So you want to relocate to the Netherlands – how exciting! You’re heading for a country full of friendly people, beautiful cities and a great work culture. Yet before you relocate there are a few things you’ll need to arrange. We have put together a checklist of things to do when relocating to the Netherlands. It’s not as complicated as you might think, so let go of that stress and get ready to be excited.
1# Check the legal requirements to live and work in the Netherlands
If you want to relocate to the Netherlands, you need to check if and what type of visa you need. There are different rules depending on your nationality. For EU citizens the process is quite easy: you can basically just move to the Netherlands and start working, there’s no need for an entry visa or a work permit.
Non-EU citizens need to overcome a few more hurdles before they can legally enter the country and start working here. Depending on your nationality and situation, you’ll most likely need to arrange an entry visa, a work permit and a residence permit. There are different types of visas and permits – which one you need depends on various factors, such as the length of your stay and the kind of work you are planning on doing.
The Dutch government has made it easy for you to get clarity on this rather dull aspect of relocating to the Netherlands. Check out the visa checklist on the government website.
2# Have documents apostilled
Another formality we highly recommend sorting out before relocating is having your documents apostilled while you’re still in your home country. When you register at the municipality in the Netherlands (which is mandatory), you’ll be requested to provide a birth certificate. Most municipalities ask for an apostille birth certificate for non-EU citizens. An apostille is basically a proof that the document is genuine. The easiest and probably cheapest way is to arrange an apostille of your documents while you’re still physically in your home country.
Another tip, which isn’t mandatory but can save you money: make sure your passport still has a long enough validity. Officially, the Netherlands requires a passport validity of at least 6 months at the date of departure (3 months for tourists). Thus, you could travel to the Netherlands even if your passport is about to expire. Since you might not be returning to your home country within the first 6 months, it’s wise to get a new passport before relocating to the Netherlands. Doing so will give you peace of mind and save you the hassle (and expensive fees) of renewing it via your embassy in the Netherlands.
3# Consider hiring a relocation company
The Netherlands is, by global standards, a wealthy and therefore expensive country to live in. This won’t be a problem once you start working here, as your wages will match your expenses.
Yet be aware that although it can seem tempting to buy new furniture on arrival, it might make more financial sense to hire a moving company and have your belongings shipped over to the Netherlands. Furthermore, many relocation companies offer interesting packages such as orientation tours.If you’re relocating for work, check the conditions with your new employer. Some companies provide free shipment of household goods as part of their job offer.
There is furthermore a high chance that you won’t find everything considered standard in your home country, for example certain kitchen appliances. Look into relocation company offers well ahead of time to avoid living in an empty house for your first month in the Netherlands!
4# Arrange accommodation (temporary or permanent)
The Dutch housing market is not an easy beast to slay. Accommodation, whether temporary or permanent, rental or bought, is a highly competitive field. It therefore takes some time (and a whole lot of patience) to arrange a place for you to live in the Netherlands.
There are many things to consider when arranging accommodation: will you live in the city centre or in the suburbs, will you buy or rent, which real estate agent will you use, etc. Perhaps your employer can arrange temporary accommodation for you. Again, some bigger companies hiring international expats provide temporary accommodation for 1-2 months as part of their relocation offer. Make sure to check the conditions.
Even when you have a place to stay for the first weeks, It makes sense to start looking for a place to rent as soon as you arrive, as this usually takes time. Some people choose to look for a place to rent before relocating. This can have advantages and drawbacks. While this might save you some costs and hassle, beware of scams. Our advice is to always view the property beforehand. Never pay anything without seeing the property and having a contract in hand.
As an expat, you can also buy a house in the Netherlands.
5# Register at the municipality and get a BSN
Upon arrival in the Netherlands you’ll need to register yourself at the local municipality. Once you’re there, you should also apply for a BSN. This stands for “Burgerservicenummer”, which means as much as “Citizen Service Number”.
You’ll need this to arrange pretty much all other things listed below on this checklist, so it’s important you do this first thing you get to the Netherlands.
The exact process again depends on your nationality and personal situation. We’ve compiled an expat guide to the Dutch BSN which tells you all you need to know about the BSN.
6# Open a bank account
Of course you want to make sure that your finances are in order. You will thus need to open a bank account as soon as you arrive. There are various solid options to choose from. Which bank you go for might depend slightly on your personal financial situation, but it honestly won’t make such a big difference.
Keep in mind that opening a Dutch bank account is possible only after you’ve registered and gotten your BSN number.
7# Find a school for your children (if applicable)
If you’re relocating to the Netherlands with children, you’re going to have to find a school for them. In the Netherlands, almost all children go to public (government-funded) schools. When relocating with small kids, these local schools will make the most sense. Children will immediately get the chance to learn the language and dive into the culture.
Quality is high and usually does not differ much across schools. However, schools might have a special “focus”, especially when it comes to secondary schools. There might be a great extracurricular sports programme, or perhaps a school offers students music rooms to practise with their band. Also note that the Netherlands is not as secular as people tend to think – public schools can nonetheless be Christian, Muslim or anthroposophical.
