On Friday, 17 June 2011, it was exactly three years since the Expatcenter threw open its doors to start assisting international companies and their employees in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.

Setting sights high

The Expatcenter aimed to bundle a range of fragmented governmental services into one simplified package. The results exceeded all expectations: since the Expatcenter came into existence, international companies’ ranking of the provision of services has risen from 5 to 8.7 out of ten. And the secret? A pioneering approach based on a fundamentally simple concept.

From jumble to simplified concept

The Expatcenter started life in June 2008 as an Amsterdam Topstad project. It currently offers the international target group a collective package of governmental services from six cooperating organisations, bringing an end to the fragmentation of services that was a long-standing irritation for international companies.

The collective efforts of the Cities of Amsterdam, Amstelveen, Almere, Haarlemmermeer, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) and the tax authority have resulted in a procedure that allows the formalities to dovetail without meddling with legislation or qualifications.

Employers are now able to begin the residence permit application process four weeks before the arrival of a highly-skilled migrant from abroad. Once they arrive in the Netherlands, the highly skilled migrant can pick up their residence permit and register with the municipality in a single visit to the Expatcenter. This is obviously an enormous impulse for the business climate.

Facts about the Expatcenter

  • Time saving: less red tape and everything arranged in a single visit

  • More than 10,000 customers (as of June 2011) since the Expatcenter opened

  • Around 8,000 processed information requests (as of June 2011) via the Expatcenter website

  • 43% growth in 2010 compared to 2009

  • More than 800 companies use Expatcenter services. These companies are primarily active in ICT, financial services, the creative sector and the knowledge industry.

  • Individual expats rate the service with an 8.9, companies with an 8.7 out of ten.

Top ten countries of origin for Expatcenter customers

  1. India (22%)

  2. United States of America (12%)

  3. United Kingdom (9.6%)

  4. Japan (8.5%)

  5. France (4.3%)

  6. Germany (4.1%)

  7. South-Korea (2.7%)

  8. China (2.5%)

  9. Italy (2.2%)

  10. Turkey (2%)

Before the Expatcenter

Before the Expatcenter opened, Mr Gupta from India arrived in Amsterdam to work at TATA Consultancy Services, located on the Zuidas. He was required to apply for a visa (MVV, Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf) in India.

Two weeks later, he received his visa and was able to travel to the Netherlands. Once he arrived in the country, he had to go to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) offices in Rijswijk to apply for his residence permit (VVRVerblijfsvergunning Regulier), meaning even more paperwork.

He then had to go to the Stadhouderskade in Amsterdam to register with the municipality (GMA, Gemeentelijke Basisadministratie). A few weeks later, Mr Gupta received a letter (in Dutch) from the City of Amsterdam containing his personal public service number (BSN, Burgerservicenummer) which he could use to open a bank account and which his employer needed in order to pay his salary.

Two weeks after applying for his residence permit, Mr Gupta had to travel back to the IND offices in order to collect his ID card.

With the Expatcenter

Mrs Kumar, a new colleague of Mr Gupta arrived yesterday in Amsterdam from India. Four weeks prior, the HR Manager at TATA Consultancy Services sent a combined application form for a visa and residence permit to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service on behalf of Mrs Kumar.

Today, she has an appointment at the Expatcenter where she will receive her residence permit and will also be registered with the municipality. She will also receive her personal public service number, so that she can open a bank account straight after she leaves the Expatcenter.

Governmental services and more

An expat that has just arrived in Amsterdam doesn’t only require governmental services, but also assistance in the personal environment. For example, help arranging a bank account, a mobile telephone contract, (health) insurance, a Dutch language course, employment for their partner or schooling/childcare for their child(ren).

Private sector organisations, ideally positioned to help with such matters, are united in the Expatcenter Partnership Program. Expatcenter partners are listed on the popular and informative Expatcenter website.

Connecting people: "Welcome to Amsterdam"

Now that the paperwork has been substantially simplified, the Expatcenter now also helps newcomers to settle in more quickly and get involved in existing networks by periodically organising Welcome Events and mini-workshops.

During the Welcome Events, internationals are officially welcomed by the Mayor of Amsterdam and are given the chance to get to know each other as well as the numerous social and business networks in Amsterdam, such as the Indian Expat SocietyMEETin Amsterdam and The American Women’s Club.