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The Netherlands is one of the most in-demand destinations in Europe for international expats, renowned for liberal laws, winding canals, miles of open countryside, and some of the best beer in the world.
As countries go, the Netherlands is as inclusive, demographically diverse and welcoming as they come. Still, other aspects of life may not be immediately obvious to tourists, from an excellent education system to a family-focused society and a healthy lifestyle linked with the prevalence of cycling almost everywhere.
We’ll explore the reality of living in the Netherlands to give you some insights if you are considering a relocation.
Table of contents
- The Netherlands – Quick Facts
- Visas And Residency
- Safety And Security
- Cost Of Living
- Buying Or Renting A Home
- Where Do British Expats Live In The Netherlands?
- Working In The Netherlands
- Local Laws And Customs
- Education And Schooling
- Living In The Netherlands FAQ
- Related Information
The Netherlands – Quick Facts
- De Nederlandse vlag: the Netherlands flag
- Population: 17.53 million
- UK expat population: 97,800
- Capital: Amsterdam
- Main cities: Rotterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven, Groningen, Nijmegen and Breda
Visas And Residency
Foreign nationals staying in the Netherlands for over 90 days will need a regular residence permit. Residence permits are managed by the Immigration and Naturalisation Service. Where the application is part of an employment visa application, the employer will assist and receive confirmation if the application is approved.
There are multiple other visa routes, and those relocating for employment are sponsored by the relevant business. The MVV entry visa is often necessary to accompany a residence permit, although British nationals are exempt.
Expats with specific skills or professional qualifications can apply for a highly skilled migrant permit via an employer and need to meet specific criteria such as earning over €3,672 (£3,238) a month if they are under 30, or at least €5,008 (£4,416) if they are older.
Proof of vaccination
Travellers arriving in the Netherlands do not need to provide evidence of a COVID-19 vaccination or test result, and entry form requirements have been scrapped.
UK nationals can travel to the Netherlands without a visa and can enter via the ‘all passports’ lane. However, those relocating must bring their visa or permit documentation with them.
Schengen passport rules apply, so non-EU citizens must have a passport issued less than ten years before the entry date and valid at least three months past the intended departure date.
Taking medicines into the Netherlands
Foreign nationals are able to bring medication to the Netherlands, but only for their personal use. Medicines should be in their original packaging and be accompanied by a prescription and verification from your GP.
Note that some painkillers are controlled substances under the Opium Act, and drugs such as ADHD medications, medicinal cannabis and sleeping pills will require a Schengen certificate to be permitted. More information about applying for a certificate is available through the Government of the Netherlands.
Expats applying for a work permit, visa or permanent visa will need to provide a police clearance certificate from the Criminal Records Office. You may also need to apply for a certificate of conduct through the Ministry of Justice and Security if you have been living in the Netherlands and wish to extend a visa.
Safety And Security
Crime rates in the Netherlands are low, but petty theft and bag snatching are common in Amsterdam, especially around Central Station. Gangs of pickpockets operate on the trains and trams running to Schiphol Airport and the main station and use distraction techniques to access bags.
If you are offered drugs of any kind outside of a licensed premise, do not accept them. Drugs are controlled and only legal in designated zones and establishments, and substances such as mushrooms, while sold in various places, are prohibited.
UK citizens must exchange their driving licence within 185 days of receiving a residence permit and can do so through their local gemeente or council. International Driving Permits are not accepted and cannot be used as a substitute for a Dutch licence.
While the roads and motorways around the major cities are well maintained, the Netherlands has a higher rate of road deaths than the UK, and drivers must always carry their licence, insurance documents, vehicle registration paperwork and photo ID.
Cost Of Living
Living costs in the Netherlands are high, and general consumer prices are 9.9 per cent more expensive than in the UK, with the average rental price 9.8 per cent higher. An individual will need a budget of roughly €911 (£803) per month, excluding rent, and a family of four people, approximately €3,170 (£2,796) to enjoy a comfortable standard of living.
Amsterdam is the most expensive place to live in the Netherlands and costs more than Brussels or Berlin, but overall is considered more affordable than London or Paris. Many expats choose to live outside of Amsterdam, often in one of the closeby municipalities like Amstelveen.
Much depends on where you live or work. Rotterdam is roughly 25 per cent cheaper than London, and The Hague is 26 per cent more affordable. Other cities and regions such as Delft, Groningen and Haarlem are all less expensive than Amsterdam, primarily due to lower accommodation costs.
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Buying Or Renting A Home
Renting a property rather than buying is common, with around 42 per cent of all Dutch housing on the rental market. Some areas have restrictions and offer low-cost housing but only to people with a link to the city or region, such as those working nearby, having relatives in the area, or having been born there.
Property types vary from apartments, townhouses, and semi-detached and detached homes, and you can also find more unusual accommodations available to rent, such as houseboats.
Most properties are let unfurnished, and sites such as Direct Wonen, Funda and Pararuis incorporate listings across the Netherlands.
If you wish to purchase a home, there are no restrictions, but it can be difficult to secure mortgage lending from a Dutch bank, which normally only lend to non-Dutch residents with a high income.
Some of the costs associated with purchasing a property are tax deductible, including mortgage payments for primary residences. However, the value of a home is also included in your net taxable income calculations.
