How To Move To The Netherlands
The complete guide!

Find A Job

Citizens from European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries (as well as Switzerland) who are moving to the Netherlands are automatically entitled to Dutch work permission, which is essential to secure employment in the country. If you are from any country outside of these areas, it is likely that you will only be hired in exceptional circumstances.

As an EU/EAA national, you are entitled to enter the Netherlands and work freely. You will need to register with the personal records database within five days of your arrival in the country if you intend to stay for more than four months. Upon registering, you will be issued with a Citizen Service Number (BSN), which will enable you to complete essential basic tasks such as opening a Dutch bank account and paying taxes.

Highly-skilled workers are in huge demand in The Netherlands with the country especially keen to fill vacancies for engineers, IT specialists and jobs relating to finance.

To apply for a job in The Netherlands, you will typically be required to send your CV and a covering letter in response to an advertisement. However, Dutch employers approve of a proactive approach so, if there are no vacancies that appeal to you, you could send out some speculative applications to companies that you would like to work for. One of the most popular sites to find vacancies online is EURES (European Employment Services), though this is only suitable if you are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland.

For most jobs, your CV can be written in English, though it may still require some amendments to make it suitable for the Dutch market. Start with your personal details, including your gender, if it is not obvious from your name. Next, list your work experience, including relevant voluntary ventures, and education. Your CV should be short and concise, ideally fitting one side of A4, though absolutely no longer than two A4 pages. Dutch employers value a work-life balance, so it is important to add detail to your section on hobbies and interests to represent a full personality.

Due to both the UK and The Netherlands subscribing to the Bologna Process, any qualifications gained in the UK are directly comparable to the Dutch equivalent. This means that prospective employers should have no trouble recognising them on your CV and quickly understanding your level of education. Being educated to Bachelor’s degree level or above will increase your chances of finding gainful employment.

When you are shortlisted for a job and make it to interview stage, it is usual to be invited to several interviews with different members of staff. If you have yet to relocate, you may be invited to participate in a video or telephone interview instead. Occasionally, employers use assessments to filter candidates. At each stage of the interview process, it is important to dress professionally and arrive punctually; Dutch employers generally regard lateness as disrespectful. For interviews, remember to take details of references from former employees along with you.

If you are in the position to take advantage of them, seasonal jobs can be a great way to travel the country, experiencing different cities whist simultaneously giving your CV a boost and earning you some cash. The Netherlands has a plethora of summer jobs in its tourism industry, particularly, as well as offering opportunities in bars and restaurants; even childcare, to the right applicants. Temporary jobs are also popular in The Netherlands and can be found via websites such as Adecco.nl.

You may choose to consider volunteering if you are unsure of the nature of work you would like to do, though this is not always a viable option financially. Voluntary work can provide valuable experience if you are struggling to fulfil the work experience section of your CV.

Another effective way of bypassing some of the barriers to finding work is by networking. Many jobs can be found through social media and personal contacts in The Netherlands, particularly for those who seek to connect with likeminded expats on platforms such as LinkedIn.

Unlike many other European countries, there are fewer opportunities to teach English as a foreign language in the Netherlands as Dutch nationals are generally taught English in school from an early age so overall fluency is already high.

Conversely, this is good news if you have limited or even no knowledge of Dutch; as English is the country’s business language, this means that there are plenty of employment opportunities for native English speakers.

However, it is fair to say that a working knowledge of Dutch will increase your chances both of initially securing employment and of being promoted. For jobs where networking is required, proficiency in the language is essential.

Minimum wage in the Netherlands is reviewed twice a year and currently set at €1,615 per month for individuals over the age of 23. For those younger than 23, the figure varies. Dutch employees generally clock between 36 and 40 hours a week and many businesses endeavour to finish work within these hours to eradicate the need for overtime so that individuals can enjoy a higher quality of life outside the workplace.

 

Apply For A Visa/Permit

Expats working in the Netherlands must meet a number of requirements, which vary depending on the individual’s country of origin.

EU citizens do not need a permit, thanks to the Schengan agreement. Every non-EU citizen who wants to work in the Netherlands must obtain a valid work permit – this is usually requested by their employer. There are no general work permits in the Netherland, instead each permit is only valid for the single employer who applied for it. If the employee leaves that organisation, their new employer will have to apply for a new permit.

