19 December 2013 Rhys Maddocks
Immigrating to a new country means entering a world of foreign customs. And with these foreign customs comes an even more unfamiliar bureaucracy. To ensure a smooth start to your new beginnings abroad, follow these five initial steps upon arriving in the Netherlands.
Step 1: Register yourself at your local municipality
Legally, you are to schedule an appointment at your local gemeente, also known as the town hall, city hall or municipality, within five days of arriving in the Netherlands. All gemeenten have convenient walk-in hours, allowing you to speak with one of the English-speaking officers to inform them of your arrival. They can assist you in scheduling a registration appointment, for which you will need to bring your passport(s) or identity card(s) and a certified copy of your birth certificate (apostille may be required). In many cases, if your birth certificate is older than six months, you will be given ample time to sort out a more recent copy and a deadline for handing it in (this will not delay the registration process). Come prepared with basic information, such as your parents’ names, your parents’ birthdays, your birthday and your current address, as you’ll have to fill out several standard forms during your appointment. If living in a shared rental accommodation, the main tenant of the property will most likely need to supply a form of identification as well as a signature to confirm your agreed living situation. Bring along the tenant, if possible. Providing a tenancy agreement should also suffice.
Step 2: Receive a BSN number
Expect to receive your BSN number in the mail approximately one or two weeks after your municipal registration appointment. Your BSN, which stands for burgerservicenummer, or Citizen Service Number, is your nine-digit Dutch registration number, similar to a social security number. Only after having received these essential personal digits can you continue with the next three steps.
Note: If you are a non-EU citizen, receiving a BSN may take slightly longer as you will also have to pay a visit to an Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) office. However, immigrants with double nationality (at least one being EU) may not need to visit the IND. Your municipality will inform you of your specific registration process.
Tip: Once you’ve received your BSN, you can set up a DigiD (digital ID) account to gain access to hundreds of government sites. being in possession of this online signature or official log-in will allow you to apply for benefits, complete your taxes online and view your healthcare plan online. residents are not obliged to have a digid, but it is quite useful for performing tasks electronically.
Step 3: Open a Dutch bank account
Opening a Dutch bank account couldn’t be simpler, and the sooner you do it, the more money you’ll save in ATM fees (foreign banks can charge a fortune!). Plus, many machines and businesses, such as the grocery store and ticket machines at train stations, do not except credit cards, especially those without chips. Therefore, opening a bank account and receiving a pinpas (Dutch debit card) as soon as possible will make your transition to the Netherlands easier.
ABN AMRO bank may be the most attractive option for expats. The English version of abnamro.nl, which has been voted the No. 1 banking website for the past five years, is comprehensive and straightforward, ABN AMRO interest rates are generous, and all you need to sign up is a form of ID, your BSN, and proof of residency, which can be your registration packet from the municipality. Under special circumstances, ABN AMRO can even help new customers open an account without a BSN.
ING and Rabobank are two other popular banks in the Netherlands. ING, too, has an English version of their site (link at bottom left of homepage) and offers a mobile banking app in english, and Rabobank has a small English online section and an English online-banking user manual. All banks in the Netherlands will provide you with your own handy e.dentifier, a PIN-card reader used for secure online banking.
Step 4: Set up a phone contract
After you’ve received your bank account number, which is normally given to you the day you open an account, you can sort out a phone contract. There are about as many phone stores in the Netherlands as there are nail salons in the United States (meaning lots!). Visit one of the numerous phone branches in your city, or shops like Phone House and BelCompany, in order to inquire about whether an ordinary contract or a pay-as-you-go plan is the most suitable option for you. Vodafone, T-Mobile, Telfort, KPN, Hi, Ben Soms, Tele2, hollandsnieuwe, MTV, and Sizz are all examples of cell phone providers in the Netherlands.
Remember: There’s no need to buy a brand new phone abroad; your foreign phone can be made compatible with Dutch SIM cards by having it “unlocked.” Any phone store will be happy to do this for you.
FYI: Viber is a free app that offers free international texting and calling. If you’re the owner of a smart phone, iPod touch or iPad, be sure to take advantage of this money-saving app.
Step 5: Purchase health insurance
It is mandatory for all residents of the Netherlands to purchase a basisverzekering, the most basic health insurance plan, which covers government-established care such as hospital and doctor visits. Additional insurance, called aanvullende verzekering, can be added to your basic plan to include extras, such as dental coverage or coverage for contraceptives. In addition to your chosen healthcare package, an annual eigen risico, “own risk,” of €360 (in 2014) must be paid if 18 years or older.
There are countless zorgverzekeraars, “health insurance companies,” in the Netherlands to choose from. Take your pick, ask questions, and find out which care package is right for you. Zorg en Zekerheid, for example, lets those in possession of a DigiD username and password take control of their healthcare plans online. Dutch healthcare plans can be adjusted once a year, and for some, through a single click.
Note: Make sure to purchase health insurance as soon as you enter the country to avoid paying fines, plus all of the months for which you were not insured.
First 5 Steps Summary:
Register yourself at your local municipality, receive your BSN, open a Dutch bank account and receive a PIN card, set up a phone contract or go prepaid, and purchase health insurance.
Having difficulty choosing between the options listed in this article? Refer to Independer for a personalized comparison of health insurance plans, banking and more.