THE SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR INTERNATIONAL GRADUATES
A DEFINITIVE GUIDE
Are you an international recent graduate in the Netherlands? We have created an international graduate guide with all the essentials you need to kick-start your post-graduate life in the Netherlands!
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Download a PDF version of the guide and read it when it's most convenient for you.
The Definitive Guide
College Life is introducing the international graduate guide for every international’s needs. Here you will find up-to-date information on everything you need to know as a young alumni in the Netherlands.
This chapter in the international graduate guide focuses on work in the Netherlands. More specifically, you can find answers to questions such as, where to apply for work, what are the requirements, and much more!
Chapter table of contents:
- Application process
- Work eligibility
- Entry-level Jobs
- Job types
- Company Types
- Company Roles
- Target Cities
- Where to Find Work
- Start a Business
- Health Insurance
- Resource List
This chapter of the international graduate guide is for housing matters. Find out where you can find a place to stay and make use of all the resources that we provide for you!
Chapter table of contents:
- Where to Find Housing
- Types of Housing
- Budget Utilities
- Who to Find Housing With
- Housing Contracts
- Once You’re Moving In
- Resource List
This chapter deals with everything money related. Find out how you can easily manage your finances during your stay in the Netherlands.
Chapter table of contents:
- Graduate Finance
- Resource List
The final chapter is for additional essentials such as visas, work permits, and legal aid.
Chapter table of contents:
- Life After Graduation
- Residence Permits
- Sim Only Deals
- Legal Aid
- Resource List
At the end of every chapter in this international graduate guide, you will find the Resource List section. This section contains a list of all resources required for taking the next steps in completing 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 graduate guide is here to help you. All the information you need is now in one place, so you can focus on getting that dream job.
Depending on the job, the requirements and application process vary. It is best to prepare for all the possible requirements that you might come across. Here are a few helpful tips to get you through an application process:
- Create an online presence. Use LinkedIn to showcase your work experience & skills. This platform will help you paint a more complete picture of who you are as a professional. This is especially important since the Netherlands is the number two most connected country, right after the USA.
- Clean up your social media. Hide all private content or make it inaccessible . Don't leave anything public that you wouldn't want your mom to see.
- Design your resume. Tailor the structure of your resume to the job you're applying for. Include relevant information and experiences no matter how unimportant they 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 lingo 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.
You can work in the Netherlands if you have a single permit. The single permit is a residency permit that allows you to work. In the case that you are being employed for less than 3 months, your employer will have to apply for a work permit for you. Work permits have a maximum length of one year.
- You have had a work permit for 5 consecutive years without having moved from the Netherlands.
- You've been working in another EU country with a residency permit.
- Japanese citizens do not need a work permit, only a long-term residency permit.
- Croatian citizens are required to have a work permit for their first year of employment.
Conditions for Work Eligibility
- Insurance: To work in the Netherlands, you are required 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 as a full-time student.
- Time Restrictions: You can only work if you have this specific work permit and can either work for a maximum of 16 hours a week during the year, or full time during the months of June, July and August. However, if you are a freelancer (your own boss), you can work unlimited 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 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 period you are granted after completing your 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 of them. 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 - this is as long as the master’s, post-master’s or PhD programme has been obtained at a designated international educational institution.
- Apply for a working permit: You cannot do it yourself. You must be employed at a company that is recognized by the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Netherlands). Only the company may apply for a working permit.
For more information on work permits and visas, check ‘Chapter 4: Essentials’ in our international graduate guide.
There are several different job types entailing different time commitments and responsibilities.
- Part-time: 8-24 hours per week, on average; easy to combine with your studies and other potential extracurriculars.
- Full-time: 36-40 hours of work per week; typically best for after your studies; highly recommended to learn Dutch for it; networking is the key to widen your connections and bring you one step closer to your dream job.
- Internship: can be paid or unpaid. 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 either be on-site or off-site. Companies usually specify this by mentioning whether remote work is possible (or not).
There are many different kinds of companies, which will define the kind 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 is usually required.
