The Dutch citizen service number — abbreviated to BSN from the Dutch burgerservicenummer — is one of the first bureaucratic hurdles that you will have to deal with when settling in the Netherlands.
The BSN is used during all interaction with Dutch authorities: when you’re starting a job, opening a bank account, doing your taxes, using the healthcare system, applying for benefits, announcing an address change, etc. It also serves to combat identity fraud and administrative errors due to misspelling.
It is important to note that having a BSN does not automatically allow you to work in the Netherlands. Depending on an expat’s country of origin, they may need to apply for a work permit.
How do I apply for a BSN?
You get your BSN when you register with your local Dutch municipality (gemeente). Anyone who is going to be living in the Netherlands for longer than four months needs to register with their municipality within five days after their arrival in the country.
If you are an EU citizen, you will need to provide valid proof of identity when registering with your municipality (like a passport or EU-approved national ID card), as well as your Dutch address. Non-EU expats also have to provide other documents, such as their residence permit, employment contract, etc). Upon registration, you will receive your BSN. When you make the appointment to register (usually through the municipality’s online portal), you will be told exactly what you need to bring. You can always check beforehand on how to apply for a BSN.
If you’re a non-EU expat and applying for a Dutch residence permit, your registration with the municipality will be provisional. After you have registered, you will receive a letter of pre-registration (BvB – Bewijs van Bekendmaking in Dutch) from the Dutch immigration and naturalisation service IND, which will be returned to your municipality after you have applied for your residence permit. After that, your registration and BSN will be confirmed.