Leaving the Netherlands
While American expat Brooke prepares for the big move home, a new fear has emerged: how many Dutch faux pas will she commit in the US?
It takes a long time to get used to life in a foreign country. But after three years as an American expat living in the Netherlands and overcoming the small expat fears, I now have a very different fear: What will life back home be like?
With only a few months left before our repatriation, I’m starting to worry that we will commit some major faux pas after moving back to the US.
My repatriation fears as a Dutch-American expat
In no particular order:
1. I’ll be that lady who kisses everyone – and not just once, but three times!
2. My kids will get in trouble because they nonchalantly ask their teacher for a ‘rubber’ in the middle of class.
3. I will wear orange pants to the neighbourhood coffee morning.
4. And if that’s not bad enough, I will also be known as a close-talker. That whole concept of personal space, can someone explain it to me again?
5. I will ride my bike… in the rain… in heels and a dress… holding an umbrella.
6. My kids will get in trouble for singing the uncensored versions of popular songs on the playground (they don’t do censored versions in the Netherlands).
7. Heck, I could even get a call from the school principal about my children trying to make political statements in class – they might abstain from saying the Pledge of Alliance or singing America the Beautiful simply because they’ve never done it before and don’t actually know the words.
8. I will be that annoying car in front of you that doesn’t turn right on the red light.
9. My kids will go crazy and start shouting and singing (uncensored songs) the first 12 times they encounter the cereal aisle of an American grocery store.
10. Around the same time, I will have a breakdown in the grocery store and leave empty handed because there were just too many decisions to make. But on the way out, I will wish the cashier a fijne dag.
11. When my son orders a grilled cheese at a restaurant, and they ask him what kind of cheese he wants, he will answer, “Young.”
12. And when hubby orders a drink, he will ask for a Spa Blauw. And my kids will attempt to order ranja and Fristi.
13. We will forget that it’s considered crude to ask for ‘the toilet’.
14. At the end of the happy birthday song, one of us will inadvertently shout, “Hip! Hip!”
15. We will leave our curtains open much longer than is socially acceptable.
16. One of my boys will volunteer to play football, and have no idea what he just got himself into.
17. My kids will get ridiculed for using words like plaster (Band Aid), ice lolly (Popsicle), rubbish (garbage), jumper (sweater) and full stop (period).
18. At the beach or swimming pool or after a sporting event, my boys will change clothes right out in the open because they assume nobody cares.
19. The fries will be awful.
20. And I’m afraid we’ll miss Dutch directness. And square-shaped trees. Cobblestone streets. And comically steep staircases. Beautiful, cheap flowers everywhere. And the best bike paths known to humankind. And stroopwafels.
When your residence permit expires or you want to leave the Netherlands
If your Dutch resident permit expires, you can apply to extend it or opt for a different permit. If you leave instead, you must deregister and return your permit.
If you are the holder of a Dutch residence permit that is about to expire, you may be eligible to extend it depending on the type of permit. Not all permits can be extended, however, in which case you might qualify for a new residence permit based on a different purpose of stay. Otherwise you will have to leave the country, which also requires action on your behalf. Additionally, any changes in your residence situation in the Netherlands must be reported, or you could face a fine.
When your permit expires
The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) will inform you a few months before your permit expires. If you want to stay in the Netherlands, you may have the option of extending the permit (not all permits are extendable) or applying for a new residence permit. The IND will assess your application and decide whether or not you fulfil the requirements of an extension or if you qualify for a different permit. If you would like to apply for different type of residence permit, see our complete guide to Dutch visas and permits to see if you qualify for a different purpose of stay.
If your residence permit is about to expire and you don’t want to continue living in the Netherlands, you must depart on or before the day that your permit expires. In practice the authorities will usually accept a three-day stay after expiry, however this is not provided for in immigration regulations and is not strictly in keeping with policy, so it is best to depart on or before the expiration date. If you overstay your permit, it can have serious consequences (see below).
Extending your permit
You may apply for an extension up to three months before the expiration date on your residence card. It is best to file the extension application timely to prevent a so-called ‘residence gap’. A ‘residence gap’ is an interruption in your continuous stay and may cause problems later on if you apply for a permit that demands a period of continuous residency (such as Dutch permanent residence).
After the extension application is filed you may reside in the Netherlands legally on the basis of that application, even after your residence permit has expired. However, if your permit has expired and you need to travel outside the Netherlands you may require a ‘return visa’ to re-enter the Netherlands, depending on your nationality.
If you continue to stay in the Netherlands after your permit has expired, making no effort to extend or apply for a different permit, you are effectively an illegal immigrant. You may be questioned by immigration officers when you go to leave the country and may not be granted an entry visa or residence permit to return to the Netherlands in the future.
Informing the IND of any changes
Certain changes in your status (or the status of your family members) must be reported to the IND, if those changes are relevant to your residence in the Netherlands.
If you have a sponsor recognised by the IND, it is their legal obligation to inform the IND in writing if you no longer meet the conditions on which the permit was issued, your circumstances change or that you are still in the country after your permit has expired. They have four weeks after the change of circumstance to inform the IND.