Freedom of Movement in the European Economic Area (EEA)

According to EU legislation, EEA and Swiss nationals are able to work in the Netherlands without an employment permit because citizens of these nations have the right to freedom of movement across the EEA. This is with the exception of Croatian nationals, who until 2020 must have an employment permit before they can secure work.

Combined Residence and Employment Permit (GVVA)
On the 1st April 2014, the Dutch government introduced a policy that meant that foreign nationals from outside the EEA and Switzerland must apply for a combined residence and employment permit (known as a GVVA) if they want to work in the Netherlands for more than three months.

The GVVA brings together a Dutch residence permit (verblijsvergunning) and a further document that states which employer the permit holder is allowed to work for and, where necessary, under what conditions.

The applicant, or their prospective employer, must apply to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) for the single permit, which will allow them to both live and work in the country. Once the relevant forms have been submitted and the necessary fees have been paid, the IND will liaise with the UWV (the Dutch social security agency) and establish whether the applicant can live and work in the country.

The decision is made based upon the criteria set out in the Aliens Employment Act (Wav). If the application is approved, the GVVA will be issued and the employer will be informed by the IND directly.

There are various conditions that employers must meet before employing someone from outside the EEA. Firstly, the employer must have tried and failed to find a suitable candidate from within an EEA country. The vacancy must also have been open for a minimum of five weeks, unless it is a vacancy deemed difficult to fill by the UWV, in which case it must have been open for at least three months. Finally, the employer must have taken all of the necessary steps to find a worker from within the Netherlands or the EEA – this might include advertising the vacancy in the media as well as online.

Some people are not eligible to apply for a GVVA, including students who want to work alongside their studies, asylum seekers, seasonal workers, Croatian nationals, and those who don’t intend to stay for more than three months.

Highly Skilled Migrant Permit

The kennismigrant, or highly skilled migrant scheme, allows Dutch employers to recruit and retain talented professionals from outside the Netherlands. The scheme enables employers to fast track work permits for highly skilled foreign employees, without needing to prove that there isn’t a suitable Dutch or EU candidate. The partners and children of highly skilled migrants will also be allowed to work in the Netherlands.

To qualify as a highly skilled migrant, applicants must meet the following criteria:
– They must have relatively rare skills and experience
– They should be educated to at least Bachelor level
– They should have a number of years’ worth of relevant work experience
– They must be highly specialised in a specific area
– Not all companies can employ someone on a highly skilled migrant visa, only organisations that are recognised as a sponsor company by the IND.

To apply for a highly skilled migrant visa, the applicant must have received an employment contract or an appointment decision. There are a number of other conditions in place, including:
– A valid passport
– Healthcare insurance in the Netherlands
– No history of having illegally stayed in the country previously
– No history of providing false information or withholding information on previous applications
– There are also minimum monthly income requirements for those applying for this type of visa

EU Blue Card

An EU Blue Card is a residence permit for highly qualified employment of third country nationals within the European Union. To qualify for an EU Blue Card, an applicant must have a valid work contract or binding job offer running for at least one year and must meet the minimum salary requirements.

An EU Blue Card is only beneficial if the applicant is looking to move around the EU and take up another highly skilled position elsewhere after their time in the Netherlands – the Dutch highly skilled migrant permit restricts the holder to jobs in the Netherlands.

Orientation year for highly educated migrants

This type of permit is suitable for non-EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens who have graduated at a Master or PhD level at one of the top 150 universities in the world within the past three years.

Eligible graduates can apply for the regeling hoogopgeliede (higher education ruling) orientation year, which will allow them to spend one year looking for a job in the Netherlands. Once the graduate has found a position, their employer must apply for a highly skilled migrant work permit, but with a lower salary requirement than the standard version of the permit.

Any graduate on this type of permit will have to leave the country if they do not find a job within 12 months.

Search year permit for graduates (Zoekjaar)

A Zoekjaar is suitable for non-EU, EEA, and Swiss students who have graduated from a Dutch university and want to work in the country. The permit enables graduates to look for a job in the Netherlands but, if they don’t find one within twelve months, they must leave.

Students must apply for a search year permit before the end of their studies by contacting the IND.

Work permit for entrepreneurs and the self-employed

This residence for self-employment permit (verblifsvergunning voor arbeid als zelfstandige) is for entrepreneurs coming to the Netherlands to set up their own business.

