June 19, 2008

Ah yes, the logistical details are important too.

In the past few weeks, I have been many places. It hasn't all been cafes and bars and picnics in the park. In chronological order, this is where I've been since the 9th of June:

1. To the main IND office in Rijswijk. This is where I applied for permission to get a work permit, basically. After deciding to hire me, my employer gave me a 1-year job contract and made the appointment for me at the IND office. The outcome of this appointment was getting a sticker in my passport that proves I reported myself to the authorities and my visa is in process. I had to bring my contract, passport, and 1 official Dutch-size passport picture, and application forms (which were prepared for me by my employer, again). This was a really simple appointment - I was in and out of the building in ten minutes.

2. To the bank (ABN) to set up an account. In order to get paid, I need a bank account - practically everything here is done with bank transfers and direct deposit. Normally you have to provide a BSN number (which was called a SOFI number, or a dutch social security number). However! My employer has an agreement with this bank that allows employees to set up bank accounts before getting a BSN number (though I need to give them one within a certain time period). I needed to provide a letter from my employer and a copy of my job contract, along with my passport and an address.

3. To the main branch of the DienstPersoonsGegevens (DPG) in Amsterdam, on Stadhouderskade 85. This is where I had to register myself to the city with a legal address. See, in order to get a BSN number, I need a legal address in Amsterdam (keep in mind, everything about this process is different if you have an EU passport, which I do not have). And since you need a BSN number to do just about anything, this is a really important step. I'm fortunate enough to have friends that own their own apartment here in Amsterdam and said "sure, you can use our address to register." I want to emphasize this is a really big deal here - I needed a copy of their mortgage agreement, a letter saying that I could stay, and a copy of my friends passport. And from here on in, all my mail goes to their place, which is also a huge deal. Everything is communicated through the post - my bank account number, my BSN number, etc. Anyway, everything went fine at the DPG (I was there for about an hour or so) and now I'm officially in the system.

There's one weird thing that I needed to provide that I don't have, which is a birth certificate with an apostel stamp. I have never been asked for something like this before and I really have no idea why the Netherlands needs it. I do have my original birth certificate, and the people at the DPG seemed really understanding about this whole lack-of-apostel-stamp thing. They said I had six months to get it, which means requesting a copy from the state of New York, where I was born. So, okay, I'll start figuring out how to get that sometime soon.

I want to emphasize that because I have a job with a proper contract, my whole integration process into Amsterdam has become absurdly simple. Everything I'm doing right now is based on the fact that I have a job... and everything I do, I do with the help of the HR department at my company. I've had one or two very minor problems/inconveniences along the way, but honestly nothing even worth detailing in this blog. Every time I go anywhere, whether it's to the bank or the immigration office, I just simply bring everything with me. Everything. My passport, photos, birth certificate, job contract, housing contract, etc., and of course I have multiple copies of each one of these things.

So, what's next? Finding an apartment. I know, my housing situation must sound a little confusing. Here's what's going on, in the simplest terms.

-I'm registering at my friends M & A's apartment, in Bos en Lommer. This is now where Amsterdam believes I live, where all my mail goes, etc.
-I'm actually living in a different friends apartment, south of Vondelpark, in the Oud Zuid. It is not possible for me to register there, and it's only through the amazing generosity and trust of my friend that I'm able to stay.
-Therefore I'm looking for my own place, something nice and legal, someplace that allows me to register which...
-Is incredibly difficult to find here in Amsterdam for a million different reasons but...
-I found one anyway.

This is incredible! I'm going to move into my new place on the 1st of July. It's located near the Weesperplein, which is technically in the center, but it's actually more east of the the center (just across the Amstel). I'll go into how I found it and everything in my next post, but I wanted to mention it here because this means... another visit to the DPG!

Anytime you change addresses in Amsterdam, you need to re-register. So - yes, I just went through this whole process of registering in Bos en Lommer and getting my mail sent there and everything, and now I'll have to change all that stuff. The thing is, I just really needed that BSN number and couldn't wait to register myself (and honestly, I didn't expect to find an apartment so quickly). The good news is that there are DPG offices all over Amsterdam and I can change my address at any of them (think about them like little City or Town Halls), I don't have to go back to the main branch.

So, just in case there's anyone reading who might be embarking on something similar - honestly - none of this stuff was hard. Since every other person who moves to Amsterdam seems intent on emphasizing how hard it is to live here, how it's impossible for Americans to find jobs, how dealing with Dutch bureaucracy is a total nightmare... I just wanted to be that one person on the internet who says that hey, in my particular case, it's all working out fine. And even though it was raining while I biked to work this morning, I still thought, man, I am so happy to be here.


Anonymous said...

Once you're registered, you can change your address with the Stadhuis online, you don't need to go back in person.

The reason why most people won't let you register with them if you don't live there is because that's how rates are calculated, so you have to pay more for water (there are like 3 or 4 kinds of water rates in this country) and rubbish collection/street cleaning/all other things they can think of to charge you for.

Also, your situation is different due to the KM visa. For most people, moving here really IS a nightmare. Of course I'm happy that it's worked out for you, I'm just saying that before the KM visa it wasn't that simple, so be gentle with people who are having a hard time ;-)

Nav said...

AWESOME! If you have a housewarming, please post the "boring" details. ;-)

I've read numerous posts about the whole IND and "getting legal" process and yours is the first positive one I've EVER seen. Great to know that there's light at the end of the tunnel.

Now, the real test: Start practicing your Dutch around Dutchies. THAT I can't wait to read about. :-)

Another American Expat said...

Hey Anon - I'm going to mention what you said in your comment in my next post... it's important, and something I only learned about myself a few weeks ago. When I asked my friends about registering, I did it with the offer that I would of course cover the additional expenses that would occur because of it.

And to Nav - (which kind of goes along with the above comment as well) - I think it's important to talk about the good stuff as well as the bad. So many expats love to bitch and complain about how hard everything is... there's no shortage of that stuff to read online. I've had an amazing run of good luck, and yes, having the visa I have makes everything ten zillion times easier than it would otherwise. that's pretty much the entire reason why all this is happening so smoothly.

I've already made a couple of my dutch friends promise that they would speak Dutch with me when the time comes. I can't wait to get started on learning the language!

Anonymous said...

"So many expats love to bitch and complain about how hard everything is... there's no shortage of that stuff to read online."

You know what else I think, though? When people have problems, they blog about them/look for support online. I never wrote about anything to do with moving here (though the internet barely existed then:P) because it was a non-issue, I just got on with it. But for people who have problems, writing/asking others is probably a good way of venting. When things go smoothly, you don't really write about them (I bought a cup of coffee today, it came, I drank it. Bit boring really! But when it gets stuffed up, it's a story!)

Also, for those of us from first world countries with decent training/education/experience, things are easier and we have preferential treatment laid down in law (eg not having to have a visa to come here in the first place). Other people do sometimes get treated like s***.

I don't disagree with anything you've written mind you, I just know that people like you and I have had a relatively easy ride. But either way, the country's full of Americans and other foreigners, so moving here can't be that difficult!

Hope work is going well :-)

Nav said...

Yes, you're right about having a balanced view. In my experience there are very few blogs by expat Dutchies that do this, making it hard to find reliable information.

As to "luck", well.. We know you did your background work before leaving the States. :-)

Nomadic Matt said...

Moving to amsterdam sounds like a lot of paperwork.....

I liked the area of town you live in. It was convenient. But oud zuid was prettier!