If you don’t have a sponsor recognised by the IND, you must inform the IND of any changes. If you have dependant family members you must inform the IND of changes that are relevant to their residence, even if your company filed the original permit application on your behalf. For example, if your family members return to your home country for a period longer than six months this should be reported to the IND. Failure to do so could result in a fine.
Leaving the Netherlands
When you wish to leave the Netherlands, you must contact the Municipal personal records database (BRP) in your local municipality to deregister. Your residence card must also be returned to the IND, as it is deemed property of the Dutch government. Take a copy (both front and back) for future reference, and return the permit to your nearest IND desk, or post it. Check the IND website for an address. The card can also be returned at the airport when you exit the Netherlands; information about this can also be found on the IND website.
In some cases (if you come from certain countries, or you are a refugee, for example), there may be financial assistance to help you return to your home country through a remigration scheme. For more information on this, see the Social Insurance Bank (SVB).
Checklist for moving out of the Netherlands
Kissing the Netherlands good-bye? Moving home can be as daunting as moving abroad but adhering to a few guidelines can save you a lot of stress when relocating.
Just as you finally settled into life in the Netherlands, you, or your employer, decides that it’s time you return home or on to your next assignment in another foreign country.
It may feel as though you have just unpacked and now you have to start packing all your belongings up again. If you are in luck, your employer may arrange and pay for a removal company. If not, you will have to arrange it yourself.
Planning the move
You will find the names of a number of reputable moving and/or relocation companies in the phone book, on Expatica’s listings of removal companies site.
Don’t wait. Once you know you are leaving, start arranging your affairs.
You will need to hire a removal service to ensure your belongings are out of the house or apartment, and on their way to your new residence in good time. Make sure you have plenty of boxes and that everything is itemised.
All of this is self-evident really. But it is the little things like the forgotten phone bill, newspaper subscriptions and bank account that can cause problems. This is where the importance of planning comes in. Book time off work to arrange the move as it is going to take time. You will be able to cancel a lot of things by email but for certainty, you should ring too.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that it will take 30 minutes to make all the necessary phone calls. (You should get paid time off even if it means using your holidays.)
Two months before the move
• Take your time to draw up a complete list of the people, companies and services you need to contact. Do this regularly right up to the time you leave to ensure you don’t miss one.
• Contact your local government office (gemeente) and de-register. Remember you pay local and national taxes so are some bills outstanding? On their way? If you don’t say you are going, the local authorities may happily keep billing you.
• Tell your landlord or speak to mortgage provider. (If you own a house and intend to sell it, it’s best if you can start planning six months or more in advance.)
• Contact your telephone company to arrange to have the phone disconnected by the time you leave. The same applies to your mobile phone, though it could be very useful on the day of the move, so best not to set the cancellation date too early.
• Arrange to cancel your contract with your Dutch Internet provider. Some of the help desks are useless, so when you get to speak to a person, ask for an email address to send a confirmation in writing.
• Contact UPC or any other television, digital, or cable television providers to cancel your service(s). Some often require a cancellation request, in writing, at least a month in advance.
• Fix a cancellation date for the electricity, water (you are probably paying water rates), and gas.
• If you have children, you should give them a letter explaining the situation to the school. The head teacher can then help you through any formalities, including the provision of exam results and evaluations etc. Don’t forget to contact the baby’s nursery.
• If you have a cleaner or a babysitter, you need to give them adequate notice and arrange for them to return house keys.
• Cancel subscriptions to gyms, art classes, etc.
A month before the move, at the latest:
• Go to your local post office (or surf to www.verhuisservice.nl) to order their moving service. You can order cards to inform friends of your new address and use the service to inform 250 commonly-used companies you are leaving. However, if the relationship involves money, contact the company directly.
• The post office’s moving service also gives you free mail forwarding for a month to anywhere in the world (save war zones, places in the grips of the plague etc). After the first 30 days, you have to pay EUR 3.60 (incl. BTW) per week for delivery in Europe and EUR 6.95 (incl. BTW) per week for the rest of the world.
So, that is it? Not quite.
• to tell your doctor, the dentist (what about little Jimmy’s appointment on the 19th?). You might want records of any procedures undertaken while in the Netherlands.
• Insurance is a biggy: ziekenfondsor private health insurance, car insurance, house insurance. Make a list so you don’t forget one. If you do, the company won’t and it will keep billing you and/or taking money directly from your account if you have signed a direct debit.
• Your bank/credit car company needs to know. The bank might be able to help you with cancelling the insurances, etc. You should think carefully about when to deactivate and close your account(s). Bear in mind that your last wages may come in after you leave (unless you arranged that properly) and you may have some late bills to pay.
• One more check to ensure you have cancelled all your mail order subscriptions.
If in doubt about whether you have already cancelled a service, ring them again. It is better to be safe than sorry. Sure, you are leaving and any outstanding bills may never catch up with you, but you might want to come back, if only for a visit, and it’s best not to have to return to any surprises!