When you arrive

What to do when you first arrive in Amsterdam

Your first days and weeks in Amsterdam will be filled with new experiences, new people and a few practical considerations too. We have compiled the following information to help you:

  • Introduction activities: Activities during the introduction week.
  • Registering with the municipality: It is important that you register your address with the municipality. You will need to bring certain documents with you.
  • Opening a bank account: It is important that you open a Dutch bank account. Find out what you need to do and the documents you need here.
  • Insurance: You must be adequately insured during your stay in the Netherlands.
  • TB test: A tuberculosis (TB) test may be part of your application for a residence permit. If so, please visit the Municipality Health Services (GGD).
  • Cost of living and working while studying: Living in Amsterdam can be expensive. Make sure that you have sufficient financial means to cover the costs of living. If you are considering working while studying then there are certain rules and regulations connected to this.
  • Cycling and public transport: Amsterdam is a city of bikes. However, the city is also served by an excellent public transport network


During your stay you will have access to VUnet, the internal network of VU Amsterdam. You will be sent login details during the process of preparing for your arrival. It is important that you familiarize yourself with VUnet, as a great deal of important information is only available via this network. Registration for courses etc is also carried out via VUnet.

When you arrive

Our official Arrival Days took place on Monday 19 August and Tuesday 20 August 2019. Depending on the day you arrive in Amsterdam, you can choose which day works best with your schedule to complete the practicalities.

What can you expect during the Arrival Days?
The International Office will host the Arrival Days to welcome you to VU Amsterdam. We hope to meet you all there! To give you an idea of which matters to take care of and in which order, we have included an explanation and overview below.

  • Register with the municipality in order to receive a personal public service number (BSN). You will need the BSN to open a bank account, to take out health care, and to apply for benefits or allowance in the Netherlands. Please note that you can only register with the municipality if you arranged accommodation via VU Amsterdam or if you already have an address in Amsterdam, Amstelveen or elsewhere.
  • Arrange all practical matters regarding your registration at VU Amsterdam, meet your International Student Advisor, pick-up your student card, get to know VU study associations and much more.

Depending on the Arrival Day of your choice, you can follow the programme as listed below. As you can see, the programme for both days is exactly the same.

Monday 19 August
Tuesday 20 August
Register with the Municipality at BelleVUe, VU Amsterdam main building
9:00AM - 4:30PM
Register with the Municipality at BelleVUe, VU Amsterdam main building
9:00AM - 4:30PM
Visit the campus to arrange all practical matters regarding your registration at BelleVUe, VU Amsterdam main building
9:00 AM - 4:30PM
Visit the campus to arrange all practical matters regarding your registration at BelleVUe, VU Amsterdam main building
9:00AM - 4:30PM

Our Introduction team will arrange several activities in order to help you become acquainted with the city of Amsterdam and the university campus, to get to know your fellow students and of course to have fun! The introduction week will take place in August 2019.

Attendance is not mandatory. However, we strongly advise you to participate in the introduction week. Reasons include:
- Good start of your social life in the Netherlands;
- Smooth and simple way to deal with all practicalities;
- A way to get well informed about what's coming ahead before starting you study programme;
- Gives you some time to make Amsterdam your home before you busy student life really kicks off.

More information about the Introduction week can be found via this link.


If you will stay in the Netherlands for more than four months, then you need to register with the local authorities, also called the municipality. After registration the municipality office will send a social security number (BSN) to your Dutch address.

Required documents

  • Passport or European ID card. A driver's license is not sufficient.
  • Printed rental agreement for your Dutch address - showing this on your cell phone is not sufficient. If you do not have a rental agreement then you must bring a written statement of approval signed by the main tenant and a copy of his/her passport.
  • Birth Certificate (legalized)* - please note that this is only required if you are staying for longer than one year in accommodation outside of Amsterdam or Amstelveen. If your birth certificate is not in Dutch, English, French or German, then you must supply a sworn translation into one of these languages.

Students who are married also need to bring their marriage certificate (legalized)*.

* The legalization method depends on the respective country. The Dutch missions in other countries are responsible for legalizing foreign documents for use in the Netherlands. The documents must first have been legalized by the country’s own authorities, usually the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country where the document was issued.

Moving to Amsterdam/Amstelveen?
Both the municipalities of Amsterdam and Amstelveen will be present at the Arrival Days, so you can instantly register.

Moving to Diemen?
The municipality of Diemen will not be present at the Arrival Days. Between Monday 19 August and Friday 23 August they will be present at OurCampus.

You will need to open a bank account in order to arrange your day-to-day activities in the Netherlands. There are several options available to you.

