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International Students - The Complete Survival Guide

by College Life
Updated on April 22, 2024

Are you an international student in the Netherlands? We have created an international student guide with all the essentials you need to kick-start your college life in the Netherlands!

Introduction to the Guide

College Life's international student guide covers everything international students need to know about while studying in the Netherlands.


This chapter in the international student guide focuses on work in the Netherlands. More specifically, you can find answers to questions such as where to apply for jobs, what requirements you should meet to get a particular job, and more!

Chapter table of contents:

  1. Application process
  2. Work eligibility
  3. Job types
  4. Company Types
  5. Company Roles
  6. Target Cities
  7. Where to Find Work
  8. Health Insurance
  9. Resource List


This chapter of the international student guide is for housing matters. Find out where you can find a place to stay and use all the resources that we listed here.

Chapter table of contents:

  1. Where to Find Housing
  2. Types of Housing
  3. Budget Utilities
  4. Who to Find Housing With
  5. Housing Contracts
  6. Once You're Moving In
  7. Resource List


The chapter deals with everything money-related. Find out how you can manage your finances during your stay in the Netherlands.

Chapter table of contents:

  1. Banking
  2. Allowances 
  3. Student Finance
  4. Taxes
  5. Resource List


The final chapter covers additional essentials such as visas, work permits, and more! 

Chapter table of contents:

  1. Residence Permits
  2. Visas
  3. Sim Only Deals
  4. Legal Aid
  5. Resource List

At the end of every chapter in this international student guide is a Resource Pack section, which lists all resources you will need to take further steps to complete the chapter-specific tasks.

Work in the Netherlands

Whether you're looking to make a few extra bucks on the side or working is the next logical step in your career plan, work in the Netherlands can be hard to come by and get a handle on. College Life's international student guide is here to help you. All the information you need is in one place now, so you can focus on getting that dream job.

Application Process

Depending on the job, the requirements and application process will be more or less like that for a regular full-time job. Here are a few helpful tips to get you through the application process:

  • Create an online presence. Use LinkedIn to showcase your work experience and skills and paint a complete picture of you as a professional. 
  • Clean up your social media. Make all unsavoury content private or inaccessible. While social media checks aren't officially a part of the hiring process, don't leave anything you wouldn't let your mom see in public. 
  • Design your resume. Tailor the structure of your resume to the job you're applying to. Include relevant information and experiences no matter how unimportant this may seem, and stick to using up to two pages.
  • Write your cover letter. Apply the same strategy as the one you use for your resume: be relevant, use industry terms, and tailor it to your audience. Quantify your skills and experiences by transforming vague statements into data-filled claims. And remember to stick to a 3-paragraph structure. 

Work Eligibility

You can work in the Netherlands if you have a single permit. The single permit is a residency permit that allows you to work. If your employment is for less than three months, your employer will have to apply for a work permit for you. Work permits have a maximum length of one year.


  1. You have had a work permit for five consecutive years without moving out of the Netherlands. 
  2. You've been working in another EU country with a residency permit.
  3. Japanese citizens do not need a work permit, only a long-term residency permit. 
  4. Croatian citizens must have a work permit for their first year of employment.

Conditions for work eligibility

  • Insurance: To work in the Netherlands, you need to have Basic Dutch health insurance.
  • Burgerservicenummer (BSN): A BSN is a unique number provided to each citizen of the Netherlands. You need to obtain one the moment you start studying in the Netherlands.
  • Time Restrictions: You can only work if you have this specific work permit and can work for a maximum of 16 hours a week during the year or full-time during June, July, and August. However, if you are a freelancer (your own boss), there is no limit to your working hours.
  • Residence Permit with Authorization: After completing your studies, you need to switch the purpose of your residence permit. This switch can either be to a residence permit for highly skilled migrants or a residence permit to find a job. For more information, visit the IND website.
  • Orientation Year Visa (Zoekjaar): A "zoekjaar" is the one year allowed to students after completing their studies to look for work in the Netherlands or explore other educational opportunities. You can only apply for the zoekjaar once per study. So if you complete multiple studies, you can apply for a zoekjaar after completing each one. Also, you must apply for a zoekjaar within three years of completing a Bachelor's or Master's degree in the Netherlands. You can apply for a Zoekjaar Visa, even if you didn't study in the Netherlands. 
  • Apply for a work permit: You cannot do it yourself. Only the company may apply for a work permit if the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Netherlands) recognises the company employing you as a sponsor.