Applicants must meet the performance requirements for their business or profession and must have all required permits for the running of the company. Their business activity must also offer substantial benefit to the Netherlands (as determined by the relevant ministry in the Dutch government).

The application is assessed on a points system, whereby points are awarded for personal experience, business, and added value for the Netherlands.

 

Get Health Insurance

Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.

When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.

Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.

Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.

Important questions to ask the insurance provider:

1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?

2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?

3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.

4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?

5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.

6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.

7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.

8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?

9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.

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Rent Or Buy Property

 

Renting Property

Renting in The Netherlands only tends to be popular among certain age demographics, as a large percentage of the population go on to become homeowners. Although rental prices are steadily increasing, the rental market does offer plenty of benefits, including a high level of freedom and flexibility. You can also enjoy less financial responsibility when it comes to property maintenance.

An estimated 70% of all rental properties in the Netherlands are social housing. Social housing properties are usually capped or rented at a fixed cost to specific people who fit the criteria. This is tightly regulated, so if you are not eligible, you will have to rent privately – it is unlikely you will be eligible as a foreigner. As the proportion of social housing is very high, private rental properties can be few and far between, particularly in the bigger cities. This means that landlords can command a higher price, as there is more demand than supply.

The majority of rental properties in the Netherlands are offered unfurnished. However, it is worth asking the landlord or agent for a more detailed description of the property’s condition. Unfurnished could mean anything from including fixtures but not soft furnishings, to excluding everything, even carpets!

If you view the property while tenants are living there, make sure you clarify what they will be taking with them. It may be that you can buy furnishings from them, or it may be that they are required to leave the place completely bare.

In the Netherlands, landlords are obliged to carry out any major maintenance needed on the property. Tenants are usually allowed to do small repairs themselves.

Verbal contracts in the country are not necessarily uncommon, especially when renting through an acquaintance, but it is still always a good idea to get your contract details in writing.

If you choose to use a letting agent, you can expect to pay them the equivalent of one month’s rent as commission. Your landlord will no doubt ask for a deposit, which is also typically equivalent to one month’s rent. In addition to this, you will usually need to pay your first month of rent in advance.

Rent in the Netherlands is most often split into two parts – the basic rent and the services charges are listed separately. It’s always worth double checking whether your rent includes or excludes service charges and utility bills.

In most circumstances, in order to finalise your rental contract, you will need proof of identity, proof of residency, and proof of earnings. It’s important to note that you should never hand over cash as a deposit. Instead, use a bank transfer. Property scams are not uncommon in the larger cities, especially Amsterdam.

You can typically find properties to rent in the Netherlands online, through word of mouth, or via a letting agent. Additionally, your HR department at work (if you are working for a Dutch company) may be able to give you helpful advice.

There are various websites and apps that people use in the Netherlands to look for rental properties, including Pararius, Perfect Housing, Stoit, and Kamernet.

The small sector of private rentals in the Netherlands means that the price of rent can be much higher in major cities, due to the high demand and relatively small supply. If, for example, you’re looking at renting an apartment in Amsterdam, you can expect the rent to cost anything between €700 and €1000.

Popular expat areas include Amsterdam, Haarlem and the surrounding areas (for their proximity to Amsterdam), The Hague, Utretch, Randstad, and Rotterdam. Popular yet more suburban areas include Amstelveen, Bloemendaal, Hilversum, Voorschoten and Kralingen.

A one-bedroom apartment in a city centre costs on average around €1,084.28 per month. The price goes down to an estimated €867.98 for an apartment of the same size further outside the city. The collected data also shows that the average cost of a three-bedroom apartment in a city centre is around €1,748.28 a month, falling to approximately €1,318.54 in the more suburban areas.

 

Buying Property

The tax benefits for homeowners typically mean that mortgage costs are often lower than paying rent. That being said, this can vary depending on the area you are looking to buy in, as transaction costs and the high prices that come with living in some of the major cities all need to be considered.

Although property prices have risen sharply in recent years, due in part to a housing shortage in the main cities, mortgage interest rates remain low, with some providers even offering 100% mortgages.

There are little to no restrictions on foreigners when it comes to purchasing property in the Netherlands. As an expat, you will have all the formal rights of a Dutch citizen when it comes to applying for a mortgage. However, if you are new to a job, self-employed, on a low income, or of non-EU nationality, it may be harder to get a loan.

