Moving to the Netherlands: Ultimate Guide

Anyone moving to the Netherlands is in for a treat. It‘s not just the Dutch people and their easy going way, who make this such an exceptionally good place to live. Expat workers and immigrants from around the globe have been contributing to the life and culture of the country for years. In fact, Amsterdam records that an incredible 50 per cent of all of their residents were born abroad. If you are considering joining them, you are not alone. 

Moving to the Netherlands can greatly enhance your quality of life, but it’s not an easy transition. From visas to healthcare to housing, there are a lot of boxes to tick before you can call this place home. 

Ready to move to the Netherlands? Here is everything that you need to know.


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Living / Lifestyle

Is the Netherlands a Good Place to Live?

A recent study found that 90 per cent of Dutch people reported themselves to be content with their lives. When surveying residents aged 15 and over, nine out of ten respondents said they were happy with their lives. In fact, the Netherlands has regularly shown up in the top ranking of international happiness reports. The Dutch Review offered a fascinating look at why life in the Netherlands creates such a feeling of contentment and it might inspire you to start packing.

How is the standard of living in the Netherlands?

The people of the Netherlands have a lot to be proud of when it comes to the quality of life in their much-loved Northern European nation. Year after year, they top the international ranks when it comes to their work-life balance; education system; safety ranking; healthcare and overall health; civic engagement; and general ranking of happiness.

A group of cyclists in the historic center of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

What Is It Like to Live in the Netherlands?

Many expectations of Dutch life that you might have will certainly be met. Dutch residents tend to bike everywhere and love to spend their time outdoors. Life is organised and communication is rather straightforward if even bluntly direct at times. Importantly, the country is famous for its enviable work-life balance. While, on average, around 15 per cent of workers log extraordinarily long hours, you will find fewer than one per cent of Dutch workers pulling overtime.

Cost of Living

What Is the Cost of Living in the Netherlands?

While areas like Amsterdam are quite expensive, the Netherlands as a whole is very much in the middle of what you can expect to find in pricing for Europe. In fact, overall, the cost of living is lower than you would find in most other Western European countries. This average, of course, brings together the high cost of Amsterdam with the lower cost of provincial living to find a common ground.

In terms of salaries, the average income is typically a bit lower in the Netherlands that you might find in Germany, France, or the United Kingdom. Wages are, however, higher than you would find in the southern regions of Europe like Portugal, Spain, or Italy.

The biggest areas of concern for ex-pats moving to the Netherlands is housing, particularly in Amsterdam, though to an extent in all of the cities. Generally speaking, you will find housing in Amsterdam to be about the same as Paris, which makes it more expensive than Madrid or Munich but less than in London or New York. If you are moving from Dubai to Amsterdam, you will find rent prices to be about 15 per cent higher while consumer prices are about 25 per cent higher.


Moving to the Netherlands

What Moving Documents are Needed - Moving to the Netherlands?

Used Household Goods and Personal Effects
  • Copy of passport
  • Detailed inventory
  • Bewijs van aanmelding
  • Aangifte – Douane 39 form (diplomats)
  • Copy of the registration at town/city hall where the shipper will live (document must mention the country the shipper is moving from).
  • When client does not have his town/city hall registration yet, client may also submit a proof of deregistration from the country of origin. Please also supply one of the following documents:
    • Copy of a work contract or declaration from the employer confirming the period of working for them abroad and will now be working for them in the Netherlands as from …… (date),
    • Copy of a rental agreement or purchase contract of the residence in the Netherlands. This may not be older than 6 months.
Motor Vehicle
  • Certificate of title / registration
  • Purchase invoice or other proof of ownership
  • Original bill of lading
  • Certificate of residence
  • Copy of foreign insurance certificate or proof of insurance
  • Vaccination record
  • Veterinary health certificate

For more information on restricted and prohibited items and a more in-depth look at documentation please check the International Association of Movers.

Legal / Visas

How to Get a Residency Visa in the Netherlands

When you are looking at your visa options, you will quickly start seeing mention of the MMV permit. The MVV (Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf) provisional residence permit is the very first step to getting any residency permit in the Netherlands.

What is an MVV Visa?

It’s important to note that your MVV is not a residence permit or any kind of official authorization to stay in the country. It is basically just a type of provisional residence permit for you to enter the country with, which distinguishes you as someone migrating to the country rather than visiting as a tourist. 

