With less than a month to go until our move to Amsterdam under the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT), we knew full well that little problems would start cropping up at this point.
For example, how do you get rid of an entire apartment full of “stuff”? Apparently, lots and lots of trash bags. A few pieces of furniture that we were supposed to be giving away have now become logistical nightmares as our original recipients have fallen through. There’s a cabinet full of miscellaneous glassware that we want to give away to the right home.
In the end, those issues are slight since there’s always a curb out front on which we can put things with a big “FREE” sign on the front. Or the creepy alternative, just post an ad on Craigslist for anyone to come and take what’s left. On second thought, the curb might be better.
Come Tiptoe through the Red Tape with Me
The more concerning topic at the moment is the famed Dutch governmental machine. Yes, DAFTers get the full “rode loper” (red carpet) treatment, but that still doesn’t mean we can get an appointment at the city hall to register ourselves in a timely manner.
Our attorney advised us that we should let him know 30 days ahead of our move so that he can start setting appointments for us with the Kamer van Koophandel (Chamber of Commerce), the Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst (immigration authorities), Belastingdienst (tax authorities), and our various banks and accountants.
But the most important one, Gemeente Amsterdam (city government), is how we register ourselves as living in the country to receive a burgerservicenummer, the equivalent of a U.S. Social Security number. Nothing happens without that number — no mobile phone service or utilities, no bank accounts, no start to the immigration process, nothing.
Normally 30 days is more than enough time to get an appointment, but imagine our surprise when we were informed that the first available appointment isn’t for nearly two months. This could be a serious setback, since I’d almost rather go without water than without Internet service.
But recall that we are two prepared planner types who have done our research, not a couple of wide-eyed romantics with a suitcase filled with dreams (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). We already knew that getting an appointment at city hall could take a while, which is why we planned to set the appointment a month before our arrival. Still, a month after arrival is just too long to wait.
Enter the Amsterdam Expatcenter. A partnership between various cities in the Netherlands and the country’s immigration and tax authorities, the Expatcenter is a one-stop shop for information and services for businesses in the Netherlands that have to deal with the specific issues related to immigration and taxes. For a relatively small fee compared to the agony of not having phone service for a month, resident registration service can be handled swiftly, and there will be no problem setting an appointment.
In the end, this “setback” wasn’t so bad, and it’s good to know that there are alternatives for this critical link in the immigration chain. The Amsterdam Expatcenter is located in Amsterdam Zuid’s World Trade Center. It’s a beautiful facility, and the staff there are incredibly helpful. You’ll certainly hear more from us after our visit there.
UPDATE: The clouds parted! The city government had a computer malfunction and showed no available appointments the other day. This has been corrected, and now appointments are available. All’s well that ends well.