Job Types

There are various job types requiring different time commitments and responsibilities. 

  • Part-time: 8-24 hours per week; easy to combine with your studies and other potential extracurriculars.
  • Full-time: 36-40 hours of work per week; typically best after completing your studies;  highly recommended to learn Dutch for such a job; networking is the key to widening your connections and bringing you one step closer to your dream job.
  • Internship: can be paid or unpaid; included in your student visa if it's part of your university program. An internship can be part-time or full-time. 
  • Traineeship: can be paid or unpaid; designed to introduce a new employee to a job position; typically reserved for young graduates.
  • Remote: the job types  you are applying for may be on-site or off-site. Companies usually specify this by mentioning whether remote work is possible (or not). 

Company Types

There are different types of companies that will define the kinds of tasks you'll work on and the company culture you'll be a part of. 

  • Startup: small and up-and-coming; around 10-15 employees; likely to be doing several different tasks, and thus learning a lot about how businesses, acquisitions, marketing, and customer relations work; experience required
  • Scale-upfast-growing companies with up to 500 employees; great places to learn and develop yourself as an employee, especially when you're fresh out of university.
  • Corporate: 500 employees and higher; systematic with established hierarchy, positions, clear-cut procedures, and well-defined job roles; teaches a lot about corporate life, professional relationships, and how companies generally operate.

Company Roles

There are a variety of job roles you can do depending on your field of expertise, namely what you have studied in your higher education and what kind of work experience you have. Sometimes, you may feel you don't exactly fit into any available categories or be unsure of what these categories entail, but no worries; most fields are incredibly flexible.

  1. Accounting: monitoring and presenting the financial standings of a company. 
  2. Customer Service: providing service to ensure customer satisfaction.
  3. Data Scientist: analysing data that affects the future success of the company.
  4. Design: web design, clothing design, advertising design, etc.
  5. Education: teaching at an elementary school, high school, or university.
  6. Engineering: different types such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering, computer engineering, aerospace engineering, etc.
  7. Finance: different types, including banking, investments, insurance, financial planning, etc.
  8. Hospitality: event planning, lodging, restaurant management and ownership, hotel management, and bar/club management.
  9. Human Resources (HR): hiring individuals for a company and employer branding management.
  10. Information Technology (IT) and Development: software creation and use of computer systems for storing, retrieving, and sending information.
  11. Legal: the practice of law with roles such as legal analyst, lawyer, mediator, paralegal, etc. 
  12. Logistics: transportation logistics, stock managing, etc.
  13. (Digital) Marketing: advertising, content management, and market analysis of a company.
  14. Public Relations: managing how the public perceives a person or company and protecting its reputation.
  15. Sales: communicating the value of the product of a company to the customers or other companies, analysing sales trends, recognising gaps in potential sales areas, etc.

Where to Find Work

Different job types require their own time commitments and responsibilities; certain ones will be full-time, long-term, etc., and others will not. In addition to job types, your work experience depends on many things, but a key factor is the kind of company in which you decide to work.

If you are looking for a job, you can start with our job board — College Life Work. In addition to this, you can look for work via the following sources:

  • Job aggregators
  • Career fairs
  • Universities
  • Professional network
  • Open days
  • Recruitment agencies
  • Company career pages

Visit our Entry-level Jobs Guide for more details on the  sources above.

Target Cities

The Netherlands may be a relatively small nation, but that doesn't mean its cities aren't unique. Your work opportunities will differ based on which city you decide to live in, so check your job options before arranging your move.

  • Amsterdam
  • Den Haag (The Hague)
  • Eindhoven
  • Groningen
  • Leiden
  • Maastricht
  • Nijmegen
  • Rotterdam
  • Tilburg
  • Utrecht
  • Wageningen 

Health Insurance

Health insurance is one of the first things you must arrange when you decide to study abroad. Legally, individuals in the Netherlands should have health insurance, especially if they plan to work. 

