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Practical Matters for Semester in Amsterdam students

Your first days and weeks as a Semester in Amsterdam student will be filled with new experiences, new people, and a few practical considerations too. We are here to help you with each and every process along the way!

Once you make the choice to study abroad, there are certain practical matters which must be taken care of both before and after arrival. Certain things like registering with the municipality and completing your immigration process (if applicable) are required, while other practical matters such as opening a bank account and arranging a bike before arrival will simply make your life easier. We have compiled the following information to help you prepare for your Semester in Amsterdam, both before and after arrival.

Before You Arrive

  • Immigration Process (Applying for a Visa or Residence Permit)

    Find all the information you need on the webpage Visa information for Semester in Amsterdam students.

  • Pandemic and Travel Restrictions

    • All non-EU/EEA students should consult the student immigration page before departure. 
    • For more information about how pandemic measures affect education at VU Amsterdam, visit vu.nl/coronavirus.
    • For more information about current government restrictions in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, please visit the government website.
  • Arrange Insurance

    It is important that you are properly insured during your time in the Netherlands. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam requires all incoming international students to be properly insured by an internationally recognized insurance agency for the duration of their stay (this is also required by Dutch law). Your insurance policy should cover all costs related to sudden illness, accident, or death.

    To simplify the business of arranging suitable insurance during your time in the Netherlands, it is advisable to consult your insurance company and explain that you will be studying abroad for a semester or an entire academic year. If your insurance company is unable to meet your needs, then you may consult either of the following companies, each of which offers packages specifically tailored to the needs of international students.

    Insurance Packages:

    Aon Student Insurance has developed a tailor-made ICS Complete+ insurance for international students from VU Amsterdam. This insurance package insures you when you study abroad and covers health and non-medical costs worldwide. The package includes home contents, baggage, accidents, liability, and legal costs. Complete insurance policy information and price estimates can be found here. An agent from AON Student Insurance will be available during the orientation period, but we do recommend that you arrange insurance online in advance.

    Health Insurance (ziektekostenverzekering): 

    Everyone living in the Netherlands is legally obliged to have health insurance. 

    For more information, please check the Nuffic website.

    Liability Insurance (aansprakelijkheidsverzekering): 

    If you damage someone’s property or cause an accident, then Dutch law states that you are responsible for paying the costs of this. You are therefore advised to take out a liability insurance policy, especially if you will be working in a lab or doing research using expensive instruments.

    Travel Insurance (reisverzekering):

    When temporarily studying in another country, most students make use of the opportunity to travel and become acquainted with new cities and countries. It is important that you have a suitable travel insurance policy to cover the costs of stolen baggage, repatriation, etc.

  • Apply for Academic Accommodations (if applicable)

    Deadline to Submit Documents:

    Fall Semester1 July
    Spring Semester1 December

    Academic accommodations at VU Amsterdam are offered to students with a disability who provide official documentation from a psychologist or health care provider. In order to receive academic accommodations, you must apply and submit official documentation before the start of the semester. Students with a disability are understood to include students with a physical disability or chronic illness as well as students with dyslexia and psychiatric disabilities. 

    The most common academic accommodation offered is extra time for exams, which is a standard amount of 30 minutes. Additional accommodations or facilities, such as the use of a (faculty) laptop or a private room, are awarded only in rare circumstances; however, students may be able to arrange additional accommodations directly with their professor on a case-by-case basis. We encourage you to contact your professors directly about this in advance. 

  • Pre-Order a Bike

    Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. In fact, there are more bicycles than people! It should then come as no surprise that cycling is by far the most frequently used transportation method by the locals. With an extensive network of cycling lanes, bicycle parking, and even traffic lights specifically for bicycles, there is no better place to cycle than in the Netherlands.

    The BikeBoys provide students with high-quality second-hand bikes for a good price. For more information and ordering, please visit their website.

    Alternatively, you may wish to make use of Swapfiets! The word fiets translates to bicycle in Dutch (a very important word in the Netherlands).

    Swapfiets is named after the concept of bicycle swapping. How does it work?  You pay a monthly fee in exchange for a reliable bike and full support services. If your bike needs maintenance, gets stolen, or you have a flat tire, Swapfiets promises to replace your bike within 12 hours. They'll even come to you!  If they can't fix your bike within 15 minutes, then they'll swap it for a new one until your bike can be repaired.

    The BikeBoys and Swapfiets may sell out or have a waiting list, so we recommend that you arrange this in advance if possible. Alternatively, you can of course choose to buy a bike after your arrival in Amsterdam.

    Still not sure? Check out the Expat's Guide to Buying a Bicycle.

After You Arrive

  • Immigration: Complete Your Biometrics and Pick Up Your Residence Permit

    If you are required to complete an immigration process for your Semester in Amsterdam, you are also required to have your biometrics (fingerprint, photo, and signature) taken either before arrival (MVV students) or at a local Dutch Immigration office after arrival. The student immigration team will inform you about this after you have submitted your application for a visa and/or residence permit.