Cost of renting and buying a home
|Property Type||Average Monthly Rent|
|One-bedroom city centre apartment||€1,182 / £1,042|
|One-bedroom apartment elsewhere||€975 / £860|
|Three-bedroom city centre apartment||€1,821 / £1,606|
|Three-bedroom apartment elsewhere||€1,468 / £1,295|
|Property Type||Average Purchase Cost Per Square Metre|
|City centre apartment||€5,175 / £4,564|
|Apartment elsewhere||€3,793 / £3,345|
Where Do British Expats Live In The Netherlands?
You can find UK nationals almost everywhere in the Netherlands, including:
- The Hague
Private healthcare insurance is mandatory for all non-Dutch nationals living or working in the Netherlands, and expats must show evidence of insurance before relocating. Basic insurance is also compulsory for most Dutch nationals, and many opt to take out additional insurance packages to cover a broader range of services.
International employers in the Netherlands commonly offer health coverage as part of an employment package and will provide details to the immigration office when sponsoring your visa application.
Expats should register with a dentist and GP as soon as possible after arrival, and local municipalities usually provide listings of all the nearby practices.
Most medical care needs and treatments begin with an appointment with a huisarts, or GP, who can provide referrals to hospitals or medical specialists. To register, you must provide proof of your medical insurance, Basisregistratie Personen (BSN), or citizen service number.
You should register with the relevant Dutch municipality within five days of arrival and will be entered into the Personal Records Database. From there, you are given a BSN, which you must register for taxes, healthcare services or ID documents such as a driving licence. The Government of the Netherlands provides instructions and listings to locate your relevant municipality office.
Working In The Netherlands
Expats looking for employment in the Netherlands often apply for English-speaking roles with one of the many international and multinational employers, which include Heineken, Unilever, Royal Dutch Shell Group and ING Group.
Highly skilled professionals and those with managerial experience normally find it relatively easy to secure work, with demand for those in:
- Health and life sciences
- Creative sectors
Some specific groups can apply for beneficial tax treatment aimed at international employees filling skills shortage gaps, including finance professionals, engineers, IT specialists and those with particular technical skills.
British nationals must have a valid work and residence permit to take up employment. Those speaking Dutch or another European language, such as German or French, usually have a broader range of positions and employers to choose between.
Non-Dutch residents normally pay income tax on their income sourced in the Netherlands, although residents are taxable against all worldwide income. Earnings from outside of the Netherlands are separated into three categories with different tax treatments.
Category one includes income from employment, benefits and home ownership and is taxable at the following rates for 2023. In the category one income tax bracket, Dutch taxpayers must pay national insurance at 27.65 per cent.
|Taxable Income||Tax Rate|
|Up to €37,149||9.28 per cent|
|€37,150 to €73,031||€3,447 on the first €37,150 of earnings, plus 36.93 per cent on the balance|
|Over €73,031||€13,251 on the first €73,031 of earnings, plus 36.93 per cent on the balance|
Taxable interest income is included in category two and is taxed at a flat 27.65 per cent. This category will change in 2024 when reforms introduce a basic 24.5 per cent tax rate for earnings up to €67,000 (£59,085) and a 31 per cent rate for any excess.
Category three income refers to savings and investment income and attracts a flat rate tax of 32 per cent.
Depending on their working circumstances, some resident taxpayers qualify for favourable tax treatments. The 30 per cent ruling allows employees to be treated as partial non-residents, which means they pay taxes on category one income as normal, but as a non-resident for other earnings.
Various personal deductions and tax credits are available, which residents and non-residents can apply before arriving at their taxable income.
UK nationals moving to the Netherlands can opt to transfer their British pension fund to one of the dozens of eligible schemes included on the HMRC Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes database – although professional advice is advisable since international pension transfer may attract a tax liability.
If you live in the Netherlands, you can still claim a UK State Pension, and provided you remain in the EU will be eligible for the annual uplift in pension benefits.
Local Laws And Customs
- Travellers cannot bring meat or milk products into any EU country, with some exceptions, such as powdered milk for small children.
- The public transport service in Amsterdam does not accept cash for metro, bus or tram tickets. Foreign nationals can buy tickets using a credit card at payment points, Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam Central Station.
- While the Netherlands has liberal drug laws, substances are only permitted on licensed premises. Possessing or buying drugs outside of designated zones is an offence and can result in imprisonment.
- Any person in the Netherlands must carry ID, as the police and other authorities can request identity documents from individuals aged 14 and above.
Education And Schooling
The education system throughout the Netherlands is considered international, with many public schools teaching dual languages. Many schools cater for expat children who do not speak fluent Dutch.
Private schools are also available and provide tuition in the Dutch language. All children must attend school from age five to 16 or until they achieve a secondary school diploma. Education normally continues until age 18, although the final two years are not mandatory.
Most expats send their children to free public schools, and the system encourages foreign national pupils to learn the language. Parents are normally expected to make financial contributions for trips and activities.
Some international schools in the Netherlands include Amsterdam International Community School, Rotterdam International Secondary and the International School Eindhoven.
Foreign national children should register for a citizen service number which allocates a temporary education number to ensure they can attend school while their documents are processed.
Living In The Netherlands FAQ
The Netherlands uses the euro as an EU member, with €1 worth around £0.88.
The Netherlands is considered a safe country, and serious crime is rare. However, pickpocketing and petty theft are more common, particularly in tourist regions and around major transport hubs such as train stations and airports.
Possibly, suppose you have been a Dutch legal resident with a valid permit for five consecutive years. In that case, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency, although criteria and exceptions apply.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, but plenty of people speak English, French and German, and there are varied dialects in different regions.
Winters in the Netherlands are cold, with an average temperature of around 3°C. Summers are warm, and inland regions are hotter but less sunny.
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