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Moving to Amsterdam? Things to know before you move

Starting a new life in Amsterdam? The Dutch capital has a long, rich history, and a thriving food, bar, coffee, and very active ex-pat scene. Also, ex-pats praise Amsterdam for being able to offer a great work-life balance. As someone who lives in Amsterdam, I understand the importance of being informed before making such a big change. That’s why I’ve put together a list of essential things to know before moving to Amsterdam.

Housing in Amsterdam and how to find an apartment in Amsterdam

When it comes to finding housing in Amsterdam, one must be prepared for a bit of a challenge. Amsterdam’s housing market is known for its very high demand and low supply, which means that foreign nationals often end up competing with locals for the scarce amount of available apartments and houses. You’re not alone.

However, one of the best ways to find an apartment in Amsterdam is through Rentsy. This website compares a wide range of properties from different housing providers and brokers, making it easy for you to find a place that fits your budget and preferences. The site updates itself daily when these providers publish new houses.

Be prepared to pay a high deposit, usually at least one month’s rent. Also, it is worth noting that the majority of rental properties in Amsterdam are unfurnished, so you’ll have to buy or rent furniture. Lastly, be aware that the waiting lists for social housing can be quite long, so it is best to have a “Plan B”. This could even mean moving to a nearby city like Almere, Amstelveen, Hoofddorp, Purmerend, or Zaandam.

Some things to Know Before Moving to Amsterdam

  • As a resident of Amsterdam, it is important to remember that you are required to pay annual municipal taxes. These taxes may include, but are not limited to, waste disposal and sewage charges, as well as property and movable space taxes.
  • Everyone who lives or works in the Netherlands is legally obliged to take out standard health insurance.
  • When it comes to parking, it is important to note that the majority of spaces in Amsterdam are not free. Be sure to budget accordingly when planning your visit.
  • When it comes to shopping and banking, it’s essential to keep in mind that stores and businesses have specific hours of operation. Many shops are open from 09:00–18:00 Monday–Saturday and 12:00–17:00 on Sundays, with some supermarkets remaining open until 20:00 or 22:00. Banks and post offices, however, are only open on workdays between 09:00 to 17:00.
  • When dining out, it’s worth noting that service charges are typically included in your bill, so there is no need to leave an extra tip. However, it is still common practice to leave a 5–10% tip as a gesture of appreciation for good service.
  • The cost of living in Amsterdam is higher compared to other cities and towns in The Netherlands.
  • The housing market is tight and rental prices are high
  • Amsterdam can be a touristy city and can be crowded during peak season
  • Amsterdam is a densely populated city and some areas can be quite noisy

What is the cost of living in Amsterdam?

When it comes to planning to move to Amsterdam, it’s important to consider the cost of living. While Amsterdam may not be the most budget-friendly destination, it is still more affordable than cities like London and New York. Here are some key expenses to keep in mind:

  • Basic monthly utilities: €174
  • Monthly internet bills: €43
  • Monthly gym pass: €48
  • A one-way ticket on public transport: €3.20
  • A monthly pass on public transport (tram, bus, and metro): €97.50
  • A meal in an inexpensive restaurant: €17.00

For those on a tight budget, renting a studio, or sharing a house with others may be the best option for accommodation. To save money on transportation, you could opt to use a bicycle instead of public transport. 

According to Numbeo, Amsterdam is ranked as the 38th most expensive city in the world.

Find A Job Before you arrive in Amsterdam

Finding a job before heading to Amsterdam is an important step in your move. The job market in Amsterdam is competitive, especially in certain fields such as tech, marketing, and finance. However, if you are determined and willing to put in the time and effort, you can find a job that is right for you.

I recommend starting your job search at least a few months before you plan to move to Amsterdam. This will give you enough time to network, apply for jobs, and go through the interview process. Utilize online job searches engines such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor to find job openings in Amsterdam that match your skills and qualifications.

Working in Amsterdam? Visas and Work Permits for your relocation

When relocating to Amsterdam for work, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the visa and work permit requirements for the Netherlands. Highly skilled workers or citizens from other EU/EEA countries or Switzerland have the freedom to work and live in Amsterdam without a visa or work permit, however, non-EU citizens will need to obtain a valid work permit before starting their new job.

Be sure to check with your employer and the Dutch immigration authorities for specific requirements and application procedures. Properly obtaining the necessary documentation will ensure a smooth transition to your new job and life in Amsterdam.

Arranging Health Insurance when you relocate to Amsterdam

As a resident or worker in the Netherlands, it’s important to remember that you are legally required to have standard health insurance. This ensures that all individuals are protected against the financial burden of illness and hospital stays.

