DAI's Quick Arrival Guide For International Students Written By Our Students (updated in 2023).
(Please note that ArtEZ University of the Arts (our "parent university") offers its own brochure for international students. We recommend to consult both guides).
The DAI Quick Arrival Guide was carried out thanks to the invaluable contributions of DAI students (now all alumni) and members of our crew. Special thanks to: Clementine Edwards, Dina Mohamed, Duruo Wang, Francisco Mojica, Rik Fernhout, Yen Noh and Margret Wibmer. In 2023 it has been carefully updated by Valeria Moro (DAI, 2024) in collaboration with Pelumi Adejumo (DAI, 2023).
Welcome to the Netherlands! As it can be quite a challenge and time consuming to navigate the Dutch bureaucracy and enter the system, here's a quick guide to get you started.
Get Health Insurance!
> ArtEZ now arranges the first year of AON insurance for all non-EU students automatically. The cost for the first year is included in the financial guarantee and will be debited from it before you get the refund. For the second year, students have to renew their insurance themselves directly with AON. The policy also covers liability, home belongings and baggage, accidents and legal aid. Approximately two months before your first-year policy is due, you will receive notice from AON including the option for extending the policy for another year. The procedure is pretty straightforward and can be done completely online.
> ArtEZ’s recommended insurance, AON, is a basic student insurance from an American company and works as travel insurance, meaning you will often need to ask for refunds via the company after paying the invoice at the doctor/hospital/pharmacy yourself. This is not always the case and some students have found they didn’t have to pay when visiting a GP or getting blood tests. Either way, it’s a good idea to check before you make any assumptions. The pharmacies and doctors will likely be confused by this because most people have Dutch insurance that the service provider (doctors, clinics, pharmacies, etc.) communicate with directly.
> AON student rate (around 50 euro a month) is only available if you aren't working under contract or if you are registered as an entrepreneur (more on that later). If you are not working or doing an internship, your only option is through AON. As soon as you work and pay tax in the Netherlands, you’ll need to apply for one of the many providers of the mandatory Dutch Health insurance which vary in price but come to around 115 euros a month. Depending on your earnings a large percent of this can be eligible for reimbursement each month, so it can often end up being the cheaper option in the long run. You will need to register online at the Belastingdienst (Dutch Tax Office) web page for this and other benefits.
> The health insurance is needed from the moment you are registered in The Netherlands, this means that if you postpone getting Dutch insurance, you will have to pay retroactively the cost of it for the months you have lived in the Netherlands without being covered. These should also be at least partially reimbursed if eligible for reimbursement.
> Check the rules for the zorgtoeslag or ‘care allowance’ here:https://www.belastingdienst.nl/wps/wcm/connect/bldcontentnl/belastingdienst/prive/toeslagen/zorgtoeslag/. Once you have a Dutch bank account number and a tax number (VAT), the government will reimburse you up to about €100 a month, meaning you might pay about €20 a month for Dutch insurance depending on your income level.
> Check out https://www.independer.nl, a Dutch website that assesses the best/most relevant/affordable Dutch insurance for you.
> To access the health system, you always need to go first to a General Practitioner unless it is a really urgent issue, in which case you need to go to the Emergency Room in a hospital.
> In the Netherlands you have to be registered at a practice (Artsen-Huisart) that you always go to. As this requires an appointment or interview before you both agree for them to be your doctor, practices can be full, and bureaucracy can take time, it is recommended and expected that you find a doctor when you first register in your city. Don’t wait until you’re sick.
> Most GP’s only take patients who live close to their practices. Visit https://en.doctena.nl to find a house doctor in your municipality. For those living in Rotterdam some students recommend Dr. Munter at Lijn 2. https://www.praktijkmozaiek.nl/. This clinic takes ‘drop ins’. No appointment needed.
> If you have Dutch insurance, you can ask them to help you identify the available GPs in your area, they can give you access to lists of doctors who can accept new patients. Not always such lists are updated but they are useful to have a view on the practices in the area. Often in their websites it is specified if they have availability. If you are newly registered in The Netherlands you should have priority on being accepted.
> Temporary inhabitants of the Netherlands who are insured through AON do not need to register with a GP. The formal registration is only mandatory for people who are insured through the national Dutch insurance system, and AON is a private insurance that refunds medical costs you make.
