It is finally here, the ultimate guide to immigrating to the Netherlands, which we had to limit to 12 steps in order to prevent ourselves from creating a never-ending list consisting of titles such as “#87 saving coupons in the supermarket.”
So what does it really take to become Dutch? We’ve devised the ultimate guide for immigrating to the Netherlands! Here goes…
Immigrating to the Netherlands: becoming Dutch in 12 steps
Thinking of Immigrating to the Netherlands? Moving to Amsterdam? A great choice, and a huge leap. There’s some red tape to untangle, depending on where you’re coming from, if you applied for your visa before arriving, and what visa you decided upon. Don’t be disheartened if you apply for a visa and don’t hear back for months, contacting the IND won’t speed the process up. Which leads us to…
Contacting the IND
So for whatever reason, the Netherlands is your new intended home — you’ve gotta call up the IND and let them know you’re coming (the sooner the better). This is the first step when immigrating to the Netherlands. Say it with me, “Ik wil graag een afspraak maken”, I would like to make an appointment.”
When you first contact the IND (immigration and naturalizations dept) a representative will answer the phone — after 45 minutes — to handle your call. Even if the IND characteristically switches to English to handle the call it matters that we at least try to incorporate the Dutch language, the sooner the better.
Are you ready for the white knuckle thrill ride that is the IND? Ha! Neither am I. Painful emotional anxiety builds up as you wait in line or finally hear the results of your application. The place is an ordeal, walking up there and displaying your passport and relevant information, hands getting clammy at the idea of getting your prints being taken by a biometric scanner… “Geen paniek!“Don’t panic.
In this scenario, arriving earlier won’t speed up the process, this isn’t really a “can you squeeze me in if you have ten minutes?” type of deal. They’ll tell you to wait, even if a big queue of people gathers and you need to see the receptionist again, you’ll make your way to the back of the line no sooner than five minutes before and then finally you will be processed. Leading us to our first step!
Send the IND an email or give them a call: 088 043 04 30
Registering in the Netherlands
“Inschrijven als inwoner (ingezetene) van Nederland”, or registering as a resident of the Netherlands, is fairly straight forward. They say to register at town hall five days after your first day in the Netherlands — but don’t worry, almost nobody finds a place that quickly. This is another important step when immigrating to the Netherlands, so we have written an entire guide about it if you want to know all the details!
Registration is free, you will need to take everyone from your family who lives with you at your residence. What to bring? A valid passport (for all family members living with you),
A rental agreement (“huurovereenkomst“) and your birth certificate (“geboorteakte”) or marriage certificate (“huwelijksakte”).
Citizenship in the Netherlands
You need to visit your “gemeente“ (city council) if you want to apply for Dutch citizenship. There is a fee for this: a family costs €1.091 and €855 for a single individual.
Obtaining citizenship in a foreign country is an incredible step in advancing your skill set as a person. To make this dream a reality you are required to pass a civic integration exam or “Inburgeringsexamen“, as well as provide documentation (passport, birth certificate, residence permit).
Having these means of evidence legalized or provided with an apostille stamp can take a long time (months) and costs $80AUD or $100USD. You can get the stamp on your birth certificate but it must be the original document.
Once you are a Dutch citizen, you gain these rights:
- A Dutch passport
- Ability to vote in all Dutch elections and stand for election
- Your children can become Dutch citizens
- EU citizenship — freedom to travel and live in the EU (good for you Brits)
- You can vote for the European Parliament
- Enter and travel throughout the Netherlands freely
Getting a residence permit in the Netherlands
Once you begin the process of obtaining a residence permit you’re issued with a V-number, your “vreemdeling”. Not to be confused with your residence permit, or “Verblijfsvergunning” (VVR).
Your V-number is your listing as a foreign national. You’ll find the number as a reference in letters from the IND and on the back of your residence document.
Your Residence Permit or “verblijfsvergunning nodig” can be applied for on the immigration website.
MVV authorization (Long Stay Visa)
Okay, so now you’re here and you intend to work and live a chill semi-Dutch life. To remain in the Netherlands for a period longer than 90 days (three months) you will need a “Long Stay Visa” or “Machtiging Voorlopig Verblijf” — for more information about this visa and your eligibility, click here.
When immigrating a long-stay visa is a good way of ensuring you have enough time to organize gainful employment and successfully crack the Dutch housing market.
Work Permit (GVVA)
The Single Permit (GVVA) was abbreviated for a reason, the Dutch translation is “gecombineerde vergunning voor verblijf en arbeid”, meaning combined permit for residence and work. It combines your residence permit and your TWV.
Either you or your employer will apply for the permit. In many situations, you don’t usually need to do it yourself. However, when you leave this job, your work permit is no longer valid. It’s on a job by job basis.
Work permits include:
- Orientation year — for people who have a Master’s or PhD within three years, at a university in the top 150 worldwide. They can apply to find work in the Netherlands for a year.
- Entrepreneur permit — for people who want to start their own business and must have personal experience with it and would add to the Dutch market.
- Single permit — for workers and trainees of over three months.
