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Dutch formalities

Moving to another country always involves lots of formalities such as organising a visa, insurance, tax paperwork... you get the idea. Below we’ve explained a couple of important legalities you’ll face in the Netherlands. For any emergency situations, for police, fire or ambulance call 112.
Everyone at the emergency call centre speaks English.

Healthcare system

The healthcare system in the Netherlands can be complicated to navigate. In most cases, your doctor or General Practitioner is your first port of call. Below we’ve explained some of the most common services you might need to access in your time here.
  • A GP (huisarts) is your first point of call for all things medical related. If you need a new prescription, you’ll need to go to your GP (at least the first time). Your GP can also refer you on to specialists and counsellors. To see a GP, you need to register with a local practice. It’s likely that your educational institution has a certain practice that they recommend in the area. We recommend HelloDoc, an online service that allows you to have video appointments with a GP when it suits you. For more information about HelloDoc, click here.

  • For your very first visit to the hospital, you need to register yourself at the front desk, with your name, the name of your insurer and the name of your GP. This information will be put into the hospital's system and on a small plastic card (ponsplaatje) which allows the hospital to access your medical history and send bills to your insurance company. You must always bring this card with you when you visit the hospital. Any referrals or other documents you received from your GP must be handed in at the reception too; they’ll pass this on to the specialist. 

  • In the Netherlands, there are three types of hospitals:

    Academic Hospitals
    There are 8 University Medical Centres in the Netherlands, which are connected to Dutch Universities. These hospitals house many researchers and specialists. 

    Teaching Hospitals
    These work with the University Medical Centres, to help educate and train interns. There are more specialised treatments here, often with interns observing the procedures. 

    General Hospitals
    These provide general healthcare. If more specialised treatment is needed, patients will often be referred to one of the more specialised hospitals. 

  • If you’re sick, you might need to go to the pharmacy (apotheek). If you’ve been to the doctor and have to get a prescription filled, this is automatically sent through to the pharmacy of your preference. Over the counter medication (medicines that can be purchased without a prescription) can be purchased at a store such as Etos or Kruidvat. These also stock many other essential personal care items.

  • Moving to a new country is always a challenge - add full time studying and trying to build up a new social circle, and it can easily take its toll on you. Through the Dutch system, in order to see a counsellor or psychologist (psycholoog) you need a referral from your GP. This can sometimes be a lengthy process, so if you’re not feeling yourself, be sure to go to your GP right away. Most educational institutions have their own school counsellor, who is available to offer guidance and support. Ask about this at the service centre at your institution.

  • Visiting the dentist (tandarts) is something that people often put off. To visit a dentist in the Netherlands, you will have to have additional health insurance, as most dentists in the Netherlands are privatised.

  • A physiotherapist (fysiotherapeut) is specially trained in treating joint and muscle problems. To see one, you can simply find a local physiotherapist near you and make an appointment.

  • A chiropractor (it’s the same in Dutch!) is a licensed healthcare professional who can help treat spine, muscular and soft tissue pain and injuries, through spinal manipulation and soft tissue techniques. You don’t need a referral to make an appointment.
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Health insurance

In the Netherlands, everyone is legally obligated to have health insurance, including international students. You have to have insurance from the day that you arrive in the Netherlands. Which sort of health insurance will you need? That’ll depend on your situation. If you are just coming to study, and won’t be working on the side (even part-time), then you are obligated to have health insurance either from your home country or international student insurance. This must cover the whole length of your stay. If you are coming to study and will be working on the side (regardless of the number of hours) you have to take out Dutch basic health insurance. This can be confusing, we know. Below we’ve explained a bit more. See which of the following applies to you:
  • If you’re from the EU/EEA then you may be eligible for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is a free card that gives you access to state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any EU/EEA member states. This also applies if you’re studying abroad. It gives you the right to access healthcare at the same costs as the local inhabitants of the country you are in. The EHIC is great, but it doesn’t cover all costs. It is highly recommended by educational institutions to take out further insurance. For more information about international student insurance, click here.

  • A European Health Insurance Card is a card issued by your national health care provider, to allow you to have access to healthcare in all EEA countries, Switzerland and Australia. You have to apply for this card before you leave your home country, and it usually takes one to two weeks to arrive. EHIC grants you access to public health care in the country that you are visiting. However, please be aware that sometimes, it may still cost more than you think. For example, a service that might be free at home may cost more in another country. The EHIC only covers emergency medical care, and does not cover planned treatments, medical evacuation or emergency dental expenses. You are also not covered for personal possessions, liability, legal aid and emergency assistance. Click here for more information about additional international student insurance.

