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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Amsterdam

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  • Salil Padmanabh

    At the InterNations events here in Amsterdam, I've come to know so many friendly expats. Both Indians and expatriates from other countries.

One of the things to know before moving to Amsterdam is that the city is rather small. That contributes to the feeling of coziness, making every corner of the city easily accessible. However, this is also one of the reasons why housing here is so scarce and expensive.

In terms of paperwork, the relocation process to Amsterdam is not that complicated. Nationals of some countries (such as Canada, Australia, the US, and EU member countries) do not even require a visa to move to the Netherlands. However, work and residency permits are often necessary, and no one who wishes to stay here can avoid registering at the local council.

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Amsterdam has plenty to discover for anyone who is thinking of relocating here. Modern, yet rich in history, the city is home to many expats.

Why Move to Amsterdam?

In short, Amsterdam is full of opportunities, for both employment and leisure. The city is proud of its international atmosphere, and you will be able to communicate in English in most places. Compared to other European capitals, the place is relatively small, which makes commuting simple. The city is also well-adapted to cyclists, and biking is one of the most popular ways to get around.

While busy and buzzing with life, Amsterdam is still very green, with plenty of parks and natural oases around. For those thinking of moving to the Dutch capital with kids, know that the city offers a lot of schooling options, including a variety of international schools.

Pros of Moving to Amsterdam

A Variety of Career Opportunities

Several big international corporations have their headquarters located in Amsterdam and hiring expats is not uncommon for them. They might require the knowledge of a few languages when hiring the candidate; however, once you do get hired, you will notice that English is a common business language. For more information, read the working section of this guide.

Rich in Culture

Apart from multiple unique museums and historical sites, Amsterdam offers plenty of concerts and art exhibitions for all tastes. You will also find many cafes and restaurants around and be able to enjoy an impressive nightlife as the city is saturated with bars and nightclubs.

Capital in the Heart of Europe

Amsterdam’s convenient location allows you to travel across Western Europe without much hassle. Various bus and train connections can quickly take you to Brussels, Paris, or Hamburg. The city is also home to the third-largest airport in Europe, which makes far-away destinations easily accessible as well.

Cons of Moving to Amsterdam

It Is Tough to Find Housing in Amsterdam

A big chunk of the city’s housing market provides people with social housing that is mostly unavailable to expats. That narrows down an already slim selection of accommodation possibilities in the area. Moreover, furnished places in Amsterdam are hard to come by, and those that are available are usually very expensive and get snatched up immediately.

Amsterdam Can Be Expensive

Groceries, transportation, and overall day-to-day costs of living in Amsterdam are quite reasonable. However, it is housing prices that drive up expenses. If you do not manage to find a reasonably priced place here, your rental costs will take a big chunk out of your paycheck.

Things to Know Before Moving to Amsterdam

  • Every resident residing in Amsterdam is required to pay annual municipal taxes (all or the combination of waste disposal and sewage charges, and property and movable space taxes).
  • Almost all the parking spaces in Amsterdam are not free.
  • Shops are generally open 09:00­–18:00 Monday­–Saturday and 12:00–17:00 on Sundays, with some supermarkets operating until 20:00 or 22:00. Banks and post offices only open on workdays between 09:00 to 17:00.
  • When it comes to tipping, know that service charges are a part of your bill, so you do not need to leave anything extra. However, it is still common to leave a 5–10% tip.

How Hard Is It to Move to Amsterdam?

The biggest obstacles to move to Amsterdam is finding a job and a place to live. Once you have both of those issues sorted, you should not be facing many problems regarding your move to the Dutch capital. Yes, bureaucracy can still make your life complicated, but having employment and rental contracts will guarantee that those complications will be sorted, eventually.

Relocating to Amsterdam with Your Pet

The rules of bringing a pet to Amsterdam are the same as the general requirements of bringing a pet to the Netherlands. To enter the country, your dog, cat, or ferret need to be

  • at least 15 weeks old;
  • microchipped;
  • vaccinated against rabies.

Your pet will also need proper documentation and a pet passport.

Your dog needs to be registered at the local town hall within two weeks of arriving in the Netherlands. Note that since 2016, Amsterdam does not impose dog tax.

If you wish to bring other animals (rodents, birds, fish, amphibians, or reptiles) you will need a pet’s health certificate signed by a veterinarian.

Visas and Work Permits

If you wish to move to Amsterdam, know that the Netherlands allows citizens of certain countries to immigrate without a visa. However, if your country is not on the list of lucky exceptions, you will need to get all three: a visa and both residency and work permits.