Healthcare Types

There are two types of health insurance that you might need:

  • International Student Insurance: for studying in the Netherlands. 
  • Dutch Standard Healthcare: for working in the Netherlands (including while studying)
    • Basic health insurance (Basisverzekering): the cheapest package (around €100 per month); covers essential medical care such as Doctor's appointments (huisarts)
    • Additional Healthcare (Aanvullende verzekering): coverage for more extensive medical treatments

The Dutch Government provides financial aid for health insurance. For information on Allowances, go to  'Chapter 2: Money' of our international student guide. 

Healthcare policies

There are two different healthcare policies: 

  • Restitution policy (restitutiepolis): Choose your health provider and pay the bill yourself. Send your invoice to your insurance company to get reimbursed.
  • In-kind policy (Natura polis): Your insurer offers insurance providers that can pay your bills directly. If you choose one that's not a part of the contract, you'll have to pay for the treatment upfront and get reimbursed later. This reimbursement is optional and depends on the health insurer.

Main providers

Though there are many healthcare providers in the Netherlands, here is a list of the largest ones:

Travel Insurance

If you are not from the EU/EEA and are planning to visit European universities, you should get International Travel Insurance for the EU/EEA and International Schengen Visa Insurance for visiting Schengen countries. You can get your certificate immediately by applying for it online.

For more details, look through College Life's complete guide, Work in the Netherlands.

Resource List

The resources mentioned in this chapter of the international student guide are the following:

Money Matters in the Netherlands

Though this seems obvious, the first step you should take when fresh out of university is to start saving. Ideally, start putting money aside while studying to create a comfy financial cushion you can fall back on while searching for a job.


First and foremost, understand the options that are available to you. There are plenty of banks to choose from, from well-established traditional ones to mobile-only neo banks. Your choice depends on what's most important to you. 

TIP: If a Dutch bank website (or any website) doesn't have the page in English, right-click with your mouse anywhere on the page, and select 'translate to English.' Your browser will automatically translate the page for you. Just make sure to do it every time you change a page. Note that this function only works in Google Chrome!

Why open a bank account? 

Opening a Dutch bank account offers a range of benefits while you're in the Netherlands. Generally, you should open a Dutch bank account during your stay. 

Reasons to open a Dutch bank account:

  • Working in the Netherlands: If you intend to work or are already working in the Netherlands, you will need a bank account to pay for your health insurance. 
  • Allowances: One of the prerequisites to apply for a benefit is to have a Dutch bank account where you will receive your money. For information on Allowances, check the next chapter
  • Subscriptions: To avail of subscription services, such as a mobile plan subscription. For more information on subscriptions, go through 'Chapter 4: Essentials' of the international student guide. 
  • Cultural Discounts: You should have a Dutch bank account to avail of discounts.

Student bank account (studentenrekening)

Most retail banks offer a student account package for university students. The student package for ABN ABRO is specifically for students aged 18 to 30. The age range varies across different banks, but they are more or less near the same age.

Most student accounts are free of charge, and they consist of essential services such as:

  • Transactions
  • Debit card payments 
  • ATM Cash withdrawals (ABN ABRO is free of charge)
  • Transfers
  • Access to Internet banking and a mobile app

Required documents

To open a bank account, most Dutch banks (but not all) request that you have the following:

  • Valid proof of identity: your passport or ID card
  • Proof of Dutch address: your contract, whether it's an apartment or student housing
  • BSN Number: ABN ABRO and Bunq do not require you to have it, so you can set up an account before you get a BSN.
  • Proof of enrollment at a Dutch educational institution: ABN ABRO does not require this, but ING does.
  • Proof of registration with the Foreign Police (for non-EU/EEA)
  • Resident Permit (for non-EU/EEA)


Cash Money vs Card Payments

While many stores and restaurants in the Netherlands have a no-cash policy, other stores do not accept specific types of credit cards— or no cards at all! Even if you have a debit card, ensure you carry some cash when you shop at local markets. 

What is iDEAL?

One of the most popular and well-known secure online payment methods in the Netherlands is iDEAL. Every Dutch bank offers the option to use iDEAL for online purchases. iDEAL payments cannot be refunded, and you cannot use iDEAL outside the Netherlands. 


Money transfers can be local or international. Whether you wish to send money to your friend to pay them back for your coffee or would like to send or receive money abroad, you should know how to transfer money safely. 

