Dutch Municipal elections: How to vote as an International Student

Despite what many would think, International students can actually vote in Dutch Municipal elections. In fact, not only can they vote in municipal elections, they can also vote for Dutch candidates in the European Parliamentary elections. This may come as a surprise to many internationals as the right to vote is not much of a pressing matter when you have arrived fresh off the plane, train, boat or bus. Most of us just want to get our housing and our timetable and we forget that registration in The Netherlands also means the ability to vote in The Netherlands.

Dutch Municipal elections: How can International Students vote?

What’s your superpower?

1- Have your Burgerservicenummer (BSN.) number ready

So how is this possible? And what’s the catch? Thanks to a little treaty called the ‘Maastricht Treaty’, every citizen in the European Union has the right to vote wherever in the European Union it is that they are currently a registered resident. This brings us to the first two conditions; firstly, you have to be registered in the Municipality in which you wish to vote for the Dutch Municipal elections.ย This means that you must have registered in your Town Hall and received your Burgerservicenummer (BSN.)

But this basically covers all international students who come to study in The Netherlands. If you want to stay for more than three months, you must register and each semester is 4 months, therefore, we’re all registered. (More bad news for Geert)

2- Are you from the EU? Good news!

The second catch is that you have to be an international student from somewhere in the EU. If you are an international student from somewhere outside the EU, you must be registered either in Amsterdam for 3 years, or for 5 years if you’re living anywhere else in The Netherlands. This is one of those moments when your EU friends would point and go HA! But in reality, this chance to participate in Dutch Municipal electionsย is very rarely utilized by international students at all, European or otherwise. Luckily for Geert. (here’s some specific voting information on Amsterdam for example)

This is very simply due because many internationals are not even aware that they can vote. It is not something we are told upon entering the country and it is not something we concern ourselves with either. Many of us remain blissfully ignorant of Dutch Politics for the duration of our stay in The Netherlands and there’s nothing wrong with this either.

Unanswered questions

Even if International students are interested in politics, without the Dutch language, how can they really become fully aware, or active in Dutch politics? But should the ability to vote in Municipal elections be something that is made clear to us?

Should there be more English friendly campaigns considering the proportion of Internationals registered throughout The Netherlands? Would this tackle the politics of the PVV? or would it further fuel the Geert Wilders fire that has been spreading throughout The Netherlands?

It always leaves us with more questions than answers. Will you be voting?

Sarah O'Leary ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช
Sarah O'Leary ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช
Sarah originally arrived in the Netherlands due to an inability to make her own decisions โ€” she was simply told by her mother to choose the Netherlands for Erasmus. Life here has been challenging (have you heard the language) but brilliant for Sarah, and she loves to write about it. When Sarah is not acting as a safety threat to herself and others (cycling), you can find her sitting in a corner of Leiden with a coffee, trying to sound witty.


  1. I just received a letter with all the informations (in Dutch). Actually I want to show it to one of my Dutch colleges to get better aware of the procedures. If I find some time for it, I will take a look to the parties’ programs. Otherwise, I will just vote blank, but I will vote ๐Ÿ™‚
    About the campaigns in English, I think it should not be mandatory. But, of course, I the parties want they can go for those votes ๐Ÿ˜›
    (Just for context, I’m a EU national from Portugal doing my PhD here.)


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