A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
For those who got accepted and already determined to join us Leideners this Fall, you’re probably excited and nervous at the same time right now. While September is still far away, it doesn’t hurt to start preparing even before the summer, as this is a very big move and especially for international, non-EU students, paperwork will drive you mad. I personally find the instructions on Leiden University’s website very informative and straightforward, but I still remember going around Facebook page like Leiden Housing and Leiden expats to ask for a few other things which are not explicitly mentioned by the university. Even though the only thing that will give you a headache is how to find a proper accommodation, it would be nice to be mentally prepared for a few other procedures too. I will try my best to recall my personal experience and compile them into this post so that you can save all those mini heart attacks for later, more important occasions 😛
1. Town Hall registration
The purpose of registering in Town Hall is to acquire your BSN, like your ID number, which we students will mostly need when we want to open a Dutch bank account. If you can survive on cash, then you can chill. If you need a bank account promptly for whatever reasons, you might want to receive your BSN as soon as possible. But don’t worry too much because the banks usually let you send them your BSN a few weeks after you open an account.
– Book an appointment as early as you can!
You can do it online (link and instructions to be found on Leiden University’s website) so do so right after the school confirms your visa approval. I thought I could only do it after I arrived in Leiden so by the time I booked the earliest spot was more than 2 weeks later, which freaked me out a little bit.
– You don’t need to bring a legalized birth certificate
This was rather confusing and everyone kept saying different things. But when I registered (last February), neither me nor any of my friends (we’re all Asians) had to submit our birth certificates. The officer did ask if I’d brought one, but I said I thought I didn’t have to, and he didn’t say anything else.
2. Opening a bank account
Most of Leiden students use Rabobank since the university uses them. But quite a few people choose ING and ABN Amro because their services are a bit faster and more friendly to foreigners. I personally didn’t find any difficulties using Rabobank even when I don’t speak Dutch at all (plus there’s no monthly fee while for other 2 banks there is). The general time to open a bank account and get your hands on your card is 1 week.
For Rabobank, I again followed the instruction on the university’s website and submitted the documents online. A week later the bank contacted me saying that my agreement is ready and I can visit during these hours to have it signed. It was quite convenient to have such sessions because they will group all the incoming students together and instruct you in English. After you sign the agreement, the bank card will arrive by post 3 business days later, and you will have to be home to receive it. Then you can go to the office again to ask for a Rabo Scanner which is a device you will need for Internet Banking, or ask for one online here like I did (using Google Translate).
3. OV chipcard
Pretty much everyone here owns an OV chipcard to use the public transportation. It’s easy to find information about it on the Internet, but I do have some personal advice. It’s a lot more convenient to have the personal OV chipcard, and you should totally buy the NS subscription that gives you 40% discount on train ticket price. Normally the subscription costs 55 euros/year, but there are some times (twice?) during the year they have the promotion for which you only need to pay 29 euros for the first year, and also get your personal OV made for free. So what I did was to buy an anonymous OV as soon as I landed in Schiphol airport and travel with it until I get the free personal OV and the subscription from the promotion. You can sell the anonymous one later, or just keep it in case friends or family visit and they can also benefit from your 40% discount.
I think that’s pretty much what you should know in advance and I don’t want to bombard you with too much information because you will figure them all out eventually. It can be quite a fun process, albeit stressful sometimes… If you’re still unclear about something and can’t seem to find answers elsewhere, TheLeidener is here to help 😉