A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Here it is: part 3 of my series on how to save money when moving to Leiden. In case you missed the first two installments of this series, click here and here and learn about tips and tricks on how to make your life in the Netherlands a tiny bit easier.
This week I want to focus on the process of applying for housing grants (huurtoeslag) in the Netherlands. Housing grants can make a real difference in the budget of an international student in this city (up to 260€/month) and if you qualify for it, there is no reason why you should not apply for them.
You might be thinking: “free money, seriously? what’s the catch?” – let me assure you, there is none! The only thing you need to be prepared for is that in order to receive the grants, the Dutch government will really make you work hard for it. Because the application process is quite difficult to sift through and most parts are exclusively in Dutch, a lot of people shy away from even trying, which is a big mistake in my opinion. What I found quite amusing is that the application process does not only appear to pose a problem for internationals but there are even Dutch companies who offer to fill in and correct huurtoeslag applications in exchange for money, which must mean that even locals struggle with all the bureaucracy involved in receiving government grants.
Here are the requirements you need to fulfil in order to qualify for huurtoeslag (ATTENTION: the system is built in a way that you could theoretically enter false data and still get the money you apply for. However, once they check your application and see that you illegitimately received funds they will make you pay back every cent of it, so really only apply if you are sure that you pass the following criteria):
– you need to be an EU citizen or have a valid residence permit
– your address must be registered with the municipality (check with you housing agency/organisation if this is possible for your accomodation)
– you need to have a BSN (citizen service number) number with the local council
– you need a Dutch bank account and a bank statement which serves as your proof of address
– in order to log into the web portal, you need a DigiD
– you must live in an “autonomous” apartment that has its own entrance door, toilet and kitchen
– if you are between 18 and 22 years old, your rent must be between 229,64€ and 403,06€
– if you are older than 22, your rent must be between 229,64€ and 710,68€
In any case, I would suggest you do a quick test calculation here in order to see if you qualify for huurtoeslag and how much money you would get. For all pages and documents that only come in Dutch there is one cardinal rule: Google Translate is your friend, just set up an immediate translation in Google Chrome and you should be able to manoeuvre around language issues quite well. The organisation dealing with the grant is called ‘Belastingdienst’ and although there is an English version of their webpage, it does not give you information on grants of any sort (I know, how cheeky is that!?).
Should above calculation tell you that you are eligible for funding, go ahead and start you application process here. In addition, this webpage was created to guide you through the registration process in English step-by-step and even though it’s from 2011 and thus a bit outdated, it should still be useful.
Here is some additional information on the application process:
– I recently learned (the hard way) that you can apply for every FULL month you’ve been registered in the Netherlands, so keep this in mind when filling in the start date of your huurtoeslag
– I was asked to come into the Belastingdienst office and provide payslips and some other documents as proof, I could choose between offices in Den Haag and Utrecht, for obvious reasons I chose the former.
– the letters you receive from Belastingsdienst will only be in Dutch. However, if you call them you can now speak English to service employees over the phone (until a short while ago they would tell you in beautiful English that due to company policy they are not allowed to converse with you in English).
– I recently heard that many people don’t apply because they think that huurtoeslag is only for people who live on their own and rent their own apartment – this is not true. You can also apply for the grant in collaboration with a partner, simply indicate this when going through the test calculation.
– once you have received the letter saying that your registration has gone through and you are eligible for huurtoeslag, you will have to wait another 6-12 weeks to receive a final letter, the so-called “voorschotbeschikking”. Once you have that in your hands, you made it! After receiving the voorschotbeschikking, you should have the money on your account within 10 working days (at least that’s what I was told).
Besides the housing grant you can also look into applying for this student grant if you work more than 56 hours per month or this insurance grant, where you can claim money back that you paid for private health insurance.
I hope these tips will help you and encourage you to wade through the bureaucratic jungle that is huurtoeslag and get the grants you apply for. Yes, the process might be a tad bit painful but it really pays off once you’re done with it.
Until next week, enjoy the paperwork!