Fresh off the plane? Welcome! If you’re feeling a bit lost and aren’t sure what you’re meant to do next, don’t stress — we’re here to help. First things first, let’s get you registered in the Netherlands.
Not sure what that means? As we say here in the Netherlands, geen probleem. We promise registering at a Dutch municipality isn’t as difficult as you think.
Once you arrive in the Netherlands (EU national or not), you must register at the town hall in the area in which you will live. This is necessary if you plan to work or study in the Netherlands and/or are staying for over four months.
Once you register, you are marked as a legal resident of your municipality. You can register in two ways:
- From abroad: you can make an appointment to “register abroad” and they prepare you for what you need to bring with you.
- On arrival: as soon as you arrive and seal the deal with a property, you can make an appointment and register as soon as possible.
Registering is essential for getting life started in the Netherlands. When you register you are making your presence known in a specific household. This helps the Municipal Personal Records Database (BRP) keep track of how much tax a household must pay, manage emergencies, and monitor the Dutch population. Registering is mandatory, and you can be fined if you don’t register, or falsify your registration.
Once you have registered you will receive a burgerservicenummer (BSN). This handy number will let you apply for almost everything you need for life in the Netherlands.
What is a Burgerservicenummer (BSN) — and why do I need one?
Once you register, you are given a unique nine-digit code. This is your BSN (or citizen’s service number), and it is sacred. Your BSN helps the Dutch government to identify you whenever you have dealings with them, for example, when you have to pay tax.
Until you have your BSN, you can’t do other necessary basic things in the Netherlands, like:
In order to apply for any of these things, you need those magic nine digits.
Penalties for not registering
Avoiding that simple trip to your municipality office is not without consequences. If you move to the Netherlands and plan on staying longer than four months, you are legally required to register your address. If you fail to do so, you risk being fined €325.
This also applies if you change your address and fail to notify the municipality on time, or if you have given the incorrect address. The municipality will launch investigations if they believe there’s a chance someone has given the wrong address/ is living illegally at an address. So if you don’t want bureaucrats knocking at your door (or the wrong door) — register.
First things first: the government says that you must register within five days of your arrival in the Netherlands. That means you may need to make your appointment before you arrive.
To take the first step, just Google “registration ______” (insert city you live in, e.g. Rotterdam) and you’ll find the correct municipality. We also have a handy list below of the main municipality contact details.
Depending on the municipality, you will either have to call to make an appointment or fill out an online form. You can find the appropriate phone numbers and website links below. Once you call/ apply online you will be given a date and time to come to the municipality office. Now all that’s left to do is gather your things and turn up!
|TIP: Pssst! Haven’t learned Dutch? No problem! It’s easy to make an appointment in English.|
What documents do I need to register in the Netherlands?
The fateful day has arrived, so what do you have to bring to your appointment? Here’s a list of everything you will need:
- Valid ID: such an as identity card or passport (in date)
- Your original birth certificate: this needs to be translated in either English or Dutch and legalised with an apostille. Note — some government employees will request this, and others won’t, but you should bring it no matter what
- Any other legalised documents: if applicable — such as marriage or divorce certificates
- Your letter of enrolment: if you’re a student
- Your tenancy agreement: showing that you are living at the specified address
Note: Some people don’t realise that depending on where you are registering, there are sometimes no appointments available for weeks. So not only is it important to register, but try and register on time too.
If you have arrived into the Netherlands and you’re struggling to find housing (a common struggle, unfortunately) then fear not. You can still register using a correspondence address. How does this work? Allow us to explain.
If you need to register but haven’t found a permanent residence yet, then you can turn to your family or colleagues and register with their address. The address must be residential so you can’t just use your office building. On top of this, the address must be recognised as legitimate by the BRP.
Once you’ve sourced a suitable address, you must head to the municipality office for the address with your relevant papers to apply for a correspondence address. The “relevant papers” depend on the municipality, so make sure to check their website!
This solution is only temporary, but it allows you to receive a BSN and continue setting up everything else that is involved with moving to the Netherlands.
If you’re moving to the Netherlands for less than four months (and aren’t just a tourist travelling around) then you still need to register as a non-resident in an RNI municipality. An RNI is a municipality that has the ability to enter you into the non-resident’s database.
To find out which municipalities you can register at as a non-resident, here’s a government list.
Let’s say you’ve managed to figure it all out — you have your BSN, you’re a registered citizen, everything is in order — but you’re about to change address. You have to notify your municipality office, even if you’re moving within the same municipality (I know, I know, it’s a pain.)
This is because the municipality must always have your current address. Also, it’s for your own sake — the last thing you want is for any important letters to go missing (something you can get fined for!) Next thing you know you’ll find that you owe the municipality taxes that were never paid.
If you’re looking to romanticise your life by dropping everything at once and dashing off to a different region/country — then just make sure to pop into your local municipality office during the montage.
If you leave the Netherlands without telling anyone in the municipality, the municipality is going to assume you’re still living there. This becomes a problem when somebody notices that you don’t have health insurance, or haven’t paid tax — both mandatory when living in the Netherlands.
A letter will be sent to your address informing you of which health insurance you are receiving and then voila! You will be expected to pay the bill. Next thing you know, you’re frolicking across foreign hills and accumulating hundreds of euros in health insurance fees.
How do I deregister from my local municipality?
The process of deregistering in the Netherlands varies depending on your municipality. Sometimes this process can be done in writing. You can send a letter listing the names of your family members who will be leaving, your old and new address and a copy of valid I.D.
In other cases, you and any other departing family member above the age of 16 must fill out a form and report to the municipality in person.
It’s also important to note that municipalities will often have a required notice period when processing departures. This means that in some cases, you must deregister no more than five days before you leave the Netherlands. We recommend you check your local municipality’s website for any notice period.
Ready to march into that municipality office? Great! Here’s some contact information. With 355 municipalities in the Netherlands, we can’t list every single one, but here are some of the main hotspots for expats.
|TIP: If your municipality isn’t listed, just Google “[city name] registration” or “[city name] gemeente.”|
|Municipalities (Gemeente) for registration in the Netherlands|
|Municipality||Local Phone||International Phone||Website|
|Amsterdam||14 020||+31 20 624 1111||Amsterdam Gemeente|
|Den Haag||14 070||+31 70 353 30 00||Den Haag Gemeente|
|Rotterdam||14 010||(010) 267 16 25||Rotterdam Gemeente|
|Utrecht||14 030||030 – 286 00 00||Utrecht Gemeente|
|Groningen||14 050||+31 (0) 88 043 04 30||Groningen Gemeente|
|Maastricht||14 043||+31 43 350 4040||Maastricht Gemeente|
|Leiden||14 071||+31 71 516 51 65||Leiden Gemeente|
|Eindhoven||14 040||+31 40 238 6000||Eindhoven Gemeente|
Registering in the Netherlands: handy Dutch vocabulary
|Inschrijven / Inschrijving||Register / Registration|
|Inschrijven vanuit het buitenland||Register from abroad|
|Burgerservicenummer (BSN)||Citizen service number|
|Basisregistratie personen||Personal Records Database|
|Het gemeentehuis / het stadhuis||The city hall|
Have you registered in the Netherlands before? How did you find the experience? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature Image: Gabrielle Henderson/Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in October 2020 and was fully updated in January 2021 for your reading pleasure.