Moving to the Netherlands


This is a guide for expats moving to the Netherlands. I wrote it myself, with the help of several colleagues, when I moved over here, many years ago, and people found it extremely helpful.

This is NOT a guide on how you can get a job in the Netherlands. This is NOT a guide on how to start the process of moving to the Netherlands. Instead, this is a guide for people who just arrived (legally) in the Netherlands and need to settle down. There are so many things to do that it’s easy to lose track about what’s important.

This is NOT an official guide. I claim NOT resposibility for your actions. This guide helped me, but you’re on your own. If you want to use this guide, please consider sharing it with someone who is already living in the Netherlands, so they can validate the guide and help guiding you.

Without further ado…

As Soon As Possible

After you get to the Netherlands, and during what will probably be your first day at your new job. The company that hired you has probably arranged these appointments.

  • Expat center
    • You will be registered at both IND (Immigration and Naturalisation) and at the Gemeente (municipality, e.g. Amsterdam).
    • You will receive:
      • Residence permit (which works as your id card)
      • BSN (which is the dutch social security number)
    • You may receive a pre-paid SIM card, but you probably want to do your own research on the mobile operators.
  • Bank account
    • Getting a bank account as soon as possible is very important, because:
      • That’s the (only) way most companies can start paying you.
      • PIN (or PIN card) is the most common payment method in physical stores in the Netherlands. Most stores do not accept credit cards, and some don’t even accept cash.
      • Grocery stores have specific cashiers that only accept PIN payment.
      • Grocery stores have self-checkout terminals that require PIN payment.
      • If your phone has NFC, you try paying using your phone by following the setup instructions from your bank.
    • Several online websites accept payment through iDEAL, which redirects the browser to your bank’s website to authorize the payment.
    • Some services or websites allow/require a valid bank account. (e.g. When requesting a personal OV-Chipkaart, or putting your phone bill on direct debit.)
    • Some of the banks some colleagues have recommended: ABN AMRO, ING, bunq

First days at your new job

  • Fill out and sign documents that HR will request.
  • Update your information with HR:
    • Is your name correct?
    • Add your IBAN bank account number
    • Add your BSN
    • Add your home address and phone number (if you already have those)

First week or so

  • Start looking for a home!
    • Ask your colleagues and ask your company for some help. It may be worth having a housing agent to help you.
    • Before making any decision, check with your agent all costs that you will have.
    • In The Netherlands you pay deposit + rent before you move in.
      • The security deposit amount is usually equal to one or two months of rent.
      • So, in practice, you have to pay around 2 or 3 times the rent amount upfront, right before you can move in.
      • When you move out of the place, you get your whole security deposit back, unless there is any damage caused by your stay.
    • Websites:
  • Apply for the 30% ruling
  • Tuberculosis test
    • If you’re from outside the EU / EEA you may or may not need a TB test. If you need to do it, it must be done within 3 months of arriving in the Netherlands.
    • If you have a nationality from one of these countries, you don’t have to undergo a tuberculosis test.
    • There are some guidance from Amsterdam gemeente. Of course, if you’re not in Amsterdam, look somewhere else.

After you are registered at the municipality

  • Get a DigiD login.
    • DigiD is an authentication system used by several official institutions. It’s somewhat similar to OAuth. In other words, you have a single login to several systems.
    • It will allow you to perform many administrative tasks online.
      • Such as changing your registered address after you move to your new home.
      • It can be used to login tothe health insurance website.
      • It can be used to login to
    • You need to provide:
      • Your e-mail address.
      • Your home address.
      • Your mobile phone number (that can receive SMS).
    • You will receive a confirmation code by e-mail, by SMS, and by letter.
    • The process takes a couple of days, because you have to wait for the letter with the confirmation code.

