The Netherlands is a northern European nation, but it also includes some islands in the Caribbean (the former Netherlands Antilles). The country is part of the EU, so it is easy for EU citizens moving to the Netherlands. For non-EU citizens it is a bit more complicated.
It is a very small country with many inhabitants (17 million).
The country is divided into 12 provinces and its capital is Amsterdam, which is one of the most important cities in the country along with Rotterdam and Utrecht. The official language is Dutch, but English is so widely spoken that it is recognized as a second official language in some provinces. There are almost 2 million immigrants (about 10% of the population).
The country features a multicultural and tolerant environment (it was the first nation in the world to legalize same-sex marriage). With a strong focus on the environment, there are more bicycles than inhabitants (23 million bicycles), with 35,000 kilometers of bike paths.
The country’s wealth, job opportunities for those without stressful work schedules, and reduced work hours make Holland the fifth best country in the world for quality of life, according to the World Happiness Report 2021.
Moving to the Netherlands
– EU citizens (as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) do not need a visa to visit, live, work or study in the Netherlands. You only need to carry a valid ID and a health card. However, if you want to stay or work for more than 3 months, you will need to present an international birth certificate. In any case, you can find all the information here: Living in the Netherlands as an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen.
– Citizens of some countries, such as the U.S., Japan, the U.K., Canada and Australia, can travel to the Netherlands for up to 90 days without a visa
– Other non-EU citizens who don’t need a visa to the Netherlands if the stay is less than 90 days are: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Holy See (Vatican City State), Honduras, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, (Republic of) Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Northern Macedonia, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Serbia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Taiwan, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela.
Citizens from other countries need a visa for a stay of less than 3 months in the Netherlands
Types of visas:
There are different types of visas that allow entry into the Netherlands: Short-term visas and long-term visas
Short stay visas:
- Tourist visa: third-country nationals who wish to visit the Netherlands
- Visitor visa: third-country nationals who wish to visit family members, relatives or friends by means of a letter of invitation
- Cultural visa: those who wish to participate in cultural, sporting or religious events
- Medical visa: for those who wish to receive medical treatment in the Netherlands for health reasons
- Business Visa: third-country nationals who wish to visit Holland for business purposes
Long stay visas:
- Student visa: third-country nationals who wish to reside in the Netherlands for the purpose of study. Enrollment in a degree programme is a basic requirement for applying for a long-term student visa. Students can apply for a residence permit for a stay of more than 90 days
- Work visa: non-EU citizens who are allowed to work in the Netherlands. An employment contract is required to apply. The Highly Skilled Immigration Visa is also a work visa
- Job Seeker Visa: Graduates of a Dutch higher education institution can apply for a Job Seeker Visa
- Family reunification visa: family members of Dutch residents who wish to travel to the Netherlands to visit relatives
- Researcher visa: non-EU citizens who are authorized to work in research
- Freelancer visa: the Dutch startup visa for people from outside the European Union (EU) who want to start an innovative company
- Language course visa: non-EU citizens who want to enroll in a language course
- Student Internship Visa: non-EU nationals who wish to complete an internship in the Netherlands. If you want to stay longer than 90 days, you need a residence permit
If you intend to stay in the Netherlands for more than 3 months and wish to apply for a Dutch residence permit, you must apply for one at the Dutch embassy or consulate in your country before you leave for the Netherlands.
You or your sponsor will need to fill out a form and provide some documents depending on the purpose of your stay (work, education, family, etc.) to get your residence permit.
Documents you need to live in Holland
EU citizens who have just arrived must register in one of the following registries:
RNI: Register of NON -residents, it means that you still live in your country (and to get it you do not need a lease in the Netherlands), after 4 months of registration in RNI register you need to register in BRP register.
BRP: Residents Register, it means that you are fully resident in the Netherlands (and to get it you need a rental contract, an employment contract and your international birth certificate).
As soon as you are registered, (EU citizen), or have got your residence permit, (non EU citizen), you will also receive the BSN (burgerservicenummer), which you need for all the paperwork, signing an employment contract, opening a bank accounts, etc.
The second step will be to get the Dutch digital identity which you will need to access some public services.
Then you will have to open a bank account, on which your salary will be paid.
Later, you will need to purchase health insurance. The health care system in the Netherlands is private but regulated by the government. In order to receive health care services, you will need to purchase insurance from one of the Dutch insurance companies, which will cover basic medical expenses or more advanced treatments, depending on the insurance package you choose.
Once you are officially in the Netherlands, I recommend that you take out this health insurance immediately and not let months go by thinking you can buy some time because you will definitely have to pay for all the months you have been in the Netherlands.
Health insurance is mandatory if you register as a resident. You have four months to take it out, but you must pay retroactively from the date of registration.
Move to the Netherlands, useful resources
I refer to some websites with useful information about moving and working in the Netherlands:
- Immigration Dutch Service, useful information
- A guide for students who want to study in the Netherlands
- Guide for international students in the Netherlands
- List of university colleges in the Netherlands
Moving to the Netherlands how to find accommodation
Once you arrive in the Netherlands, you will need to start looking for permanent housing. In the Netherlands, you have two options for finding rental housing: You can live in social housing or in private housing.