How to Get a Visa for the Netherlands

Whether or not you need a visa to stay and work in the Netherlands depends on your country of origin. If you are from one of the EU/EEA member states, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland, you do not need a visa nor a residence permit. However, you still need to register with the local council if you are staying in the country for more than 90 days.

Expats from Andorra, Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, South Korea, the United States, or Vatican City do not need a visa to move to the Netherlands. All you need to do is to apply for a residence permit once you get to the country.

If you are a national of any other country, you will need to apply for a long-stay visa (also known as an authorization for temporary stay, or Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf, MVV) and a residence permit before you arrive.

You can apply for a long-stay visa at a local Netherlands consulate or embassy if you are a highly skilled worker, entrepreneur, or investor. Applying through a host in the Netherlands is the way to go if you are planning to work under a standard contract, study, or join your family already living in the country.

For full information on how to get a visa, refer to our the Netherlands guide.

How to Get a Residence Permit for the Netherlands

Expats who do not need a visa but still have to take out a residence permit can do so once they arrive in the country by going to Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND). If you do need a visa, you need to obtain a residence permit before entering the country. In that case, you need to submit your documents to your local embassy or consul.

The costs of your application depend on the type of work you are planning on doing in the Netherlands. Usually, the price is around 300 EUR (335 USD). Once the application is submitted, and the payments are made, you will receive your residence permit in the span of 90 days.

Note that all the foreign documents that you need to present, have to be translated into English, Dutch, French, or German and legalized.

How to Get a Work Permit for the Netherlands

Work permits are taken care of by your employer. Once you get a job offer, it is down to the people hiring you to request a work permit on your behalf from the government.

You do not require a work permit if you come to the country as a highly skilled worker or from other EU/EEA countries or Switzerland.

Requirements and Documents You Need to Register in Amsterdam

Registering at the local council is required for everyone who moves to the Netherlands.

You must schedule your appointment at the nearby City Office within five days of your arrival to the country. If you do not do so on time, you will pay a fine. You must be in the Netherlands legally, attend the meeting in person, and have an address with which you can be registered.

A parent or a legal guardian must accompany children under 16 years old and bring proof stating their relation. People aged 16 and older can register on their own.

These are the documents you need to have on you to register in Amsterdam:

  • passport or/and ID card (if you are from one of the EU/EEA member states, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland)
  • original birth certificate
  • rental contract or proof of house purchase
  • marriage or divorce certificate (if applicable)

Additional documents (such as employment contract) may be required as well, depending on your country of origin.

If you have lived in the Netherlands before and you have registered with a local municipality, the process is the same. You need to provide proof of ID and a document stating your place of residence. If your marital status has changed or you have had children while you were away from the Netherlands, you have to bring the documents proving that as well.

If you are staying in the Netherlands for less than four months, the registering process is more straightforward.

You do need to deregister about one month before leaving the country.

Getting Your BSN

When registering at the local council, you will be assigned your citizen service number or burgerservicenummer (BSN). You need this number to be able to work, open a bank account, get health insurance, or visit a doctor.

Living in Amsterdam

People who are wondering what is it like to live in the Dutch capital should know that it is a unique and diverse place with cozy small-town vibes. Away from the tourist areas, there lies the green and ever-surprising Amsterdam. Hip cafes, beautiful parks, and a variety of markets and other shopping spots scattered all over the city will keep you exploring.

The main disadvantage of the small-town feel is the lack of actual space. While that makes commuting easy, it results in a shortage of available housing. How to get a place to live in Amsterdam is the common headache for everyone moving here.

Still on the fence on whether Amsterdam is the place for you? This guide to living in the city will help you decide.

Working in Amsterdam

With plenty of international companies setting up headquarters in Amsterdam, the job market is saturated with excellent opportunities for many. However, do not expect that getting a job here is easy––it will still take some effort. The main reason for this is the language barrier. Even though English is often the business language around, many companies require their candidates to know Dutch and, in some cases, German too in order to be hired.

However, once you do land a job in Amsterdam, you will be able to enjoy the many perks of working here. One of the main advantages is the work-life balance. While the Dutch take their work seriously, they tend to avoid working overtime and are flexible when it comes to working hours.

This great work-life balance, tax allowances, and a thriving entrepreneurial scene make working in Amsterdam very appealing to many expats.

Connect with like-minded expatriates

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