    But I’m from the UK?
    If you already have an EHIC, you can still use it. Once it expires you can apply for a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card). This works in the same way, and is only for UK residents. It isn’t valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. You’ll still need some form of insurance to ensure you’re covered for everything. Find more information about additional international student insurance here.

  • If you’re from outside the EU/EEA you have to have international student insurance. Unless you’re going to work, you are not legally allowed to take out Dutch basic health insurance. We work together with Insure to Study international student insurance, click here for more information.

  • If you're from Aruba, Curacao, Sint-Maarten, Bonaire, Sint-Eustatius or Saba, you must take out health insurance the same way as people from outside the EU/EEA (see above).
  • The Dutch healthcare system can be confusing. If you have to take out Dutch insurance, there are two options available to you. 

    1) Basic level healthcare (basisverzekering) covers things such as going to your GP, visiting the hospital and some medicines. This is a compulsory level of healthcare if you have to have Dutch insurance. 

    2) Additional Healthcare insurance (aanvullende verzekering) is for whenever you want extra cover. You can choose to be covered for things such as dental care and physiotherapy. 

    Relating to Dutch basic healthcare you have to set your own risk (eigen risico). This is a deductible amount you have to pay before some costs are covered and is set at a minimum of 385 euros per year. The higher your own risk, the lower your monthly premium, and vice versa.

  • If you don’t take out insurance, you’ll receive a written warning from the Central Administration Office (CAK). If you don’t take action, you will receive a fine. This fine is €426,24 in 2021. If you continue to remain uninsured, CAK will register you with an insurance company of their choice. If you have an income the insurance will be automatically deducted from it, and if not, you will build up an insurance debt. You will also have to pay any incurring medical costs yourself.

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Register for your citizen service number

Your citizen service number (burgerservicenummer - BSN) is super important. When you arrive you have to register with your local city municipality (gemeente). You must make an appointment as soon as possible after arriving in the Netherlands. This is compulsory for anyone who wishes to study here, even if you are from the EU. This usually happens at the city hall. You have to make an appointment in advance, which (most of the time) can be done online. To do this, just google the name of your city/town and municipality. For example, ‘Municipality of Amsterdam’. Why is this important? A BSN is used on all legal documents here in the Netherlands. Having a BSN allows you to do other important things, like opening a Dutch bank account. Make sure you register as soon as possible.

  • A BSN is a citizens service number (burgerservicenummer). It’s a number you use to identify yourself in the governmental system, such as for your tax return, for your DigiD and for your health insurance. Once you are ‘registered’ at your city hall, you receive your BSN.

  • A BSN is an essential part of living in the Netherlands. You need to register yourself with your local council within 5 days after arrival and get your BSN.

    Without a BSN you will not be able to open a bank account, get insurance or a job, or do your taxes. Without it, you won't get very far!

  • To pick up your BSN you have to make an appointment at the city hall (gemeente) of your student city. In most cities this is right in the city centre. You can make an appointment online via the website of your city.

  • Once you arrive you have to register at your local city hall. You must register yourself at the address where you are living. Once you’re registered, you’ll receive your BSN.
  • Once you’ve signed up for your BSN, you will receive an email from the city council where you will be living. This will contain further instructions.
  • No, you don’t. It’s a free service.
  • You need your passport, proof of enrolment at a Dutch university, your rental contract and a legalised copy of your birth certificate.
  • This is so the document can be used in the Netherlands. It certifies that:

    • the document was issued by a competent and expert authority
    • the signature, seal and/or stamp on the document are genuine
    • the document’s format is correct
  • This depends on your country, but is often done at a passport office or ministry of foreign affairs. You can see what applies for your country on the Dutch government website Netherlands worldwide.

  • Yes, it does. If your birth certificate is in a language other than Dutch, English, German or French, you will have to get them translated by a sworn translator. If you get this done outside of the Netherlands, this translation will also have to be legalised.
  • Yes, you do. That’s why it’s important to organise this before you leave your country, because you need a DigiD to access online services, such as requesting an allowance and student finance.
  • A BSN is the unique registration or social security number for residents of the Netherlands. It is not the same as a tax number as it does much more. However, it also functions as a tax number, you use it for your tax return, as well as many other things.
  • No worries, we understand! For any further questions or queries, please call us on +31 6 10 59 58 90.
  • DigiD is a system that allows the Dutch government to verify somebody’s identity on the internet. It’s a digital ID that allows you to access government websites. To be able to fill out a tax refund, request allowances, and access your personal records online, it’s essential to have a DigiD.

