In the search for a better life, many put their bet on the Netherlands. With its beauty, internationally known kindness of the locals, and fairytale-like landscapes, how could they not?
The idea of your Dutch happy ending is understandable, but to truly reach it, you need to inform about the life of expats in Netherlands. To learn more and find the path to your Dutch dream-life read the text beneath!
Is the Netherlands friendly to foreigners
The Dutch take their time to welcome you into their lives, but once they do, they’ll treat you like a family member. They’re friendly and accepting of foreigners, especially in the big cities.
As in most parts of the world, people from the countryside tend to have more close-minded personas. Their anti-immigrant view doesn’t change the fact that 13% of the Dutch population are first-generation immigrants.
Is the Netherlands good for expats
With a population of approximately 17.2 million people, the land of windmills is a very densely populated place to live in. The fact that it’s one of the most crowded places in Europe doesn’t stop many expats from choosing the Netherlands as their destination.
Expats are so welcome that those with residency status can vote in local elections. The Dutch and EU citizens both must be registered in their municipality to put their vote in. As for non-EU citizens, if they want to vote they must live in the Netherlands without interruption for no less than five years.
The bureaucracy is the most challenging part of living in the Netherlands as an expat. To achieve some usually simple tasks, you need to follow numerous guidelines and rules. If to all that hustle we add long waiting times, frustration is inevitable.
How easy is it to expat to the Netherlands
Every year this country, known for its hospitality and open-mindedness, welcomes around 200,000 people from all over the world. If you’re one of those people and want to move to the Netherlands, there are requirements you must fulfill beforehand.
Your application process will be different depending on your nationality:
- If you’re an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen – you’re allowed to stay in the Netherlands visa-free. To stay for longer than four months, you need to register your stay at the local municipal personal database records.
- If you’re a non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen – you need to have a strong reason to want to move to the Netherlands. You’ll have to acquire a temporary residence permit, live there continuously for five years, and then become eligible for permanent residency.
As a non-EU citizen, the “easiest” way for you to move to the Netherlands is by finding a job and applying for a work visa. We didn’t put quotation marks accidentally. If you’re an expat looking for a job, get ready to roll up your sleeves.
The easiest city to find a job in as an expat is Amsterdam. Many international companies and businesses situated in the capital are always looking to hire foreigners. In the Netherlands, as of 2022, demanded jobs are: electrical engineering, health care, IT, finance, hospitality, communicators, and manufacturers.
If you can offer any of demanded skills, you can continue with your job search through:
- The EURES – a network provided by the European Commission which helps foreigners move freely inside EU/EEA territory
- The UWW – an employment service partnered with numerous employment agencies
How to apply for a Dutch work visa
There are a few steps that you should follow when applying for a Dutch work visa:
- Make an appointment with the IND (the Immigration and Naturalization Service) – this applies to temporary resident permits if you want to apply for an MVV (a Dutch long-stay visa), you go through the Dutch embassy in your own country.
- Collect all the required documents (more on that below)
- Apply for the temporary residence permit
- Obtain a work permit – A Dutch employer must apply for the permit on your behalf, so you don’t have to prove that you’re a highly skilled worker.
- Manage your finances – inform yourself of the living costs in the Netherlands and prepare your budget
If your Dutch visa and residence permit application is approved, you can enter the Netherlands. Within the first few days of arrival, you need to register your residence in the Dutch municipality where you plan to live.
You need to register for a health insurance plan as soon as you arrive. The Netherlands is known for its high-standard healthcare system with highly-skilled medical professionals. However, it’s quite expensive, so you need to be able to cover the costs.
As a non-EU expat, you will not be eligible for government health insurance until you apply for a permanent residence permit.
Because of that, you have to obtain private health insurance beforehand to cover your medical costs.
Required documents for a Dutch visa:
- Completely filled and signed the Netherlands visa application form
- Passport pictures – not older than six months
- Your passport or other travel documentation – not older than ten years, with at least two empty visa pages, and it needs to be valid for a minimum of three months starting from the time you leave the Schengen area
- A copy of your passport’s personal details page
- Copies of any previous passports’ personal details pages and any previous visas, along with all entry/exit stamps
- Evidence of legal residence – this is proof that you’re a legal resident in the country from which you’re applying
- Complete Travel itinerary – a travel reservation in your name to the Schengen area and back
- Proof you will return to your country after your visit – an employment contract, a declaration from your employer, a document that proves you or your children (if you are a parent) are attending school in your country or a document that proves you own property in your country
- Netherlands Schengen visa health insurance – issued in your name, valid throughout the entire Schengen area, and covers a minimum of €30,000 of medical costs
- A document from your employer – with information about your job, salary, duration, and purpose of your visit
- Work permit
- Payment fee
- Proof of sufficient financial means – you must prove that you can provide at least €34 per person for each day of their stay in the Netherlands
- Proof of income
Sounds fun and not at all stressful, right?
How much tax do expats pay in the Netherlands
One of the reasons expats choose to work in the Netherlands is the taxation system. It’s a unique one by which foreign citizens are only taxed on the income they obtain there.