  • Tikkie (Local): Allows you to make payment requests and manage what you owe and what others owe you. You can download the app for free (iOS or Android). The recipient is not required to have the app to send money. 
  • XE (International): The best option for cheaper international money transfers. Transfers are complete within 1-4 business days. You are only charged a small fee and also get a real exchange rate, so you know exactly how much you are paying.


When you apply for a loan, you request money in exchange for gradual repayment. Ensure you establish all loan terms and conditions before exchanging any money. Only take out a loan when it is necessary. If you are struggling with money matters, remember that the Dutch government offers health and insurance benefits to students and graduates that you can be eligible to apply for. 

For more details on banking, refer to College Life's complete guide to Banking in the Netherlands

Allowances in the Netherlands 

Allowances (Toeslagen) are financial aids the Dutch government provides to support low-income households and individuals with basic needs such as rent or healthcare. They help cover the costs by providing an allowance that eases the financial burden.

Types of Allowances

Huurtoeslag: housing allowance

Your eligibility is determined primarily by the cost of your rent, age, and household composition (for example, children or no children). Further, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You are a Dutch national, have a valid residence permit, or are an EU/EEA citizen.
  • You reside in the Netherlands and have registered at the municipality of your home address.
  • You are 18 or older.
  • You rent an independent living space.
  • Your income, assets, and that of your co-residents are not too high.
  • Your rent is not too high.
  • You and the landlord have signed a lease agreement.
  • You can prove rent paid with bank statements.
Zorgtoeslag: healthcare allowance

The healthcare allowance is a benefit destined to alleviate the cost of healthcare in the Netherlands. You can receive a maximum of €104 (individuals) or €199 (partners) per month. The amount you receive depends on your income and whether you have a toeslagpartner

The general conditions are:

  • You are 18 or older.
  • You have Dutch health insurance.
  • Your income is below the (joint) income limit.
  • You are a Dutch national, have a valid residence permit, or are an EU/EEA citizen.
  • Your (joint) capital is below a specific limit.
Kinderopvangtoeslag: childcare allowance

The childcare allowance is an allowance allocated by the Dutch government to contribute to the costs of having a child in daycare.


  • You are working while your child is at a registered daycare. 
  • You are in certified training (including MBO, HBO, university education, and adult education at ROC or Vavo) or on a "path to work."

The amount of allowance you get depends on your income and the number of hours you work.

Kindgebonden budget

The kindgebonden budget covers all the costs for raising a child, like tuition or clothing. You automatically receive the supplementary child allowance if you have children under 18 years. You are only eligible if you meet the other conditions for receiving an allowance in the Netherlands and already receive a child benefit from the Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB), the Dutch social security.

How to apply for allowances

You can apply for all the allowances except for the child budget allowance using your DigiD under My Allowances (Mijn toeslagen) on the Belastingdienst website. You can also apply for allowances with a toeslagpartner (benefit partner registered to the same address as you, with whom you apply for benefits). Try avoiding delays and mistakes that you will have to correct in the future. It will take longer for you to receive the eligible benefits. 

You can apply via our Allowances Page in under 5 minutes! 

Student Finance

Studiefinanciering or student finance supports you with funding your studies and (possibly) other living costs. Most student finance strives to help low-income students.

There are three ways you can finance your studies:

  • Financial aid/student finance (studiefinanciering)
  • Scholarships
  • Self-funding

Other ways of ensuring you can afford your studies include:

Public financial aid

The Dutch government provides public aid to help cover student finance and benefits such as health care and housing allowances. Student finance (studiefinanciering) is a 3-part financial aid package aimed at helping students pay their tuition fees and student life. 

These are:

  1. loan or the tuition fee loan
  2. supplementary grant
  3. student travel product


Aside from student finance, students can apply for a scholarship. A scholarship is a financial aid in the form of an award. Universities or other donors & institutions usually award scholarships based on specific criteria, like having certain grades or possessing certain qualities. Unlike a loan, you do not have to repay scholarships!

How can I get a scholarship?

Scholarships are generally awarded to one or more candidates from a pool of applicants based on a merit system. Depending on the scholarship, it may cover your tuition fees, or you may receive a grant you could spend in any way you desire.