More than half of the apartments in the Netherlands are managed by low-rent housing associations and are only available to low-income residents (under €35,000 per year). Waiting lists for these apartments are very long and can easily reach 30 years for apartments in the center of Amsterdam. So the only option is to turn to the open market, but here the number of apartments on offer is much lower than the demand, which is why prices are high.
When signing the contract, you must present your BSN and, in addition to paying the agency fees (if due), to pay a security deposit equal to 2 or 3 months’ rent which will be returned to you when you leave.
Very often you will also need to present your paycheck and your salary must be three times the rent. You should also know that apartments are often vacant and you will have to furnish them.
Real estate websites:
- Funda, one of the most popular and probably valuable real estate websites
- Kamernet, rooms for rent, with paid premium paid service, very popular
- Kamers rent rooms, only in Dutch
- Pararius, the best real estate site in the Netherlands for expat, also in English
- Direct Wonen, real estate website
- Principleproperties, rental estate agent specializing in expats
- Rotsvast, with ofices in several Dutch cities
- Marktplaats, free classifieds site, you can find good deals
- Universities and supermarkets, on whose bulletin boards you can often find ads for renting rooms and/or apartments
- Local newspapers, real estate advertisements
Another option often used by young people in Holland is renting a room (Kamer) in shared apartments. If you rent a room through an agency, you often have to prove that you have enough money in your bank account to pay the rent for at least six months.
When you finally find something, an appointment will be made with the homeowner. If that’s okay, you’ll have to pay the brokerage fees equal to one month’s rent when you sign the contract. You will also have to pay a deposit in the amount of one or two months’ rent.
Remember that due to high demand, it is not easy to find accommodation and it can take a long time to find it. Besides, the prices are constantly increasing.
Move to Amsterdam
In Amsterdam the situation is really difficult, the costs are very high, in the center a one-bedroom apartment can easily cost € 1,500 and a room € 600/800. In the suburbs the costs are a bit lower. Also, the search can be very lengthy, so many prefer to live in nearby cities and commute every day.
Scams happen all the time. So be on your guard: never transfer money over the Internet, and if you hire a real estate agent, make sure that your real estate agent (makeelar) is registered in the national association ‘Nederlands Vereniging Van Makelaars’. In any case, a good real estate agent means you save time and protect yourself from fraud.
If you really can not find anything, the last chance might be in the possibility of anti squat accommodation.
Unauthorized squatting is illegal in the Netherlands and is a criminal offense. Anti-squatting, however, is allowed. This means living in vacant apartments to protect buildings from illegal squatting and vandalism.
Anti-squatting can be a cheap way to live in the Netherlands. Most anti-squatting buildings are not houses or apartments, but vacant offices, schools, nursing homes, libraries, etc.
You only have to pay the agency a small fee for the service. However, it is temporary housing that you can be kicked out of at any time because the building you are in is sold or demolished. This can sometimes take years, but it can also take as little as a few months. You need to be aware of this and be prepared to leave the housing with a few weeks notice.
Since demand is greater than supply, it is not certain that you will find housing right away, but you could be placed on a waiting list.
Here are some anti-squatting websites:
- Ad Hoc, (in Dutch)
- Zwerfkei, (in Dutch)
- Alvast, (in Dutch)
- Camelot, (in Dutch)
- Interveste, (in Dutch)
Moving to the Netherlands step by step
– Living in a hostel or B&B for 20/30 days
– RNI registration and acquisition of BSN. Go to the city office by appointment and register as a non-resident. You will need: ID, health card and your address (abroad). Depending on the city, the times can be very long, especially in Amsterdam. So if you know when you will arrive in the Netherlands, it is better to make an appointment already from your country. Another option is to ask for RNI in another Dutch municipality (there are 19 municipalities in the Netherlands that issue RNI), for example in Utrecht, where you can make an appointment in a few days, the drive from Amsterdam is less than an hour and the office is right next to the train station. Also in Eindhoven the times are quite short.
– Opening a bank account. Go to the bank by appointment to open a Dutch bank account. BSN and ID are required
– Online Digid. Apply for a digital identity that gives you access to a whole range of services
– Job search. You can start job search, if you are in a hurry and ready to do everything, you can even find a job in one/two days
– Search for accommodation. If you have a work contract, you can start looking for a room or apartment (depending on your finances) and hope to find it in a reasonable amount of time
– BRP registration. With the rental contract, a photocopy of the landlord’s ID and your international birth certificate, go to the City Hall and register as a resident in the BRP Registry
– Health insurance. You must choose health insurance (about € 100 per month), if you have no income or a low income, you will be reimbursed € 94 per month. The reimbursement request must be made through online Digid. As long as you are registered as a non-resident (RNI) or have not found a job, the insurance does not have to be paid. However, remember that from the day you start working FIRST or register in the BRP, you are no longer covered by the EU Health Card and must take out health insurance in the Netherlands