- Scale-up: up to 500 employees; great place 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 operate in general.
There are a variety of job roles that you can do. This depends on your field of expertise, namely what you have studied in your higher education and what kind of work experience you have. It could also be defined by what you’re passionate about, or what you’ve learned alongside your education. Sometimes, you might not find yourself fitting exactly into any of the available categories or you might not be sure of what these categories entail, but no worries; most fields are incredibly flexible.
- Accounting: keeping track of and reporting the financial standings of a company.
- Customer Service: providing service to ensure customer satisfaction.
- Data Science: analyzing data that affects the future success of the company.
- Design: web design, clothing design, advertising design, etc.
- Education: teaching at an elementary school, high school, or university.
- Engineering: different types such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering, computer engineering, aerospace engineering, etc.
- Finance: different types including banking, investments, insurance, financial planning, etc.
- Hospitality: event planning, lodging, restaurant management and ownership, hotel management, and bar/club management.
- Human Resources (HR): talent recruitment for a company, and employer branding management.
- Information Technology (IT) and Development: software creation, use of computer systems for storing, retrieving, and sending information.
- Legal: the practice of law with roles such as legal analyst, lawyer, mediator, paralegal, etc.
- Logistics: transportation logistics, stock managing, etc.
- (Digital) Marketing: advertising, content management, and market analysis of a company.
- Public Relations: managing the way a person or company is perceived by the public and protecting their reputation.
- Sales: communicating the value of the product of a company to the customers or to other companies, analyzing sales trends, recognizing gaps in potential sales areas, etc.
Where to Find Work
Your work experience determines the job role that is suitable to you. Different job types require their own time commitments and responsibilities; this means some will be full-time, long term, while others will not.
If you are looking to find a job, you can start with our career platform— College Life Work. In addition to this, you can look for work via the following sources:
- Job aggregators
- Career fairs
- Professional network
- Open days
- Recruitment agencies
- Company career pages
The Netherlands may be a relatively small nation, but that doesn't mean that its cities aren’t unique. Your work opportunities will differ based on which city you decide to live in, so it is important to check your job options prior to arranging your move. A few booming cities include:
- Den Haag (The Hague)
Health insurance is one of the first things you must arrange when you decide to study abroad. Legally, everyone in the Netherlands is required to have health insurance, especially if you plan to work.
There are two types of health insurances:
- International Student Insurance: for studying in the Netherlands.
- Dutch Standard Healthcare: for working in the Netherlands (including combining studying & working).
The Dutch Government provides financial aid for health insurances. For information on Allowances, go to ‘Chapter 2: Money’ of our international graduate guide.
There are two different healthcare policies:
- Restitutiepolis (restitution policy): Choose your health provider and pay the bill yourself. Send your bill to your insurance company to be reimbursed.
- Natura polis (in-kind policy): Your insurer offers insurance providers that can pay your bills directly. If you choose one that’s excluded from the contract, you’ll have to pay for the treatment up front and get reimbursed later. This reimbursement is optional and depends on the health insurer.
Though there are many healthcare providers here in the Netherlands, below is a list of the largest ones:
You can also use College Life Insurance to easily calculate and apply for a health insurance within a few minutes!
If you are not from the EU/EEA and are planning to visit European universities, you will need travel insurance. College Life Insurance provides a low-cost Schengen visa insurance providing you with health insurance coverage within the Schengen area. You can get your certificate immediately by applying for it online.
For more details, visit to College Life’s complete guide to Work in the Netherlands.
Start a Business
Have you obtained your Zoekjaar Visa and are you looking to start a business in the Netherlands? College Life Ventures was founded to walk you through the process of building a venture that is set up for success using the Lean Canvas model. Simply visit the page and find the lean canvas along with the toolkit. The guide can provide you with a step-by-step process on how to develop your business model.
The resources mentioned in this chapter of the international graduate guide are the following:
Money Matters in the Netherlands
Though this seems obvious, the first step you should take when you’re fresh out of university is to start saving. Ideally, you should start putting money aside while you’re studying in order to create a comfy financial cushion you can fall back on while you’re searching for a job.