💰 After you have access to your bank account (takes up to two weeks)

  • Choose a health insurance company and plan.
    • It is mandatory to have health insurance. You have a deadline of 4 months to get one. However, don’t wait! You will be charged for the full period since you arrived in the Netherlands (because supposedly you were already insured). So, if you wait 3 months to choose one, you will have to pay the 3 months retroactively.
    • You can switch to another health insurance company once per calendar year (around December).
    • The government has regulations on the basic health insurance plan (what it covers and the range of price it should cost). Most people have additional health insurance on top of the basic plan. Check what options you have with the company of your choice.
    • You may get a small discount by paying yearly instead of monthly.
  • Find a doctor/clinic.
    • In order to consult a doctor, you first need to look for a general practitioner within the vicinity of your home. You also need to have your medical insurance active.
    • In Dutch the general practitioners are called “huisarts”. You can locate a number of them through searching on Google Maps.
    • There is no restriction on the distance of the general practitioner to your house. You should choose one near you because you probably don’t want to go too far away if you are sick.
    • You have to register yourself with some general practitioner clinic (huisartsenpraktijk).
  • Request European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
    • If you’re insured in EU you can apply for EHIC.
    • Useful if you’re travelling around Europe.
    • This card proves that you’re insured and can be used in medical places around the EU.
  • Liability insurance (optional, but recommended)
    • It is quite cheap (less than €3 or €4 per month).
    • Most people (both dutch and expats) have it.
    • Covers damage that you cause to someone else’s belongings, and also in case of accidents. Some examples:
      • If your kid breaks a neighbor’s window while playing with a ball.
      • If your pet damages someone’s property.
      • If you spill wine on your friend’s couch/sofa during a party.
      • If you cause an accident while riding your bike.
    • It was likely offered to you when you opened your bank account.
    • More information at ABN AMRO (but feel free to look for information from your own bank or from any other insurer).
  • Apply for a personal OV-chipkaart.
    • It is optional, as you can keep adding funds to an anonymous OV-chipkaart or using OVpay.
    • A personal OV-chipkaart has a few advantages:
      • The personal one can be automatically reloaded from your bank account whenever its balance gets too low.
      • The personal one can be used for OV-fiets bike rental service.
      • If you lose it, you can recover the balance.
      • The personal one can be used for subscriptions, which can be far cheaper if traveling very often and from further away.
    • It requires a bank account because the payment is through iDEAL.
    • It requires you to upload your photo (that will be printed on the card).
  • Public transportation system overview:
    • Tickets
      • OV-chipkaart can be used across the entire country, on lines from any company.
        • You have to “check-in” (scan your OV-chipkaart) every time you board a bus or tram, and every time you enter a metro or train station. The machine will beep once, and will deduct the maximum travel fare.
        • You have to “check-out” (scan your OV-chipkaart) before you leave a bus or tram or train station or metro station. The machine will beep twice and refund some amount to your card. This way, you only pay the travelled distance (plus the fixed basic fare).
          • If you forgot to check-out, you can usually send a form to the company to ask for a refund.
        • You can transfer from one line to another within 35 minutes and the basic fare will not be charged again (except when transferring between trains and bus/metro/tram).
        • If you check-in and then check-out at the same station within a period of 20 minutes (or 60 minutes in case of NS train stations), you will be fully refunded.
      • If you buy a paper ticket, you pay extra due to the cost of printing the ticket itself.
      • Avoid buying tickets inside the trams or buses.
        • It slows down everything (the driver has to handle the payment before the journey continues).
        • Cash is usually not accepted anymore.
        • Some companies don’t even sell tickets inside buses and trams anymore.
