The BSN (burgerservicenummer) social services number (or what was called the Sofi or Social-Fiscal number) is the first bureaucratic issue that expats in the Netherlands have to deal with.
What is the BSN / Sofi number?
A BSN (burgerservicenummer) is the citizen service number, a unique registration number for everyone who lives in the Netherlands.
The BSN will facilitate any interaction with the Dutch authorities: starting a job, opening a bank account, deducting your taxes and social security contributions, using the healthcare system, applying for benefits, announcing a change of address etc. It is also used to combat identity fraud and misspelled names.
The Sofi number (sofinummer) was the previous name for the social security number, issued by the Dutch Tax Office (Belastingdienst). From November 2007, those with Sofi numbers had them automatically converted into a BSN, and in January 2014, the Belastingdienst ceased issuing Sofi numbers.
Note that a BSN does not automatically allow expats to work in the Netherlands. Depending on their country of origin, they may need to apply for a work permit.
How to apply for a citizen service number?
You will receive your BSN when you register with the municipality (gemeente) of the area you will live in. Everyone who lives in the Netherlands, either for all or a significant part of the time, needs to register with their municipality within five days after arrival if they are planning to stay for more than four months.
When registering and thus receiving your BSN, EU citizens will need to provide a valid proof of identity (such as a passport, not a driving licence) and their address to be registered, while for non-EU expats other documents (such as your residence permit and employment contract etc.) have to be presented too.
For non-EU expats who are applying in the Netherlands for a residence permit, your registration with the municipality will be provisional. After you are registered, you will receive a letter of pre-registration (BvB) from the IND, which they will return to your municipality after you have applied for your residence permit. Then your registration and BSN will be confirmed.