  • The Orange Tulip Scholarship Programme is a scholarship open to non-EU students. This scholarship is for students from Neso countries such as Brazil or Vietnam. The complete list of eligible countries and additional information is on the Study in Holland website.
  • The MENA Scholarship Programme is for students from the Middle East and North Africa. It is a good scholarship if you want to take short courses in the Netherlands in fields like Arts or Economics.
  • The Holland Scholarship is for non-EEA students interested in a Bachelor's or Master's degree in the Netherlands. You can receive a grant of €5,000. Many different academic institutions all over the Netherlands have partnered with the program. 

You can read about non-EU scholarships or head to the Nuffic scholarship search tool for a complete overview of the scholarships in the Netherlands.


If you don't qualify for public aid or scholarships, you could search for a part-time job to combine with your studies or look into private loans as independent funding.

Private aid

This type of financing usually comes from private companies that can offer you a loan in exchange for an interest rate. Contact your university to request more information on partnerships with institutions from your country that provide such loans.

Costs of living

Aside from your tuition fees, be mindful of your other living costs. Living costs can cover rent, food, textbooks, and more. Overall, your living costs could include:

  • Your tuition. You will have to pay the statutory or institutional fee, depending on your nationality.
  • Monthly rent. Depending on location, the housing market in the Netherlands can be quite expensive.
  • Monthly utilities: Read our tips on how to save money on your utilities!
  • Your food: Everyone needs to eat, right? Most likely, you will be shopping weekly for groceries. Some supermarkets are more expensive than others. Visit places like Aldi, Plus, & Dirk. 
  • Textbooks and other school supplies: Textbooks can often be expensive, so buying them second-hand is a smart way to save money. You can usually find textbooks in the Facebook groups of your study program.
  • Going out or eating out: Just because you are on a budget doesn't mean you can't experience student life to the fullest! You can always pre-drink at home with friends or choose cheaper alternatives when eating at restaurants.
  • Transport: Trams, trains, buses, or Ubers, for example. You can also rent electric scooters with an app. 
  • Extras: Clothes might be essential or something you spend extra cash on.

You could consider helping yourself out in the finance department by sticking to a budget. Having a budget simply means you are more aware of how much you are spending and what you spend your money on. You can set a monthly or weekly limit to the amount of money you allow yourself to use, delegating a certain sum to certain things. 

There are plenty of budgeting tips you can make use of. For example, consider creating a budgeting journal or using a mobile app to keep track of your spending! Such apps include:

For more information on student finance, refer to College Life's complete guide to Student Finance


When filing your taxes, you always file them based on your revenue and assets from the previous year. If you are employed and have never paid taxes in the Netherlands earlier, you should get a letter from the Belastingdienst (Tax Office) in February inviting you to file your income tax return. If you're self-employed, you won't get a letter -  nevertheless, you are still obligated to fill in your tax return.

Types of taxes in the Netherlands:

  • Income tax: The most common tax is income tax which is calculated based on the revenue and assets that you declare on your tax return. Filing of tax returns is to be in Dutch. Together with Taxperience, College Life has a service tailored to internationals that helps you fill out your income tax returns. 
  • Payroll tax: There are two different types of salary as an employee: bruto salaris and netto salaris. Bruto salaris is your salary before deducting payroll tax, holiday pay, and pension contributions. The netto salaris is what you receive in your bank account each month. 
  • Wage tax: This is determined solely based on your pay, unlike income tax which considers your whole financial situation.
  • Sales tax (VAT): VAT has to be paid quarterly by all businesses, including freelancersThere are three VAT tariffs in the Netherlands. The belastingdienst will send VAT return forms to you. 
  • Property tax: This tax is on property registered to show you as the owner. It is a fixed percentage of the estimated value, also called the 'WOZ value' of the property. 

Filing a tax return

If you receive income in the Netherlands, filing a tax return is obligatory. Students count as tax residents in the Netherlands as their primary place of residence is here, as well as their source of income. Filing a tax return actually benefits students as textbooks and other study costs are deductible from your taxes. 

You can either file a tax return digitally or via a tax accountant. If you submit it digitally, you'll need a DigiD. A DigiD is a digital means of identification linked to your BSN. You can apply for one using your BSN, and with the BSN, you can access all online government platforms.

For more details on tax, refer to College Life's complete guide to Taxes in the Netherlands

Resource List

The resources mentioned in this part of the international student guide are the following:

Housing in the Netherlands

One of the first and arguably the most critical aspects of student life is finding a place to live. Whether student housing or some house off the private market, there are many options.

