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There are many reasons you might want to immigrate to the Netherlands. Whether it’s reuniting with family, starting a family, following a spouse, trying something new, or getting your education, the entire process can be very confusing. If you’re seriously considering moving here, there are resources you will need to check out first and questions you will need to answer. What requirements should you fulfill before you come here? What do you do once you are here? How long does the whole process take? Well, I can’t answer any of that for you. I am not an immigration expert, and the last thing I would ever want to do is give anyone misinformation. The laws and regulations change, so what I went through is not necessarily what you will go through. But I can send you in the right direction, and if you have questions about anything, there are people who can help.
The first thing you need to do is consult the IND website and figure out what situation applies to you. Under what circumstances do you plan to come to the Netherlands? They have a handy little section of their website where you can fill out information about your specific situation, and they match you with the process you should follow. It’s not perfect, but you can do it in English. It’s a start. If you have any questions, call them. I’ve heard mixed results from people about how helpful or pleasant the IND administration is. I’ve heard horror stories. I’ve also heard a lot of neutral to positive things, and luckily for me, I (fingers crossed) have had no complaints thus far. But the best thing you can do is have all your ducks in a row. Stay organized. There is a lot of paperwork coming your way, and your best defense is your ability to organize.
The local gemeente is a guaranteed pit-stop on your immigration journey, because you are required to register at the gemeente. Find out how soon after your arrival you need to register, and if it is soon, make an appointment before you even get here. Actually, I generally recommend making most appointments before you even get here if you can, to keep the whole thing moving forward smoothly.
The gemeente is also a great resource for you once you arrive here. They will have information on where to find language courses and what courses you might be required to take. Which leads me to…
Integration : Inburgering
You need to figure out if you need to take inburgering courses and pass the civic integration examination (inburgeringsexamen). This is very important. Not everyone is required to do this, but many people are if they wish to apply for permanent residency, and one day perhaps, citizenship. Inburgering is a huge can of worms that I won’t be opening here. But you can find information on the IND website, and the gemeente in your town will also be able to help you as well.
There is a lot of paperwork involved in immigration. I can’t stress this enough. Here is a list of a few things you will need to think about.
You might need to get your birth certificate verified with an Apostille stamp. You need to find out if this needs to be done before you get here, or if you can do it once you arrive.
If you are coming here to form a family, for example, or you have a Dutch partner but are not (yet) married, you might need to prove that you are not married with official paperwork. Where you obtain this will depend on your situation.
If you have a driver’s license, find out if and for how long it is valid in the Netherlands. A US drivers license is only valid for your first six months here (as of today: June 21, 2010) under certain immigration conditions. That means that if you are one of those conditions you will need to make plans for either obtaining a Dutch drivers license, or forget about driving a car here. If you come from the US, make sure your license doesn’t expire in the US any time soon. It is not always possible to renew your license from abroad. Many states require you to hold an actual place of residence in the state in order to renew.
There are different kinds of countries, and depending on what country you come from, your required paperwork can vary wildly from other immigrants you might meet. You might be required to do a lot of work before you even come here. You might be required to do almost nothing at all, for example, if you are an EU citizen. How long is your permit good for? Can you work with your permit? Will you be allowed to work as soon as you get here, or will you have to wait? All of these depend on where you are coming from and your personal situation. Make sure you know the answers to those questions based on your situation.
I hope you find this helpful. Perhaps this poses more questions than it answers, but these are all questions you will need to find out for yourself. I can’t say it enough: I am not an immigration expert. If you have any questions, contact IND. Contact your country’s consulate in the Netherlands. Consult an immigration lawyer. But be armed with as much information as possible. The process can get confusing. I wish I had known what questions to ask at all, but now that you do, you should be starting from a better place than I was when it all began.