What’s This BSN Number Everyone’s Talking About?

What is a BSN Number and where can I get one?

While browsing our pages on student finance or allowances, you might have come across something called a BSN number. But what exactly is this magic number everyone seems to be raving about? A BSN number is basically a citizenship number that you need to apply for once you start living and studying in the Netherlands. To clear up the air about this number, we've compiled all the basics about what a BSN Number is and how you apply for one.

What exactly is a BSN number?

The BSN is a unique, personalized citizen service number. It replaces a social security and tax number and acts as an all-around identification number. You need to apply for a BSN number when you arrive in Holland. To get one, you need to register at the municipality. This is where your records are entered into the Municipal Personal Records Database and just like that you have a BSN number.

For non-EU students, you are given a BSN number depending on the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND)'s decision. Basically, after registering at the municipality, you head on over to the IND where you hand in your application for a residence permit. After that, the IND approves your permit, notifies the municipality, and within 10 days you should have your new BSN number.

Image of student applying for a BSN Number

Why do you need one?

You need a BSN number. You can't not have one. With a BSN, not only are you officially registered in Holland but you can also use it for various administrative procedures. For instance, you need your BSN to get insurance, apply for housing allowance, or get a job and a salary. What's more, you need it to apply for any sort of benefit, like student finance.

Having a BSN number makes it much easier to go about your day-to-day life. Also, every time you need to apply for something, say a bank account or allowance, your details can simply be drawn up from the database. That means: less stuff to carry around with you and less time wasted sending in documents. A BSN also prevents identity theft, which is quite important, right?

Most importantly, you need a BSN number to work. Also remember to get a working permit because just a BSN won't be enough.

How to apply

You automatically receive a BSN number when you register at a Dutch municipality (a gemeente). Basically, all you need to do is head on over to your city hall and ask to register. You should do this within 5 days of your arrival if you are planning on staying for more than 4 months, which most students are.

If you are an EU citizen, you need to show proof of identity (passport for example) and proof of address.

If you are a non-EU student, you'll have to show a residence permit and perhaps proof of university enrollment.

Image of a college campus

This is where the DigiID comes in...

What's a DigiID? And what's with all these abbreviations?

A DigiID is a Digital Identification that you can apply for once you have your BSN. DigiIDs are used to access online government services. For example, to apply for benefits, health insurance, and to do your taxes you need a DigiID to log in.

How to get a DigiID:

  1. Request for one here.
  2. On the first page, fill in your personal details like your BSN, date of birth, postcode, and so on.
  3. Then, choose a username and password. Don't forget it, because then you'll need to reapply.
  4. You will get an email validation.
  5. Then, you will receive a letter with the final activation code. Activate your DigiID within 20 days.

And that, friends, was the low-down on the BSN Number. Simple, right? All you really need to do is walk (or bike) to your local city hall and ask to be registered. Then, all you need to do is wait and then activate your DigiID.

Good luck!

For more information about arranging things as an international student in the Netherlands, visit our Getting Started Section


Showing 8 comments
  • whyeu

    Thanks for the information. I found this very useful as I want to get my BSN number and then DigiID now.

    • Kristian

      Hi Whyeu,

      Happy to be of help!

      Good luck,

  • Laurens van Uffelen

    i am a Dutch citizen living in the US, i have a passport but no BSN number. How do i register for a number if move back with no place to stay yet? you need an address for a BSN but need a BSN to rent a place. how does this work?

    • Kristian

      Hi Laurens,

      Great question. Usually, landlords & Real Estate Agencies will be flexible with regards to you providing your BSN after you’ve rented the apartment. On the other hands, the municipality won’t be flexible and will require you to have an address prior to requesting a BSN.

      Hope this helps,

  • Noal

    what if the only housing we can secure is a ‘no registration’ sublet? will we get deported if we do not register with the municipality? isn’t registration with the university enough to prove that we are living in the municipality?

    I heard of some people living hostels and things. I would not imagine that they are registering that as their address.. so what’s the situation here?

    • farah

      Hi Noal,

      As an EU citizen, it is possible to subrent a place without issues if you’re not working, but this is usually only recommended as a short-term solution. Not being registered at the municipality has several consequences, such as not being able to apply for Dutch health insurance or to work legally. I’d suggest you to find a place where you can register to the municipality if you’re planning to work or have a side job, just to be safe!

  • Smith

    Am not an eu citizen but i hapened to get my Italian resident permit while i was living there now am here in Holland to live so will it be possible for me to get the bsn number with my Italian resident permit please kindly let me know thanks

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