The standard insurance package, which costs approximately 100 euros per month, offers coverage for visits to primary care physicians, certain medications, dental care for children under 18, nutritional and dietary services, medical aids, and mental health services.

However, it’s important to note that the package does not cover items such as over-the-counter aspirin, certain cosmetic procedures, and treatments for which supplementary insurance has not been purchased, such as a root canal at the dentist. Even if you are from the EU and have health insurance, it’s necessary to register for health insurance in the Netherlands. Failure to do so could result in fines and retroactive billing for the months in which you were uninsured.

How to apply for a Residence Permit in the Netherlands?

When it comes to obtaining a residence permit in the Netherlands, the process can vary based on a few different factors.

If you need both a permit to reside and authorization for temporary stay (MVV), you can apply at a Dutch consulate or embassy in your home country or where you’ve lived for more than three months. If there isn’t a consulate or embassy in that location, you can apply at the nearest one in a nearby country. This type of application is called an admission and residence application (TEV). If you only need a residence permit, you can apply to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) once you move to the Netherlands.

In many situations, you’ll need a sponsor in the Netherlands to apply for your residence permit. This sponsor could be a recognized employer, an educational institution, or a partner you’ll be living with. Your sponsor will need to submit an admission and residence application (TEV) to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) in the Netherlands.

The IND will then evaluate whether you meet all the requirements for a residence permit. The permit is valid for up to five years. You can file an objection or request a judicial review if your application is denied.

If your residence permit is approved, you must schedule an appointment at a Dutch consulate or embassy within three months to pick up your MVV (if necessary). After arriving in the Netherlands, you’ll need to collect your residence permit from an IND office.

Requirements and Documents You Need to Register in Amsterdam

If you’re planning to live in the Netherlands for more than 4 months, whether it’s your first time or you’re returning from abroad, it’s important to register with the Local town hall where you’ll be living. 

You’ll need to do this within 5 days of arriving, and you’ll likely have to provide various documents like a birth certificate or marriage certificate. Be sure to contact the authorities well in advance to make an appointment, as wait times may be longer than usual. If you’re bringing a partner or children with you, they’ll also need to register in person. 

Once you’ve registered, you’ll be added to the Personal Records Database and be given a citizen service number, which is necessary for healthcare, taxes, and other government interactions. If you’ll be staying in the Netherlands for less than 4 months, you can register at any of the 19 RNI municipalities.

Getting a BSN number in The Netherlands

If you live outside the Netherlands and don’t have a citizen service number (BSN), there are a few ways to obtain one, depending on your situation. You can get this number when you’re registered in the Non-residents Records Database (RNI). If you’re entitled to AOW, you can get a citizen service number via the Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB). If you need a citizen service number for inheritance tax purposes, you can get one via the Tax and Customs Administration. Additionally, you can get a citizen service number for your beneficial partner or child.

To register in the Non-residents Records Database (RNI), you can go in person to one of the 19 municipalities with an RNI desk in the Netherlands. If you want to apply for a Dutch state pension from outside the Netherlands, the SVB will take care of your registration in the RNI, so you don’t have to travel to the Netherlands. 

To obtain a citizen service number for inheritance tax purposes, you or your beneficial partner can submit an application 

Opening a bank account in Amsterdam as an Expat

Opening a bank account is a necessary step in managing your finances in the Netherlands. While you can visit a bank branch in person, most banks offer the ability to open an account electronically. In the Netherlands, payment is typically made with cash or a debit card. Credit card usage is not common at all for Dutch people.

Dutch banks often have packages with certain services and top-up options. You’ll need proof of ID, proof of address, and your citizen service number. If you are from a non-EU country, you will also need your residence permit or registration with the Foreign Police. Digital ‘Neo’ banks like Bunq are growing in popularity and allow customers to open an account without visiting any physical branch. 

Most banks charge an annual fee for an account, with options available for students at a lower cost. Additional costs apply for credit cards with a Dutch bank account.

And there you have it, a comprehensive guide to moving to Amsterdam. From finding the perfect apartment to navigating the unique Dutch housing market, I hope this article has provided you with the information you need to make your move as smooth as possible. 

Remember, be prepared for a bit of competition when it comes to housing, but also remember that Amsterdam is a city full of charm and culture, with a great work-life balance and plenty of opportunities for ex-pats. Don’t forget to budget for taxes, parking, and the higher cost of living, but also take the time to enjoy Amsterdam’s famous canals, parks, and museums. Happy moving!


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