First and foremost, understand the options that are available to you. There are plenty of banks to choose from, ranging from the well-established traditional one all the way to mobile-only neobanks. Your choice depends on what’s most important to you.
- The Big 3 Dutch banks: ABN AMRO, ING Group, Rabobank
- Other top banks: SNS Bank, Triodos Bank, ASN Bank
- Mobile Banks: Bunq, N26, Revolut
TIP: If a Dutch bank website (or any website) doesn’t have the page available 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, it is highly advisable that you 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: For subscription services, such as a mobile plan subscription. For more information on subscriptions, read ‘Chapter 4: Essentials’ of the international graduate guide.
- Cultural Discounts: In order to get most of them, you need to have a Dutch bank account.
In order 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
- BSN number: ABN ABRO and Bunq do not require that you have it right away and, thus, you can set up an account before a BSN has been assigned to you.
- 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 with you, make sure you carry some cash as well 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 for non-local webshops.
Money transfers can be local or international. Whether you wish to send money to your friend to pay them back for your coffee, or instead, would like to send or receive money abroad, it is crucial to know how to take care of transferring money.
- 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 in order to send money.
- Transferwise (International): The best option for cheaper international money transfers. Transfers are complete within 1-3 business days. You will be charged with only a small fee, and you will also get a real exchange rate, so that you know exactly what you are paying.
When you apply for a loan, you request money in exchange for gradual repayment. All loan terms and conditions are established before any money exchange takes place. Only take out a loan when it is necessary. If you are struggling with money matters, remember that the Dutch government offers health & 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 provided by the Dutch government 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 on the cost of your rent, your age, and the composition of your household (e.g. 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 live in the Netherlands and are 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 paid rent 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 or not.
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 certain limit
Kinderopvangtoeslag: childcare allowance
The childcare allowance is an allowance allocated by the Dutch government in order 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 you are on a “path to work.”
The amount of allowance you get depends on your income and the number of hours you work.
The kindgebonden budget covers all the costs that factor into raising a child like tuition or clothing. The supplementary child allowance is received automatically if you have children under the age of 18. You are only eligible for it 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 aforementioned 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 will have to be corrected in the future. It will take longer for you to receive your benefits.
You can apply via our Allowances Page in under 5 minutes!
Financing Postgraduate Life
Financing your postgraduate life will inevitably come with challenges. College Life is here to help you prepare and give you tips on how to stop spending & start saving.
Stop Spending: #1 Learn How to Budget
Budgeting is an essential skill, because it helps you curb your overspending impulses: you’re less likely to splurge on junk food after a bad day if you’ve got a fixed grocery budget. Creating a budget also helps you keep track of your spending habits and financial situation. You can regain some well-needed control over your finances as well as realistically plan for the future! It’s also easier to fix and stick to long-term goals like saving for retirement or buying a home if you have a budget that also incorporates your savings plan. Not to mention the peace of mind that comes with having full control of your financial situation.
- Income Overview: Gain a solid overview of your financial situation by determining your net income (after taxes) per month, adding up income you may receive from investments, jobs, and side hustles.
- Spending Analysis: Look at your spending habits over the past three months and differentiate between essential (rent, bills, loans, etc.) and discretionary expenses (subscriptions, food deliveries, etc.).
- Set Goals: Articulate the core reasons driving you to create and budget and the steps you hope to achieve through budgeting in order to stick to them. You could, for example, have the desire to get out of your (student) debt and achieve the goal of saving €100,000 over the next 10 years.
- Determine Net Budget: Determine your monthly cash flow. If you have multiple sources of revenue and different due dates for bills, the physical amount of cash you have available to spend might fluctuate a lot. By seeing when essential bills are due and income is received you can plan out not only the amount of financial leeway you have post-essential expenses but also the ideal time frame during which you can spend said excess. Set up a budgeting journal for example or actively tracking all expenses on your phone. Automate essential payments and transfers like savings or rent, so that you won’t be tempted to spend money that you theoretically don’t have.
