A Real Guide to Dutch Immigration from a Love Expat

I moved to the Netherlands at the end of 2018. Now, I’m not sure if my immigration process was challenging because COVID happened right as it was picking up steam, but it has felt like I have just been falling forward for the last 5 years.

The joke around here is that I’ll do it wrong (every time), then someone will tell me what to do AFTER I pay the fine. It’s funny but it’s frustrating and it can be really scary. I feel a little shook every time I get a letter in a purple envelope.

I got to thinking, “what would have been the best, most helpful thing for me throughout this process?”

It would have been to know exactly what I need, when I’ll need it, and who to talk to if I have questions.

So I made a spreadsheet based on my personal experience. I listed action items, when to take them throughout the process, who to talk to, and some simple tips.

This is geared towards a family visa (ie. a love expat) because that’s my experience. For the most part, we have to go through the naturalization process, so it’s not too different from anyone else looking to naturalize in the long term.

Click Here for the Spreadsheet

I’ve also written a very basic guide to at least help you get started - it certainly would have been helpful for me to have!

The Application Process

First, you will apply for the permit on the IND website.

Truly, the application process was the simplest part for me. It’s a lot of forms and information, but nothing unexpected. The main challenge for me here was that you need a real copy of your birth certificate. You have some time to get it, but be aware. If you can’t get it, you’ll have to go through another process.

Once you’re approved, you’ll get a Burger Service Number (BSN)

Make Sure You Are Registered

Most of the time the application process involves registering the address you will live at. It’s best if you double check on this with your local Gemeente.

Once You Get Here

First things first. Don’t forget to give yourself a little grace. This process and the emotions associated with it are not for the faint of heart. I don’t mean to make it feel daunting or overwhelming, but don’t forget to take time for yourself throughout the coming years.

I’m not naturally a procrastinator but I had no idea of where to start or what the road ahead of me looked like. This process was more emotional than I expected and I ended up procrastinating and having a lot of extra stress.

Here’s the spreadsheet again with the timing that I recommend.

1 - Get a Phone

So many things for becoming Dutch happen through phone apps. Do yourself a favor and get a Dutch phone number - especially if you’re not from Europe.


  • Get a dual sim card phone so you can travel home and just turn on the other sim. Bing Bang. Easy.
  • If you want to use WhatsApp on both sim cards, get WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business.

2 - Get a Bank Account

Get a Dutch Bank Account. Again, it’ll make your life easier right away. Most shops don’t accept regular credit cards here, they accept bank cards.


  • You just need your BSN, proof of address, ID, and residence permit.
  • You can’t just march into the bank (tried it) - make an appointment first.
  • Banking happens online a lot. You’ll need an app on your phone (that’s why the phone number comes first).

3 - Get a DigiD

Once you have a BSN, you can get a DigiD. I highly recommend getting the app and putting it on your phone, right next to your banking app.

The Dutch do everything personal with DigiD. Think about it like your social security number, but on steroids. It’s how the government keeps track of you so everything from healthcare to taxes to ‘inburgering’ is connected to your DigiD account.

Sign into all the websites

There are several Dutch sites that you need. Here are the two I use most often:

  • https://mijn.overheid.nl/ - this is all your general information. This is a great place to check whether you’re registered with your gemeente.

4 - Find Dutch Health Insurance

One thing that got me all wound up was health insurance. It’s different than the US system, so I did not understand the concept. It doesn’t go through your work. You’ve got to sign up for it personally and choose what you want to cover with insurance.


  • I use OHRA and I think they’re great.You can learn more about health insurance and compare providers here.
  • You have to have insurance here, so do this quickly.
  • Find a GP right away because there is a shortage of doctors in the Netherlands and you might end up on a waiting list.
  • GAME CHANGER LESSON: The GP is your first line of defense. You go to them for everything and they’ll refer you to a specialist if it’s necessary. You don’t call specialists yourself.

5 - Start the Immigration Process through DUO

Sign in to Mijn Inburgeren and check what your civic integration requirement is in “Details.”

This is the part everyone knows about so I won’t belabor it. If you have questions about it, you can always check in with me.

To immigrate here, you will most likely have to do these things:

  • Reading Exam
  • Listening Exam
  • Writing Exam
  • Speaking Exam
  • Dutch Culture Exam (KNM)
  • ONA (Dutch Labor Market)

Tips for Dutch Immigration Exams

1 - Get a Language Tutor or Take a Class

Jump into a class. Just take the leap and learn the language. It is hard and it isn’t fun, especially if you’re like me and have never learned another language and/or have a busy life outside of the immigration process.

I recommend that people who are here on a family visa with a Dutch person get a one-on-one tutor because it’s likely that you’re around complicated Dutch language all the time. You understand complicated words but not basic language rules. That makes taking classes more difficult because I found that I had advanced questions without understanding what I was asking. My Dutch tutor was Zoë van de Water. She’s fantastic and I highly recommend her. You can also find more resources for learning Dutch here.

2 - Start Early if You Can

I was overwhelmed by the process and I procrastinated big time. Once I focused on getting it done, a lot of the anticipatory stress went away and I felt more solid in my choice to stay in the Netherlands. If you just step up and get it done, you’ll feel good.

3 - ONA for Business Owners

ONA is pretty easy to get an exemption from if you have a job with a Dutch business. It’s a very simple application process and then you wait. But if you own a Dutch business you will need to pass an entire fiscal year’s worth of information to DUO that is signed off by an administrator.

It isn’t enough to do your own administration, you have to get it done by someone. So I recommend that if you don’t have a firm working on your administration, that you get one right away. (Like, pause and open another tab for it right now) Let them know that you’re in the process and tell them exactly what you need from them because even administrators that work with expats regularly don’t always know what you’ll need. You can find some great options for tax advisors who are used to working with internationals here. My business, Dandelion Branding, works with Orange Tax, Tax is Exciting. Love them!

After the Exams: Naturalization Steps

Once you pass the exams, you will get a diploma. You’re not done.

Your DUO will tell you that you’ve completed the steps, and you have. For DUO. But that isn’t completely true - you don’t automatically become naturalized or step into the next process.

This is where the falling forward stops.

This process is different for different types of visas. Most of them say you have to have been in the Netherlands for five years to start the process of naturalization. But like most everything else here in the Netherlands, there are a lot of exceptions.

With any visa, I recommend calling your Gemeente and asking them for advice about when you can take your next step. They are really helpful here because they have all your data in front of them and they do this everyday.

Author Bio:

Aub is the cofounder and strategist behind Dandelion Branding, a marketing agency dedicated to elevating the impact of social & environmental impact businesses. When she isn't working on a project, you can usually find her nosing about in the garden or giving congratulatory high fives to her houseplants.


Let's connect via Linkedin


Work experience
Sign me up for the Undutchables newsletter and keep me up to date!

Always up to date to find your dream job!

We only need a few personal details, thanks!

Work experience