        • You will pay extra for the paper ticket, which will be valid for a limited amount of time (instead of paying per kilometer with OV-chipkaart).
      • Each company provides some subscriptions that can either give you some discounts or can be cheaper than using the standard fare every day. Research your options and do the math to figure out what is best for your case.
    • Trains
      • NS is the company that operates most of the train lines in the Netherlands.
        • There are a few train types:
          • Sprinter is the stop-train, it stops at every station. It is usually white and blue.
          • Intercity (IC) is the fast train, stopping only at (a few) major stations. It is usually yellow and blue.
          • Intercity Direct (IC Direct) is a special kind of IC that connects Amsterdam to Rotterdam, stopping only at Schiphol Airport. Travelling between Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport using IC Direct requires paying a supplement; which can be done by scanning your OV-Chipkaart on the red supplement machine on the train platform, or by buying the supplement through the NS mobile app, or by paying a monthly subscription.
        • In any train type, there are two kinds of seats:
          • 2nd class - Cheaper, about 80%~90% of the seats are of this class.
          • 1st class - More expensive. Each train has some sections dedicated to 1st class. From the outside, there is a horizontal line painted at the side of the train (next to the windows) to mark the 1st class zone.
      • Arriva operates some train lines further away from Amsterdam. It also operates bus lines in some cities.
    • Amsterdam
      • GVB is the company that operates bus, tram, metro and ferry lines.
        • Travelling on a night bus requires loading GVB Nachtbus Saldo on your OV-chipkaart, or buying a special ticket.
        • Ferries are used to cross the IJ Canal.
        • Ferries can be used for-free if you are on foot or on a bicycle.
        • Some ferries (further away from Amsterdam center) can carry automobiles, and these are charged. (Pedestrians and cyclists can still cross for-free.)
      • Utrecht
        • U-OV is the company that operates bus and tram lines.
    • Extra services you certainly want to enable on your card:
      • Reizen op Saldo NS Vol tarief - For use in trains
        • Go to a yellow NS machine in any train station to add this product to your card.
          1. “Laden overige producten” (Dutch) or “Load other products” (English).
          2. “Reizen op Saldo zonder NS-abonnement” (Dutch) or “Pre-Paid Travel” (English).
          3. Choose your class (1st class or 2nd class).
        • Alternatively, you can go to a ticket-selling room and ask a person to load this onto your card.
      • OV-fiets season ticket - To rent bikes at train stations
      • Dal Voordeel - Discount in the train
        • The “Dal Voordeel” subscription offers 40% discount on the train during off-peak hours, and only costs €50 per year (and this subscription price is usually discounted to €29 during certain times of the year, so you may want to wait to buy it later).
        • If you use the trains very often, NS company offers several kinds of subscriptions. You may want to check which subscription is best for you.
        • Any train subscription that offers 40% discount also allows up to 3 other travellers to benefit from the same discount. It is called Samenreiskorting.
  • If you use PayPal, try contacting their support to understand what you should do.
    • Depending on which country you are from, you may be able to change the country of your PayPal account (e.g. from UK to NL). Even though this FAQ entry says it is not possible.
    • In Brazil, the PayPal account is tied to the country, and you cannot transfer your account to another country. You have to use a new e-mail address to register a new account in a new country. (That’s the answer I got from PayPal support in 2016.)
    • Depending on your e-mail provider, you can add “+something” after your username. (e.g. will be delivered to
    • In summary:
      • It is confusing.
      • YMMV.
      • PayPal is not a bank, avoid having balance in PayPal.
  • Transfering money home
    • After moving to a new country, you might need to transfer some money across borders.
    • Many people like Wise (formerly known as TransferWise). You can even get a referral code from someone.
    • Some people have used Paysend as a way to transfer money.
    • Some people have used Revolut.

