Immigration Update #2: The Dutch Bank Accounts

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TLDR: We have bank accounts! (but no money) and residency app is still in process….

We’ve taken many steps forward and a few steps back on our immigration process. Luckily a week or so ago, we received letters from the government stating our residency application was “in process”. With this acknowledgement, we could submit our request for a “Biometrics” appointment and also request a BSN number (this number is mission critical for basically anything important in NL). For the biometrics appointment, we go in, have our photos and fingerprints taken. Every member of the Hays family participated in this activity.

Around that time, we were told via email that the Gemeente (local municipality/government) was helping to expedite our process (yay!?!) and that we should come in for (another) appointment. We are getting very familiar with this government office! We thought this meant we would walk away with our BSN, but basically we just verified that the documents we had submitted online the week prior (copies of our lease, info on our family members, including mine and Josh’s parents, copies of birth certificates and marriage certificates, etc). Since the originals of some of those documents are in the hands of IND (immigration authorities) we could not give them those originals, which they wanted, but they seemed to accept this reasoning and said they would process it all for our BSN. BUT we would have to wait for that number to come in the mail. ugh.

Why do we need that number?

In Maastricht and the Netherlands, having a Dutch bank account is KEY to life. Many stores, most importantly the grocery store, will not accept a credit card or even US debit card. You have to pay with cash or with a Dutch debit card. Paying for utilities also requires a Dutch bank account. Our mobile phones also have to be paid with a Dutch bank account (thankfully our fairy godmother Melissa, has added us to her account until we have our own.) In order to get a bank account, you have to have a BSN. You also need a BSN to sign up for insurance and to get a local doctor, from what I understand.

Low and behold last week we received a BSN number via mail. Woo hoo! Josh immediately called ABN-AMRO to set up a bank account, which, because we are expats, requires an in-person appointment and this bank was weeks out from having an available appointment. Darn. A day or so later, I read on a forum that ING bank had quicker availability for appointments so we booked one for the next day in Roermond which would be a 30 minute train ride but so worth it. We thought.

We got up and got to the ING bank in Roermond a few minutes early. Walked in and proudly handed over our BSN letters. “I’m sorry,” the guy said. “We need a BRP certificate of your BSN. We can’t just accept this letter.” WHAT?!?!
“No one has ever mentioned a BRP to me,” we said. Who says we need this? Here’s our BSN on paper! From the government! I’m screaming this in my head but smiling politely in real life.
“You could have created this yourself” he says. While kind, and certainly wanting to help, he explained that the process was more difficult than in used to be, primarily due to Eastern European immigrants coming to the Netherlands for temporary work and needing bank accounts (this doesn’t make me feel better about their process). He made us another appointment for the following Tuesday in the hopes we could obtain this mysterious BRP document on Monday.

So, we walked around pretty little Roermond for a few before catching a train back to Maastricht. The boys were beyond upset that we had “wasted” the trip. Josh and I were frustrated for sure, but the city is cute and we got hot chocolate/muffins/and coffee to soothe our grumps and walked around a beautiful very old church before heading home. lemons –> lemonade.

Fountain and Romanesque church views from where we ate our feelings about not getting a bank account opened.

Apparently the need for this BRP document is so new that even the municipality was skeptical about our needing it. Nevertheless, we pleaded our case by phone on Monday morning, got an appointment to receive the BRP that afternoon, and we were able to open our account on Tuesday morning! Yippee!

Tuesday was also Caleb’s birthday, so let me tell you how excited he was to sit in a bank while we completed that process. The boys are at least very aware of our need for this account so they were a bit more willing to deal with the boring meeting. Playing games on our cell phones also helped. They made themselves right at home in this fancy new ING branch, taking off their shoes and everything! As we left, I asked if the bank had daytime babysitting services 😉

Shoes off, just making themselves at home at ING bank in Maastricht.

Another catch. So here’s the thing about opening a bank account here. You don’t get immediate access. You can’t even deposit money the same day you open. They take another couple of days to review your application/documents. Then send you letters in the mail with online access info. Then send you your card and PIN. Once this is set up, you easily also set up payment by phone and almost everywhere here accepts payment via your phone with the card info connected to this Dutch bank account. I’m happy to report we have received our cards and PIN and are just waiting on money to arrive from our US accounts!

Life is about to become super easy. I think. At least on the payment side.

We are still in process for our residency status. We are working on our Dutch business plan documents which we will file with the local Chamber of Commerce and then open an account for that as well. Keep those fingers crossed for us.

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