Moving to the Netherlands: The ultimate checklist
Regardless of where you're coming from or why you’re doing it, the realities of relocating from one country to another can be stressful, time-consuming, and - let’s face it - expensive. If you’re on the brink of moving to the Netherlands, there are a handful of things it’s best to take care of before you get on the plane and officially start your Dutch adventure.
A checklist for moving to the Netherlands
Need to start planning your relocation to the Netherlands but not sure where to start? Use this handy checklist as your guide!
Get your visas and permits sorted
Before you can even think about relocating to the Netherlands, your first step has to be making sure you’ve got the relevant permissions in order to live and work in the country. Of course, these conditions differ greatly depending on where you're from - if you're an EU citizen, for example, you don’t need a visa to travel to the Netherlands, and you don’t need a residence permit in order to stay long-term or a work permit in order to get a job.
If, however, you're from a non-Schengen country, you'll need permits in order to stay in the Netherlands for longer than 90 days. While some nationalities can apply for their residence permit at the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) upon arrival in the Netherlands, others will have to do it at the Dutch embassy or consulate in their country of residence before they leave.
Most residence permits require sponsorship from either a partner, employer or educational institution - the exact rules and requirements will depend on the reason for your move. For information about the various permits available, and the conditions for each, visit the IND's website.
Sort out your finances (and start saving!)
It’s no surprise that going through the process of relocating to another country costs money. Between the deposits you’ll have to pay in order to secure rental accommodation, to the travel and transportation costs, the bills can stack up pretty quickly. This means it’s probably a good idea to have some money saved up before you make the move - at least a few thousands euros, just in case.
It’s also worth taking some time to look into your personal finances, to see if you can transfer your pension and look into what kind of bank accounts you'll set up when you arrive in the Netherlands.
Gather the necessary paperwork
There are various official documents that you’ll need in the Netherlands, either to secure your permit(s), or to register at the municipality and establish your new life. Some paperwork you'll need to hand when you relocate includes your passport (which must be valid for at least three months after your arrival), your birth certificate and, depending on the kind of residence permit you have, your employment contract, enrolment confirmation for a Dutch university, or a declaration of single status.
Another tip is to ensure that the documents you have are in one of the languages accepted by the Dutch authorities - namely either Dutch, English, French or German. Depending on your nationality or country of origin, you may have to get your documents and paperwork translated and / or certified.
Secure (temporary) accommodation
This is a tricky one, especially if you’re having to do it at a distance, but if you’re moving to the Netherlands it’s a good idea to at least secure housing for when you first arrive. This is important for a number of reasons; not only is it comforting to know you have a base from which you can start setting up your life, but you’ll also need a Dutch address in order to register with the municipality.
Perhaps you’ll be staying with friends or family when you arrive, but if you don’t have any loved ones to move in with then it might be worth looking into some of the serviced apartments and short-stay rentals on offer.
An important thing to remember is that the Netherlands is suffering from a severe housing shortage, which leads to an expensive and competitive market. So try to start your search as soon as possible.
Alternatively, if you can’t find somewhere to live, it’s important to set up a correspondence address. While this address won’t be your place of residence, it will allow the Dutch government to contact you if necessary, and might also serve as a valid address when registering with the municipality.
Arrange for the import of your belongings
In order to have your belongings imported to the Netherlands, you might need to declare everything - including your financial assets - to customs. Ultimately, this depends on which country you're moving from. Generally, if you’re moving within the EU, you won’t have to file a customs declaration. If you’re coming from outside the EU, then you will have to file an import declaration, although the good news is that you should be eligible for an exemption so you don’t have to pay tax on your “imports”.
If you have medicines that you’re planning to bring with you, you might be required to present proof that the medication is for personal use. You can do this with a so-called medication passport, which can be obtained via GP or pharmacy.
Will you bring a pet with you? Then other rules also apply. Your pet will have to be microchipped and have a valid rabies vaccination. If you’re from within the EU, your pet will also have to have an EU Pet Passport. If you’re coming from a country that has been designated as a high-risk country regarding rabies, then tougher requirements apply - check the government’s website for more information.
Start (or prepare for) the civic integration process
Depending on the residence permit you have, you might be required to start the Dutch civic integration process before you even arrive in the Netherlands. As part of the civic integration process, internationals learn more about the Dutch culture and language.