- Highly skilled migrant permits — for highly skilled workers that are needed. These people need to also be specialised, have a degree, passport, health insurance and have work experience.
Anyways, part of becoming Dutch might be actually learning Dutch to speak on the job, is it really necessary though?
Work Contract “Arbeidscontract“
Be sure to get a formal written Arbeidscontract because verbal agreements can also be entered into and employees end up with no proof of the terms. Work contracts are important, employers in the Netherlands can be pretty flexible.
Some more information about working in the Netherlands can be found here. Also if you fall ill or are unable to work your employer is obligated to pay up to 70% of your wages, although sometimes the first two days of sick-leave are unpaid. (Loondoorbetaling).
Tax return or “belastingaangifte“
As an employee, or if you receive a benefit, you must pay tax while working in the Netherlands, the tax authorities require you to file a tax return (like ripping off a band-aid). As an entrepreneur, you must file an annual declaration with the tax authorities. You then state how much you have earned. The declaration must always be done before 1 May.
Health insurance or “ziektekostenverzekering“
Health insurance or “Ziekte-kosten-verze-kering” (seriously what is with this language) usually runs at about a hundred euros a month, this covers bigger things but if you’re used to bulk-billing or the occasional deductable, Dutch health insurance might surprise you. The more expensive the more is covered.
Health insurance is privatised and mandatory in the Netherlands. If you’ve begun working your employer might have a proposed health insurer that covers most workers if they don’t have their own.
Health insurance will charge you for all months worked without being paid, this can really bite if you’ve taken up your expat medical insurance too late. They’ll still require you to be covered for all your worked hours while uninsured.
Integration or “inburgering“
Inburgering, what does it mean? It translates to “integration.” The Inburgering exam is held by DUO (the same company that issues student loans). DUO receives your contact details from the municipality or “gemeente” (town hall) when you register at your home address.
You have only a year after registering, in which to adapt your language and literacy skills. The fine for not completing the exam on time is no higher than €1,250. DUO even created another fine for “not signing the participation agreement” even threatening to cut off the student loans for foreign students.
Who needs to learn Dutch and when?
DUO fines are based on the number of hours that you’ve studied an integration course. If you have studied absolutely none of the Dutch language then you’re risking a fine of up to 1,250 euros (so you might want to start Learning Dutch fast.)
The number decreases per hundred hours studied minus about €200 for each 100. It will still cost you a stack, but here’s the strange thing — if you fail your exam twice but you’ve studied over 300 hours of an integration course, DUO will issue no fine. It’s assumed you picked up “enough” in those 300 hours, even if you fail their exam for the second time.
Did you fail and you want to learn more Dutch?
Have you completed the exam but it was simply too difficult? Taking Dutch as a Second Language (NT2) courses certified by Blik de Werk (Dutch is hard and weird sometimes) and bulking your hours spent learning will contribute to the forwarding of your integration status.
If all goes to plan, the IND will send confirmation in the post and invite you to your citizenship ceremony (compulsory). After this, you can officially apply for the Dutch passport. If things don’t go to plan you will receive a letter stating why. You can contest the decision if you have a strong case.
Here is a list of all the criteria you would have to meet in order to not take your inburgering. Spoiler alert, you’d have to be fluent in Dutch plus have the papers to prove it.
Can I be a dual national in the Netherlands?
This is a controversial one because most people can’t. This means that you need to give up your nationality in order to become Dutch (a big and sometimes risky move). Once you renounce your nationality, you need to submit an application and declaration signifying leaving your country and entering another. There are exceptions to this rule and you must declare and prove them during your application. You can be a dual national IF:
- You are not allowed to give up your nationality in your home country
- You are officially registered as a refugee
- You are a married or registered partner of a Dutch citizen
- It’s impossible to contact the authorities in your home country
- You cannot revoke your nationality for a special reason — needs to be accepted
- If your nationality is not recognized in the Netherlands
- If you will lose important rights in your country if you were to give up your nationality
- If you were born in the Netherlands or Dutch Caribbean and you’re still currently residing there
- If you have to complete military service to give up your nationality
- If you have to pay a considerable amount of money to give up your nationality
There’s a rigorous process to go through and the demands are quite steep, weigh the options carefully with this one. The official statement is that “the Dutch government wants to limit dual nationality as much as possible”.
If you’re really in it for the long haul, you’re looking for that “permanente residentie.” The true way of immigrating to the Netherlands.
No one is relinquishing their nationality, so the pemanente residentie can be applied for. You can stay in the Netherlands indefinitely with this, however, you cannot vote in Dutch elections (apart from municipal elections). It can also be revoked if you spend too long outside of the Netherlands, you also need to renew it every five years. Those are the conditions!
An “inburgering” diploma is needed to apply for permanent residency, showing full integration over a five year period. The diploma, as we know can be expensive to avoid… You are required to take the exam one year after registering in the Netherlands.
Becoming a Dutchie is a long and tedious process, but there are also many benefits to life in the Netherlands.
What was your experience immigrating to the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!
Feature Image: Abuzer van Leeuwen/DutchReview
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in March 2019, and was fully updated in July 2021 for your reading pleasure.