    If a website uses DigiD, you will be redirected from the website to the DigiD login page. Here you can log in with your username and password, or via the DigiD app. You will then be redirected back to the website and now you are logged in. To apply for a DigiD, go to the DigiD website.

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Tax rights and obligations

Just like every country, in the Netherlands you also have certain tax rights and obligations. You have allowances, meaning that as a student in the Netherlands, you may be eligible for several different allowances from the government to help with your living costs. If you’re working, you also have to submit a tax return each year. Below we’ve included the most interesting information for you concerning these topics.
  • All students like to have a little bit of extra cash, right? Many students work whilst they are studying in the Netherlands. Here we’ve explained how you can do this, depending on where you’re from. 

    I’m from the EU/EEA
    You are free to work. You don’t need a permit and there are no restrictions regarding working hours. 

    I’m from outside the EU/EEA
    You may work up to 16 hours per week or full time in the summer, but not both. Your employer has to apply for a work permit (TWV) for you. 

    I want to be self-employed (ZZPer)
    In the Netherlands, it’s very common to be self-employed (ZZPer). This gives you more freedom as to when and how you work. There are some conditions that apply to becoming self-employed and these change regularly. We recommend that you visit the tax office (belastingdienst) website for the most up to date information.

    Health insurance and working
    If you’re working in the Netherlands and earning minimum wage, you are legally required to take out a Dutch basic health insurance.

    Internships
    Many studies in the Netherlands require you to complete an internship. Sometimes companies offer internship compensation, which is usually a small amount and less than the minimum wage. However, if you are lucky enough to find an internship that wants to pay you minimum wage, this will have an effect on which health insurance you need. If you are earning minimum wage, you will need to take out a Dutch basic health insurance.

  • Unfortunately, even as a student, there are some taxes you might have to pay. These local taxes are household waste tax (afvalstoffenheffing) and water tax (waterschapsbelasting). The household waste tax covers the cost of the collection and processing of household waste. This is paid to your local municipality. The water tax covers the costs of water treatment and sanitation and is paid to your local water board. It’s important that you check this out; as a private tenant you are in most cases obligated to pay for this and could be fined if you don’t. Still, if you have a low income as most students do, you might be eligible for an exemption. This is not possible if you have a high amount of savings or assets. Ask your local municipality for more information.

  • If you have a (part-time) job you have to file a tax return. You can do this online on the tax office (belastingdienst)  website or in the app. When you earn money here, you will receive a yearly summary of what you have earned. Often this is automatically filled in for you in your belastingdienst account, you'll just have to double-check it. The Dutch fiscal year runs from the 1st of January to the 31st of December. You'll get a notification early in the year to fill the tax return for the previous year. This can be done between the 1st of March and the 1st of May. You need a DigiD (digital ID) in order to file a tax return, you can make a DigiD account on the DigiD website. If you are only studying and not working, you are not obligated to pay tax.

  • An allowance (toeslag) is a financial benefit offered by the Dutch government, to help support low income households. How much you are eligible for depends on factors such as income, age and your financial assets. Rent allowance also depends on how much rent you pay, and the income of your housemates.  Each year, the tax office (belastingdienst) calculates the amount you receive, based on your income(s). At the end of the year, if you have received too much, you will have to pay it back, and if you have received too little, you’ll receive extra compensation. Payments are made on the 20th of each month. There are different types of allowances available depending on your situation. For students, the two allowances applicable are rent allowance (huurtoeslag) and healthcare allowance (zorgtoeslag).

  • Rent allowance is calculated based on the cost of your rent, age, income and household composition. To be eligible for rent allowance, you must meet the following criteria:

    • You are a Dutch national, EU/EEA citizen or have a valid residence permit 
    • You rent an independent accommodation (see below)
    • You and your roommates are registered at this address in the Netherlands
    • Depending on your age, you are only allowed to earn up to a certain amount and pay up to a maximum amount of rent to be eligible. Check out the tax office (belastingdienst) website for the current limits.

    An independent accommodation is a private living space with your own front door/house number, such as an apartment or row home, which you can lock from the inside and outside. If you’re renting an apartment on your own this counts as independent, a student dorm generally does not. An independent accommodation has its own full kitchen and toilet. However, if your student dorm was indicated as suitable for housing allowance before July 1st, 1997, you will then also be eligible for rent allowance. You can ask your building boss about this.