If you are insured with AON and you need a doctor you should call a GP in your neighbourhood and ask for an appointment. When asked about registration, you need to explain to the GP that you are in the Netherlands temporarily, and you are insured through a private student insurance, and that the GP should charge the ”passantentarief” (passing by rate). This will be refunded by AON. Sometimes it takes a bit of pushing to get the appointment.
Note only for students with Dutch insurance (not AON): Visiting a ‘house doctor’ who is contracted by your health insurance provider is free, but unlike in some other countries blood tests, x-rays and medication that they may suggest are often not free or subsidised. This means that you will likely have to pay the full amount out of your own pocket until you reach the annual Dutch deductible threshold of around 380 euro before it starts being covered by the health insurance.
> When in need of urgent care outside of office hours it is always best to contact the local “huisartsenpost” (the general practice centre) instead of going to the emergency room of a hospital.
So in case of an emergency, call the doctor at the huisartsenpost. You can contact them by calling, or on their webpage, often you can have access to a chat, or contact the out-of-hours GP service outside office hours. You will be given an appointment, a GP will visit you or an ambulance will be sent.
You only go to the Accident and Emergency Department if you have been referred by a GP or other doctor. If you come directly to the Accident and Emergency Department without a referral, this may affect the deductible of your health insurance.
> In case you need psychological support you can ask your GP, they can direct you to a first support with a counselling service for free, sometimes the huisartsenpost itself can provide it.
For your study career or personal issues Artez is also providing counsellors who can advise, coach and provide you with practical information.
> Always good to know, in case of life-threatening emergencies the number to call is 112, it will activate the hospital, the police or the fire department.
Housing: finding somewhere to live
As this is the most complicated and serious part, there is a whole document dedicated to housing.
Pick up your residence permit
You can find the information in the Brochure Non-EU students ArtEZ will send you. This is an important procedure that needs to be taken care of as soon as possible after your arrival to the Netherlands.
Get a SIM card
> You can buy a SIM card at any mobile operator store, such as Lycamobile (recommended), Tele2, T-mobile, Telfort, Vodafone, and Kpn.
Getting a contract is recommended as a prepaid SIM card is much more expensive. You can get one online or at an office after you have opened your Dutch bank account and have registered.
> Links to the companies: Tele2, T-mobile, Telfort, Vodafone, Kpn. Check if you can have a student or family discount. You should find possibilities of contracts for around 25 euros/month with unlimited data, messages and calls in Europe.
> Some students recommend BenMobile for Students or Lycamobile. They are both very cheap and you pay monthly. They have a special student discount. However, some people have found that both BenMobile and Lycamobile require to manually adjust some settings to make communication apps like Whatsapp work properly.
> Prepaid - If you’re mainly just after data, Vodafone prepaid can also be a good option (3GB) with a bundle that is about 20 euro a month and that you update easily online. Not so good in remote places. This option doesn’t require you to be registered.
> All providers offer free roaming within the European Union, although some restrictions might apply depending on the carrier.
Open a Dutch bank account
ArtEZ will arrange with ABN-AMRO Bank to open a Dutch bank account for you, but you still need to go to a brick-and-mortar office in Arnhem and provide the required documents, namely:
- Residence permit.
- Admission letter or enrollment certification from Artez.
- If they require a BSN number (registration number), you could explain that you are a student and haven’t got the number yet.
- You have to provide a mailing address which is not necessarily the address where you are registered. However, be aware that you will have to provide a BSN number and registered address within the first three months, otherwise the bank can and will block your account until the issue is solved.
> Your financial guarantee will be reimbursed to this account.
> So you can have a bank account specifically for students or expats with ABN-AMRO. Starting from July 2022 the monthly fee is around 2 euro.
> You can also set up an account with other banks that offer no-fee packages for students, such as ING.
Transport and applying for a Personal OV-chipkaart
From the Airport:
> Train tickets are available at the airport at the NS (Dutch trains) desk or ticket machine, and also online with the NS app or website https://www.ns.nl/en
> Bus tickets can be bought on the bus. You can only pay by card. No cash. A single ticket is quite expensive, we recommend buying an OV-chipkaart as soon as possible to travel cheaper on the metro, trams and bus and save an extra fee of 1,00 euro every time you travel using a paper ticket for the train.