The main prerequisite is that you are resident in the Netherlands and registered with the municipality (gemeente). If you are from a country in the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you do not need a visa to live or work in the Netherlands. You will need to apply for a residence permit and a national security number (a BSN).

You can only apply for permanent residence after living in the Netherlands for a period of five consecutive years. You may find that some banks are not willing to provide non-permanent residents with a high mortgage loan.

The buying procedure is fairly straightforward in the Netherlands. To get an idea of how much different properties cost, you can check the Land Registry (kadaster) of the area you are interested in. The buying process is typically as follows:

Making an offer

Usually a Dutch property agent will only negotiate with one seller at a time, making one offer to the buyers. If you are interested, but not able to make an offer, you may be able to arrange first refusal on the property, giving you a few days in which others cannot make an offer. This gives you time to find out how much you can borrow and to carry out a building survey if necessary. Bear in mind that not all sellers are happy to offer a first refusal option.

Arranging an appraisal and survey

In order to apply for and obtain a mortgage in the Netherlands, you will need an appraisal report (taxatierapport), which is carried out by a valuer (taxateur). In addition, a structural survey, while not mandatory, is always a good idea.

Exchanging contracts

You can negotiate things like the closing date, the price for movable items you are willing to buy, and other conditions for the seller. Important contingency measures to take into account at this stage may include a financing clause (which will allow you to withdraw if you cannot raise the required mortgage), a National Mortgage Guarantee, and a penalty clause should either party decide not to go through with the sale.

Once you have agreed on the terms, a preliminary purchase contract with contingencies (voorlopige koopovereenkomst met ontbindende voorwaarden) will be made. Even though this is ‘preliminary,’ it does mean that you are committed to the purchase. The additional fees for various services are usually calculated based on the value of the property plus VAT (or BTW, as it’s known in the Netherlands). The major upfront cost to consider is the 10% pre-sale deposit (Koopovereenkomst waarborgsom).

Additional costs also include transfer tax (2%), transfer contract (0.3% plus VAT), mortgage arrangement (1% to 1.2 % plus VAT), mortgage contract (0.15% plus VAT), and the valuation (0.2% plus VAT). There are also estate agent fees (Makelaarscourtage) to take into account, which typically amount to around 2% of the purchase price plus VAT, and the costs of notary and land registration fees, which can vary.

Overall, all of the additional fees and costs tend to add up to approximately 5% to 7% of the purchase price, assuming a mortgage is needed. So, as an example, if you are purchasing a property for €200,000, the total cost would be around €212,100.

Looking for property in the Netherlands is a similar process to how it is in many other European countries. Keep an eye on local publications, newspapers, and bulletin boards. You may also spot Te Koop (for sale) signs. Additionally, there are several popular websites that many people in the Netherlands use to find property, such as Funda, Jaap, Pararius, Huislijn, and Zoekallehuizen.

You may wish to use a property agent (makelaar) to assist you in your search. Property agents typically conduct an initial screening of the property, handle negotiations and notary meetings, and arrange the sale contract.

As long as you are a resident in the Netherlands, there is nothing to stop you getting a mortgage. Mortgage interest rates in the Netherlands are essentially at an all-time low. Typically, they are available for up to 90%, but some mortgage lenders are even offering 100% mortgages.

There are many options available in terms of types of mortgage, the most common of which are linear mortgages (lineaire hypotheek) and annuity or repayment mortgages (annuïteiten hypotheek). Your best bet as an expatriate is to get a good mortgage adviser, who can find you the best deal and help you navigate the market.

 

Move Your Belongings

Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.

Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.

If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.

The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).

Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.

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Register For Healthcare

QUICK LINK: Netherlands health insurance

You will either need to register for healthcare within four months of receiving your residency permit or, if you are from an EU nation, within four months of registering yourself at the local city hall. This will get you your basic Dutch health insurance. You will need your Citizen Service Number (burgerservicenummer), which you will need to obtain from your employer or via an application to either the local municipal authority or the Dutch Tax and Customs service. You will also need to take:

• your passport
• proof of residence

A letter from your employer would also be helpful.

It is important that you do all this promptly, because otherwise you will come to the attention of the Centraal Administratie Kantoor, the government organisation which locates people who are uninsured. They will write to you to remind you to sign up, but if you still do not do this, then you could be fined nearly €400. A second fine will follow within six months if you still do not sign up, and after nine months from the original letter, CAK will register you with an insurer and deduct your monthly premiums from your salary.

