Social Security The Netherlands: Key Considerations for Expats


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One of the critical systems that every foreigner in the Netherlands should be familiar with is the Netherlands Social Security System. It doesn’t only offer protection in times of need but also becomes an integral part of daily life, especially when dealing with administrative tasks.

Whether you’re an expat setting up a new life, a student exploring academic pursuits, or an international job seeker eyeing opportunities in the Dutch market, this guide is crafted for you.

Key Takeaways

  • The Dutch social security system is designed as a comprehensive safety net for various life phases and challenges.
  • Residents in the Netherlands need to register at their local municipal office to be integrated into the system and receive a BSN.
  • The BSN (Burger Service Nummer) is an essential identifier, crucial for accessing a range of public services, employment, and more.
  • The social security system may undergo future changes; staying informed through official channels ensures preparedness.

Background Information

The Netherlands, known for its picturesque canals, tulip fields, and windmills, also boasts a comprehensive and robust social security system designed to offer a safety net to all its residents. But before delving into the intricacies of the system, let’s first understand its roots and foundational principles.

The Netherlands Social Security System originates in the post-World War II era. With the war’s aftermath affecting many lives and livelihoods, there was a pressing need for a system that could support the country’s population, ensuring that they wouldn’t face poverty or be left without support in times of sickness, unemployment, or old age. Thus, a series of laws and policies began to offer protection against these social risks.

At its core, the Dutch social security system operates on the principles of solidarity and universality. This means that all residents, regardless of their income, employment status, or background, are entitled to certain benefits, ensuring that no one is left behind. The system is predominantly funded through contributions made by workers, employers, and the state.

Who is Eligible for Social Security in The Netherlands?

Who is Eligible?

The Netherlands’ commendable approach to social security is rooted in its inclusivity. While the system is designed to cater to all residents, it’s essential for foreigners in the country to discern their specific eligibility criteria. Let’s break down the eligibility for different groups:


Expatriates, commonly referred to as ‘expats’, are individuals who have moved to the Netherlands for work or other reasons and plan to stay either short-term or long-term.

Most expats are eligible for social security benefits if they are officially registered with the Dutch municipality (gemeente) where they reside and if they are contributing to the system through their employment.

International Job Seekers

Those who come to the Netherlands specifically seeking employment fall into this category.

While they may not immediately be entitled to all social benefits, once they secure a job and start making contributions to the system, they generally become eligible.


International students in the Netherlands are a special category. Their eligibility largely depends on their work status.

If an international student takes up part-time employment and pays into the Dutch social security system, they can be entitled to certain benefits. However, it’s essential to be aware that there might be specific stipulations based on the type and hours of work.

Temporary Workers

Those who come to the Netherlands for short-term work contracts or seasonal jobs fall under this group.

Their eligibility is often defined by the duration of their stay and the nature of their job contract. Temporary workers who pay into the system during their employment period are generally covered for the duration of their contract.

Types of Social Benefits in the Netherlands

Types of Social Benefits in the Netherlands

A primary reason many are drawn to the Netherlands, apart from its rich culture and high standard of living, is its comprehensive social benefits system. It’s designed to ensure that every resident has a safety net during various phases and challenges in life.

Benefit TypeDescriptionKey Notes
Old Age Pension (AOW)Pension for residents aged 15-65Amount based on insured years in the country
Child BenefitsFinancial support for parents with children under 18Amount varies by child’s age
Unemployment Benefits (WW)Supports those actively seeking new employment after job lossAmount and duration depend on employment history
Sickness and DisabilityFor those unable to work due to illness or disability‘Ziektewet’ for short-term, ‘WIA’ for long-term illness

Let’s break down the primary social benefits that the Netherlands offers:

Old Age Pension (AOW)

This is a foundational pillar of the Dutch social security system. Every resident who has lived in the Netherlands between the ages of 15 and 65 is typically entitled to the AOW pension once they reach the official retirement age.

The amount you receive is determined by the number of years you’ve been insured in the country. The pension ensures that the elderly can maintain a reasonable standard of living even after their working years come to an end.

Child Benefits

The Netherlands offers financial support to parents to help cover the costs of raising children. This is known as ‘kinderbijslag’.

Every parent or guardian in the Netherlands with children under 18 is generally entitled to this benefit, with the amount varying depending on the age of the child.

Unemployment Benefits

Known as ‘WW-uitkering’, this benefit supports those who become unemployed and are actively seeking new employment.

The eligibility and amount are typically based on one’s employment history in the Netherlands. Those who’ve worked in the country for a specific period can receive a certain percentage of their last-earned salary for a designated timeframe.

Sickness and Disability Benefits

If an individual cannot work due to illness or disability, they might be eligible for benefits.

‘Ziektewet’ is for those temporarily unable to work due to sickness. The ‘WIA’ is for those who’ve been ill for over two years and can’t fully return to work. The benefits aim to ensure that people don’t face financial hardships due to health challenges.

Registration Process for Social Security

Registration Process for Social Security

One of the first steps to ensure you’re covered by the Dutch social security system and can reap its benefits is to register correctly. This might sound daunting, but with a clear, step-by-step approach, it becomes a straightforward affair. Let’s delve into the registration process:

Visit the Municipal Office

Upon your arrival in the Netherlands, make a point to register at the municipal office (known as ‘gemeente’) in the town or city you’ll be residing in. This registration ensures you’re recognized as a resident, which is the foundation for accessing many social security benefits.

