The Quest for a BSN Number

It is a rite of passage for newly arrived expats to undergo the mythical quest for a BSN Number… that is to say, obtaining your BSN (burgerservicenummer) which you need for employment and all other administrative functions in the Netherlands. Like most bureaucratic administration, it can be difficult, unnecessarily complicated and frustrating but we will attempt to put forward enough advice to help you get through this process as quickly and effortlessly as possible. If you plan to live and work in the Netherlands for more than four months, you must register at your local municipality (gemeente) within five days of arrival to receive your or BSN. This includes EU/EEA nationals as well as people in possession of a work permit.

What is it?

The BSN, which replaced the SOFI number, is the unique Dutch identification number that is used in everything from hospital visits to singing up for a bank account. If you want to legally work in the Netherlands, you must have a BSN number. It will facilitate any interaction with the Dutch authorities: starting a job, opening a bank account, filling out your taxes, social security contributions, using the healthcare system, change of address, etc.

How do I obtain my BSN?

To obtain a BSN, you must register with the basisregistratie personen or Municipal Personal Records Database (BRP) of the gemeente (municipal authority) where you reside. For example, if you live or will live in Amsterdam you would go to the Amsterdam gemeente to register with them and declare that you now live in the Netherlands. However, as is often the case with government agencies, there is usually a backlog and the Dutch may try to give you an appointment up to several weeks in the future. Here at Abroad Experience, we can provide assistance to our candidates in obtaining these appointments for the soonest possible dates!

What do I need?

In any case, it is important to go to your municipality registration appointment armed with all of the necessary documentation; this is a huge step in simplifying and accelerating the process. The Expatcenter Amsterdam lists the necessary documentation as follows:

Documents required for registration

  • A valid form of identification (passport or identity card)
  • An original birth certificate in Dutch, English, French or German (or a translation by a sworn translator) and authenticated if required.
  • One of the following residence documents:
    • A rental/tenancy agreement (signed by both parties) or home purchase agreement (if lodging with someone: a copy of the main occupant’s identity document and a declaration confirming that they give permission for the applicant to reside at the address)
    • An employer’s declaration of permitted official postal address (for applicants who have not yet found a permanent address and are therefore registering temporarily at the company address)
    • A declaration ‘place of residence’ (for applicants who will be living in accommodation that has been rented by the employer)

Registration is free of charge and after registering, your BSN number will be sent to you in the post.

Additionally, if you decide to move at some point in the future, you will need to visit the local municipality (gemeente) to inform them about your change of address; this also includes any decisions to permanently leave the Netherlands.

Please note that obtaining a BSN does not automatically allow expats (outside of the EU) the right to work in the Netherlands. Depending on your country of origin, you might need to apply for a work permit. Also, as some municipalities are bigger and busier than others, we recommend that you make an appointment either via the municipality’s own website or by calling them directly. Furthermore, some municipalities may require you to present different documents, so do your own research!

When in doubt, ask for help! Here at Abroad Experience, we are practiced at helping our candidates make and prepare for the necessary appointments in order to smoothly transition into their new life in the Netherlands. And most of all, never forget to take a deep breath. A few minutes of frustration are definitely worth the wonderful experience of living and working in the Netherlands after. Happy quest!

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