This guide covers everything you and your family need to know about moving to the Netherlands, from how to move your household possessions and integrate into Dutch culture to mandatory registrations, driving licences and insurances.
The Netherlands is an attractive country to relocate to. It is ranked 11th on the global quality of life index, with a very good health service, high employment rates, good public safety, and high life satisfaction levels. Many are drawn to the relatively easy-going lifestyle and the cafe culture of cities such as Amsterdam, as well as the affordable Dutch cost of living by western European standards.
This guide to moving to the Netherlands covers all the main areas of consideration for those thinking of relocating there, including:
- Moving your belongings to the Netherlands
- Immigration and registration after you arrive
- Health insurance and social security benefits
- Opening a bank account in the Netherlands
- Paying tax in the Netherlands
- Finding employment in the Netherlands
- Where to live and find accommodation
- Setting up utilities and communications
- Education and study in the Netherlands
- Choosing a language school
- Driving licenses in the Netherlands
- Finding childcare in the Netherlands
- Required insurances in the Netherlands
- Retirement and Dutch pensions
- Dutch culture and social life
If you are moving to the Netherlands from the EU, you won’t have to declare any of your belongings at customs as long as you’re not bringing anything in from the exemptions list. If you’re arriving from outside of the EU, you’ll need to declare your belongings at customs but you can apply for an exemption from import duties if you are moving to the Netherlands to live and work.
The cost of moving to the Netherlands will depend on how you choose to move your belongings, which can be done via air freight or shipping. If you are traveling from mainland Europe, you could also use the train or road freight. Another option is to use a professional relocation company. If you need help relocating, Expatica has a directory of relocation and moving companies in the Netherlands, including Holland Movers, specialized in carefree international moves.
Pets can be brought into the Netherlands but there are strict rules around health and transportation. See our guides to bringing a pet to the Netherlands and keeping pets in the Netherlands for more information.
For more information, see Relocation options for moving to the Netherlands.
EU/EFTA residents (along with their close relatives) can enter the Netherlands without requiring a visa and can remain in the country visa-free, apart from those arriving from Croatia which still faces restrictions on long stays. However, anyone from the EU/EFTA staying for longer than four months will need to register and obtain a citizen service number.
Those from outside the EU/EFTA moving to the Netherlands will need to apply for a long-term entry visa (MVV) to enter the Netherlands and a residence permit to stay in the country for longer than three months. You will need the MVV to enter the Netherlands, and you collect the residence permit from the local immigration service (IND) office within two weeks of arrival.
For more information on all aspects of immigration to the Netherlands, see our complete guide to Dutch visas and permits.
Both health insurance and social security payments are mandatory for all Dutch residents. Most long-term Dutch residents will be eligible for public health insurance. Private health insurance is also available for those who can’t access public health insurance or want to be covered for extra treatments.
Most foreign residents who move to the Netherlands are required to obtain public health insurance within four months of receiving their residence permit. Residents from EU/EFTA countries on short stay visits can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) but will need to switch to Dutch health insurance if staying for longer than a year.
The cost of Dutch health insurance is expensive compared to other European countries, with 6.75 percent of salaries covering basic medical care and 9.65 percent covering long-term nursing and care, but the Dutch healthcare system is of high quality and is rated as the best in Europe.
Social security contributions are mandatory for all, regardless of employment status, although some exceptions do exist. Details of exemptions can be found on the Dutch Social Security (SVB) website. The Dutch social security system is one of the most comprehensive in Europe and covers family benefits, maternity and paternity leave, unemployment benefits, long-term care, sickness leave and disability benefits.
Opening a bank account when you move to the Netherlands is fairly straightforward. Most banks will have English-speaking staff and there are also financial providers who cater specifically for expat clients. To open a Dutch bank account, you will usually need to have valid ID (plus residence permit if applicable), your citizen service number (BSN) and proof of address. You may also be asked for proof of income, such as a payslip.
Most Dutch banks offer online banking. Credit cards and international money transfers are also commonly available although they are quite expensive.
Find out how to open a Dutch bank account.
The Dutch tax system for foreigners is complicated and rates of tax payable vary considerably depending on your personal circumstances. Anyone who lives or works in the Netherlands is classified as a resident taxpayer and will pay tax on their worldwide assets.