- The 50-30-20 budget: The most common type of budget. Here you allocate 50% of your income to fixed expenses (rent, groceries, etc.). 30% of your income should be allocated to discretionary wants (i.e. entertainment). Finally, 20% should go into savings, whether you have a retirement account or an emergency fund. Any loan repayments above minimum go into this category. It’s both for reducing debt as well as both short and long-term saving goals.
Stop Spending: #2 Learn to Spend Frugally
Change your spending habits. Even after you’ve created a budget for yourself, try to radically shift the way you spend money and stop needlessly overspending.
- Buy in bulk: Try to buy in bulk instead of going to the grocery store once every three days. Establish a grocery list once every month or three weeks and buy large value-for-money quantities of items. For example, go to the market and get large quantities of veggies as it’s often cheaper; prep and freeze food so that it won’t go bad.
- Live like a university student: Stick to the creative ideas you came up with to save money during university.
- Roommates: An ideal way to cut down on living expenses. Split rent, split groceries, split everything.
- Cash Only: Give yourself an allowance and stick to only cash. Once the cash is out, it’s out and your budget for entertainment and mindless spending is gone. This is a great way to force yourself into considering the use and worth of each purchase you consider making.
- Cut down unnecessary purchases: Living above your means is a slippery slope that starts somewhat innocently. Emotional spending and FOMO can sometimes get the best of us. Blowing your money on things like buying coffee from Starbucks and chocolate croissants for breakfast or buying lunch instead of bringing it from home. Even something as simple as eating out can save you a lot when you try to cut it down. Restaurants should be for special occasions, not lazy nights in.
- Small expenses make a difference: The key to spending frugally is to always have a ‘why’ behind your purchases. Calculate the hours of work an object is worth. Wait a day before buying something. Put your costs into perspective.
Start Saving: #1 Open a Savings Account
How they Work
A savings account is much less accessible, because the goal is to store money inside your account and earn interest on that money. Banks pay interest in exchange for storing your money because they then use it for loans and investment. The real advantage is compound interest. It is when the amount of interest you earn is calculated (either daily, weekly or monthly) based on the amount of money you have present in your account and not the initial amount you saved.
The Deposit Guarantee Scheme states that if ever your bank ever gets into financial difficulties, your credit and savings balances will be refunded. You are insured for up to €100,000 under this scheme. Before opening an account, make sure that you are covered by the DGS. Most major banks are.
2 main types:
- A savings account that functions like a checking account but offers interest. Those accounts tend to be very low interest but you’re able to withdraw your savings instantly or within a reasonable amount of time.
- A savings account where you can’t withdraw your money instantly.
Start Saving: #2 Insurances
The key to starting and maintaining a stable financial diet comes with spending money on preventative investments such as insurance.
Why be Insured?
- Risk Management: It reduces uncertainty as it provides the security of knowing that x is taken care of in case of y.
- Agreement: Your insurance company agrees to take over a predetermined risk for you.
- Goal: The goal of insurance is to help you pay for damages done to your property or damage you might do to others’ property.
- Obligation: In the Netherlands, basic health insurance is mandatory if you are working or non-EU/EEA.
If something happens you can claim compensation or service from your insurer.
Start Saving: #3 Loans
There are different types of loans:
- Mortgages: loans for buying property or land
- Car loans: loans for purchasing a car
- Personal loans: loans without a set purpose or intent behind them.
Borrowing Money Effectively
The secret to taking out loans is understanding how to borrow money effectively in a way that doesn’t and will not penalize you in the future. Create a master plan. Right after you take out a loan, mapping out all the loans you have to repay and the amount that has to be paid monthly, the interest rates of each loan and including a grace period if applicable.