Where to Find Housing

It is never too early to start looking for housing. Houses can come and go really quickly, so it would be wise to use several channels and apply for multiple openings simultaneously.

Through your university

You can begin by looking for student housing on campus. However, there is always limited capacity. Typically, campus housing is reserved for first-year students (Bachelor's or Master's) and exchange students. If you are in your second or third year, unfortunately, you can't live in reserved campus housing. But you can still live in unreserved student housing. Different student accommodation is available for every type of student, no matter the year you are in.

Many Dutch universities have partnerships with some of the biggest student housing agencies listed below:

Through housing corporations

If you don't feel like staying on campus or in student housing (or were a little late to the game), private accommodation is an option you could explore. Here's a list of some of the most popular places for students to find housing on the private market:


Nestpick labels itself as the 'Skyscanner for flats', allowing you to filter through thousands of listings across various housing platforms. This search engine helps you to find mid- to long-term accommodation in over 50 cities. 


There are tons of groups dedicated to student housing on Facebook. Most groups focus on a particular city, where students post advertisements for rooms to rent. You can also put yourself out there and tell people you are hunting for a place to stay. Many students also sublet their rooms when they go away for an exchange program. To find groups, simply search 'your city name' + "student housing". For example: "Amsterdam student housing." Always keep an eye out for scams, and never transfer any money before signing a contract and verifying the ownership of the property. You can verify property ownership using the Netherlands' Cadastre, Land Registry, and Mapping Agency.

Types of Housing

Shared vs Private

shared space usually meets most of the following criteria:

  • You may or may not have your own room. The room is usually relatively small.
  • You share facilities like the kitchen, bathroom (toilet and shower), living room, or other common rooms.
  • You share a studio, which means the bedroom and common spaces, are shared.

private space meets most of the following conditions:

  • You have your own facilities for yourself. 
  • You have one big area or room with an attached bathroom while you share the kitchen and bedroom. 
  • You may share a bathroom with another studio. 
  • It is a studio or a room.

Furnished vs unfurnished

A place advertised as furnished already contains furniture but generally includes only the basics, such as a bed, desk, and wardrobe are included. If a room is fully-furnished, it may also have a sofa and dining table. If partly furnished, the place may only contain a few essential items.

An unfurnished room or apartment is without any furniture whatsoever. Unfurnished properties are always cheaper to rent than furnished properties.

Inclusive vs exclusive utilities

Utilities include energy (electricity and gas), water, and your internet and gadgets. If you rent a place with exclusive utilities, they will not be a part of your monthly bill. You will have to pay them separately apart from your rent. You will likely also have to pay water and trash taxes.

Inclusive utilities, on the other hand, are included in your rent. In other words, your monthly rent includes utility payments. You won't have to pay for anything separately. Usually, this is a fixed amount that you pay each month. So, you do not really pay for what you use. However, as mentioned, you don't really control how much you have to pay. At the end of the year, you should always ask to have the total utility usage sent to you to check whether you should get a refund. If you used utilities more frequently than was estimated, you might need to pay additional costs at the end of the year.

For more details on housing, refer to College Life's complete guide to Student Housing: The Complete Guide.

Budget Utilities

The situations surrounding utilities in the Netherlands differ per individual. The whole process can seem a little overwhelming and confusing because there are a few steps you need to follow, but we've got your back!

Do you need budget utilities?

When you rent a room or apartment in the Netherlands, gas/water/electricity is often a part of your rent. So you will see "GWL incl." (or "gas/water/licht inclusief") in the description, which means you are covered and don't need to worry about finding an energy supplier yourself.

If you see "GWL excl." (or gas/water/licht exclusief), your rent does not include gas/water/electricity costs, so you'll have to find a supplier. 

Recommended providers

If you're looking to get help with finding the right providers, get in touch with our category partner, Utility Direct. Alternatively, here's a list of the main budget utilities provider per utility:

  • Eneco
  • Essent
  • Nuon
  • Greenchoice
  • Huismerk Energie
  • E.ON
  • Oxxio
  • BudgetEnergie
  • Tele2
  • Online
  • Ziggo
  • Telfort
  • KPN
  • T-mobile

For more details on utilities, check Budget Utilities: The Complete Guide.

