Accidentally Living Illegally in The Netherlands

For the past eight years I have made a lot of friends in the Netherlands. I have got to know the Dutch people. I have (very slowly started to) learn their language. I have even taken part in their customs and learned their culture. However, unbeknownst to my Dutch hosts this is all a lie.

It turns out that for the past eight years since my arrival in the The Netherlands I have not actually been registered as living in The Netherlands. In fact, despite having a permanent job with a contract, a tax number, medical insurance and even a membership card for my local DVD rental store the Dutch government was unaware of my existence. This technically means I’ve been living illegally in The Netherlands

This shocking revelation happened during a recent visit to city hall while the residency official sitting on the other side of the desk from me gave me a very baffled ‘are you serious’ look as I tried to explain to him that I had been living in Holland since 2001.

As the residency official did some more confused typing on his keyboard I considered showing him my DVD rental store membership card as proof of my claims. After all it was and is a very respectable DVD rental store and probably more efficient then the Dutch government since not only did they know my name, address and date of birth but also my taste in movies. The only downfall to this idea was that they might not make a good character witness since I have a bad habit of returning DVDs very late. I thought about it for a moment and decided to leave the membership card in my pocket. After all, there is no dignity in being deported by Video Land.

The reason for all this was a simple administrative error. By this I mean I was supposed to visit city hall and register myself when I first moved to the country but since no one ever told me I never knew. I only found this out recently during the process of moving in with my Dutch girlfriend. However, it’s not as if I was trying to hide my existence. I was leaving behind some pretty big clues that might tip them off that they had an extra tea drinking Englishman in the country.

After some more confused looks between me and the non- existing data on his computer screen the residency official must have decided that I did exist after all because he simply shrugged his shoulders, said ‘ok then’ in a very Dutch manner and handed me a different form to fill out.

This seemed rather anti-climatic for someone who had been living outside the system for eight years but had only known it for eight minutes. I thought there would be some repercussions. Had I been living illegally in The Netherlands for the last eighth of a decade?

Did it mean that everyone I had ever shared living accommodation with in the past hadn’t simply been lowering the cost of living by cohabitating in a place of residency with another law abiding citizen as they might have thought but were in fact harboring a fugitive? Someone who knows no laws? A criminal?

And what about in Britain? Had the British government worked out that I had left the homeland? Were they looking for me? Could I have coursed the credit crisis? Had they budgeted for the tax from one extra person who was no longer there and was now paying taxes in Holland instead? And more importantly, did I have any late DVDs to return in Britain?

I thought about it some more and then made sure I filled in the form in my best handwriting to avoid any risk that the residency official might change his mind that everything was ‘ok’.

A few days later after I received the all clear my girlfriends sister sent me this post card to congratulate me on moving to The Netherlands after eight years of living in Holland:

Welcome To Holland Post Card

13 responses to “Accidentally Living Illegally in The Netherlands”

  1. Mark says:

    Amazing you went 8 years! I could not get a BSN without registering and could not get a bank account or health insurance with out the BSN.

    Like your blog.

  2. zed says:

    I don’t think that you’d get away with it over here either but there again, as long as you’ve been paying taxes that should keep the country happy :)

  3. Keith says:

    Just when I thought it was safe to go out you turn up again!

  4. Isabel says:

    Hilarious I have to say…and the final toutch…the card saying welcome to Holland!!!

  5. kiki says:

    I *knew* there was another reason why you wanted to marry me!
    I feel so… so used.

  6. Invader Stu says:

    Mark: some how I feel like there is something else I have forgot because I’m not sure what a BSN is.

    Zed: Sadly paying my taxes does not make me happy :p

    Keith – I aim to please

    Isabel – I had to laugh when I got it too

    Kiki – No, no. I didn’t marry you to get a green card baby… I married you for the money. I promise.

  7. Dragonlady says:

    Welcome back Stuart. I have really missed your stories.

  8. Manictastic says:

    Did you tell your previous city you left their city?

    *happy dance* cool you back blogging

  9. Mr. Nighttime says:

    Once again, this proves that the idea of efficiency in government is a contradiction in terms…Be glad you weren’t here in the States. the INS (immigration and Naturalization Service) are not exactly shiny happy people in this day and age.

  10. Invader Stu says:

    Dragonlady: Thanks :)

    Manictastic: By all accounts they never knew I was there :p

    Mr. Nighttime: I would have been screwed as a European if I was there I’m thinking.

  11. Lily says:

    I’m reading this and saying over and over to myself “Oh sugar :)! Am I registered? Am I another one of those English people who didn’t register? I’m sure I registered…..but no, I’m not sure, I don’t remember that…..!” I DO remember Clog Man talking about registering a lot when I first moved over and I did go to the Gemeente people for….something. Now I’m going to have to check with him when he gets home from work.

    Love the postcard :-)

  12. Invader Stu says:

    Lily – Hehe. That’s what it felt like for me. There was all this information thrown at me about what I had to do. I was bound to miss something.

  13. Frits Onland says:

    You’re one lucky dude for moving within the EU. had you been from outside the EU the dutch immigration service becomes a nasty callous monster with a heart of stone (unless you come from a ‘western’ country such as the US or Australia, then everything is generally dandy)… I meran we sent people back to Somalia because the dutch foreign ministry considers that a safe country….

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