Once you’ve learned how to save your money and use several smart ways to finance lifestyle milestones, consider where to place it. To put it simply, when you invest, you exchange money for an asset. Always invest what you can afford. Investments are long-term engagements, usually for 10+ years,
For more information on investing and graduate finance in general, refer to College Life’s complete guide to Graduate 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 been taxed in the Netherlands before you should get a letter from the Belastingdienst (Tax Office) in February, inviting you to fill out 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 the income tax, which is calculated based on the revenue and assets that you declare on your tax return. Your tax returns need to be filed 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 payroll tax, holiday pay and pension contributions have been deducted. The netto salaris is what you receive in your bank account each month.
- Wage tax: it is determined solely based on your pay unlike income tax which takes your whole financial situation into account.
- Sales tax (VAT): VAT needs to be paid quarterly by all businesses, including freelancers. There are three VAT tariffs in the Netherlands. You’ll be sent VAT return forms by the belastingdienst.
- Property tax: this is a tax on property for which you are registered as 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, you need to fill in a tax return. Students count as tax residents in the Netherlands as your primary place of residence is here, as well as your source of income. Filing a tax return can actually be to your advantage as things such as textbooks and other study costs are deductible from your taxes.
You can either file a tax return digitally or via an 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 use it to access all online government platforms.
For more details on taxes, refer to College Life’s complete guide to Taxes in the Netherlands.
The resources mentioned in this part of the international graduate guide are the following:
Housing in the Netherlands
One of the first (and arguably the most important) aspects of post-grad life is having a place to live. Whether that is a shared studio or a private apartment, there are many options to choose from.
Where to Find Housing
It is never too early to start looking for housing. Houses can come and go very quickly, so it would be smart to make use of several channels and apply for multiple openings at once.
Nestpick labels itself as the "Skyscanner for flats" allowing you to filter through thousands of listings across a wide range of housing platforms. This search engine allows you to find mid- to long-term accommodation in over 50 cities.
There are tons of groups dedicated to housing on Facebook. Most groups focus on a particular city, where students put out advertisements for rooms to rent. You can also put yourself out there and tell people you are on the hunt for a place to stay. To find groups, simply search 'your city name + " housing"' for example: "Amsterdam 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 the ownership of a property by using the Netherlands’ Cadastre, Land Registry and Mapping Agency.
Types of Housing
Shared vs. Private
A 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 such as: kitchen, bathroom (toilet and shower), living room, or any other common rooms.
- You share a studio, which means that the bedroom, as well as common spaces, are shared.
A private space meets most of the following conditions:
- You have your own facilities for yourself.
- You have one large space, or room, with the kitchen and bedroom in one, and a bathroom attached.
- You may share a bathroom with another studio.
- It is a studio or a room.
Furnished vs. Unfurnished
If a place is furnished it already contains furniture. Most of the time, only the basics such as a bed, desk, and wardrobe are included. If it is fully furnished, it may also have a sofa and dining table, for example. If it is partly furnished, it 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 are renting a place with exclusive utilities, they are not included in your monthly bill. You will have to pay them separately from your rent. You will likely also have to pay water & 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 have control over how much you pay. At the end of the year, you should always ask to have the total utility use 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.
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, your gas/water/electricity is often included in your rent. If this is the case, you will see "GWL incl." (or "gas/water/licht inclusief") in the description. This means that 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) this means that gas/water/electricity costs are not included in your rent. In this case, you'll have to find a supplier yourself.
Here's a list of the main budget utilities provider per utility:
- Huismerk Energie
For more details on budget utilities, check Budget Utilities: The Complete Guide.
Housing Agencies vs. Direct Rental
When it comes to finding accommodation on the private market, you can choose to go through a rental agency or directly through the landlord. Both have their pros and cons, and both (arguably) get you to the same destination.
- Most agencies are regulated and have a code of conduct they need to follow.
- Agencies are 100% familiar with rental laws.
- Agencies are easier to contact.
- Agents can be more expensive. If you reach out to the agency, you might pay a commission fee.
- Agencies tend to scam expats by charging them additional fees that cannot be legally charged.
- 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 are asking for a fee, like a month’s rent plus tax, then alarms should be going off. This is actually not allowed, in most cases. This is not the same as 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 is advertising a landlord’s property on their website, then they represent the landlord. If this is the case, you should not be charged any kind of additional fee.