Tax rates for foreigners aren’t any different from the ones that apply to Dutch citizens and permanent residents.
As an expat, you have some benefits in the form of a special provision called the 30% tax ruling, under which foreign employees are exempt from paying 30% of their salary taxes. The 30% rule is meant to cover the so-called extraterritorial cost. To qualify for it, you need to meet several conditions:
- You must be recruited from outside the Netherlands (you must not have lived in the country before getting hired)
- You have a valid permit
- You have specific expertise that is difficult or impossible to find in the Dutch labor market.
To take advantage of this ruling, you have to arrange it yourself. Your employer won’t do this automatically for you.
Is the Netherlands cheap to live in
In the 2022 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Amsterdam was ranked the world’s 25th most expensive city for expats out of the 227 cities surveyed.
Because of the high population density, property prices are impacted. Foreigners are only eligible for free-sector apartments, which means you’ll pay the highest rate for the smallest apartment.
But, there are still smaller cities with more affordable prices, and those who love Amsterdam so much they’ll pay without asking the price.
One does not simply stop falling in love with Amsterdam.
This dreamy capital will leave you in awe with its gorgeous canals and bridges. Famous for its interesting areas, such as the Red-Light District, and the laid-back atmosphere that’s intoxicating to both tourists and expats.
Amsterdam is one of the most open-minded cities in the world. This lively, vibrant, and upbeat city provides a safe and inclusive environment for everyone. You’ll be welcomed to this diverse and progressive place pretty soon upon your arrival.
English is widely spoken throughout the city, so you won’t have significant communication difficulties.
The Dutch capital is the most popular place for expats moving to the Netherlands. Not only that, but Amsterdam holds the 7th spot on InterNations’s list of top ten cities for working expats for the previous year.
Let’s start with the good news: there’s no shortage of English-speaking jobs. Of course, learning Dutch can only improve your chances of landing a job in Amsterdam, but speaking their native language is not necessary. This happens due to a large number of jobs in the Netherlands, so the local workforce isn’t enough to satisfy demand.
As the financial and business center of the country, Amsterdam offers many employment opportunities. The Dutch capital is home to quite a few international companies. In 2021, Amsterdam gained 133 new global companies, creating over 4,000 new jobs.
Several globally established international companies have their regional or global headquarters in or near Amsterdam, and they all offer jobs to expats:
- Tesla Motors
- Red Bull
- Go Pro
Available jobs cover a wide range of sectors: tech, financial and fintech, transport and logistics, creative industries, health, law, etc.
Dutch work permits and Dutch residency visas are connected, and in some cases, you’ll need to find work in Amsterdam before applying for any Dutch visa or permit. Conditions depend on your nationality:
- Citizens from European Economic Area (EEA – European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) and Switzerland are free to live and work in the Netherlands
- Non-EU nationals need to apply for a Dutch residence permit or obtain a Dutch work permit before they can start work in the Netherlands
- Highly-skilled migrants in the Netherlands don’t need a Dutch work permit but may need to apply for a Dutch visa to enter or live in the Netherlands
- Family members moving to the Netherlands to join a relative may not need a Dutch work permit if their relatives can work freely in the Netherlands
Amsterdam, in general, is a safe place for living with your family. The best option is to choose more family-friendly districts, such as Amsterdam-Zuid and Westerpark for example.
As the capital of the country, it has many various fun, educational and cultural places for kids to see and spend their free time, like the Science museum Nemo or Artis city-center Zoo.
As for education, Amsterdam has plenty of international public and private schools that are more than happy to welcome expats’ children. And not just that, public schooling is free for all kids until the age of 16, including expats. Dutch language is the most represented in high schools, but don’t worry, if your child is this age when moving, there are many schools with a dual-language curriculum.
Rotterdam has evolved from a fishing village into the second-largest Dutch city and home to one of the biggest ports in the world. It’s the city of arts and modern architecture that departs from the rest of the country.
Rotterdam is cheaper and has more affordable costs of living compared to Amsterdam, but it is extensive and developed enough to make expats choose it for their home and still has exquisite Dutch life.
Rotterdam is considered one of the most diverse cities in the Netherlands, with more than 170 nationalities and many cultures, subcultures, and communities. It’s not surprising that more and more international companies and expats decide to settle down here.
Although most people in the Netherlands speak English, it’s recommendable to take Dutch classes to connect more to the culture and, of course, make more connections. Dutch people are friendly and open, and you’ll have your circle of friends, colleagues, and peers really soon upon your arrival.
There’s a popular saying among Rotterdammers: “Money is earned in Rotterdam, divided in The Hague, and spent in Amsterdam.”
There’s no surprise that the city’s most prominent industries are shipping, logistics, and trade. Other major sectors are energy, chemicals, and business services. Expats can easily find jobs in the retail sector and healthcare and welfare industries.
You’ll have a better chance of finding a job if you can offer specialized skills and speak Dutch.
Did you know that according to the UNICEF ranking of child well-being, the Netherlands is ranked as the 1st, because the kids there are happiest in the world? It is a great opportunity to raise your own children in an environment like this. Here is where self-assured and happy people are made.
