If there is one thing I learned in my short time as an expat, you have to be flexible. Nothing ever goes according to plan. When my boyfriend and I moved to the Netherlands, we experienced several bumps and learned valuable lessons along the way. There is an English saying: keep calm and carry on. My boyfriend’s sister taught me the Dutch version, and it applied to our situation: blijf kalm en doorgaan. I have outlined the most essential aspects of the immigration process that I learned through my experiences. Just keep in mind that you can never be fully prepared for all situations.
The Dutch Immigration Process
In order to immigrate successfully into the Netherlands, you must schedule an appointment with the Immigratie en Naturalisatie Dienst (IND), or Dutch immigration authorities, to apply in person. Once you are successfully registered with the IND, a holographic sticker is placed in your passport and you are issued a temporary burgerservice nummer (BSN), or Dutch social security number. You are required to have your fingerprints and your photo taken for your residence card. From there, you can register with the local city hall (Gemeentehuis) to get a permanent BSN, which allows you to open a bank account and buy health insurance. After a few weeks, once your residence card is made, the IND will contact you to pick it up at their office.
Registration at the local Gemeentehuis, or town hall, where you are living, is required if you want to stay in the Netherlands for more than four months. His process can also be completed at the Expat Center, where they can offer you more information on settling into life in the Netherlands. In either case, you need a passport and a rental contract proving you have the right to live at that address. They may also ask to see a birth certificate. If you are living with a friend or family member, you can register at their address, but you will need asigned letter of permission and a copy of their residence card. After registering, the temporary BSN issued by the IND will become your permanent BSN.
Opening a Dutch Bank Account
Chances are high that you may not be able to open a bank account right away, so it is important to have some currency available. Unfortunately, my boyfriend and I were so distracted with all of the packing that we forgot that important detail, which resulted in a less than smooth start. The Netherlands does not just let you open a bank account, unless you have approval from the IND, and have successfully registered at your local Gemeentehuis. A burgerservice nummer (BSN), passport, proof of address and employment contract are required for opening a bank account. The main Dutch banks in the Netherlands are ABN AMRO, ING, and Rabobank. ABN AMRO has a special package for expats that will allow you to open an account without a BSN. However, a passport and proof of address is required.
Immigration fees were costing around 2,000 euros between the two of us. My boyfriend was immigrating as an entrepreneur and needed an additional 4,500 euros in a business account as collateral in case the business failed.Since the banks would not issue either of us an account without immigration approval,our travelers’ checks could not be deposited. With no extra money available, we had no way to pay the immigration fees. Luckily my boyfriend’s brother-in-law’s mother, a Polish woman living in the Netherlands, was willing to loan us the money.
Working in the Netherlands
Immigration is easy if you have a job set up. Your employer will take care of the work and residence permits.If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss national, you do not need a residence permit to live and work in the Netherlands. Immigration varies depending on your personal situation. More detailed information can be found here. Unfortunately, I had an unexpected situation with the IND on my appointment day. While my boyfriend’s application was approved within fifteen minutes, mine was rejected because my Master’s degree was not from one of the top 200 universities in the United States. This information was well known beforehand, but an IND employee told me it would be a problem if I underwent a credential evaluation, which I did but to no avail.
Since I was a tourist, unable to apply for a work and residence permit on my own, I had three months to find a job with an employer willing to sponsor the permits on my behalf. The IND has a list of publicly recognized sponsors. If your employer is on the list, the paperwork is processed in a faster period of 3-4 weeks, rather than the typical 7-8 weeks.
The most essential tip I can offer you regarding immigration is to take notes and names of people you talk with. If you come across conflicting information, you can hold that person accountable. It may not help your situation, but it may help someone else who may face a similar problem on another day.
Dutch Health Insurance
All Dutch residents must have health insurance. As an expat, you are required by law to have Dutch health insurance, even if you are insured in your native country. You cannot buy insurance without a Dutch address, a BSN, and a Dutch bank account for payments. Once purchased, you will receive a Dutch health insurance card with your name, date of birth, BSN, and policy number.Insurance will cover doctor visits, emergencies, medical care, and rehabilitation. A useful article on the Dutch healthcare system can be found here.