The burgerservicenummer, abbreviated as BSN, is the Dutch citizen service number. The concept is comparable to the social security number in countries like the US. The Dutch BSN is obligatory for everyone living in the Netherlands, whether as a Dutch citizen or as an expat.

Below we’ve summarized all you need to know about the BSN number, as well as where and how to get one as an expat, both as a EU citizen and as a non-EU citizen.

Note: This article is based on our own experience. It’s for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice. Always consult your own attorney or advisors for legal advice.

Who needs a BSN?

Both Dutch citizens as well as foreigners living in the Netherlands will need a BSN number. For a Dutch citizen, a BSN number is issued upon birth (when a child is born in the Netherlands). New residents will receive a BSN upon registration at a gemeente (municipality). The Dutch BSN was introduced in 2007, replacing the former tax and social fiscal number, known as sofi nummer.

Why do I need a BSN?

The burgerservicenummer is a unique and lifelong number that allows to clearly identify a person living in the Netherlands. Without a BSN, you are lost as an expat in Holland. It’s required to open a bank account, to work, to register a car in your name, and so on.

If you’d like to live and work in Holland as an expat, you should apply for your BSN as soon as possible. As I said, without a BSN, very little is possible. If you’d like to work in the Netherlands, you’ll need a BSN. If you’d like to change your driving licence, buy a car (and change it in your name), you’ll need a BSN. You see how important these 9 digits are, so don’t wait too long, get your BSN, it costs nothing but a little effort.

Apply for a BSN Number

First of all, it is important to determine whether you want to stay in the Netherlands for less than 4 months or more than 4 months. Secondly, the process of applying for a BSN number depends on your nationality. There are two sets of rules: the first one is for citizens of any EU country, which also applies to citizens from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The second one is for citizens from outside the EU.

BSN for EU Citizens (Staying less than 4 months)

If you only plan a short stay up to 4 months, you have to register as Registratie Niet-Ingezetenen, short RNI (registration of non-residents). You don’t have to provide a permanent address, you can simply stay with friends or colleagues.

In many cities, you can simply head to the city hall (stadhuis) to register as an RNI. However, the RNI-registration isn’t possible in all municipalities in Holland. Small, rural municipalities often don’t have a special RNI-loket, so you have to head to the nearest city with an RNI-loket.

You can register as an RNI in the Netherlands at the following 19 municipalities: Alkmaar, Almelo, Amsterdam, Breda, The Hague, Doetinchem, Eindhoven, Goes, Groningen/Eemshaven, Heerlen, Leeuwarden, Leiden, Nijmegen, Rotterdam, Terneuzen, Utrecht, Venlo, and Zwolle.

Registration with one of the RNI-lokets is free of charge. If everything is in order with your data and information, you will be enrolled at the RNI and will receive your BSN shortly after.

BSN for EU Citizens (Staying more than 4 months)

This is the procedure Kitty went through as an EU citizen, intending to stay more than 4 months. This will apply to most students and expats coming to the Netherlands for work. For this step, a registration address is required. You’ll have to register at the municipality where you live within 5 days of your arrival. The initial registration can only be made in person, not online. If you move to a new city later on, you can communicate the move online.

By registering at the municipality, you’ll automatically be attributed a BSN which you’ll receive by post at your registered address. The whole process of registering and getting my BSN number as a EU citizen was very easy!

What do I need to apply for a BSN?

To apply for a BSN number as a EU citizen, you’ll need the following documents:

  • A valid passport or a European ID card. A driver’s license is not sufficient
  • Tenancy agreement to verify your address (when registering through the municipality)

BSN for Non-EU Citizens

For Yogesh being an Indian citizen (non-EU), the procedure looks a little different. To enter the Netherlands as a non EU citizen, you’ll first need a provisional resident permit (known as MVV). This can be arranged by the sponsor (educational institution or employer) through the Dutch IND (Immigration and Naturalization service). Once the IND approves the request, you can use the approval letter to go to the Dutch embassy in your country and get the required visa.

After entering into the Netherlands and registering with a municipality, you’ll receive the resident permit allowing you to live (and work legally) in the Netherlands. Your BSN will be automatically created and sent to you by post (you don’t have to apply for a BSN and the duration of your stay doesn’t matter).

By the way, a BSN number is unique to a person. If you’re bringing any dependents (spouse, children…), they will get their own BSN (together with their own residence card).

When do I get my BSN?

You’ll usually receive your BSN by post within 7 to 10 days. An exception applies to highly skilled migrants who may get their BSN right after the appointment at the city hall (depending on the municipality).

BSN Costs

Registering for a BSN is completely free of charge.

Where can I find my BSN number?

BSN forgotten? No problem! The Dutch BSN can be found on numerous documents:

  • Letters from the Belastingdienst (tax office)
  • Dutch ID cards, passport and driver’s license
  • Annual tax return (aangifte inkomstenbelasting)
  • Letters from your health insurance company
  • Employment contract and salary statement

Leaving Holland (temporarily or permanently)?

When you leave the Netherlands you don’t have to do anything about the BSN. Once a unique number is assigned to you, this number will remain with you for life. However, you’ll need to unregister yourself from your municipality when leaving the Netherlands.

In case you miss the Netherlands so much that you decide to come back, you won’t have to worry about your BSN, it will still be valid.

About Kitty & Yogesh

Hoi! We’re Kitty and Yogesh, expats in the Netherlands. HollandDreams is a blog dedicated to traveling and living in the Netherlands. Together with our beagle dog Pépa, we travel across the country to explore exciting destinations and gather useful tips for travelers and expats.

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