The OV-chipkaart is a reusable card for train, metro, tram and bus in the Netherlands.
There are two options for this:
- Anonymous OV-chipkaart.
- No need for a Dutch bank account or to be registered, so this option is the way to go while you’re waiting to be registered officially.
- Cost: €7.50 euros.
- No discount plans.
- Can be used by anyone.
- Can be bought at the train station desk, and recharged at ticket machines and supermarkets.
- Personal OV-chipkaart: Highly recommended especially if you need or are planning to travel around the Netherlands often.
- Only for yourself.
- Online application.
- Cost €7.50 euros without any subscription or free with a NS season ticket.
A season ticket gives you a considerable discount for travelling between cities and which may pay off. DAI students usually get the Dal voordel which is €5/month and offers a 40% discount outside peak hours and during the weekends, but you may want to check other options depending on how often you think you will travel via train. https://www.ns.nl/en/nsflex/webshop#/bestelling/producten.
Ask for a FIRST YEAR NS SEASON DISCOUNT TICKET (around 30€) at the info centre in selected train stations. This is a special offer and is not always available. Other special offers might appear online.
Tip: When applying online make sure to select the free OV-fiets bike membership option, so you can rent bikes for around 5 euros per day.
> When using OV-chipkaart, remember to always check-in and out from metro, train, tram and bus stations. If you forget to do so they will deduct a higher amount from your card. However, you can ask for reimbursement at https://www.ov-chipkaart.nl/applying-for-a-credit-refund/forgot-to-check-in-or-out.htm.
In case you were wondering, travelling with an invalid ticket might get you a 50€ fine
Tip: If your NS train is late by 30-59 minutes, you can get a 50% refund. If 60+ minutes late, you get all the money back. Go to your online account ‘Mijn NS’ and click the relevant journey, then fill in details. It’ll refund directly onto your account.
Tip: the Ov-chipcard and NS transport apps are both handy to have.
Biking is by far the best/cheapest way to get around if living in the Netherlands. Many markets and bike shops to choose from (Waterlooplein in Amsterdam). Make sure you get a thick expensive lock (or two). Otherwise https://www.marktplaats.nl/ is another handy website in general to buy and sell things. When buying a used bike be sure to check it is not a stolen item.
Register at the city hall and get your BSN (Citizen Service Number)
This is a mandatory procedure done at the Gemeente (municipality) where you will be living. No need for an appointment if you are a student.
- Your official address and rental contract. If you are not a signer of the rental contract, you need a signed letter from the person you are subletting from.
- Passport / ID.
- Residence permit.
- Birth certificate is not needed for students. It is a somewhat new regulation so sometimes the clerks get confused about it. Just tell them you know it is not needed and they will check with their colleagues and bypass the requirement.
Apply for a Digi ID
> You need a Digi ID to access government websites. Everything in the Netherlands is connected and official procedures are increasingly opting for on-line only solutions.
> Ask for your Digi ID here: https://www.digid.nl/en
Have your BSN and other personal data at hand. The procedure is not complete until you receive your password by mail.
Getting Work and Benefits
As a non-EU student, you are only allowed to work 16 hours per week, but there is a workaround to work with no restrictions: Register as a freelancer or entrepreneur at the KVK (Kamer von Koophandel). This means you are creating a self-owned company, which brings benefits such as discounts in utilities and access to a whole range of allowances and guarantees not available to people not registered as freelancers. This was of a lot of help for many students in the Netherlands that lost their income because of the COVID-19 situation and got help from the Dutch government.
Check the KVK website for more info:
Be aware that you will have additional duties, especially regarding the Tax authorities such as filing quarterly VAT reports and yearly income tax reports.
Students with a medical disability can apply for study benefits at the municipality where they live, check here.
> Many students find jobs at HORECA (hotel-restaurants-catering), but availability depends on the city you are living in. They are not very well paid, and don’t expect a lot of money from tips, but usually don’t require you to speak Dutch.
> There are some apps that are useful to find small and part time jobs such as Glassdoor. Construction work is very well paid, but they are difficult to find when you don’t have experience.
When looking for a job, be conscious about your own skills and limitations.
Regulations in the Netherlands regarding COVID-19 are changing constantly and they might vary even within a city or municipality. It is advised you constantly check the official info from both the Dutch government and DAI.
RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment): https://www.rivm.nl/en