    Please be aware that you are also required to pick up the physical permit that is your residence permit.  You will be notified by e-mail after arrival once it is ready.  

    **If you never pick up the physical card which is your residence permit, you risk an entry ban to the Netherlands. Please make sure to pick up your residence permit within 90 days and take this with you if you travel outside of the Netherlands before your departure date.

  • Register and Deregister with the Correct Municipality

    Shortly after you have arrived in the Netherlands, you must register with the correct municipality.  All individuals living in Amsterdam for more than 4 months are strictly required to register with the municipality (including Dutch and EU residents). Furthermore, you must register with the municipality in order to receive a BSN number. You need a BSN number to work and open a bank account.

    When registering with the municipality, please make sure to bring your passport, proof of enrollment, and a copy of your signed housing contract. Equally important, before you leave the Netherlands, you must de-register with the municipality. You should make an appointment to do this before leaving Amsterdam (if you have a DigiD you can do this online).

    Here you can find information about the documents you will need during your appointment to register. You can find more information about registering with each specific municipality via the links below. If you will be living in student accommodation, Hotel Jansen is located in the municipality of Amsterdam and Our Campus/Our Domain is located in the municipality of Diemen.

  • Register with a Local Doctor

    Making an Appointment with a Doctor

    Before you can make an appointment, you need to register with a local GP. We recommend doing this as soon as possible after arrival. In the Netherlands, your GP (general practitioner) is your first point of contact for all medical problems except true emergencies. If you need to see a specialist, you must first make an appointment with a GP to get a referral. You can make an appointment with a GP over the phone, and in some cases online or by email. You can also request advice over the phone. 

    You should always bring a valid photo ID and valid proof of insurance with you to your doctor appointments.  

    Please consult this document to find a doctor near you.

    Arrange Prescriptions in Advance

    Please be aware that the Netherlands may have different customs and regulations than you are used to regarding the prescription of medicine. For this reason, it is important that you make plans in advance to get any needed prescriptions while you are abroad.

    Medical Documents and History

    You should bring any needed medical documents of your medical history with you so that you can share this with your new doctor. This enables the doctor to assess your medical history and will help you to accurately communicate about any medical conditions or problems you may have. 

  • Open a Bank Account

    We recommend that all non-EU students open a Dutch bank account as not all places accept Visa and Mastercard and you may need an IBAN number for bank transfers and certain services.  

    Here you can find more information about opening a bank account.

  • IT Services: Connect to the WIFI

    Students of VU Amsterdam have a personal account in VUweb, the university's study portal. You will receive VUweb access after acceptance to the Semester in Amsterdam program as well as a VUweb ID to log in and access university Wifi.


    IT Service Desk 
    Central desk: VU Amsterdam Main Building 0A-11, Monday-Friday 09:00-17:00 
    W&N-desk: W&N-building, room M-020   
    +31 (0) 20 598 0000  
    08:00-17:00 
    servicedesk.it@vu.nl

    For questions about IT or internet service in your housing, please contact your housing provider.

  • Contact your Professors: People Finder

    To find information on the employees and the organization of VU Amsterdam such as email addresses, telephone numbers, and room locations please use the people finder.

  • Campus Security and Theft

    In the event of theft or loss of personal or university property, please contact the VU Amsterdam security staff at +31 (0) 20 59 85854.

    Have you lost something in the city of Amsterdam or Diemen? You can check the municipality's Lost and Found page. When found, items are posted within 3 working days.

  • What to Do in an Emergency

    Amsterdam is consistently ranked one of the safest cities in the world by the Economist Safe City Index. Of course, life can also be unpredictable, so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the city emergency numbers in advance.

    In case of a true emergency, always first call 112, the national emergency helpline. An ambulance, member of the fire department, or police will be dispatched to help you. 112 is the European emergency helpline, equivalent to 911 in the United States or 999 in the United Kingdom. It is valid in all EU member countries.

  • Library and Campus Building Opening Times

    You can find places to study in most buildings on campus as well as the faculty libraries

    See opening times for each building here.  

  • Student Wellbeing and Study Help

    For issues such as study progress, motivation, family matters, adjusting to life in the Netherlands, discrimination, or disputes with lecturers, students can contact one of the student counselors.

    We have also set up a new Student Wellbeing platform including links to mental health resources, financial support, physical and mental healthcare for international students, academic assistance, and more.

    For students struggling to meet other students, we encourage you to join one of the many non-faculty student associations and the international student association, ESN

    For students struggling with course work or study problems, we encourage you to join the student organization, Students-4-Students where you can get in touch with a study partner who can help. Students can also join a Canvas Peer Support group if you prefer to study together with other students in a group.

Questions? Please don't hesitate to contact us!

Semester in Amsterdam is a separate programme from the Exchange programme at VU Amsterdam. If you have been nominated by your home university for Exchange and your university is a partner of VU Amsterdam, please contact incoming@vu.nl. Are you currently a student of another Dutch university wishing to register for a minor? Please contact the student desk at studentdesk@vu.nl.

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