If you are a taxpayer in the Netherlands, you will receive a Citizen Service Number (BSN – Burgerservicenummer) and must file an annual self-assessment tax return every April. Most of this is now submitted digitally. Most tax is collected through the Dutch income tax system which includes tax on income from profits, employment and home ownership (between 8.9 percent and 52 percent), income from shareholding (25 percent) and income on savings and investments (30 percent). There are a number of credits, allowances and incentives, including a 30 percent incentive for overseas employees bringing specific skills who can claim a tax-free lump sum to cover relocation costs up to 30 percent of the sum of wages and allowances.
Other taxes in the Netherlands include VAT (21 percent standard rate), property tax (between 0.1 and 0.3 percent of property value), inheritance tax and corporate tax (either 20 or 25 percent depending on profits).
Read our complete guide to Dutch taxes for more information.
There are numerous opportunities for expats who have moved to the Netherlands to find work, particularly skilled employees such as those working in fields of finance, IT or engineering which are in high demand. There is a range of international and multinational companies based in the Netherlands as well as expat-focused recruitment agencies.
EU/EFTA workers can take up a job in the Netherlands without a permit but those from outside the EU/EFTA will need a residence permit and their employer will need to apply for a work permit. Those employed under these conditions will need to inform the Dutch immigration service (IND) if they change job.
There are numerous job websites and recruitment agencies for finding jobs in the Netherlands, as well as jobs advertised in Dutch papers and at job fairs. The standard Dutch working week is 36-40 hours. There is a minimum wage in the Netherlands which varies up until the age of 23, and a range of employment laws to protect Dutch workers. Becoming self-employed and starting a business in the Netherlands is also a popular option among expats.
Unsurprisingly, the capital city Amsterdam is the most popular and highest ranked Dutch city to live, with Utrecht and Amstelveen second and third respectively, and Utrecht closing the gap on Amsterdam according to researchers. If you are moving to the capital, check out our guide on where to live in Amsterdam.
As buying a property can take several months, renting is recommended if you have just moved to the Netherlands or are not planning on staying longer than three years. Around 40 percent of Dutch residents rent their accommodation, although a large proportion of this is social housing. Renting in the private sector can be expensive and the application process isn’t always straightforward. It’s advisable to go through a rental agent to avoid any pitfalls. If you’re looking for short-term accommodation (anything from one-week duration), you can try serviced apartments. Find out all you need to know about renting a property in the Netherlands
There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in the Netherlands, whether resident or non-resident. There are tax benefits for homeowners and mortgage costs are generally cheaper than rental fees, but the transaction costs are expensive – around 6 percent of the purchase price.
If you are in rented accommodation in the Netherlands, it is likely that utility costs (water, electric, gas) and possibly communication costs (landline, internet) will be included in your monthly rental bill. If it is not included, or if you have bought a property, you will need to have these connected; if they are connected, you simply need to have them transferred into your name.
Your water company will depend on what area you are living in. Electricity and gas are both privatized and you can choose from various companies. Regulators ensure that tariffs are fairly priced. See our guide to getting utilities connected in the Netherlands for more information.
Most Dutch homes have phone, TV and internet as part of a package deal. Internet speed in the Netherlands is among the fastest in Europe. You can compare prices and packages at www.prijsvergelijken.nl. We have set up a full guide on connecting television, internet and telephone in the Netherlands as well as a separate guide on Dutch mobile operators and SIM cards.
Schooling is compulsory for children in the Netherlands, consisting of primary school (basisonderwijs) from ages 5-12 and secondary school (voortgezet onderwijs) until the age of 16, plus one or two years until the attainment of a diploma. Although basisonderwijs is only compulsory from the age of five, Dutch children start as soon as they turn four. Free primary and secondary state education is available to everyone. There are also independent private schools (bijzondere) which are attended by around two-thirds of all Dutch pupils.
Each city or town in the Netherlands has its own application procedures. If you have moved to the Netherlands with family, it is advisable to make enquiries quite far in advance so that you can familiarise yourself with the process. Information on schools including details of inspection reports can be found at www.scholenopdekaart.nl.
Dutch education standards are generally high-quality although standards have been found to vary considerably between schools. All school pupils in the Netherlands start learning English by the age of ten. Some schools begin teaching English to pupils at a younger age.
Expats who have moved to the Netherlands can choose to send their children to one of the many international schools, which is an option if you are not staying in the country for a long period or have older children who cannot speak much Dutch. Your financial situation may determine whether this is an option, although some companies reimburse fees as part of a relocation package and this reimbursement could be exempt from taxation.
