Checklist for studying in the Netherlands
So you’ve done it, you’ve found a course you like and have made it into your dream university, and you’re moving to the Netherlands. It can be tempting to get caught up in the excitement of it all, and there’s so much to organise before a big change that you can sometimes lose track of everything that needs to be done.
But don’t worry. Here is a handy checklist for all of you who are planning to study in the Netherlands in the near future.
Visas and permits for students
Once you have a confirmed spot at a Dutch university, the university will apply for your residence permit for you. To do so, you will have to provide them with certain documents, for example, a copy of your passport or evidence that you have enough money to support yourself.
Kinds of residence permits
There are two different types of residence permit that you can apply for, one with mvv (Regular Provisional Residence Permit) and one without. The one with mvv is more common and will allow you to travel to the Netherlands for a stay of over 90 days.
You will collect your mvv from the Dutch embassy in your country, and will then have 90 days to travel to the Netherlands where, upon arrival, you will have two weeks to collect your residence permit.
Your university can apply for a permit and mvv in one application, known as the Entry and Residence procedure. However, you will have to foot the bill. You can find information about the cost of a Regular Provisional Residence Permit on the IND website.
If you’re hoping to earn a little bit of extra cash, you can look for a part-time job to do alongside your course. You can work up to 16 hours a week, or stay in the Netherlands for the summer and work through June, July and August. For paid work, you will need a work permit. Your employer can apply for this for you.
Find a place to live
Finding somewhere to live can regularly be the most difficult and stressful part of moving somewhere new. Luckily, there are a number of options available to students to help them find a home.
Many universities will have their own student accommodation, and while they might not have a lot on offer, they tend to prioritise international students. Alternatively, you could get in touch with a rental agency or register with a student housing corporation and be put on a waiting list to get a room.
Furnishing your new home
You have to pack lightly when moving from your home country to somewhere new for university, so you may have to go on a bit of a shopping spree to make sure you’ve got everything you need. Somewhere like IKEA is obviously a great place to pick up furniture or homeware for a very reasonable price, but there are also other options. Check out Blokker or Hema, or even Primark Home, for a variety of homeware. Or for some bargains, find your local kringloopwinkel (the Dutch equivalent of a thrift store).
Once you've found somewhere to live, the Dutch government does have an allowance available for people to help them pay rent. To be eligible to apply for the rent allowance (huurtoeslag), you have to come from the EU, EEA or Switzerland and have a combined rent, income and capital that does not exceed certain limits.
Register at your local municipality
Once you have somewhere to live, you’ll have to register with your local municipality. In doing so, you will be given a BSN number, which will allow you to apply for jobs and rent allowance, or open a bank account. Anyone planning on staying in the Netherlands for over four months is required to register.
Generally, you are required to register with your municipality within five days of arriving in the Netherlands. But you do need a rental agreement to register, so if you do not yet have somewhere to live when you arrive here, you have to register as soon as you do. If you fail to register then the government may issue you a fine.
To register, just call your local municipality to make an appointment.
Find (student) health insurance
Generally, international students are not required to take out health insurance in the Netherlands, because they are only temporary residents in the country. However, if you plan on getting a job and working alongside your course, then you will have to be covered by health insurance.
If you are from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, then you won’t have to take out and pay for Dutch health insurance. Instead, you need to apply for a (free) European Health Insurance Card, which will mean you can get free or discounted medical care throughout Europe.
If you come from outside the EU or EEA, then some insurance companies offer tailored packages for international students.
The government does offer a healthcare allowance to help people pay for their health insurance and healthcare. To be eligible for the healthcare allowance (zorgtoeslag) you have to come from the EU, earn less than a certain amount per year, and have assets of less than a certain amount.
Set up a Dutch bank account
It’s definitely a good idea to set up a Dutch bank account for yourself. To open the account, you will need a BSN number, a valid form of ID, proof of address, and - if you’re coming from outside of the EU - a residence permit.
Get a Dutch phone number
If you’re planning on spending quite a long time in the Netherlands, then it might be worth sorting out a Dutch sim card and having a Dutch number. While a lot of EU students will likely have roaming access in the Netherlands, it could be easier in the long term - for example, if you start looking for jobs after you graduate - to have a Dutch number.
You could opt for a pay-as-you-go deal or a sim-only contract with whatever mobile telephone provider you choose in the Netherlands.
Biking and public transport
As you will quickly realise upon arrival in the Netherlands, bicycles are key to getting around easily and quickly - and cheaply - and are therefore really useful for life as a student. To find a bike, visit your local bike shop, or take a look on Marktplaats to find a good second-hand bike. For more advice on buying a bike, check out our guide for finding a bike in the Netherlands. And, if you don’t feel too comfortable on a bike, there are even schools that offer classes to adults.
If you’re someone who doesn’t like the idea of getting around on just two wheels, don't worry, you can rely on the Dutch public transport system instead - just make sure you get yourself an OV chipkaart. You can order yourself one online, and top up the money at machines at stations and supermarkets, or set up a direct top-up from your bank account.
Get involved in student life
In the Netherlands, Dutch universities have student associations (studentenverenigingen) and study associations (studieverenigingen). If you join either of these you’ll become more involved in your university’s student life, and, of course, get the opportunity to meet loads of different people. There are also international student networks in several Dutch cities, including ISN in Amsterdam and ESN in Rotterdam.
The student associations are relatively similar to the American sorority and fraternity system. There are elite ones right up at the top, like Het Corps, and then the more low-key ones lower down in the hierarchy, which could focus on a specific sport or religion, or ones which have similar traditions to Het Corps without all the prestige and secrecy. Loads of associations also offer members accommodation, which is handy if you’re moving here and don’t have anywhere to live!
Alternatively, the study associations are more closely related to your area of study. They cater to the students of different departments, so, for example, you could have the International Relations Association or the Mathematics Association.
Word hard, play hard!
Don’t forget to make the most of it all and have fun! Go out, meet people and make new friends, as that’s such an important part of student life!
What are you coming to the Netherlands to study? What are you most looking forward to? What are you nervous about? Let us know in the comments below!