While the process isn’t mandatory for EU citizens, those coming from outside of Europe to the Netherlands to be with their partner or spouse will need to begin civic integration in their country of residence. The same applies to those relocating to the Netherlands to work as a spiritual counsellor (i.e. an imam or priest). In these cases, you’ll have to sit the integration exam before you’re able to apply for residency - but the process will continue once you have arrived in the Netherlands.
Others who don’t need to start the civic integration process before relocating to the Netherlands might still be required to do it upon arrival in the country, after they have registered with their municipality. You have a total of three years in order to complete civic integration.
If civic integration isn’t mandatory for you, as an expat you still have the option to attend the classes and sit the exams, if you want to. Similarly, even if you don’t have to go through the official process, it might be a nice idea to learn a little Dutch before you make the move.
Think about how you're going to get around
Being able to get around when you arrive in the Netherlands is also pretty important, so it’s best to make sure you’re prepared. As you likely already know, the Dutch have a (well-earned) reputation for cycling, so if you’re intending to fully integrate and hop on two wheels when you move to the country, it might be worth brushing up on your cycling skills ahead of time, so you won’t be too overwhelmed or out of practice when faced with the traffic in Dutch cities.
If you have a driving licence, it’s also good to check and see if your licence will be valid when you arrive in the Netherlands. The rules differ depending on where your licence was issued, but you might be required to re-take the driving tests in order to obtain a Dutch driving licence. That means brushing up on traffic rules and road signs. If you want to bring your car with you, you’ll also have to arrange for the import of your vehicle.
Finally, a slightly less urgent - but equally important - issue is getting to grips with the Dutch public transport system. This is something that can only really happen once you’ve actually arrived in the country, but it might be worth doing some research into how it all works and what kind of OV-chipkaart you’ll use once living in the Netherlands.
Make an appointment to register with your municipality
Registering with your municipality is a vital step in the relocation process when you intend to live in the Netherlands for four months or longer. Many municipalities will require newcomers to register within five days of arriving in the Netherlands, and you will need to make an appointment in order to register.
While you might face long waiting times for an appointment, the good news is that you can make an appointment before you arrive in the Netherlands - as long as you know which municipality you intend to move to. When making the appointment, it’s worth double-checking which documents you’ll need in order to register.
Once registered, you will receive BSN number (citizen service number), which you need for all your administration in the Netherlands, and will be able to request a DigiD; an online ID which allows you to access the government’s online portals and services.
Take out health insurance
An important aspect of life in the Netherlands - and something that might be different to your home country - is that health insurance is mandatory for everyone living or working in the country. Internationals coming from outside of the EU need to take out health insurance within four months of receiving their residence permit, while EU citizens need to do it within four months of registering at their municipality.
There are a handful of exceptions to this rule, including for students or for people who have an income from outside the Netherlands.
Look into schools for your children
If you’ll be bringing your family with you when you relocate, then you’ll likely also have to consider what the move will mean for your children - and for their education. Decisions will have to be made regarding whether you’ll opt for an international school or a Dutch school. If you go for the latter, it’s a good idea to start preparing them for the Dutch education system before you move, so that they can become familiar with the Dutch language.
Under Dutch law, all children between the ages of five and 16 must attend school. If they don’t obtain a basic qualification in this time, they’re required to stay in education until the age of 18. Once registered with your municipality, you’ll be able to enrol your child in school. If your child isn’t yet registered (or doesn’t have a BSN number), it is possible to request a temporary education number from the Education Executive Agency (DUO).
If your child will attend a Dutch school but doesn’t speak, read or write Dutch, then there are bridging classes for children at both the primary and secondary levels, which will provide them with additional language training.
Consider hiring a relocation company
Finally, if all of this sounds like far too much to manage on your own, then you might like having the support of a relocation company to assist you in the move. These companies offer various different packages tailored to your individual situation and needs, and can assist in a variety of different ways - they can even help you secure housing or find a school for your child.
Relocating to the Netherlands: Ready to go!
Relocating can be a long and arduous process, but once you make a start at ticking items off this checklist then you’re certainly well on your way to packing your bags and hopping on that plane. Looking for more tips or guidance on things to take care of ahead of the big move? Check out our guide for newcomers and our checklist for international students.
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