N.B. it is unfortunately not possible to open a bank account at most banks when you are a minor and your parents/legal guardians are not with you. Please read the information under 'Bunq' for more information.

ABN Amro

ABN Amro Student Package

The International Student Package consists of a personal account, debit card and access to internet/mobile banking. International students pay €1.55 per month.

Opening a bank account for non-EU students

Opening bank accounts will be possible digitally before your arrival between August 1st and August 15th 2019. After 15 August only face-to-face appointments will be possible. Take into account that availability for face-to-face meetings is very limited. For opening an account in advance, 500 slots are available.

In order to open an account you will need to take the following steps:
  1. Send an email to internationalstudents@nl.abnamro.com with a request for a bank account.
  2. You will receive an auto-reply with additional information about the next steps to take.
  3. One of the next steps is filling in the intake form

You will be able to take the first steps to opening a bank account before you arrive in the Netherlands and complete the last step when you arrive at Schiphol airport.

Please note that if you do not make an appointment before 15 August, it might take a while before your bank account can be set up. We urge you to make use of this option if you will pay your tuition fee via direct debit authorization (installments) as you need an account from a bank in the SEPA area in order to do so. You can find more information about options for payment of the tuition fee here.

Make an appointment at an ABN AMRO office
You can also make an appointment to open a bank account at an ABN AMRO office via 0900-8170 or +31 10 2411723 (from abroad). If you don't have your BSN yet, bring your TIN code (Tax Identification Number). Keep in mind that the appointment slots are limited so call in advance.

ING Student Package
The International Student Package consists of a personal account, debit card and access to internet/mobile banking. If you open a bank account at an ING service point you will pay €1.55 per month.

To open a bank account at ING, please take the following steps:
  1. Make an appointment at a ING office via their website.
  2. Bring a valid form of ID: Passport, European ID Card or Dutch Residence permit
  3. Proof of enrollment at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam/student card.
  4. If you have a BSN: bring an official document with the BSN on it (BRP or RNI letter)
  5. In case you don’t have a BSN, bring your TIN (Tax Identification Number)

You can also visit an ING service point to open an account without an appointment.* Please bring the same documents as mentioned above. Keep in mind that the walk-in service point will have a waiting period.

*Students from the United States of America cannot make use of the service point and will need to make an appointment at an ING office.

Service points:
Admiraal de Ruijterweg 87
1056 ET Amsterdam
Mo-Fri, 08.30-18.00

Van Limburg Stirumstraat 1
1051 BD Amsterdam
Mo-Fri, 08.00-18.00


Bunq is an online bank. You can only open a bank account here once you have obtained a BSN number. However, it is a convenient choice in case you are still a minor. At regular banks, it is not possible to open a bank account when you are not yet 18 and your parents or legal guardians are not with you. However, at Bunq bank it is possible because the registration is done online so your parents or legal guardians do not have to be in the Netherlands! Please have a look at their website for more information concerning the general procedure of opening an account with them and what you need to do when you are a minor.

It is important that you are properly insured during your time in the Netherlands. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam requires all incoming international students to be properly insured by an internationally recognized insurance agency for the duration of their stay (this is also required by Dutch law). Your insurance policy should cover all costs related to sudden illness, accident or death.

Insurance packages
To simplify the business of arranging suitable insurance during your time in the Netherlands, it is advisable to consult your insurance company and explain that you will be studying abroad for a semester or an entire academic year. If your insurance company is unable to meet your needs, then you may consult either of the following companies, each of which offers packages specifically tailored to the needs of international students.

Aon Student Insurance has developed a tailor made ICS Complete+ insurance for international students from VU Amsterdam. This insurance package insures you when you study abroad and covers health and non-medical costs worldwide. The package includes home contents, baggage, accidents, liability and legal costs. The complete insurance policy information and quote about this insurance can be found on www.aonstudentinsurance.com/vuamsterdam. An agent of AON Student Insurances will be present during the arrival days

Health insurance (ziektekostenverzekering)
Everyone living in the Netherlands is legally obliged to have health insurance. The rules are quite complex for international students. Please find here extensive information on this subject and have a look at the Nuffic website.

Liability insurance (aansprakelijkheidsverzekering)
If you damage someone’s property or cause an accident, then Dutch law states that you are responsible for paying the costs of this. You are therefore advised to take out a liability insurance policy, especially if you will be working in a lab or doing research using expensive instruments.

Travel insurance (reisverzekering)
When temporarily studying in another country, most students make use of the opportunity to travel and become acquainted with new cities and countries. It is important that you have a suitable travel insurance policy to cover the costs of stolen baggage, repatriation etc.