While it is an extra step, you can apply for the MVV at the same time as you apply with your residence permit. Doing this is indeed so common that it has its own name: the TEV procedure (Entry and Residence Procedure).

Types of Visas for the Netherlands

There are a wide variety of ways to enter and live in the Netherlands long term. Here is a full look at all of your visa options in the Netherlands. 

You can live in the Netherlands under one of the following types of qualifications: 

  • The spouse, partner, or family member of a Dutch or EU citizen/resident
  • An employee of a Dutch company
  • A self-employed person starting a business in the Netherlands
  • An investor in a Dutch company 
  • A highly skilled worker or scientific researcher
  • A student at a Dutch university or other education institution
  • A graduate in an orientation year with a Dutch programme 
  • A member of an exchange or Dutch working holiday programme
  • An au pair
  • A Turkish national (which grants unique rights
  • As a refugee or asylum seeker.

Getting a Work Permit in the Netherlands

If you are moving to the Netherlands from outside of the EU, you will typically be looking at one of two visa options: an employment permit (TWV) and a single permit (GVVA).

The GVVA is a combined work and residence permit. While it is a great option, it is highly difficult to actually get. The biggest obstacle is that it must be proven that there are absolutely no Dutch residents or EU citizens who could take your place. With nearly half a billion citizens of the European Union, this is very hard to prove, or even be reasonably possible.

The employment permit (TWV), however, is a bit easier to come by when you have an employer ready to hire you. Generally speaking, this is something that you can rely on your employer to do for you. They will have the available documents and work with the government. To get an idea of what to expect in advance, you can read through all of the documentation.

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Money & Taxes

How Can I Open a Bank Account in the Netherlands as a Foreigner?

Opening a bank account in the Netherlands is much easier when you have a BSN (Dutch Social Security Number). Without one, you will need to find a bank that accepts non-resident accounts.

The European Union requires that all governments and companies within the European Union accept bank accounts from any member states. This means, for example, that if you have a bank account from Spain, you can use your credit card or banking details to make or receive a payment in Germany. Establishment of the single euro payments area (SEPA) guarantees that all euro bank accounts must be treated equally.

In the Netherlands, you will find that ABN AMRO and Bunq are amongst the best Dutch bank accounts for foreigners. They offer service in English and allow you to use foreign identification to get started.

Moving to the Netherlands - ABN Amro bank - Netherlands

How to open a Dutch bank account: Required Documents

Once you have got set up in the Netherlands, you will find a range of options that make it fairly simple to set up a local bank account. Be aware, however, that some banks require an appointment so check their website or call before you go. When you are ready to set up your account, expect to be asked for the following information: 

  • Your BSN number (Burgerservicenummer)
  • Your ID (passport or national ID — usually a driving license isn’t enough)
  • Proof of address (e.g. utility bill or rental contract)
  • Residency permit

How Do Taxes in the Netherlands Work?

When you are getting started with a new job in the Netherlands, you might be surprised by the rate of income taxes that are required locally. Dutch income tax is famously high, though most residents are more than happy to pay for the quality of services that are given in return for their payments.

The payroll tax (loonheffing) amount as well as your obligations to contribute to the systems of pensions, unemployment insurance, and other benefits, depends on your income and will be withheld from your paycheque. As soon as you get your first payslip, you will see the difference in your gross salary (bruto salaris) and net salary (netto salaris), which is the amount that will go to you after tax is deducted.

As of 2020, the four bracket-system of tax is gone. There is now a simpler system of two brackets in place. Lower-income amounts are taxed at a rate of 37.35% while higher incomes are taxed at a rate of 49.50%. While this is the standard percentage, do be aware that there is a range of exemptions available to reduce your obligation. Before agreeing to a contract, discuss the rate of tax with HR and/or consider getting an estimate from a tax pro so you know the amount you will be taking home each month.

Climate & Weather

What’s the Weather like In the the Netherlands?

Officially, the Netherlands is considered to have a temperate maritime climate. Since it is a relatively small country, you will find that the climate is quite similar throughout. Each of the four seasons has its own notable variations. In winter, you will be looking at temps from 2°C to 6°C in the winter while the summer is around 17°C to 20°C.