Housing Agencies vs Direct Rental 

When finding accommodation on the private market, you can approach a rental agency or directly through the landlord. Both have pros and cons, and both (arguably) get you to the same destination.



  • Most agencies are regulated and have to follow a code of conduct.
  • Agencies are 100% familiar with rental laws.
  • Agencies are easier to contact.


  • Agents can be more expensive. If you contact an agency, you may have to pay a commission.
  • Agencies tend to scam expats by charging them additional fees that are not legal charges.



  • Usually no additional fees. Faster and more direct communication with the landlord.


  • Some landlords do things their 'own way', not according to landlord-tenant law.
  • Landlords are infamous for being difficult to contact.

Avoid agency commissions

Many internationals use rental agencies, and there's nothing wrong with that. But if they ask for a fee like a month's rent plus tax, be alert since this is not allowed in most cases. This fee differs from paying your first and last month's rent or a deposit. Avoid paying such an illegal agency fee/commission.

A rule of thumb is that if an agency advertises a landlord's property on its website, they represent the landlord. If this is the case, they should not charge any additional fee.

You can reclaim the amount you paid by contacting a local legal support agency or a lawyer (See 'Chapter 4: Essentials' for more information on legal aid). You can also search for a local tenant support agency, like Onterecht Betaald.

Avoid scams

Don't fall for scams! We know it's not always easy because you want to trust the landlord and find a place fast. However, there are a few tips to avoid them:

  • Never agree to send a deposit overseas. 
  • Always use platforms that you trust and know are legitimate. 
  • Ask someone who speaks Dutch to read your housing contract before you sign it.

5. Housing Contracts

It is important to read your contract's fine print and know what it entitles you to. Here are a few tips you should consider: 

Anatomy of a housing contract

If you live in student housing, your rental contract will probably include the dates of the semester you are staying there for or a liability agreement in case you damage something in your room. 

All rental contracts should include:

  • Your name and signature, as well as those of your landlord
  • An agreed monthly rent and method of payment
  • The address and possibly a description of the space
  • Start and end date
  • Information about how you can prolong the rental agreement
  • House rules (smoking, pets, etc.)
  • Utilities (inclusive /exclusive and what it includes, i.e. energy, water, internet, and so on)
  • Landlord's duties when it comes to repairs and maintenance
  • How long before you want to move out should you tell your landlord? Or if you can move out before the rental period ends.
  • Inventory list for furnished apartments

You have either a fixed rental period or an indefinite rental period. With a fixed contract, you cannot move out before the end date unless you and your landlord mutually agree. With indefinite contracts, you can move out whenever you want, but your landlord can also end your contract by providing sufficient legal evidence. 


Subletting is letting someone else live in your room or apartment for a short time who pays the rent through you (the tenant pays you, and you pay the landlord). If you want to sublet a private apartment or room, you should first ask permission from your landlord. Otherwise, it is illegal for you to sublet it. In any case, you should always sign a contract with the person you are subletting to or with; otherwise, you might face legal consequences.

Housing allowance

As mentioned earlier, the Dutch government provides a monthly contribution for rent if you are a low-income student. If you meet all the requirements for housing allowance, you can apply for it directly!

Getting your deposit back

Many, if not all, agencies and landlords ask for a deposit when you rent a place. Sometimes, it's your first and last month's rent. It's usually justified as a guarantee that you will stay there for the contract's duration. Another type of deposit is almost always one month's rent used as a guarantee for the landlord should you not meet the tenancy obligations. Unless your landlord has a valid claim to your deposit after your lease expires, you are 100% entitled to get it back after your contract ends.

Under what circumstances can you not get it back?

  1. You have not paid all your rent or agreed-upon fees.
  2. You return the property with some damages and don't inform the landlord beforehand. Of course, this doesn't count for something you were allowed to change or other wear that comes with time and age.
  3. You don't return the property or give it back in an unacceptable state.

Schedule an inspection a few weeks before you move out so you and your landlord can assess the property's state and agree to any necessary arrangements. It's better to get this inspection report signed as legal evidence.

If you damage something, your landlord calculates the damage costs and deducts it from the deposit. You will get the rest of the deposit back, minus the cost of your damages.

6. Moving In

Furnishing your place

If you've chosen a furnished apartment or room, you might not need everything on this list. However, if you are renting an unfurnished place, this is just for you. Below is a basic list to guide you, but what you pack with you or buy on arrival is totally up to you. 

