented out a short-stay accommodation at Airbnb for about three weeks when I first got here. You can also rent a hotel if it's more convenient for you and you have enough budget. Then you would need to find an apartment for long-stay.

There's a lot of websites that you can use to search for an apartment. You can also use them to check the pricing and make sure that it's within your budget. You can try the websites Pararius or Kamernet for checking. But don't expect to be able to get an an apartment in just a week.

These are things that you can consider when finding an apartment:

  • location / district / neighbourhood

  • the price range

  • area of the place

  • number of rooms (Note: if they say 2 rooms, normally it's just 1 bedroom and 1 living room)

  • interior (furnished or unfurnished)

  • property type (house / apartment / studio / room)

  • including or excluding the utility bills (internet, gas, water, electricity, heating)

  • facilities

  • do you want a garden, balcony, parking, etc.

The most important thing to check is that you are allowed to register the address in the municipality.

You have to schedule a viewing on the apartments so you know if the ambiance is good for you, if you think the location is nice, if the neighbourhood is good, etc. So it depends on your own criteria. The rental contracts are normally stating a maximum of one year or two year stay. You also have to pay for the deposit. You really have to spend more on your first month of stay here. It will be really nice if your employer gave you a budget for your initial accommodation.

2. Registering address at the municipality / BSN Registration

Once you get a rental contract, you have to schedule an appointment at the local municipality where you're residing to register your address. Once you're registered at the municipality, you'll be assigned a citizen service number (BSN) / (burgerservicenummer). It's very important because you will use the BSN to open a bank account, apply for a health insurance, and in order for you to legally work in Holland.

3. Apply for a Residence Permit at IND

The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) / (Immigratie en Naturalisatiedienst) is responsible for assessing all applications from foreign nationals who want to live in the Netherlands.

If you just moved in NL, then you would need apply for a residence permit. You need to meet the general conditions below:

  • You have a valid passport or another travel document

  • You sign an antecedents certificate

  • You will undergo a medical test for tuberculosis (TB)

For more details about these general conditions, you can check this link from IND.

You have to register an appointment with IND if you want to:

  • collect your resident document, registration card or original document

  • biometric information (passport photo, fingerprints and signature)

  • residence endorsement sticker

  • return visa

4. Opening a Bank Account

You need a Dutch bank account to receive your salary or to transact in NL. Although there are shops that accept cards like visa or mastercard, it's still better to get a Dutch bank account. I prefer ABN Amro because it's a very expat-friendly bank. The website and their documents are mostly written in English. You can also easily open a new bank account online or via the app without the need of going to the bank branch. But before you can do this, you would need a BSN.

There are other banks you can consider like ING, Rabobank or Bunq (which is fully online). You also pay for a monthly fee for the card or account.

5. Getting a Health Insurance

A health insurance is required for everyone who lives or works in the Netherlands. You can compare the different health insurance providers using Independer or Zorgwijzer. Your first bill will be high because the computation includes the day you arrived in the Netherlands. If you want to change your health insurance provider, you can do it at the end of each year, normally around mid-November to January 1st.

You will notice a deductible excess which ranges from €385 to €885 on the basic health insurance. As per Independer:

The deductible, or excess (Dutch: eigen risico) is an obligatory amount that you must pay when for healthcare before your health insurer starts to reimburse for healthcare you have received. It applies to care received within the basic package.

You also still pay for some of your medications. You can check your health insurance provider for more details.

6. Registering as patient at a General Practitioner

Once you moved to your new apartment, you have to check the nearest Huisarts (General Practitioner or GP) at your place to register as a patient. This is where you can go when you want to have a check-up with a doctor. During registration, they will ask for your health insurance provider and the policy number. If you want to visit your doctor, you always need to make an appointment first.

7. Tuberculosis Test at GGD

You will need to undergo a medical test for tuberculosis (TB) after arriving in the Netherlands. This should be taken within three months at the Area Health Service (GGD) of the municipality where you live. Contact GGD to set an appointment.

8. Getting an OV-chipkaart

If you're travelling by public transport, it's necessary to purchase an OV-chipkaart (chipcard) than getting an hourly or daily ticket. You can get this anonymous card (colour blue) from any ticket machine in metro, tram or train stations. The card itself is worthy €7,50 so you have to top-up or add a credit to it. If you're taking a train, the card needs a minimum of €20 credit. The ov-chipkaart can be used on all public transportation within the Netherlands.

You can also get a personal ov-chipkaart (colour yellow) through this link. It will be delivered on the address you specified and it will take around 6 working days to receive the card. It's also nice to download the NS app and link your ov-chipkaart there to see your travel history and transactions. For navigation or checking the schedule of the metro (subway), trams, buses, or trains, you can use the 9292 app, Google Maps or NS app.

9. Getting a Liability Insurance

It's also advisable to get a liability insurance because it can help if you cause a damage at someone else's property or belongings. You can get this from your bank or any other insurance providers.

These are some of the important things that I can think of. I hope it gives some clarity of the things that you have to do to get settled.

Good luck and enjoy your stay in the Netherlands!


Sending Virtual Hug...

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