🏠 After you have found a home

  • Set up utilities for your new home.
    • A company such as ENFED (Real Estate Services) may help you with that. Or you can do it yourself.
    • Choose your ISP (Internet Service Provider) as soon as possible. Do it right after your offer was accepted.
      • It may take up to a month or so until you can get Internet at your home. This is true for most providers. Some of them may be quicker than others.
      • Many providers have bundles of Internet+TV and discounts together with mobile subscriptions. Do your own research.
      • Use Google Translate to translate “compare” from English to Dutch; then do a Google Search for “Internet vergelijken”. Use those websites to find which ISPs are available at your address, their prices and the available bandwidth.
      • Near the Amsterdam center, most providers will use either DSL (through telephone line) or DOCSIS (through coaxial cable). Further away, some providers might use optical fiber.
    • For the utilities, you can choose different providers for gas and electricity. You can compare the best offers, but beware of the small print.
      • There are usually fixed-price contracts (this fixed tariff for the duration of the contract) and flexible contracts (the price can change a couple of times per year). It’s better to sign a fixed contract when the market prices are low. Again, do your own research.
  • Register your new address at the municipality (gemeente).
  • Update your address everywhere.
    • At your employer HR.
    • At your bank account.
    • At your credit card company.
    • At your health care company (some insurers will take your address from gemeente automatically).
    • At your personal OV-chipkaart.
  • Ask your neighbors what are the rules for waste disposal.
    • Different regions have different rules:
      • Some regions have large garbage bins at the sidewalk where you just deposit your household waste at any moment; and a truck comes every few days to pick up all garbage stored in that bin.
      • Some regions don’t have any bins, but have a very specific schedule for the garbage truck, so you have to put your waste at a specific point on the sidewalk during a specific time, and then the truck will come to collect it.
      • Some regions might require you to put your waste in a wheeled plastic bin (kliko), and put that plastic bin outside at specific times, then the truck will collect the waste from that bin.
    • There are special bins for recyclables spread throughout the neighborhoods. You can split your trash into paper, plastic and metal, glass (s split by color), organic, and textile.
    • There are special rules for oversized garbage (such as furniture). Ask around, or search on the web.
    • You should never leave trash outside the bins, or on the sidewalk outside the allowed hours. Otherwise the police will come to your house and give you a fine.
    • See also:
  • If you plan on buying a house or an apartment in the future, start saving money. You will need it.
    • In fact, this is good advice nevertheless: always save money for the moment in the future when you will need it.

On the next year after you move to the Netherlands

  • Taxes
    • Belastingdienst is the tax authority.
    • Taxes are a complicated subject, please look for help with your neighbors and colleagues. Even consider hiring a tax advisor.
  • If you decide you want to buy a house/apartment:
    • Some banks require you to be living in the Netherlands for at least 6 months (or more) before giving you mortgage. Do your own research about which banks will give you mortgate and what is the interest rate.
    • Make sure you have at least 6% of the value of the property in your bank before you start this adventure. Although you will have mortgage of around 100% of the value of the property, there are several costs you have to pay upfront, which add up to around 5% or 6% of the value of the property.
    • Have some extra cash for additional costs you will have as soon as you get the keys:
      • Minor maintenance (e.g. painting)
      • Major maintenance or remodelling (e.g. bathroom)
      • Furniture
      • Moving your stuff to your new home
      • You will probably get the keys for your new home before your rent contract ends, so you may end up paying the final months of rent together with the first months of mortgage
    • Make sure you start looking for a new home at least 6 months before your renting contract expires. It may take a several months until you finally get the keys to your new home.
    • Get insurance(s) for the apartment or house (it’s a precondition to getting a mortgage):
      • House insurance
      • House contents insurance
      • Life insurance
    • Utilities:
      • Get water connected. Water providers differ depending on where you live.
      • Get gas connected, if you have a CV Ketel or Gas cooker.
      • Get power connected. Power providers can be chosen freely.
      • Get Internet.
    • Trash, house taxes and water management taxes are handled automatically as soon as you register with the gemeente.
    • Apply for tax refund. After buying a home, you can get some tax money back.
    • Too confusing? Too many steps? Then hire a mortgage advisor and a makelaar (real estate agent). Yes, you have to pay for them, but they make the entire process much smoother.

A few years after you move to the Netherlands

🚗 Exchanging your foreign driving license for a Dutch license

This is optional, but recommended. Of course, it only applies if you already had a driving license in your country of origin.