If you are not applying via your employer, finding a health insurer can be confusing, as many of the insurers’ websites are in Dutch, with no English translations. Listed below are some companies who specialise in expat assistance and who speak English. Your supplementary insurance can be with a different insurer from your basic cover; this dual strategy can lower your costs.

After you have signed up, when you visit the doctor, you will need to take your ID card and your Dutch insurance card with you.

 

Open A Bank Account

As with many countries in Europe, the currency in the Netherlands is the Euro, which is divided into 100 cents. 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 notes are in circulation, as well as 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 cent coins and 1 and 2 Euro coins.

In recent years, the Netherlands has become a major financial and commercial centre and it is home to some of the biggest names in the banking world. The Dutch banking system has one of the highest indices of credit worldwide and the country’s banks have built a reputation for being extremely reliable.

Once you are settled in the Netherlands, it is high likely that you will want to open a Dutch bank account, especially if you intend to work in the country.

As in the majority of European countries, there is a range of banks to choose from in the Netherlands, including the central bank, as well as numerous commercial, mortgage, savings, and other accounts. The biggest and main banks are:

• ABN AMRO
Website: www.abnamro.nl/en
Tel: 0900 – 81 70 or +31 10 – 241 17 23 from outside the Netherlands

• Rabobank
Website: www.rabobank.com/en/
Tel: + 31 (0) 30 216 0000

• ING
Website: www.ing.com
Tel: +31 20 5639111

• SNS Bank
Website: www.snlbank.nl
Tel: 030 – 633 30 00

The majority of banks operate predominantly in Dutch, which can occasionally prove problematic for expats with a limited grasp of the language. ABN AMRO offers the most detailed information in English and also provides special expat packages. They have dedicated international clients services and branches in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Eindhoven. SNS Reaal, which was nationalised in 2013, also offers products aimed specifically at English-speaking expats, as do a number of other financial institutions.

 

As a general rule, banks open between 9:00 – 18:00, Monday to Friday. Some banks open later on Mondays at 10:00 or 13:00. The majority of banks also open on Saturdays, from 10:00 to 13:00 or 14:00.

The major banks tend to offer a similar range of standard financial products, including current accounts (betaalrekening), savings accounts (spaarrakening), overdraft facilities, and bill payments. A number of banks also offer Foreign Currency Accounts (vreemde valuta rekening), which can be particularly useful for expats.

All of the main banks also offer internet and mobile banking facilities. In fact, internet banking is extremely popular in the Netherlands and a number of banks offer accounts that can only be accessed online. These types of accounts usually pay a relatively high rate of interest on credit balances, due to the lower bank overheads.

If you want to open a bank account, you will typically need to make an appointment in advance – this can either be done online or by visiting the bank itself.

When you’re considering opening an account in the Netherlands, you should always shop around for the best deals and the most suitable account for your needs. You should also ask people for their recommendations and advice.

In order to open the account, you will need to provide the following documentation:

• Your BSN number (Burgerservicenummer)
• A form of photo ID (usually a valid passport or ID card)
• Proof of address
• If you come from outside the EU, you will also need to present your Residency Permit and proof of registration with the IND (immigrate – en naturalisatiedienst)

If you are opening anything other than a savings account, you may also be asked to provide evidence of your income, such as an employment contract or a pay slip.

In addition to this, if you are opening a joint account, you will need to present the required documents for both parties named on the account. Those under 18 must be accompanied by at least one legal representative and must bring their own identification.

In most cases, the bank will also run a Bureau Kredietregistratie (BKR) credit check on you before they approve your application to open an account. This is done through the Central Credit Registration Office. Many expats won’t have a credit history in the Netherlands. If this is the case, the bank will register you on the BKR system.

Bank accounts are usually operational from the day they are opened. Once you have opened your bank account, you will be given a local debit card (Betaalpas or PIN pas), which can be used to withdraw cash from ATMs and also to pay retailers using chip and pin. You will usually have to collect the debit card in person from your local branch and present your passport or another approved from of ID.

Once you have collected your debit card, your PIN will be posted out to you separately.