In case you need medical care in the Netherlands, you will need to register with a doctor (General Practitioner (GP)/ in Dutch: Huisarts) close to your home. Your GP should be the first point of call for all medical problems with the exception of real emergencies. If suffering from flu, a twisted ankle, abdominal pain, psychological problems, chronic illness or even gynecological problems, contact the GP first. Please do not go to the ER if you are not in a life-threatening health situation, since this can involve high costs.

Please read this important information carefully before arrival in the Netherlands.

Experience shows that living and studying in the Netherlands for one year costs a student between €1000 and €1,100 per month. Some students manage to spend less, but this of course depends on your own lifestyle. An indication of likely monthly expenses:

  • Rent for housing: €450
  • Food: €250
  • Insurance: €100
  • Public transport: €50
  • Books: €50
  • Other costs: €60
  • Total: €960

Working while studying

You cannot count on finding a source of additional income after you arrive and, unless you are from an EU member state, your opportunities to work are restricted. If you are a non-EU student, under Dutch law you are only permitted to work a maximum of 10 hours per week if you have a work permit.

How many hours am I allowed to work in the Netherlands?
If you hold a passport from a country that belongs to the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, then you are permitted to work in the Netherlands without limitation. If this is not the case, then you are only permitted to work a maximum of 10 hours per week averaged over the year or full-time during the summer months (June, July, August). Your employer will also be required to apply for a work permit.

Do I have to pay income tax if I work in the Netherlands?
Under Dutch law, everyone who works in the Netherlands is obliged to pay income tax to the Dutch government. However, the rules may be different if you are already paying income tax in your home country and that country has signed a treaty with the Netherlands that income tax is only to be paid in one of the two countries. All EU member states have signed such a treaty.

What does the Dutch government do for international students working in the Netherlands?
The Dutch government has a comprehensive system of social security, insurance and tax measures related to working in the Netherlands.

More information can be found on the Nuffic website Working while studying. There is also a factsheet on international students and part-time jobs (pdf).

Amsterdam is a city of bicycles. With an extensive network of cycle lanes, bicycle parking everywhere and even traffic lights specifically for bicycles, there is no safer or easier place to cycle than here. There is a bike shop in the basement of the main building of the university. Bike sales for exchange students will also be arranged several times throughout the year. Most students arriving for the first time in Amsterdam find that buying a (second-hand) bike is both an affordable way to travel between home and study, as well as a great way of getting to know the city and the surrounding area.

Public transport card with discount for international students
VU Amsterdam and ISIC have arranged a special public transport card with discount for international students. In the Netherlands you need an OV-chipkaart to travel around with the train, bus, metro and tram. There are two possibilities:
  1. An anonymous card without any discount
  2. A personal card, where you need a Dutch debit card and the buying process is written in Dutch

Both options are not ideal for international students. That is why ISIC created the ISIC/OV-chipkaart, a custom-made card for international students. Buy the basic card for €15,- (including the ISIC card) and sign-up (optional) for services and discount created for international students for a small monthly fee: 

  • 15% discount during off-peak hours on national railway (NS)
  • A digital ISIC card, with the best discounts in the Netherlands and the rest of the world
  • Customized application process for international students
  • Automatic top-up option (no more topping op of balance)
  • Travel data, customer service etc in ISIC mobility app
  • Public transport bike (OV-fiets) and storage 
You need to sign-up for your card here, which includes the public transport card + the digital ISIC card. After confirmation you will be able to pick-up your card during the Arrival days in August.

Check in, check out
It is very important that your remember to check both in and out when using your OV-chipkaart. This can be done by holding the card against the reader present on platforms (for trains and metro) and on board the vehicle (for buses and trams). You must also check in and out when changing to a different line or mode of transport.

If you have a smartphone, the app 9292 (available in English) is a convenient way of planning your journey.

In our Getting Started Brochure you can find contact details and general information about studying at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. We invite you to take a look at it!

Getting Started 2020-2021

Students-4-Students@VU offers various programs to students who find it difficult to engage with VU or when things aren’t working out as planned. The programs offered are:

• Study partner
• Studying Together
• Studying & children
• Studying with ASD

For more information please check Students-4-Students@VU page.

Would you like to learn Dutch to help you feel more at home on campus? Of course you do! Luckily, VU-NT2 offers two course modules (8 weeks per level) of the Basic Dutch on Campus course at a greatly reduced rate for international students. You will learn to introduce yourself, do some shopping, order a meal and chat with local students and teachers. Finished the course? Then you receive a ‘Basic Dutch on Campus’ certificate. Check out the website of VU-NT2 for more information.