Step-by-step guide to exchanging your driving license:

  • Get a certificate of fitness (verklaring van geschiktheid)
    • You can get a paper form at the municipality (gemeente), or you can get it online.
      • Login with DigiD.
      • There is a link to the English version at the top-right of some pages.
    • Select “Personal declaration”
    • Fill in the online form, following the steps on the website.
    • You can pay with iDEAL.
    • You will receive a letter at your address after a few days.
    • If you are applying for categories A, B or BE, you can reuse the same certificate for all of them. So, the website suggests you to check all three categories, even if you are applying for only one of them.
      • “Have you ticked A, B or BE? If so, it is best to tick all categories (A, B and BE), as the same assessment criteria apply. The CBR’s decision about your fitness to drive will then apply to all three categories. This can be useful if you want to exchange a driving licence.”
    • Want to read more?
  • Get all the required documents
  • Go to the municipality (known as Gemeente)
    • Remember to ask what is the process to receive your foreign driving license back. In my case, the person told me to just write on a piece of paper that I want my foreign license back. But this is usually not required.
    • You can pay using your PIN card (i.e. your bank card).
  • Get your Dutch license
    • A few weeks later, you will receive a letter (in both Dutch and English!) saying your Dutch driving license application was approved and the license can be picked up after five working days. Bring back the papers you received in your previous visit to the municipality.
  • Get back your foreign license
    • Weeks/months after the process, you may be able to get back your foreign license from your country’s consulate or embassy in the Netherlands. Contact them to check if your driver’s license can be picked up.
    • This is specially important for countries (outside EU/EFTA) that do not allow driving using the Dutch license.

Applying for a parking permit for your new/future car in Amsterdam

  • Before Buying
  • After Buying
    • The car needs to be registered in your name and you need to have the ascription certificate that you get when it’s transferred to your name. You cannot apply for a permit before that.
    • It’s better to apply in person at the counter rather than online. For online applications the processing time is 10 working days. They claim it only takes one day if you apply in person
    • Until you get your permit, you have to find the cheapest option to store your car.

🇧🇷 Information specific for Brazilians

I’m Brazilian, I’m adding some instructions specific for Brazil in this section.

Consulado brasileiro

  • Anteriormente, o consulado brasileiro era localizado em Roterdã. A partir de outubro de 2018, o endereço mudou para a torre A do World Trade Center ao lado da estação Amsterdam Zuid.

Receita Federal - Comunicação e Declaração de saída do país

Previdência Social

  • O Brasil não possui acordo com a Holanda, e portanto não é possível transferir sua contribuição para o INSS para a previdência na Holanda
  • Contribuição para a previdência social vivendo no exterior:
    • De acordo com a Receita Federal, brasileiros residentes no exterior podem continuar contribuindo para a previdência social. Dessa forma é possível se aposentar por tempo de contribuição, por idade e por invalidez, obter auxílio doença e até mesmo salário maternidade
    • Para gerar a GPS (Guia da Previdência Social) mensal online:
      • Acesse
      • Escolha a opção de filiação (para a maioria, “Contribuintes Filiados a partir de 29/11/1999”).
      • Escolha a categoria “Facultativo” e entre com o seu NIS.
      • Digite o mês de competência, o salário de contribuição (o mínimo é o valor do salário mínimo brasileiro).
      • Emita a GPS, pague e guarde-a como recibo.
      • O valor a ser pago é de 20% sobre o valor base de contribuição).
      • PS: Existe uma contribuição menor (simplificada), de 11% sobre o salário base, porém ela não cobre o benefício de aposentadoria por tempo de contribuição.