MasterCard and Visa are the most commonly used credit cards in the Netherlands. Traditionally, credit cards haven’t been as commonly used in the Netherlands as they are in other parts of Europe. All major cards are now accepted, but not everywhere – hotels, restaurants, large department stores, and tourist areas shouldn’t be a problem, but some smaller retailers and even supermarkets still don’t accept them. This is because, whenever a payment is made by credit card, the retailer has to pay a percentage of each transaction to the credit card company.

To apply for a credit card, you will usually be expected to have held an open bank account in the country for a reasonable period of time, and also to be able to demonstrate that you have a sufficient income to handle the repayments. Credit cards usually come with an annual fee, a set rate of interest, and sometimes an additional monthly fee.

You should also note that the Dutch do not use standard cheques. If you deposit one into your account, you are likely to be charged around €15 – €20 in fees.

 

Transfer Money

There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.

International Bank Transfers

For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.

Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.

You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.

When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.

As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.

As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.

Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals

Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.

You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.

Currency Brokers

Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.

Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.

A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:

1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.

2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.

3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.

Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.

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Learn The Language

If you are moving to the Netherlands to live or work, you may be wondering whether it is necessary to learn Dutch, or whether you will be able to get by in English. We will answer some of your questions below.

The official language of the Netherlands is of course Dutch, a West Germanic / Low Franconian language which developed as far back as the 400s and was standardised in the 16th century. It is also spoken in some of the Netherlands’ former colonies, in countries such as Suriname. Dutch is not an easy language for native English speakers to learn, since it is gutteral and pronunciation can be difficult. It also has a number of dialect forms across the country.

However, the good news is that the Netherlands is one of the top English-speaking countries in the world. Expats report holding quite long conversations with locals and assuming that they were British, due to their fluency and often accentless pronunciation. Thus you should have few problems in the Netherlands if you are English speaking, with the possible exception of very rural areas. However, if you are working in the Hague, Amsterdam or Maastricht, you will be able to communicate effectively in English. You may find that younger people are more fluent than the older generation.

German, French, Spanish and some other languages brought by Asian expats, such as Indonesian, are also spoken in the Netherlands.

If you intend to take advantage of your stay in the Netherlands and learn Dutch, you may find that your efforts are hampered by the fluency of the Dutch in English and their willingness to use it. One expat whom we consulted reports having to insist that the landlady of his local bar only addressed him in Dutch, in order to provide a slightly more immersive environment for language learning. Locals often do not understand why anyone would want to learn Dutch given that English is in such common currency.

However, if you are interested in the language, perhaps because you intend spending a long time in the country and wish to integrate, then it is worth persevering and perhaps signing up for Dutch language courses. You may need it if you wish to go through the Dutch citizenship process: the Inburgeringsexamen, which tests Dutch to A2 (elementary) level.

You can find some online resources before you arrive, but will also find provision for language training once you are on the ground. You can find private language schools, one-to-one provision, or – if you already speak some Dutch – courses run by the Taal Unie for The Dutch Language Union. This is a Dutch-Flemish organisation set up in 1980 between the Netherlands and Belgium. It promotes and finances projects relating to the Dutch language, literature, education and culture, both in and outside the Dutch-language area.

The organisation runs summer courses, aimed at advanced students of Dutch who wish to spend a short period in the Netherlands or Flanders. Most of the costs for the course are covered by the Dutch Language Union although articipants must pay a course fee of €200 and cover their own travel expenses. The course is held at the University of Ghent and covers the entire Low Countries.

Your local university may also have details of language training. You will be able to find provision at all levels, from beginners to advanced, and for different purposes: from conversational practice to Dutch for business. You may also find local language exchange programmes, for conversation with speakers who want to learn English and can ‘swap’ for Dutch, language cafes and free courses run by some of the city councils. There are a number of Dutch meetup groups, too, which you can locate via the internet.

Some courses can be geared for exam level, for instance:

Staatsexamen NT2: if you have moved to the Netherlands and want to apply for jobs that require a certain linguistic level
Certificaat Nederlands als Vreemde Taal / Inburgeringsexamen: these exams certify Dutch language skills for those living abroad who are applying for a Netherlands residence permit or citizenship

You may be heading for the Netherlands with the intention of teaching English. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages). There is not a huge demand for English in the Netherlands due to the high level of proficiency in the language, but English is taught in schools and at university level, so if you also have a teaching qualification beyond TEFL, you may like to consider this.

It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools.

It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Monthly salaries are quoted in the region of €1,600 – 2,200.

