Moving abroad, either for work or study, is an adventure. It can be exciting to start a new life in a new country – but it can easily get frustrating when you can’t find your way around. As I’ve gone through the same hassle, I’ve decided to bundle everything you need to know when immigrating to the Netherlands. This first post will cover all that boring administrative things to arrange when moving to the Netherlands no one ever likes to think about: registration, banking and health insurance!

Registration with the municipality for BSN

If you intend to stay longer than 4 months, you have to register with the municipality where you live. You will get a citizen service number or burgerservicenummer in Dutch. This number, we call it BSN, is quite essential. For example, you need it to be able to study and work or to get a bank account, insurances, and housing allowance.

I think that how quickly you need to register depends on the municipality you live in. Therefore, I’d advice you to check the website of your future municipality in the weeks before you leave. If possible already make an appointment. Especially at the beginning of the school year when everyone wants to register, waiting lines can be long! If you are lucky, your employer or university help with the registration or municipality workers come to university on arrival day.

You will need to bring some documents to the appointment. It depends on your situation which documents you need to bring. Check the website of your municipality beforehand and send them and e-mail if you cannot find it. I had to bring my ID card to identify myself, our rental contract, my work contract and my birth certificate. Important to know: They only accept documents in Dutch, English, French or German so try to arrange an official translation beforehand if necessary.

Short recap:

  • You need to register with your municipality shortly after arrival.
  • Try to make an appointment already before you leave.
  • Find out which documents to bring.
  • Get translations of documents which are not in in Dutch, English, French or German.
  • You’ll get your BSN (burgerservicenummer) by mail.

Applying for your DigiD

Once you have registered, they will send your BSN by mail. As soon as you have your BSN, you can apply for your personal DigiD. Excuses me, Digiwhat? Do I need that?

Yes, you’ll need it, but don’t worry. It will (eventually) make your life a lot easier. Your DigiD is basically your electronic ID card to access government online services or login to your health insurance account. Like any other account you have a username and a password. With this combination you can login to a lot of different websites. Instead of having to remember a bunch of different usernames and passwords. I found this practical guide how you can apply for your DigiD.

Short recap

  • DigiD is your electronic ID.
  • You need it to access official online services.
  • It is linked to your BSN.
  • You’ll get a username and password.

Getting a Dutch bank account and iDEAL

If you are from an EU-country, changes are high that you wouldn’t even need to get a Dutch bank account. In daily life an IBAN bank account does the trick. However, there is one big, no huge advantage of having a Dutch bank account: iDEAL. When you shop online you can pay using iDEAL. It’s a safe and instant way to transfer the money from your bank account to the account of the online shop. I don’t think there is any Dutch online shop which does not offer this payment option. Having iDEAL saves you the hassle of your foreign credit card not being accepted or the shop not providing PayPal payment.

Dutch banks are pretty advanced when it comes to online banking and opening an account online. However, I have no experience with how easy that is when you are a foreigner. I’d advice you to just go to the office. I personally have only been helped by helpful employees so far. If they make a problem about something, I’d recommend to just try a different bank or branch. Bring your BSN, your passport, your resident permit for non-EU, your certificate of enrollment or working contract, and your rental contract.

I don’t have enough experience with different banks to recommend one, but I found this guide to be helpful.

Short recap:

  • Getting a Dutch bank account can be smart because you’ll get iDEAL with it.
  • iDEAL is a safe and easy way to pay your online purchases.
  • Pass by the bank office to open an account.
  • Don’t forget to take (copies of) important documents.

How to get a Dutch health insurance

If you come to the Netherlands for work (even an internship), you’ll need a Dutch health insurance. If you come to the Netherlands for your studies, chances are high that you’ll need one, too, or that having one is more beneficial than keeping your home country’s insurance. I found this article to be quite helpful to find out if you are eligible for a Dutch health insurance.

Anyway, if you need one, it is good if you know the basics of the Dutch health insurance jungle (I already have a Dutch health insurance for three years and I’m still confused sometimes). A Dutch health insurance consists of a basic health insurance (basispakket) which covers essential medical care like going to the doctor when you have the flue. This basic package costs approximately the same with all insurance companies.

Mind additional costs when choosing a health insurance!

For a lot of things which are covered in your basic insurance you may need to pay a contribution when you use it. This contribution is called eigen risico. For example, my health insurance covers 3 sessions at the dietician and my thyroid medication, but it falls under the eigen risico. This means that I need to pay the costs for the dietitian and the medication myself unless it exceeds 385€ within one year.

You can increase your contribution amount up to 885€ a year to get a reduction on the price of your basic health insurance. It is a gamble! How sure can you be that you won’t get sick in the coming year? Do you have enough savings to pay this amount when it goes wrong? Personally, I don’t think that a monthly saving of 20€ outbalances the risk of having to pay 500€ extra, but the decision is up to you,

You can add extra insurance packages (called aanvullende verzekering) to your basic health insurance. These packages could cover the dentist (important!), physiotherapy, or contraception. Every company has different packages which cover different things. This can be really confusing – even for Dutchies. Luckily, different websites compare all the different insurances. For example, Zorgwijzer is available in English and even offers a quite extensive quite how to choose the right company and extra packages.

Can you get Dutch health care allowance?

Dutch health insurances can be quite expensive. That is why the Dutch government gives subsidies to those who may have trouble affording the premiums of their health insurance. You are entitled to get zorgtoeslag when you have an EU nationality or a valid residence/work permit and earn less than a certain limit. You can apply for the allowance online, but it is only available in Dutch. However, the guys from I am Expat made a comprehensive guide how the zorgtoeslag works, how to find out if you are entitled to received it, how to find out how much you will get, and – most importantly – how to apply for it.

Short recap:

  • Find out if you need/are entitled to a Dutch health insurance.
  • Your basic health insurance (basispakket) covers basic medical needs.
  • You need to pay a contribution (eigen risico) to many things in the basic insurance. You can reduce the monthly fee of your insurance by accepting a higher contribution (not recommended).
  • You can add extra coverage (aanvullende verzekering) to the basic insurance based on your needs.
  • Compare different insurance companies to find one that fits your needs.
  • You may be entitled to receive health care allowance (zorgtoeslag).

These are the most important administrative things to arrange when moving to the Netherlands. I know it is a hassle and Dutch bureaucracy can be nerve-wracking. But once you have figured these things out, you can sleep a lot more relaxed. I hope that this information and the links will helps you to feel more at ease about the administrative work and you can quickly focus on more fun things. I’ll soon provide more information about transport in the Netherlands, saving money and finding a place to stay.

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PS: Please comment below if you’re missing any more information! Special thanks to Laura Redaelli for this beautiful photo of Amsterdam.