Welcome to the third-largest city in the Netherlands and the seat of the Dutch government and the Supreme court. It doesn’t sound compelling, does it? It has a reputation for being wealthy and conservative. Even though Amsterdam often overshadows it, the Hague has its own special charm.
It’s a green city with 990 acres of woodland, 70,000 roadside trees, and 1,120 scenic cycling routes. Aside from plenty of green areas, it has many picturesque historical buildings, attractive shopping streets, and lively nightlife. It’s home to many museums and cultural institutions, internationally known festivals, and Scheveningen, the most beloved beach in the Netherlands.
It’s not a particularly large city, but it’s a political center of Europe and home to several international organizations. Its multicultural atmosphere is obvious outside of the political and judicial world as well.
The fact that around 55% of the residents have an immigrant background proves the attractiveness of this city to expats.
The Hague’s job market is internationalized, interconnected, and a great place to build your career. There are many available jobs across various fields: peace and justice, IT and tech, energy and renewables, security, finance, and legal.
Multiple international organizations, companies, start-ups, and NGOs operate in English and don’t require employees to speak Dutch.
Thanks to its superb educational system, child-friendly neighborhoods, and plenty of outdoor spaces, The Hague is one of the best places in the Netherlands to raise children.
The city has several good international schools and universities. Expat children can attend public schools if there are places available. Public schools are primarily taught in Dutch, which is why that’s an option for younger expat kids since it’s easier for them to overcome a language barrier.
Expat children who don’t speak Dutch can enter a specialized language program in secondary school known as internationale schakelklas. There’s an option for bilingual education in many secondary schools in the Hague, where some lessons are taught in English.
Another option for families with bigger budgets is private and international schools.
Special needs education is a priority in Dutch schools; both public and international schools offer support to students with disabilities.
Welcome to the city with a dual personality. We say this because of the way Utrecht holds itself. It’s a city that retains its medieval history while embracing its growth into a cosmopolitan center for education, business, and culture.
If you are dreaming about real Dutch life while cycling everywhere you need to go, your dream can come true in Utrecht. Known as a World cycling city with highly developed environment awareness. This makes the Utrecht community green and healthy, which is perfect for families.
Being located in Europe’s most competitive region and having such a great University program with various options for non-Dutch speakers makes it perfect for expats. With a reputation as a center of academia, research, and innovation, Utrecht attracts people from all around the globe for studying and working in the education sector, both.
Aside from the education sector, job opportunities exist in other sectors like banking and finance, ICT, engineering, and transport.
Plus, the Utrecht centraal – the biggest train station in the Netherlands, connects all parts of the country and wider. This is ideal for international businesses and for those who want to live in a smaller and cheaper city but still have an opportunity to be everywhere in half an hour or an hour’s ride.
As a university city, Utrech offers a lively atmosphere and upbeat nightlife to students and young expats. Don’t get mistaken; this city has plenty to offer to families as well.
If you’re planning to move here with your family and children, you’ll get access to quality public education. Before your kids go straight into the Dutch education system, they need to spend around 6-18 months at the public Taalschool for Dutch language immersion. This way, your children can be integrated into the public system, and their language skills will dramatically improve.
Getting your kid into an international school, on the other hand, can be a bit more tricky. There is a limited number of available spots, so you should act quickly.
Welcome to the young and vibrant city of Eindhoven. It offers exciting nightlife for its youthful student population. If partying is not your first choice, you can experience Eindhoven by visiting one of its many theaters, museums, and art galleries.
The city is very green. Many parks and bike paths can take you on a lovely circuit through Genneper Park to visit the Genneper Hoeve organic farm. Even on a busy day, it’s easy for you to get on your bike and have a little break in this green oasis. One of the ways to experience the famously known Dutch work-life balance.
Known for its warm, welcoming policy for expats, because the population of Eindhoven is really used to them. Except for great working opportunities, expat also chooses Eindhoven because of its lower living costs than in other bigger cities.
Also, the city has 27.7% of green areas, which makes it the 2nd greenest city in the Netherlands, and that is perfect for kids and families.
Eindhoven is a city with a large expat community, especially the ones who work in high-tech, art and creative industry. Not only does this city have an exceptional reputation in high-tech branche, but it also has a world-class Technical University, this attracts expats and students both.
According to the government, there are around 40,000 skilled professionals of expats in Eindhoven looking for their place under its sky.
If you’re a parent moving to Eindhoven with your kids, you’ll be happy to hear that public schools are of high quality.
Schooling options for children that can’t speak Dutch are limited, as there’s only one English-speaking international school in Eindhoven, but the good news is that kids learn language quicker than adults, and they are easier to adapt.
Know your options
This journey is often hard because people don’t know what to expect, but you can do it differently. Before letting your family and yourself into the expat waters, make sure you’re well informed about the options you have.
Moving to another country is a life-changing experience, so measure twice and cut once when you’re ready, everything will be fine.
When you decide to begin with your Dutch-life, you can find help here about everything you may need. It’s not necessary for you to do it all alone!