Eleições e domicílio eleitoral

Other misc. useful tips

  • Fairs/events for expats (might be yet another way to help partners find a job):
    • A website for all government affairs.
    • You have to login through DigiD.
    • You can mark a checkbox so that all messages will be delivered by e-mail instead of post. (Well, you will receive a notification by e-mail.)
  • Online shopping sites (e.g. Amazon-esque sites)
    • - Comparison and price history for several websites. Always start searching here! (mostly for electronics and home appliances)
    • - Dutch version of Amazon. Sells all kinds of stuff, from cameras and TVs to toilet paper and soap. They have an optional subscription to get free shipping and quicker delivery.
    • - You know Amazon.
    • - The site for second-hand items. Good for finding second hand bikes and kids toys or selling your old stuff.
    • - Appliances, electronics. They also have one store in Zuid. Seems to have a very good customer care.
    • - Appliances, electronics. Many stores around the country. Customer service isn’t as good.
  • Grocery stores
    • Too Good To Go - “Save delicious food and fight food waste”
    • Albert Heijn
      • They are everywhere, your typical grocery store where you can find most things.
      • The smaller ones are called “Albert Heijn To Go” and they are slightly more expensive than standard Albert Heijn stores.
      • If it is the first time in the store, ask for the Bonus Card. It’s a loyalty card with a barcode that gives you several discounts. You can also have it on their app. 
    • Aldi
    • Dirk
    • DekaMarkt
    • Jumbo
    • Lidl
    • Plus
    • Vomar Voordeelmarkt
    • Marqt and Ekoplaza - Higher end stores known for selling organic stuff.
    • Asian grocery stores (AKA Tokos, specializes in asian ingredients):
      • De Pijp area:
        • Tjin’s Toko (Eerste van der Helststraat 64, 1072 NZ Amsterdam)
        • Toko Ramee (Ferdinand Bolstraat 74, 1072 LM Amsterdam)
      • China town / Central area:
        • Dun Yong (Stormsteeg 9, 1012 BD Amsterdam)
      • Zuid/Buitenveldert:
        • Shilla (Gelderlandplein - Van Leijenberghlaan 43, 1082 GM Amsterdam)
    • Indian Grocery Stores:
      • Nieuw West:
        • Little India (Johan Huizingalaan 179, 1065 JA Amsterdam)
        • Bikano India Bazaar (Johan Huizingalaan 190, 1065 JJ Amsterdam)
      • Oost:
        • Authentic India (Eerste Van Swindenstraat 16, 1093 GD Amsterdam)
    • Italian Grocery Stores:
      • West:
        • Appetito - Novitalia (Nieuwe Hemweg 4H, 1013 BG Amsterdam) - only open to the general public on saturdays
  • DIY and home improvement
  • Other stores
    • HEMA - Sells a bunch of random things from kitchen, homeware, clothes, to sausages.
    • Blokker - Kitchen and homeware.
    • Dille & Kamille - Kitchen and homeware, all kinds of stuff for your home (kitchen, bath, garden…).
    • Kruidvat - Candy, cosmetics, cheap clothes. No fresh food.
    • Action - Kitchen and homeware of dubious quality but at amazing prices.
    • Decathlon - Sporting goods retailer. Everything for all kinds of activities.
  • Clothing, shoes, etc.
    • H&M - Everywhere.
    • Primark - Known for cheap prices.
    • vanHaren - Lots of shoes, some of them with good prices.
  • Outlet stores (i.e. cheaper prices)
  • If you like museums, get a Museumkaart. For a relatively low yearly price you can visit many museums in the Netherlands, either for free or with a discount. The card can be ordered online, but you can also buy one in a number of museums and use it immediately. The one you buy at museums is valid only for a month, but can be replaced (online) for the “real” one for free. The one-month one can also be used by tourists, while the full-year card requested online is only for residents.
  • If you are curious to know how deep below sea level we are, you can look at and input your postcode at

Useful smartphone apps

Mobile phone, SIM card

There are several mobile operators in the Netherlands. Comparing them all and choosing the best one can be overwhelming. You can find lots of information at If you want to travel, all mobile operators have “free roaming” inside EU

It is also possible to keep your mobile phone number when changing operators.

Originally this guide had some comparison between the operators and their plans, but this kind of comparison gets obsolete very quickly. Thus, the guide posted here doesn’t have any. Please do your own research, the list below is not an endorsement:

Final words

This was a huge guide, it took quite a lot of time to write (and to adapt to this blog). Still, hundreds of my colleagues enjoyed that guide, so I decided to adapt it and publish it here, 6 years later.

Thanks to all the colleagues that gave suggestions to this guide. I’m omitting their names because I lost track, and for privacy reasons.