THE SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
A DEFINITIVE GUIDE

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!

A girl looking at the College Life International Student Guide

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INTRODUCTION TO

The Definitive Guide

College Life is introducing the international student guide for every international’s needs. Here you will find up-to-date information on everything you need to know about while studying in the Netherlands.

girl presenting the international student guide overview

Work

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 work, what are the requirements, 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

Housing

This chapter of the international student 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:

  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

Money

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

Essentials

The final chapter is for 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 the international student guide, you will find the Resource Pack section. It contains a list of all resources that you need in order to take the next steps with completing the chapter-specific tasks.

CHAPTER 1:

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 now in one place, so you can focus on getting that dream job.

students find work with the help of College Life's the international student guide

Application Process

Depending on the job, the requirements and application process will be more or less like that of 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, skills and generally paint a more complete picture of who you are as a professional. 
  • Clean up your social media. Make all unsavory content private or inaccessible . While social media checks aren't officially a part of the hiring process, don't leave anything that you wouldn't let your mom see 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 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. 

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. 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.

Exemptions

  1. You have had a work permit for 5 consecutive years without having moved from 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 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.
  • 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. 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 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 student guide.

Job Types

There are several different job types entailing 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 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; 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 either be on-site or off-site. Companies usually specify this by mentioning whether remote work is possible (or not). 

Company Types

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 required
  • Scale-up: fast-growing companies with 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.

Company Roles

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. 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.

  1. Accounting: keeping track of and presenting the financial standings of a company. 
  2. Customer Service: providing service to ensure customer satisfaction.
  3. Data Scientist: analyzing 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 of individuals for a company, and employer branding management.
  10. Information Technology (IT) and Development: software creation, 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 the way a person or company is perceived by the public and protecting their reputation.
  15. 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

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

If you are looking to find 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 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.

  • 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, everyone in the Netherlands is required to have health insurance, especially if you 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).
    • Basisverzekering: basic healthcare; the cheapest package (around €100 per month); covers basic essential medical care such as: Doctor’s appointments (huisarts)
    • Aanvullende verzekering: additional healthcare; coverage for more extensive medical treatments

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

Healthcare policies

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.

Main providers

Though there are many healthcare providers here 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 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.

Resource List

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

CHAPTER 2:

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.

expat girl learning how to tackle money matters with the help of the international student guide

Banking

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 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 available in English, right click with your mouse anywhere in 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 student guide
  • Cultural Discounts: In order to get them, you need to have a Dutch bank account.

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 the basic 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

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, whether it’s an apartment or student housing
  • BSN number: ABN ABRO and Bunq do not require that you have it right away and, thus, you can setup 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)

Payments

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 outside of the Netherlands. 

Transfers

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.

Loans 

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.

Conditions:

  • 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.  

Kindgebonden budget

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! 

Student Finance

Studiefinanciering or student finance supports you withunding your studies and (possibly) other costs of living. Most student finance is generally targeted at 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. This covers student finance and benefits such as health care and housing allowances. Student finance (studiefinanciering) is a 3-part financial aid package intended to help students with paying their tuition fees and student life. 

These are:

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

Scholarships

Aside from student finance, there is the option of applying for a scholarship. A scholarship is financial aid in the form of an award. Scholarships are usually given out by universities or other donors & institutions. Scholarships are also awarded based on specific criteria, like having certain grades or possessing certain qualities. Unlike a loan, scholarships do not have to be paid back!

How can I get a scholarship?

Scholarships are based on a merit system. Essentially, they are awarded to one or more candidates from a pool of applicants. Depending on the scholarship, you may have your tuition fees covered, or receive a grant to be spent in any way you desire.

  • The Orange Tulip Scholarship Programme is a scholarship open to non-EU students. This scholarship is for students coming from Neso countries, such as Brazil or Vietnam. The full list of eligible countries and additional information can be found on the Study in Holland website.
  • The MENA Scholarship Programme is for students coming from the Middle East and North Africa. This is a great scholarship if you want to take short courses in the Netherlands in fields such as arts or economics.
  • The Holland Scholarship is designed for non-EEA students who would like to enrol in a Bachelor or Master's degree in the Netherlands. You can receive a grant of €5,000. Many different academic institutions all over the Netherlands are partnered with the program. 

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

Self-funding

If you don't qualify for public aid or scholarships, you can always look for funding independently. This means that you can search for a part-time job to combine with your studies or you can look into private loans.

Private aid

This type of financing comes usually 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, it is important to be aware of your other living costs. Living costs can cover rent, food, textbooks, and more. Overall, your living costs could include:

  • Your tuition. Depending on your nationality you will pay either the statutory fee or the institutional fee.
  • 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 doing a weekly shop for groceries. Some supermarkets are more expensive than others. Visit places like Aldi, Plus, & Dirk. 
  • Textbooks and other school supplies: Textbooks can often be very 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: like clothes or shopping. This might be a necessity for you or it might be something you spend your extra cash on.
Budgeting

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 are spending your money on. You can set yourself a monthly or weekly limit in regards to the amount of money that 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

Taxes

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 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 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

Resource List

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

CHAPTER 3:

Housing in the Netherlands

One of the first (and arguably the most important) aspects of student life is having a place to live. Whether that is student housing or a place off the private market, there are many options to choose from. 

search for housing made easier with the international student guide

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.

Through your university

You can begin by looking for student housing on campus. However, there is always limited capacity. Campus housing is typically reserved for first-year students (Bachelor or Master’s). This also goes for 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 below:

Through housing corporations

If you don’t feel like staying on campus or in student housing (or you were a bit too late to the game), then you can consider finding private accommodation. Here’s a list of some of the most popular places for students to find housing on the private market:

Nestpick

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. 

Facebook

There are tons of groups dedicated to student 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. Many students also sublet their rooms when they go away for an exchange, for example. 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 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.

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, 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. 

Recommended providers

Here's a list of the main budget utilities provider per utility:

Gas/Electricity
  • Eneco
  • Essent
  • Nuon
  • Greenchoice
  • Huismerk Energie
  • E.ON
  • Oxxio
  • BudgetEnergie
  • energiedirect.nl
Water
Internet
  • Tele2
  • Online
  • Ziggo
  • Telfort
  • KPN
  • T-mobile

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.

AGENCY:

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

LANDLORD:

Pros

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

Cons

  • 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.

Avoid scams

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.

5. Housing Contracts

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

If you are living in student housing, your rental contract will probably include the dates of the semester you are staying there for and/or a type of 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 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

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.

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 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?

  1. You have not paid all your rent or agreed upon fees.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

6. Moving In

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

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.

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. 

7. Resource List

The resources used in this chapter are as follows:

CHAPTER 4:

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. 

man carrying the essential tools that are found in the international student guide

Residence Permits

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.

Visas

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.

Perks

  • 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)

Functionalities

  • 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.

Subscription Options

  • 6
    monthly
  • Budget

    • €0 Setup Fee
    • 200 Minutes/SMS
    • 500MB + 500MB Data Plan
  • Continue
  • 10
    monthly
  • Optimal

    • €0 Setup Fee
    • 200 Minutes/SMS
    • 5GB + 5GB Data Plan
  • Continue
  • 15
    monthly
  • Powerful

    • €0 Setup Fee
    • Unlimited Minutes/SMS
    • 5GB + 5GB Data Plan
  • Continue

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.  

Legal Aid

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

Resource List

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