How to register in the city hall in The Netherlands

Exciting! If you are reading this, you’re probably moving to The Netherlands and starting a new adventure maybe studying, or working in this open and international country. Whatever it is, it sure will be a great experience and you will enjoy the diversity of The Netherlands and its people.

But beware, there’s some paperwork you need to do before you get comfortable. Actually this only applies if you are staying in the country for more than 4 months.

*Note: the following information applies for all EU citizens and it’s mostly similar for all other european citizens. If you come from a different continent, please check in the website of the government what the requirements are for you. 

Registration in the city hall or “gemeente”

When you move to a new place, you need to register as a citizen of that place. In the Netherlands, this means you have to make an appointment at the city hall of the city or town where you are moving, to register yourself. You will need a few documents:

  • Original birth certificate in English or Dutch legalised or with apostille. This means, you need to arrange the translation with a professional translator that will include his stamp, of course.
  • Valid passport or ID card
  • Renting contract of the house where you will live

You need to search in the website of the gemeente of your town, to check if they will ask for anything else, since each city may vary. Normally, this documents should be enough, and you can make an appointment online or by phone. You should easily find this in their websites. I would advise you to bring any other documents you may find relevant, just in case. This appointment will take just some minutes, and within 3-4 weeks you should receive a letter at home with your completed registration and the BSN number.

What is the BSN number and why is it so important?

If you are only studying in The Netherlands for a short period, you don’t need to worry much about it. However, if you are working or planning on staying, the BSN number is very important for you. This is the Social security number, and you will need it for your job, for opening your bank account, or arranging your (mandatory)  health insurance, for example.

By registering in the city hall, you automatically get your BSN number. You will receive it in the letter that you get in your address of registration within 3-4 weeks.

What if I can’t wait so long?

It can be that you need to open a bank account, but they ask you for the BSN. I’ve heard all kind of lucky and unlucky stories regarding this, but my experience is that ING is the only bank that would allow you to open an account without a BSN number, although you have to assure them that you will provide it as soon as you have it. At least, for the simple “student” accounts, this should be fine. Otherwise, try to bring all your documents that prove that you have a job here, renting a house, or studying in a Dutch university and this may help your chosen bank convince them that your BSN number is on its way.

What if I don’t have an address?

You didn’t find a room yet? This is not uncommon, so there’s a solution for you to still be legally registered. (you can also check this post about how to find a room in The Netherlands) Or if you don’t have a renting contract because you are living with a relative. Since every city hall works differently and there are different solutions to different problems, the best you can do is call your city hall and explain your situation and why you can’t register in a specific address.

From my experience:

  • If you are living with someone who rents the house, but you aren’t paying it (or not involved in the contract even if you are sharing costs), you will most likely get a document that you, the renter, and the landlord have to sign. If this goes well, problem solved.
  • If your landlord isn’t willing to sign this document, like it was in my case, but you are living in the house with the renter, the city hall will arrange an appointment with you, at your address, and two people will come to check that you actually live there. It felt quite awkward to me, but this solved the problem pretty quickly.

I’ve had friends stressing out quite a bit about all this. I know it can be a hassle to do paperwork, especially if something comes only in Dutch. But don’t worry, most of the times you will find documents translated into English and employees in the city hall will speak English. Soon you will find yourself comfortably enjoying life in The Netherlands, with everything arranged.

And don’t forget, if you have an income in The Netherlands, you need to arrange a health insurance!