Since the climate is relatively mild, the biggest complaints about Dutch weather tend to revolve around the rain. You will find wet days throughout the year so do invest in waterproof gear when you’re moving to the Netherlands. During the spring and summer period from April to September, you will see the driest weeks so that’s a prime time to get out and explore.


Buying & Renting a Home

How Does Renting Work in the Netherlands?

At the moment, throughout the Netherlands, the rate of homeownership is around 40 per cent. In terms of social housing, you will find that about 75 per cent of those properties that are rented are owned by the government. 

When you are moving to the Netherlands and searching for a rental option, you may be surprised to see that the options are extremely sparse. Most are unfurnished and you may even find that the flooring and appliances have been removed. Dutch people tend to own everything in their rental homes, except for physical structure itself. If you are not planning to stay in the Netherland permanently, purchasing things like a washing machine, fridge, and flooring can be an unnecessary expense. For this reason, you will want to be careful in your search and keep your eyes peeled for short-term options that tend to be more expat-friendly.

Moiving to the Netherlands - Newly build contemporary houses in The Netherlands

How to Find a Place to Live in the Netherlands

The vast majority of new ex-pats and immigrants in the Netherlands find their housing online. The following are popular rental websites where you can a range of short and long-term housing options. 

How to Find a Place to Live in the Netherlands

Most rentals are done through an agency. While you might be able to find a private owner renting out their property, most of the time you will find ads placed by agencies. You will indeed have to pay the agency and it may be up to the cost of one month’s rent, though often they are between 300 to 400 euros these days. 

The agencies do, however, provide the service of standardisation. You will pretty much always be asked for the same set of things to qualify for a rental. On top of that, you will be giving your money to a licensed company rather than a random person on the street who happens to own an apartment. 

Here are the documents that you will usually have to provide to be accepted into a rental contract:

  • proof of residency in the NL
  • Passport
  • proof of earnings (i.e. your bank statements or employment contract)
  • citizen service number (BSN)

If you want more information on homes and housing, check out our blog The best places to live in the Netherlands

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How Does Healthcare Work in the Netherlands?

The Dutch government provides residents with access to the WLZ system. This provides Dutch residents with long-term care options, but it is still mandatory to take out additional healthcare insurance (basisverzekering). If you are over the age of 18 and living in the Netherlands, you will be fined if you don’t have this coverage.

From the day you get your BSN, you have exactly four months to organise your health insurance coverage. In the majority of cases, your employer will help you with this so be sure to ask them how it works to get guidance on the best choice for you and your family.

The average Dutch employer pays 82 per cent of the cost of the healthcare insurance premium. For most ex-pats, this means that all you need to do is sign a form agreeing to pay for the other 18 per cent and your healthcare needs will be taken care of.

If you would like to read up more on your own, the Dutch government provides detailed information in English about your options and obligation for healthcare.


How Does Schooling Work in the Netherlands?

In the Netherlands, compulsory education runs from age 5 to age 16. While Dutch is the main language in many schools, it is becoming increasingly common to find English language schools. If you are moving to the Netherlands with your children, you will find a range of options for different languages, especially in the larger cities. You will also find public and private institutions for children of all ages. Generally, you will find that the majority of private options are religious. 

Schooling in the Netherlands begins with eight years of primary education. After this, kids have the choice of attending secondary education for four to six years. The following are the secondary options that kids can choose from:

  • Vmbo: preparatory vocational education- 4 years in duration
  • Havo: general secondary education- 5 years in duration
  • Vwo: university prep education- 6 years in duration
Moving to the Netherlands - Education Netherlands

Final Thoughts

Whether you are moving to the Netherlands as a single immigrant looking for a new home or an ex-pat family who wants to just spend a year or two abroad, you will fall in love with Dutch life. There are few countries that can compete with the high standard of living that you will find in the Netherlands. 

Are you ready to make your daydreams a reality? You need our complete guide to the best places to live in the Netherlands.

Moving to a new country can be a little disconcerting, and left unchecked these feelings can develop into anxiety and stress. Moving to the Netherlands, as we have seen, brings with it both exciting opportunities with some potential challenges. However, embracing the changes and adopting a proactive approach through the advice, tips and links we have provided sets you firmly on course to a successful relocation to the Netherlands.

Why not get things moving by completing our simple form, enabling international movers to start work on your moving quotation, today!