  • Healthcare allowance is calculated based on your income and assets. To be eligible for this allowance, you must meet the following criteria:

    • You are 18 years or older
    • You have Dutch health insurance
    • Check out the tax office (belastingdienst) website for the maximum of annual gross income and financial assets
  • You can apply for these allowances on the Belastingdienst website. You’ll need your BSN and DigiD. If you haven’t already made a DigiD, you can do this on the DigiD website.
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Student finances

The Dutch government is very supportive of students and shows this financially as well. Below we have set out various ways of getting this financial support, depending on your country of origin and your status in the Netherlands.
  • EU/EEA students are eligible to apply for scholarships, as well as some forms of student finance (studiefinanciering). You can also work during your study for some extra income. 

    Scholarships
    There are many scholarships that you can apply for. These are usually given out by universities, donors or other institutions. Scholarships are based on a set of criteria, for example you come from a certain country and have certain qualities or achieve certain grades. Unlike a loan, a scholarship is a gift that you don’t have to pay back! To apply for a scholarship, you need to start doing research as soon as possible. Scholarships always have a closing date, so don’t wait until the last minute or you might miss out. You can ask your university if they offer any scholarships.

    Student Finance
    The Dutch government has set up a scheme called student finance (studiefinanciering) that aids eligible students to help cover the costs of their tuition and other living costs. There are different parts to this: a tuition fee loan, a regular loan, a supplementary grant and a student travel product. There are certain requirements you need to meet to be eligible.

    1. Tuition fee loan
    If you’re from the EU/EEA you’re most likely eligible for a tuition fee loan. This allows you to loan the cost of your tuition fee so you can pay for your studies. You must meet the following conditions:

    • You must be under 30
    • You have the nationality of an EU/EEA country, Suriname, or Switzerland
    • You are enrolled in a full-time or dual programme at a university of applied sciences or university
    • You pay your tuition fees in the Netherlands

    2. Regular loan, Supplementary grant, Student travel product
    Some EU/EEA students will also be eligible for the other parts of student finance (regular loan, supplementary grant, student travel product). To be eligible for these three parts you must meet the following requirements:

    • You must be under 30
    • You must be a Dutch national or have the same rights (residence permit II, III, IV or V); for example, you’ve lived in the Netherlands for at least five consecutive years or you work in the Netherlands at least 56 hours per month
    • You are enrolled in a full-time or dual programme at a university of applied sciences or university
    • You pay your tuition fees in the Netherlands
    • Your course must be at least 1 year long
    • You must be registered in the Netherlands, and you have a BSN and a DigiD
    • You must have a Dutch bank account

    If you have a residence permit type I, or if your partner or parent is a citizen from the EU/EEA, Switzerland or UK and works in the Netherlands, you may also be eligible. You can check your eligibility at the website of DUO. 

    If you’re from the UK, and come to study in 2021 or later, you aren’t considered an EU citizen anymore. The rules for Non-EU/EEA apply to you.If you’re from Aruba, Curacao, Sint-Maarten or Caribbean Netherlands, you are entitled to student finance (studiefinanciering).

  • Unfortunately, if you are not an EU/EEA student, you aren’t eligible to apply for student finance. However, there are other options, for example, applying for a scholarship or private aid.

    Scholarships
    There are also many scholarships that you can apply for. These are usually given out by universities, donors or other institutions. Scholarships are based on a set of criteria, for example you come from a certain country and have certain qualities or achieve certain grades. Unlike a loan, a scholarship is a gift that you don’t have to pay back! To apply for a scholarship, you need to start doing research as soon as possible. Scholarships always have a closing date, so don’t wait until the last minute or you might miss out. You can ask your university if they offer any scholarships.

    Private Aid
    There are companies who offer a private loan for your studies. Contact your university to find out more information about who offers these loans in your country. 

Banking in the Netherlands

One of the first things you need to organise for yourself is a Dutch bank account. Not only is it easier to pay for things day to day, having a bank account in the Netherlands is important for many reasons. Click here for more information about a bunq digital bank account.

  • If you’re going to work here, you’ll need a bank account for your employee to deposit your salary. Also, if you’re working that means that you also need Dutch health insurance, and you’ll need a bank account to allow for monthly deductions and to potentially receive your healthcare allowance (zorgtoeslag).

  • To pay for your telephone subscription, wifi, rent and other bills you need a Dutch bank account. Get your own Dutch bank account here.

  • In the Netherlands, most people use a debit card for most of their purchases. Credit cards are not yet very popular, and are usually only used for big important purchases that need insurance, or for online purchases. A lot of stores do not yet accept credit cards.

    If you try to use your foreign debit card in say, a supermarket, it will often be recognised as a credit card and therefore won’t work. This often surprises foreigners when they first arrive and they get caught out. This is why it’s important to organise a Dutch bank account so you can use your Dutch debit card!