You can reclaim the amount you've paid if you do. Contact a local legal support agency or even 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.
Don’t fall for scams! We know it’s not always easy because you want to trust the landlord and you want to 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 you know are legitimate.
- Ask someone who speaks Dutch to read over your housing contract before you sign it.
It is very important to read all of the fine print in your contract and make sure you know exactly what you're entitled to under the contract. Here are a few tips you should consider:
Anatomy of a housing contract
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 dates
- Information about how you can prolong the rental agreement
- House rules (smoking, pets, etc.)
- Utilities (inclusive /exclusive and what is included in them, 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 you must 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 agree to it. With an indefinite contract you can move out whenever you want, but your landlord can also end your contract if sufficient legal evidence is provided.
Subletting is letting someone else live in your room or apartment temporarily. They pay the rent through you (they pay you, you pay the landlord). If you want to sublet a private apartment or room, you must ask your landlord first. 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.
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 duration of the contract. Another type of deposit is almost always 1 month’s rent. This is used as a guarantee for the landlord should you not meet the obligations of your tenancy. Unless your landlord has a valid claim to it after your tenancy, you are 100% entitled to get it back after your contract ends.
Under what circumstances can you not get it back?
- You have not paid all your rent or agreed upon fees.
- You give the property back damaged in some way, and you didn’t let the landlord know beforehand. This doesn’t count for something that you were allowed to change, or other wear that comes with time and age.
- If you don’t give back the property, or give it back in a totally unacceptable state.
Schedule an inspection a few weeks before you move out. This will allow both you and your landlord assess the state of the space, and agree to any necessary arrangements. You should also get this inspection report signed, as legal evidence.
If you do 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.
Furnishing your place
If you’ve chosen an apartment or room that is furnished, then you might not need everything on this list. If you are renting an unfurnished place, however, then this is just for you. This is a very basic list. What you pack with you or buy on your arrival is completely up to you. Check out this article for a more in-depth checklist.
Where you can find furniture
Usually you won't have to pay taxes if the rent is inclusive. However, always check with the landlord / agency before signing the contract.
Depending on where you live or what kind of housing contract you have, you might have to pay a few extra taxes. This includes most of the time, 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 or not.
In some cases, you can be exempt from paying these kinds of taxes. Essentially, if you meet certain criteria you don’t have to pay these taxes. If you have an income below the threshold, for example, you might qualify. If you think you qualify, go to your local municipality website and search for tax exemption.
The resources used in this chapter are as follows:
Essentials for Living in the Netherlands
The last chapter breaks down all over essentials that you might need to know about, including permits, sim only deals, and legal aid.
Life After Graduation
Congratulations - you made it! You have graduated from a university, or are about to graduate very soon. Either way, you have made it this far. So, what’s next? Life after graduation is not as straightforward as college life can be. Every recent graduate creates their own path in life.
Wrapping Up Loose Ends
Before you start thinking about what it is that you want to do next, you must first take care of important paperwork and save yourself the trouble of troubling yourself or even getting fined.
- Deregister from university: Go to studielink and confirm the completion of your studies via your DigiD. If you have a secondary vocational level course diploma (MBO), you must deregister via your college, as you cannot use studielink to do it.
- Cancel your student loan or allowance: If you applied for student finance throughout your studies, make sure to deregister with DUO.
- Convert your Student Bank Account: ABN AMRO allows you to convert your student package via the mobile app to a basic payment package. Alternatively, you might consider switching to another bank due to favorable conditions at other banks. Further, you may choose to leave the Netherlands and therefore wish to cancel your account altogether.
- Move out of Student Housing: Be sure to take care of your moving arrangements (packing your bags, selling or donating items you don’t need, etc.) before the end date of your contract.
- Leaving the Netherlands? There’s a few more things that you must take care of:
- Deregister from Dutch Municipality: You must inform that you are leaving the country to discontinue any services that are provided to you by the government via your BSN such as allowances.