Required Documents

  • Passport or a valid identification card
  • Proof of address, such as a rental contract or utility bill
  • Birth certificate (this might need an official translation if not in Dutch, English, German, or French)
  • If applicable: marriage certificate, proof of relationship, or divorce documents

Receiving the Social Security Number (BSN)

Once registered with the municipality, you’ll be issued a Burger Service Nummer (BSN), which is a unique personal ID number. This number is crucial for various administrative tasks and accessing social benefits.

The BSN will be mailed to your Dutch address, so ensure the details you provide during registration are accurate.

Register with a Health Insurance Provider

Health insurance is mandatory in the Netherlands. Within four months of your arrival, register with a Dutch health insurance provider. This not only ensures you have medical coverage but also integrates you further into the social security system.

Employment Integration

If you’re in the Netherlands for employment, your employer will usually handle your integration into the social security system in terms of contributions.

Ensure you have a clear conversation with your employer about this, so you’re both on the same page regarding contributions and benefits.

Keeping Details Updated

Life is full of changes, from moving homes to changing jobs. Ensure that you update the gemeente with any changes in your personal details or living situation to ensure continuous and smooth access to your benefits.

The Importance of the Social Security Number (BSN)

Amidst the many new experiences and adjustments when settling into the Netherlands, there’s one number that stands out in its importance: the Burger Service Nummer (BSN) or Social Security Number. Much more than just a unique identifier, the BSN is central to various aspects of life in the Netherlands. Let’s unpack its significance:

Gateway to Services

The BSN is essentially your key to a range of public services. Whether you’re visiting a doctor, opening a bank account, or even purchasing a mobile phone plan, you’ll find that your BSN is frequently requested. It acts as a seamless way for institutions to access necessary details about you.

Employment and Taxation

Starting a new job? Your employer will request your BSN to process salary payments and to ensure the right taxes and social security contributions are made on your behalf.

When tax season rolls around, the BSN is essential for filing tax returns and ensuring you’re squared away with the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration.

Healthcare Accessibility

The BSN is required when you visit healthcare providers, ensuring you’re correctly identified and the services are billed to your health insurance or noted for your medical history.

Education and Childcare Services

If you have children who will be attending school or accessing childcare services in the Netherlands, their BSN (and often yours) will be necessary for registration and to avail any associated benefits.

Efficiency and Privacy

The BSN simplifies administrative processes by providing a streamlined way for public bodies and service providers to share information when necessary, while also ensuring the privacy and security of your personal details.

How and Where to Apply for a BSN

As previously mentioned in the registration process, you’ll automatically receive a BSN once you register with your local municipal office (‘gemeente’) upon your arrival in the Netherlands.


  • Always keep your BSN private and only provide it to official bodies or when genuinely required. It’s your unique identifier and, like any other personal identifier, should be safeguarded.
  • If you ever lose access to your BSN or need to verify it, you can usually find it on official documents like your tax return or reach out to your municipality.

Future Changes or Updates

Future Changes or Updates

The dynamism of the global landscape means that systems, even as robust as the Netherlands’ Social Security, are periodically updated to reflect the needs of the population and adapt to socioeconomic changes. While the foundation remains consistent, here’s what you should know about potential changes or updates:

Stay Informed

The Dutch government values transparency. Any significant changes or overhauls to the social security system will be communicated through official channels. Consider subscribing to newsletters or checking the official websites of relevant bodies periodically.

Digital Integration

The Netherlands is continuously enhancing its digital infrastructure. Expect more online services, portals, and apps to be developed that allow you to manage, track, and apply for social benefits more seamlessly.

International Agreements

With an ever-globalizing world, the Netherlands may enter new agreements or modify existing ones with other countries regarding social security rights and contributions. Especially relevant for expats, keeping an eye on such treaties can help ensure you’re maximizing your benefits.

Adaptation to Demographic Changes

As the demographic composition of the Netherlands shifts—whether due to aging, migration, or other factors—the social security system may be tweaked to better serve the needs of its population. This could impact areas like pension age, contribution rates, or benefit amounts.

Feedback Channels

It’s not just a one-way street. The government often seeks feedback or runs pilot programs when considering changes. Engaging in these can ensure you have a say in shaping the system for the better.


  • While it’s essential to stay updated on changes, avoid acting on rumors or unofficial sources. Misinformation can lead to unnecessary panic or confusion.
  • Always refer to official government websites or consult professionals for accurate and current information.

Embracing change can sometimes be challenging, especially when it concerns vital systems like social security. However, the Netherlands’ consistent track record of prioritizing the welfare of its residents, both local and foreign, provides a reassuring backdrop. Stay informed, stay engaged, and remember that every evolution is aimed at creating a more inclusive and effective system for all.

Additional Resources

  • The central body that manages the Netherlands’ social insurance. Their website provides comprehensive information about various social benefits, from pensions to child benefits.
  • Website:
  • Focuses on unemployment and disability benefits. If you’re looking for details on unemployment allowances or how to navigate situations like long-term illness, their platform is a goldmine.
  • Website:
  • Provides overarching information on living, working, and accessing public services in the Netherlands, including insights into the social security system.
  • Website:
  • A not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting the international community in the Netherlands. They offer various resources and can guide you through many administrative processes.
  • Website:


Pieter van der Meer, our Lifestyle Coordinator at, embodies the vibrant and diverse Dutch lifestyle. Born and raised in Utrecht, Pieter has a deep-rooted love for his homeland, which reflects in his in-depth knowledge of the Netherlands’ culture, traditions, and lifestyle.

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