Special needs schools
There are specialist schools (speciaal onderwijs) to cater for pupils with severe learning problems. If your child has learning difficulties, you can apply to have them taught in one of these schools or enroll them in mainstream education. Since 2014, all schools are required to provide for the needs of all pupils under the ‘All Inclusive Act’. See our guide to special needs services for more information.
Dutch universities offer a range of Bachelors, Masters and PhD programs. International students will need to get any foreign qualifications accredited. University fees vary according to age, nationality and what subject you are studying. Read Expatica’s guides on studying at university in the Netherlands and finding student accommodation for details.
Although the vast majority of Dutch speak English, being able to speak Dutch yourself will help you integrate better. If you wish to brush up on or learn Dutch while in the Netherlands, there is no shortage of Dutch language schools and courses available. Courses range from beginner to advanced and options include online and Skype learning.
Rules around driving in the Netherlands are quite strict. You cannot drive a car registered in another country and you must exchange your foreign driving license for a Dutch one within 185 days of arriving in the country. If you are unable to exchange your license (which applies to most countries outside the EU/EFTA), you will need to take a Dutch driving and theory test.
All cars brought in from abroad must be registered with the RDW (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer) and the registration card must be kept in the car at all times. For more details, read how to import a car into the Netherlands.
If you have moved to the Netherlands with family including young children, you have the following childcare options:
- Kindergarten (kinderdagverblijf or crèche): public daycare for children 0-4 years (usually available 6am-8pm).
- Private daycare: these include international nurseries and pre-school facilities.
- Pre-school/playgroups (peuterspeelzalen): activities and play for 2-4-year-olds. More suitable for part-time needs.
- Employers: some employers will provide daycare facilities.
- After-school care: some establishments provide this for children aged up to 12.
- Personal au pair: you can hire an au pair in the Netherlands, although there are restrictions on what they can do and how many hours they can work.
Parents living or working in the Netherlands are entitled to child benefit for children aged under 18 and a childcare allowance for children under 12. More is explained in our guide to childcare in the Netherlands.
Aside from mandatory health insurance paid by all, those owning or starting a business in the Netherlands need to take out specific insurances. Home insurance and contents insurance are also commonly taken out, as well as life insurance and liability insurance (which is purchased by over 95 percent of the Dutch population). Third-party car insurance is mandatory. More information is available in our guide to insurance in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands currently ranks as the 9th best place to retire according to the Nataxis Global Retirement Index and has the 2nd best pension system in the world according to the Mercer Global Pensions index. This makes moving to the Netherlands an attractive option for expats reaching retirement age.
Retirement age in the Netherlands is 65, although it will rise incrementally to 67 by the year 2022. Anyone who has been living and working in the Netherlands is eligible for a Dutch pension. If you are moving to the Netherlands from the EU, it’s worth bearing in mind that EU/EFTA nationals can add any state pensions earned in other member states towards this. Like many other European countries, the Netherlands has a three-pillar pension system of mandatory state pension, occupational pensions and private pensions. Read about the conditions in Expatica’s guide to the Dutch pension system.
While still offering a good quality of life, the cost of living in the Netherlands is lower than many other western European countries, although Amsterdam is more expensive than other areas. However, among all the things to do in the Dutch capital, there is plenty of free stuff to try. Dutch culture is renowned for being relaxed, liberal and multicultural. The cafe culture and nightlife of Amsterdam are a couple of things the Netherlands is most famous for, but there are numerous other things to do and places to visit in the Netherlands including a fine selection of Dutch museums.
To help foreigners settle in once they have moved to the Netherlands, there are plenty of groups and clubs based around nationality, lifestyle or profession. Alternatively, you can join (or start your own) Meet-up group to find like-minded people. If you want to settle in, learn more and acclimatize yourself to the local customs, you can learn a little more about Dutch culture or read up on interesting facts about the Netherlands. Try sampling Dutch food to get a real flavor of the country.
The Netherlands is a predominantly Christian country and, as with many other European countries, the Dutch Christmas season revolves around family, feasting and some uniquely local traditions. The Dutch Christmas markets are a popular annual feature. Christmas Day, Boxing day and New Year’s Day are national holidays. We have put together a list of public holidays in the Netherlands, plus details of other important days.