- Close your bank account: Withdraw your money in cash or transfer it to another card.
- Cancel monthly subscriptions: If you pay monthly subscriptions, either for sim only, bike rentals such as Swapfiets, or Dutch healthcare, don’t forget to cancel them!
Have you wrapped up all loose ends? Perfect - it’s time to move on to the next chapter.
- House Hunting: If you have been renting private accommodation (i.e., non-student accommodation), chances are you can skip this step. If, on the other hand, you need to move out of your student accommodation, it is best to begin the dreadful search for a new place as early as you can (months before your student accommodation contract expires). Moreover, you may want to consider whether or not you want to purchase or rent an apartment. See Chapter 3: Housing (hyperlink) for more information.
- Job Hunting: Finding work as a young alumni can be difficult. You might even need to settle for a job that does not align with your degree. This can either be temporary or permanent, depending on what you want you to do in the long run, and where your career trajectory inevitably takes you. See Chapter 1: Work (hyperlink) for more information.
- Purchasing a Vehicle: If you are staying in the Netherlands, you might need to re-evaluate your investment in the means of transport that you use. As a student, you might have been renting a bike temporarily or using e-scooters. Now, in your life after graduation, it’s time to consider purchasing a cheap bike. Having a bike is a necessity in the Netherlands, but that does not mean it should be expensive. Looking to make bigger purchases such as buying a car? Bynco (Buy Your Next Car Online) has made online car purchases easier than ever before.
- Are you a foreign national?: Apply for a Zoekjaar visa! College Life’s detailed Zoekjaar visa guide lays out the details of it, including its benefits as well as the step-by-step application process.
Living a life after graduation is a risk in itself that you are bound to face. So, why not push the boundaries a bit further?
- Travel: It is no secret that traveling is packed with plenty of benefits: it broadens the mind, it opens up your world to new opportunities, it gives you unique experiences, and it enriches your life with unforgettable moments. Further, scientifically proven benefits include a boost of your creativity and happiness, as well as a decreased risk of depression. Traveling provides the room for self-reflection, a deeper understanding of the way the world works, and a clearer vision of what you want for yourself. Take advantage of it while you can!
- Self-employment: Are you feeling confident enough to launch your own business? With its Ambitious Entrepreneurship Action Plan, the Netherlands is a proud supporter of foreign entrepreneurs that wish to enter the Dutch business market. If you’re not from the EU/EEA, you can also explore the benefits of a startup visa.
Managing your Finances
Risks are best taken when rational decision-making and planning become their driving forces - these are called calculated risks. Be mindful of your budget, your expenses, and the risks that you take.
- Create a budgeting journal
- Use a planner to shortlist goals you aim to achieve
- Prioritize your tasks and/or goals using the Eisenhower Matrix
Failure is an inevitable outcome of certain choices and risks that you take. However, this shouldn’t stop you from making choices. Failing is a learning experience that helps you understand yourself and the choices you make as you move forward with your life.
Career Path Unrelated to Your Degree
Diverting from the career path that your college degree has paved for you may not always be a decision that you want to make. Certain circumstances may require you to choose something different to avoid unemployment or underemployment (working a job where a university degree is not required). Unfortunately, recent college graduates struggling to find fulfilling jobs or jobs that correlate to their degree has been a common phenomenon since the 2001 Recession that brought a major decline in economic activity. Therefore, failure can be something completely out of your control. Once you understand it, you can begin to think of creative ways to overcome it.
Giving Up on Lifelong Dreams
If you are anxious about not meeting your goals, don’t be afraid to ditch them for new ones. Giving up on dreams and plans that no longer work for you is not necessarily the definition of failure, even though it may seem that way. Remember that external factors such as unemployment, lack of resources, and limited possibilities contribute to your “failures”; some factors are simply beyond your control. However, what is completely up to you is the ability to persevere. Don’t see it as “giving up” on old dreams. You are merely making room for new ones by pivoting, just like startups often do.
Failure is a crucial step in anyone’s life, including in students’ life after graduation. Overcoming it is not simple, but it is certainly not impossible, either.