 

Choose A School

Dutch education is of a very high standard: the World Economic Forum ranks it as the third best in the world and it also scores highly on the OECD PISA ratings.

Education in the Netherlands is free of charge (although you may have to pay a small contribution, ouderbijdrage, for specific school projects) and compulsory from the age of five up to the age of 16. The language of instruction is Dutch but increasingly English is used in the classroom. The educational system is split between:

• primary education (basisschool, ages 4 -12, split into 8 grades)
• preparatory vocational secondary education (VMBO) – duration of four years culminating in a diploma (startkwalificatie)
• senior general secondary education (HAVO) – five years
• university preparatory education (VWO) – six years

You can enrol your child for pre-school (voorschool) from the age of two but can access daycare before this. You may be subsidised for pre-school costs or be eligible for a tax rebate. Once your child reaches primary level, ages 4-5 will both be placed in a kleuterklas, equivalent to kindergarten.

Primary schools are split between openbare (funded by an independent organisation) which are secular, and bijzondere schools which may be either religious or established according to specific educational principles, such as Montessori or Waldorf schools. You may be able to enrol your child in these depending on your beliefs, or if you like the school itself – check with them to see if they will accept your child if you are not a member of that faith group, for example.

Schools are obliged to offer English from age 10 but some are starting earlier and these are known as VVTO schools (Early Foreign Language Education).

Around 17 Dutch primary schools are piloting bilingual education, with English being the language of instruction for 30-50% of the school day. The programme is due to run until 2023 and is highly likely to continue past this date.

Similarly, a number of secondary schools are instructing classes in English with about a 50% split. The curriculum remains the Dutch national one: this is not an international curriculum, although bilingual schools may have more of an international focus than monolingual ones, and the school may prefer at least one parent to be fluent in Dutch.

Pupils at primary level will be regularly tested by the pupil monitor system (leerlingvolg-systeem / LVS): this is a ‘light’ form of testing and pupils may not be aware that they are being tested: it is to pick up any learning difficulties and to check the standard of teaching as much as to assess the pupil’s level. At the end of primary school, your child must take a final assessment test which covers the core curriculum (for example, Dutch, maths, geography, history and biology among other subjects): this is the ‘Central end test for primary education’ (Centrale Eindtoets Basisonderwijs) and will determine where your child goes next for their secondary education.

A new national curriculum is also under way, under the aegis of the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science.

The school attendance law (leerplichtwet) is very strict, so make sure that if your child needs to take time off, you discuss this fully with the school. Class sizes may be large: this is one reason for parents opting for the private sector, where classes are smaller.

Secondary education is divided into different types of schools, depending on your child’s abilities and inclination. Students at VMBO schools, for instance, will focus on some practical and some theoretical subjects and can after their four years decide whether to move on to the MBO (middelbaar beroepsonderwijs / middle-level applied education) to attain a diploma, or to the final year of senior general secondary education (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs/HAVO).

University Preparatory Education (Voorbereidend Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs / VWO) is itself divided into:

Atheneum: a general education component plus one of four ‘clusters’ (science and technology, science and health, economics and society, culture and society)
Gymnasium: as above but including Latin, Ancient Greek, and classical studies

The school day normally runs from 8.30-8.45 am to 3.00–3.15 pm. Lessons on Wednesday finish at 12.30 and your child may have after school classes: if not, an organisation called the BSO (buitenschoolse opvang) can take care of them, for a cost, if you are working.

Although the Dutch public educational system is excellent, you may nonetheless wish to consider an international school. In the Netherlands, some of these are subsidised by the government and you will be looking at school fees of around €4,500 – 5,500 per annum.

Fully private, non-subsidized schools will cost more, on average in the region of €15K per annum. Most of these schools follow the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) or the IB (International Baccalaureate) curriculum, but this may vary if you are enroling your child in a particular national school. For instance, The British School In The Netherlands, which is co-educational and teaches students from 3-18, focuses on the English National Curriculum leading to GCSEs and A Level although it also offers the IB. Fees here are higher than the average quoted above and, as with most international schools, you will need to pay a one off enrolment fee and a capitalisation fee for school maintenance.

Check the small print carefully when it comes to school fees, and make sure you are fully informed as to what you will need to pay.

Homeschooling is possible if you have a religious exemption, but difficult otherwise and is not recognised in Dutch law.

 

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