One of the first bureaucratic matters internationals need to take care of in the Netherlands is the BSN number, in Dutch ”burgerservicenummer”. BSN, or also known as Sofi number in the past is a social service number used in the country.
What purpose does the Dutch BSN / Sofi number serve?
The BSN or Civic Service Number is a unique number issued to everyone living in the country. It is a form of registration intended to assist all interactions with the local authorities, e.g. opening a bank account, paying social security liabilities and taxes, applying for a job or benefits, receiving health care, changing address, etc. The BSN is also helpful when dealing with misspelled names and identity fraud.
In the past, the BSN issued at the Tax Office (or Belastingdienst in Dutch) was called “sofinummer” (Sofi number). In November 2007 all Sofi numbers were automatically replaced by BSN and as of the beginning of 2014, the Tax Office stopped issuing Sofi registration numbers.
Please, have in mind that the issue of a Social Security Number does not necessarily mean that the respective international citizen can be employed in the country. People of certain nationalities have to obtain permissions to work.
Applying for a BSN number
Your Social Security Number will be issued upon your registration at the municipality of the district where your permanent address is located. Anyone intending to live in the country permanently or for long periods of time (more than 4 months) has to register at the respective municipality within 5 days of their arrival.
Upon registration and receipt of a BSN, citizens of the EU have to present a valid identity document (e.g. a passport; driving licences are not accepted) and the address of residence. International citizens coming from outside of the EU need to provide additional documents (permission for residence, contract with an employer, etc.).
Persons from outside of the EU applying for permission to reside in the country have to register provisionally at the municipality. Eventually, they receive a BvB (pre-registration letter) from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and have to return to the municipality after submitting their application for a residence permit. After that, the registration and the BSN are confirmed.