  • In the Netherlands, nearly every online webshop or service uses iDeal. Every dutch bank offers this online payment service; it’s easy, secure and simple. IDeal redirects you to your Dutch bank account or you can pay via your banking app, no need to download another app. To use iDeal you need a Dutch bank account, to sign up for Bunq click here.

  • Tikkie is an app that allows you to make and share a payment request with your friends. It’s connected to your bank account and can be used with any Dutch bank. It’s the Dutch way to pay with one click! You simply fill in an amount, send the link via WhatsApp, and that person can immediately transfer the money straight to your bank account. Don’t be surprised if your new Dutch friends send a Tikkie for the smallest amounts, this is why it was invented! To use Tikkie you need a Dutch bank account, to sign up for bunq click here.

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Driving in the Netherlands

So, you’re in the Netherlands, and you want to rent a car. But what are the road rules here? Am I even allowed to drive? The short answer is probably, if you have a driver's licence.
  • My driving licence is issued in the EU/EEA
    Then no worries, you can drive on this licence for up to 15 years. So you should be covered for your study!

    My driving licence is issued outside the EU/EEA
    You can use your licence for up to 185 days after you take up residence in the Netherlands. 

  • If you have a driving licence, you’re also allowed to hire a scooter. There are two types of scooters in the Netherlands:

    A scooter (snorfiets) has a maximum speed of 25 km per hour, and a blue licence plate. These are allowed to drive on bike paths, with the exception of in Amsterdam, where, due to the business, all scooters must be driven on the road. Therefore in Amsterdam helmets are also compulsory. 

    A moped (brommer/bromfiets) has a maximum speed of 45 km per hour and a yellow licence plate. These must be driven on the road and a helmet is compulsory. 

  • Firstly, like the rest of Europe, the Dutchies drive on the right hand side of the road. These are the most important rules for driving in the lowlands:

    • Drive on the right, overtake on the left
    • 18 is the legal minimum age to drive a car
    • 16 is the legal minimum age to drive a moped
    • It’s compulsory to carry a driving licence, car registration papers and insurance documents in the car
    • Mobile phones may only be used with a hands free system while driving
    • Seatbelts are compulsory
    • Drivers should pay special attentions to cyclists, they may ride in twos
    • Also be careful for people on bikes, they tend to spring out from many places especially in the bigger cities
    • Vehicles coming from the right have right of way, unless otherwise signposted
    • Busses have priority when pulling out
    • Trams have priority except where signposted
    • You must stop for pedestrians on pedestrian crossings
    • When crossing a bike path you usually have to give way to bikes

Leaving the Netherlands

Time flies when you’re having fun! Unfortunately, the time will come when you’ve graduated and have decided to either stay (yay!) or leave the Netherlands. If you’re leaving, there are several things you need to do, to ‘sign yourself out’. Below are most of the important things, but make sure you sit down and write a list of all of the things you’ve signed up or registered for here, to make sure there’s nothing you’re forgetting. Take a few last minute trips, say your goodbyes and plan your visit back to the Netherlands!
  • The first thing you need to do is to inform your landlord and your employer of your departure. This is because in both of these situations you usually have a contract and therefore notice periods. These notice periods are legally binding. How long you have to inform them in advance will depend on your specific situation.
  • Deregistering yourself from the local Personal Records Database is essential. You can do this at your local municipal office by making an appointment, just like you did when you arrived.
  • Did you receive study finance during your study? Then you will also have to alert DUO that you are leaving. You will have to start paying back the loans after 2 years of finishing your studies.
  • By the end of your study time, you’ve probably subscribed to a lot of different services. Things like your Swapfiets and your gym membership need to be terminated, as well as basic services such as internet and mobile phone subscriptions. Make sure you check out what the terms and conditions of cancelling your contract are, and if there is a notice period.
  • You will also need to cancel your health insurance. This is usually a simple process and sometimes can be done online. If you’ve been to a doctor or hospital while you’ve been here, make sure you collect your medical documents before you leave. You might need these later on.
  • This one might surprise you. You do not have to notify the IND that you are leaving, as the municipality will have already told them. However, your residence permit is the property of the Dutch government and thus needs to be handed in when you leave.
  • Once you have received your last pay or allowance and paid your last bills, you might want to close your Dutch bank account. You can usually do this via customer service of your bank.
  • This is the hardest part. Where to start? If you have any unwanted larger items such as furniture, you can sell this on Marktplaats. You can also organise a special garbage collection with your city council, if required. If you need to send things home, to save on baggage weight, you can do this via Post NL or a company that specialises in this.
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