Where can you find furniture?

Housing taxes

Usually, you won't have to pay taxes if the rent is inclusive. However, always check with the landlord/agency before signing the contract.

Based on where you live or what kind of housing contract you have, you might have to pay a few extra taxes, usually including trash and water tax. How much you pay might depend on how many people you are and where you live. Each municipality or city is different, so you can check the websites of your local municipality to find out whether you have to pay these taxes.

In specific cases, you can be exempt from paying these taxes if you meet defined criteria. If you have an income below the threshold, you might qualify. If you suppose you are eligible, go to your local municipality website and search for tax exemption. 

7. Resource List

The resources used in this chapter are as follows:

Essentials for Living in the Netherlands

The last chapter breaks down all essentials you might need to know about, including permits, Sim Only deals, and legal aid. 

Residence Permits

As a foreign national working or seeking to work in the Netherlands, you may need to apply for more than one residence permit based on your situation or purpose of stay.


There are several different types of visas in the Netherlands. Based on the purpose or duration of your stay in the Netherlands, you should choose the one that fits your situation:

  • Schengen (Short Stay Visa): For internationals who plan to visit and stay in the Netherlands for no longer than 90 days in total within 180 days. 
  • MVV (Long Stay Visa): For temporary stay. You must apply before you enter the Netherlands.
  • Airport Transit: A permit for changing planes when you stop at a Dutch airport to travel to a destination outside the Schengen Area.
  • Visa Facilitation: A permit you get when you have a family member who is an EU, EEA, or Swiss national.
  • Caribbean visa: For staying in the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

For more information, visit Permits in the Netherlands: A Comprehensive Guide.

Sim Only Deals

A Sim Only deal is one type of mobile plan subscription provided by telecom companies. As the term suggests, these deals stand for the approach of companies selling 'standalone' SIM cards in contrast to phone, TV & internet bundles.


  • Easy to set up (takes less than 5 minutes)
  • Affordable
  • Flexible contracts (month-to-month deal)
  • Adjustable bundles ( including your contract duration, amount of data, number of minutes & number of texts)


  • New Number vs Number Transfer: You can have your number transferred.
  • Calling & Texting: Easily track your usage via your provider's website to ensure you don't exceed your limit. 
  • Data Usage: Similarly to calling & texting, there will likely be a limit on how much data you can use in a month. 
  • International Calls, Texts & Data: You may use your subscription in any EU country, just as you would in the Netherlands. If you call a non-Dutch EU number, there will be an additional cost.

Subscription Options

Explore three subscription plans

Sim Only Alternatives

  • VoIP: VoIP allows you to make calls using any internet connection available. For example, you can FaceTime with your childhood pet back in your home country. You may also use VoIP via your mobile data. Suitable for those:
    • Planning to call their family only 1-2x per month
    • On a low monthly budget
  • Phone Bundles: Subscribing to a phone bundle allows you to use a new or refurbished phone with a SIM card subscription. Suitable for those:
    • Planning to purchase a new phone & get a SIM card at once
    • Interested in having their monthly phone payments distributed across a long time
  • Prepaid Card: The fastest option is getting a prepaid card. It's usually a short-term solution for those planning to call, text & use data (mobiel internetten) for only 1 to 2 months. Suitable for those:
    • Wanting a SIM card immediately
    • Without a Dutch bank account
    • Without a Dutch Address
    • Without a BSN

For more details on Sim Only, refer to College Life's complete guide to Sim Only Deals in the Netherlands: The Complete Guide.

Legal Aid

Now and then, life throws you into a situation where you feel like there is nobody you can turn to. Perhaps DUO has rejected your application, or your landlord refuses to return your deposit. College Life — together with outspoken law firms —  will assist you by offering the following:

  • Legal Aid: In the Netherlands, any person has the right to request legal aid from the 'Raad voor Rechtsbijstand.' Since students & graduates usually cannot manage to pay a full fee for legal services, College Life can help you apply for a legal subsidy that could cover most of the legal costs.
  • Questions & Appeals: If you disagree with a decision made by a private or public entity (e.g. DUO), you must object to or appeal it within a specific timeframe. Also, objections or appeals must be clearly articulated, preferably in Dutch.

Resource List

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