Acknowledging Who You Are
Take the time to discover who you are as a person. The question does not need to be answered within the span of a few minutes or overnight. Let it sit for a while and ponder the question: Who are you? As you begin to answer it, you will find clarity in not only who you are but also in what you truly want.
Career expert Ashley Stahl talks about the need to do a self-audit at her recent TED Talk. More specifically, she encourages everyone to ask themselves the questions:
- Where are you holding yourself captive?
- What do you know that you wish you didn’t know?
Acknowledging Your Strengths
When it comes to failure, you tend to reflect and see what it is you did wrong. Another way to work around it is to evaluate what you can do right. Note down your skills, look for things you are passionate about, and acknowledge the challenges you are able to solve.
Ashley Stahl advises to follow your freedom, where she calls for everyone to pay attention to what feels good to them as a means of setting themselves free. Start by noting down all your ideas and ask for feedback on them from your body’s reaction to them:
- Does your idea bring you joy or fear?
- Do you feel expansion or contraction?
- Does it generate excitement or dread?
- Does it feel liberating or suffocating?
Another recommendation is the joy journal, where for 30 days, you write down every instance of your day that makes you feel joy, no matter how insignificant it may seem. After 30 days, go back and notice whether there are patterns that you can replicate.
Become an active alumnus. Universities invest a lot in building alumni networks, so why not make use of it? Your alumni association offers a lot of benefits that you should take advantage of. After all, universities should make your career prospects easier for you, and networking is one of the best ways to amplify this effect.
Do not underestimate your friends’ and family’s support. However, do not overestimate what they can offer to you either. If you need it and don’t already have it, try and seek out emotional support through therapy. Do not fall victim of the post-college therapy void of feeling helpless because you lack support.
As a foreign national working or seeking to work in the Netherlands, you may need to apply to more than one residence permit based on your situation or purpose of stay.
- GVVA or Single Permit (standard, combined residence and work permit)
- Orientation Year (Zoekjaar)
- Highly Skilled Migrant (requires you to earn sufficient income)
- Work Experience
- European Blue Card holder
- Intra Corporate Transfer
- Startup Visa (to start a business)
- Self-employed (freelancer)
- Cross Border Service Provider
There are several different types of visas in the Netherlands. Based on the purpose and/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 in a 180-day period.
- MVV (Long Stay Visa): For temporary stay. You must apply before you enter the Netherlands.
- Airport Transit: A permit for changing planes when you make a stop at a Dutch airport in order to travel to a destination that is outside the Schengen Area.
- Visa Facilitation: A permit that 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 is a common type of a mobile plan subscription provided by telecom companies. The name is derived from the idea of companies selling ‘standalone’ sim cards in contrast to phone, TV & internet bundles.
- Easy to set up (takes less than 5 minutes)
- 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 the website of your provider to ensure that you don’t go over your limit.
- Data Usage: Similarly to calling & texting, you will likely have a limit on how much data you can use per 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, you will be charged with additional costs.
- €0 Setup Fee
- 200 Minutes/SMS
- 500MB + 500MB Data Plan
- €0 Setup Fee
- Unlimited Minutes/SMS
- 5GB + 5GB Data Plan
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 only call their family 1-2x per month
- On a low monthly budget
- Phone Bundles: Subscribing to a phone bundle allows you to make use of a new or refurbished phone in combination 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 longer period of 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.
Every now and then, life throws you into a situation where you feel like there is nobody you can to turn to. Perhaps DUO has rejected your application, or maybe your landlord is refusing 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 afford paying a full fee for legal services, College Life can help you apply for the legal subsidy that covers a majority of legal cost.
- Questions & Appeals: If you disagree with a decision made by either a private or public entity (e.g. DUO), you must object and/or appeal it within a certain timeframe. Also, objections and/or appeals must be clearly articulated, preferably in Dutch. Together with top law firms, College Life has prepared two verified templates you can use for free.
For legal assistance, visit College Life’s Free Legal Aid for International Students & Graduates.