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- Pascal Tremblay
With InterNations as my network, I have been able to make many friends learn the ins and outs about living in The Hague.
Relocating to The Hague
At a Glance:
- The Hague is regularly described as the ‟legal capital of the world”, housing numerous international organizations and NGOs.
- If you are planning to stay for longer than three months and come from a country outside the EU or EEA, you will need an MVV visa and a residence permit.
- The EU Blue Card is available for those who earn at least 65,655 EUR and who have completed three or more years of higher education.
- The Hague has an excellent public transportation network, with twelve tram lines and eight bus routes, as well as a subway connection to Rotterdam.
The Hague is not just another Dutch city in Zuid-Holland (the province of South Holland). Instead, moving to The Hague will take you to the political center of the Netherlands and the EU. The city is home to numerous international organizations such as Europol, the International Court of Justice, and the International Criminal Court.
Although Amsterdam is the official capital of the Netherlands, The Hague is still the seat of government and the residence of the Dutch monarch. When moving to The Hague, you will be charmed by the city’s historical atmosphere. It also benefits from excellent transportation connections to other Dutch cities as well as its proximity to the beautiful seaside.
The Rotterdam The Hague Metropolitan Area
On 1 January 2015, the region around The Hague was incorporated into the larger “Rotterdam The Hague Metropolitan Area”, a cooperation between Rotterdam, The Hague, and 21 other municipalities. This metropolitan area is part of the even greater Randstad region, a megalopolis that includes all major cities in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht).
The major reason for the cooperation among Rotterdam, The Hague, and smaller cities, such as Delft, was economic, making the area more attractive for international businesses. The metropolitan region now has about 2.2 million residents from 175 countries, with an expat population of about 80,000 and circa 12,000 international students. It also offers jobs for 1 million people, with a GDP of about 34,500 EUR per inhabitant.
The Hague and Its Districts
When moving to The Hague, you can choose between eight districts in the city. You will also need to know where the eight district offices are — that’s where you take care of various administrative issues.
- Centrum: As the name suggests, this district is home to the Oude Centrum, the historical center of The Hague. The oldest part of the city, with its 17th-century Renaissance buildings, now houses such landmarks as the Binnenhof or the Mauritshuis museum. However, as the city’s second-largest district, Centrum includes another eight neighborhoods, with a wide range from low-income housing to affluent residential areas.
- Escamp: Built largely after World War II, Escamp has grown into The Hague’s most populous district. Two of the city’s largest and most popular recreational areas — Zuiderpark and De Uithof — are located here.
- Haagse Hout: This is one of the greenest districts in The Hague, featuring an urban public forest. Moreover, Haagse Hout is home to some of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, especially Benoordenhout and Mariahoeve en Marlot, with their villas, mansions, and various sports clubs.
- Laak: Less than 10% of the population live in The Hague’s smallest district, where various business developments like De Binckhorst, as well as The Hague University of Applied Sciences, are located.
- Leidschenveen-Ypenburg: Technically the youngest part of the city, this district only became part of The Hague in 2002. It almost feels like a separate town of its own as it is barely connected to the rest of The Hague by a narrow tract of land. This area could be of interest to expats with kids — the British International School has a campus here.
- Loosduinen: This former village still features a charming Dutch windmill as its local landmark. Expat families may be more interested in the fact that it is home to an international school as well as excellent shopping facilities.
- Scheveningen: This green district, particularly the seaside resort with its famous beachfront, is quite the tourist hotspot and has an international feel.
- Segbroek: Another fairly young part of The Hague (annexed in 1988), this district is divided into five neighborhoods. One of them — Vogelwijk — even offers direct access to the North Sea coast.
Facts and Figures
Expats in The Hague have settled down in the Netherlands’ third-largest city, adding to its about 526,000 inhabitants. The Hague has been described as “the legal capital of the world” by former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. This is due to the international organizations and businesses with offices and headquarters here.
All in all, there are up to 170 international organizations in The Hague dealing with judicial or political issues; in 2013, about 14,000 employees were dedicated to the cause of a more just and peaceful world. Many expatriates and foreign employees moving to The Hague find work with one of these organizations, which account for a significant share of the city’s overall employment.
In addition, there are over 300 international businesses which also provide up to 50,000 jobs. For example, the head offices of Shell, Siemens, and Nationale Nederlanden are all located in the city.
