Before moving to the Netherlands, there were many things I had to do to prepare. I researched the requirements for relocating, and I spoke with other expats about their experiences, and what I should expect. Then, I gathered all my important documents and made all the necessary appointments pre-departure. I’d been warned that the process could be somewhat difficult and that there could be a fair amount of miscommunication about the requirements. The first appointment I made was with the gemeente. The gemeente is the town/city/village municipality that you must register with before you can officially reside in the Netherlands.
After registering in the Netherlands (NL) with your gemeente, then you must schedule an appointment with IND, the Immigration and Naturalization Service. After that, if you’re granted the right to stay, you receive a burgerservicenummer, also, know as a BSN (like an SSN). Much like your SSN, you need your BSN for most major things in the NL (lots of abbreviations, huh?). With your BSN, you can open a bank account, apply for jobs, apply for apartments, and so forth.
Today I had my appointment with the gemeente. As previously warned, it was indeed paperwork-filled confusion and chaos. We spent nearly 15 minutes explaining to the woman at the help desk that I did not need a visa to be in the country because I am an American citizen, and US citizens (along with Australian, Canadian, Japanese, and one other that I forget) don’t need visas for visits in NL for up to 3 months. Disregarding this, she kept flipping through my passport looking for a visa that wasn’t there. She repeatedly told us we were wrong, although we were quite confident that we were correct. We checked with IND, and the Dutch consulate to make sure we did everything the right way. We’d even spoken with this gemeente about how we should proceed before our appointment. Despite this, she again told us that our information was incorrect, but she would double check with her colleague. She walked away as I twiddled my thumbs, somewhat checked out of the process. At this point, it seemed my appointment was useless, and we would leave without registering. Our gemeente official told us we needed to go to IND first; however, we knew they would not see us until I was registered with the municipality. Sigh…
A few minutes later, Ms. Dutch Bureaucrat returned to the desk with a big smile and a more helpful attitude. She says cheerily, “I checked with my colleague, and he said that because you’re American, you don’t need a visa and I can register you with the municipality.”
Um, yeah, thanks for listening to us for the past 30 minutes saying exactly what you just announced. So, after copying all of my documents, followed by questions about how Vegas marriages work (it was hilariously random), I am now registered with my municipality. Ah, the joys of red tape and bureaucrats!