Of course it’s also possible to send your child to an international school, which might make more sense when relocating with teenagers. Be aware that international schools are not public and therefore quite costly. Your company might be able to cover those costs.
Our personal advice is to choose a local school when relocating to the Netherlands with small children. That will allow your child to learn the language and integrate much faster. When you’re relocating with teenagers who are about to finish school and go to university, it’s worth considering an international school to allow them to complete school smoothly and make the transition to university. If you’re planning a short stay in the Netherlands (1-2 years) and then move on to a new country (or back to your home country), it also makes most sense to look into an international school. In the end, it really comes down to your personal situation.
8# Get an OV chipkaart (public transportation)
Public transportation in the Netherlands is great and you’ll definitely be making use of it in one way or another. The Dutch have implemented an advanced but simple payment system: the “OV chipkaart”, meaning public transport chip card. Whatever mode of transport you’re using – be it train, metro, bus or even bicycle – you will need to pay for it by checking in (on departure) and out (on arrival) with this card. You can either load money on it before your travel or link it directly to your bank account and pay afterwards. The OV chipkaart can easily be bought online or, alternatively, at any train station.
9# Get health insurance
Having health insurance is mandatory in the Netherlands. Luckily, it’s not too expensive, and will be (partly) covered by your employer. There are many health insurance companies to choose from and which one offers the best price-quality deal depends on your personal situation. Dutch people use the website Independer (English version) to figure out which health insurance fits them. It’s a great option for expats too.
10# Find a GP
Unless you have an acute health emergency, in which case the hospital will admit you immediately, you’ll need to go to your general practitioner (GP) before getting any specialised medical help. This fact also means that there’s a big chance you will find a GP at walking distance from your home. Just do a quick internet search and make some calls. Some practices might have a waiting list, but with a bit of luck, you won’t have to look long before finding the right match.
11# Get a DigiD
We’ve already mentioned the importance of having a BSN, and related to this and of equal importance is getting a DigiD. This is an online identification system, with which you can arrange many bureaucratic matters with the government, educational institutions, healthcare organisations or pension funds. Concretely you’ll need it for things such as applying for benefits, registering a car and declaring your taxes. You can apply for a DigiD on the official DigiD website.
12# Pay your taxes
Living in the Netherlands also means paying taxes in the Netherlands. There are various taxes you’ll need to consider: your annual income taxes, but also local taxes called “waterschapsbelasting” and, if applicable, dog tax and car tax.
For local taxes, you will simply get a bill sent to you, which you can pay by online bank transfer.
Declaring and paying income taxes is a bit more complicated. You’ll need to log onto the website of the Dutch Tax Authorities, check the prefilled data, add anything that might be missing and submit it. Especially when you are an employee (not self-employed) you’ll find that the prefilled data is mostly already correct.
When you have a house, children and a lot of capital, and if you want to make use of certain deductions, things might get more tricky. You can consider hiring an accountant to identify ways to save on your taxes.
13# Download useful apps
The Netherlands is a highly digitized country. It’s therefore useful to check out and download a couple of handy apps either before relocating or upon arrival. You’ll definitely get the app from your Dutch bank. Since you’re probably going to be riding your bike a lot, it makes sense to download the “buienradar” app, a weather app, which the Dutch use to get by-the-minute precise updates on where and when it will rain. Another app to consider is the 9292.nl app, with which you can plan journeys by public transport throughout the entire country. If you enjoy cycling, get the “fietsroutenetwerk” app, which allows you to set out a bike route using the national cycle junction network.
14# Exchange your driving licence
Whether or not you’ll be owning a car or occasionally use rental cars to get around, we recommend that you make sure you are allowed to drive in the Netherlands.
If you hold a driving license issued within the EU/EEA or Switzerland you can simply continue to drive with this license, up to fifteen years from the date of issue of the license.
For non-EU citizens things are a bit more tricky. A driving licence that was issued outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland has limited validity in the Netherlands. When you come to live in the Netherlands, you may still use your foreign driving licence for a maximum of 185 days. Expats falling under the 30% ruling, meaning they are “highly skilled migrants”, can then simply exchange their local licence at the municipality. It’s a relatively simple procedure.
All other non-EU nationals coming to the Netherlands for work or study will have to retake the driving exam in the Netherlands to get a local driving license after the 185 days have passed.
15# Apply for child care benefits (if applicable)
Parents are eligible for certain child care benefits in the Netherlands, regardless of their nationality. The only condition is that you need to be registered and living in the Netherlands. The amount you receive correlates to the age of your child(ren). Depending on your income and how many hours a week you are working, you might be eligible for additional child care benefits. Like most other bureaucratic matters, you apply for child care benefits using your DigiD.
16# Learn Dutch
Last but not least – try to learn some Dutch when you relocate to the Netherlands! Although most Dutch people speak English and you’ll certainly get around with it, you are likely to feel less overwhelmed on your arrival and make some local friends