When you move to The Hague, you may hear locals and visitors refer to the city as “s-Gravenhage”, which means “The Count’s Woods”. This name goes back to the Counts of Holland, who enjoyed hunting in the area’s vast forests. They then began to settle in the area, which soon was to become The Hague, and built the Binnenhof. Today, the counts’ former residence houses a complex of government buildings, for example the Staten-Generaal (the Dutch parliament) and the office of the Prime Minister.
These days, The Hague is not only the seat of the Dutch government — it is also home to the royal family. It served as the de facto capital of the Netherlands from as early as 1588 until 1806: after the French Revolution, the Netherlands temporarily became a French satellite state in Napoleon’s empire, and Louis Bonaparte decided to make Amsterdam its capital. This title remains with Amsterdam until today. However, after the French left the Netherlands, the government was once again transferred to The Hague.
The Hague: Visas and Permits for Expats
Citizens of the EU, EEA, and Switzerland are exempt from obtaining an entry visa and are free to travel to the Netherlands whenever they wish. However, citizens of certain countries are still required to apply for a visa before traveling to the Schengen area. You can find more information on this topic at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Remember: while they don’t need a visa to enter the country, citizens from the EU, EEA and Switzerland will still need to register locally. You can find out more about this topic below.
For stays exceeding 90 days, expats from most countries outside the EU or EEA need a provisional residence permit (Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf — MVV). Nationals from Australia, Canada, the US, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand do not need the MVV, but can apply for residence within three months after entering the country.
Most third-country nationals, however, need to apply for a combined MVV and their actual residence permit from abroad. You can lodge both applications at the same time: your sponsor, for example your new employer or a family member in the Netherlands, can apply to the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) on your behalf. If you don’t have a sponsor, you need to get in touch with the nearest Dutch Embassy or Consulate and make a personal appointment to start the application process.
Please be aware that you probably have to take the Dutch Civic Integration Exam if you apply for a permanent residence permit. You will have to learn about Dutch society and acquire some basic language skills. However, this does not apply to anyone who just wants a temporary permit.
Once your application has been approved, you will be notified by the Dutch foreign mission. The application process can take up to 90 days. You then need to come to the nearest Dutch mission in person and collect the MVV sticker for your passport to travel to the Netherlands. Upon arrival, you can collect your actual residence permit from the IND.
Whether or not you also need a work permit to take up employment in the Netherlands depends on your specific reason for moving there. Some expats just need a single permit (GVVA) that allows them to live and work in the Netherlands. Others, however, need to apply for a residence permit and a separate work permit (TWV).
Highly Skilled Migrants
If you count as a so-called “highly skilled migrant”, you belong into the first category: the application for your visa and residence permit automatically includes the permission to work in the Netherlands. You are usually considered a highly skilled migrant if you fulfill the following conditions:
- You have an employment contract with a company based in the Netherlands.
- Your new employer has been officially recognized as a visa sponsor by the IND.
- You meet the minimum income requirements: if you are younger than 30, you need a monthly gross income of more than 3, 170 EUR. Applicants aged 30 or above have to earn at least 4,324 ER a month (2017 figure).
- Your salary is also in accordance with the local market conditions.
Your employer will then act as your sponsor and start the application process as described in the previous section.
Other Paid Employment
Most “self-made” expats — those who aren’t sent to the Netherlands on a foreign assignment — probably fall into this category. The following conditions apply:
- Your future employer is officially registered with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce.
- You earn enough to be self-sufficient. Your gross income must be at least as high as that of a 23-year-old employee earning the minimum wage. In 2017, this amounted to 1,565.40 EUR a month (the obligatory 8% holiday allowance excluded).
If you fall into this category, you often need only a single permit (combined work and residence permit). You apply for this document via the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service). The IND will then ask for a labor market assessment from the Dutch Employees Insurance Agency (UWV). The UWV has to decide on whether they will grant the work permit to you. The permit usually states for which employer and under which conditions you may legally work in the Netherlands.
If you can’t apply for a single permit for some reason, your prospective employer has to apply separately for a work permit first. They will contact the UWV on your behalf — the Employees Insurance Agency can then grant or deny the application, based on current conditions on the Dutch labor market.
Other Reasons for Coming to the Netherlands
There are many other kinds of expats working in the Netherlands, too: intra-company transfers, media correspondents, self-employed people, employees of international NPOs, etc. In each case, different conditions may apply. Please see what the Immigration and Naturalization Service has to say about working in the Netherlands.
What if you haven’t moved to the Netherlands for work-related reasons at all? It highly varies if you are already allowed to work in the Netherlands. Check your immigration documents for a stamp saying “Arbeid vrij toegestaan, TWV niet vereist” (“Free to work, no work permit needed”). If you can’t find this, it means that you do require a work permit to start a job in The Hague. Your potential employer would have to apply for it at the UWV.
The EU Blue Card
The EU Blue Card is a new kind of visa which is intended for highly skilled workers with a nationality other than that of EU or EEA countries. It is supposed to make it easier for expatriates and other foreigners to live in the EU.
However, the conditions are quite strict. Applicants must have an employment contract earning them at least 65,655.36 EUR in gross income (2017 figure), and they must have completed higher education courses of at least three years. The foreign degree has to be checked by the IDW (International Credential Evaluation).
The advantage is that it is easier for EU Blue Card holders and their family members to settle in another EU country after the first 18 months. After lawfully residing in the EU on a EU Blue Card for five years (two of them in the Netherlands), expats can opt for a change in their Dutch residence status to apply for a permanent residence permit.
The Blue Card can be issued for a maximum period of four years, but it is possible to renew it if you still have an employment contract with a Dutch company and meet the salary threshold. Further details about criteria for the EU Blue Card can be found here.
Every expat, regardless of their nationality, has to register with their municipal administration for stays of over three months. This includes citizens of EU or EEA countries. The requirements for registration may vary depending on the reason for your stay. In general, you need to submit the following paperwork upon registration:
- a valid ID or passport
- a recently issued birth certificate or marriage certificate (if applicable)
- proof of legitimate residence (e.g. a valid residence permit if you need one)
- proof of address or occupancy (i.e. the sales contract or rental contract of your apartment or house)
Please note: documents issued in a foreign language may have to be officially translated and / or legalized. You can find more information on document legalization via the information platform “The Netherlands and You”.
In The Hague, highly skilled migrants and expats (so-called kennismigranten) often do not need to take care of registration themselves but can have this procedure arranged through their employer. If you have entered the country as a highly skilled migrant, talk to your employer’s HR department to find out if they also provide this service for their international employees.
Transportation in The Hague
Using Public Transportation
The Hague has twelve tram lines and eight bus routes, which connect the different districts of the city and allow for a convenient way of getting around The Hague. The main operator in The Hague is HTM, offering a comprehensive set of routes in and around the city. Line 1 connects The Hague (including its seaside resort, Scheveningen) with Delft, while line 3 or 4 will take you to Zoetermeer. Take a look at the HTM route map to plan your trip or simply figure out which line to use for your commute.
In addition, the RandstadRail offers a direct subway connection to Rotterdam: the Metrolijn E from The Hague’s central train station. It provides a great alternative for those who do not want to or can’t travel by car. For other journeys leading you outside of The Hague, you should look into taking the train. The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) has a comprehensive railway network and offers you the opportunity to travel with one of Europe’s most modern railway companies.
Let’s Call a Cab
The Netherlands implemented a transparent fare structure in 2012 all throughout the country, including The Hague. You can therefore be sure to be charged fair fares for your taxi ride. In The Hague, you can hail a taxi from the street or approach one of the many taxi stands. Alternatively, you can order one via phone.
Taxibelle has a complete list of taxi companies in The Hague: TCDH (Taxicentrale Den Haag) and HTMC are among the major cab companies in the area. RegioTaxi Haaglanden offers low rates and is particularly suitable for less mobile travelers and passengers with disabilities. gCabs, on the other hand, are new green taxi models. Their cars are fully electric, clean, and silent, but it’s only a small fleet mostly used for sightseeing and shopping tours in the city center.
Much like Amsterdam, The Hague is popular among cyclists. As The Hague is not exactly a huge metropolis, you can reach almost every destination by bike in about 20 minutes. Riding from one end of town to the other usually takes 45 minutes at most. In fact, it is often easier and faster to go places in The Hague by bike than by car. All main streets have designated bike paths.
Another alternative mode of transportation, which has been in operation since 2007, are tuk tuks. These small scooter taxis are very common in Asian countries. The Dutch company ‟Tuk Tuk Factory” has now created ‟e-Tuks” which are electrically powered and have been widely sold across Europe, the US and Southeast Asia. In The Hague, tuk tuks are available to book for city tours, special occasions, and parties.
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- Pascal Tremblay
With InterNations as my network, I have been able to make many friends learn the ins and outs about living in The Hague.
- Lastri Sasongko
Making new friends and contacts in the Hague was much easier once I began to attent InterNations events.