BSN – what is it and why should you have it if you want to work in the Netherlands?

BSN – what is it and why should you have it if you want to work in the Netherlands?

BSN – what is it and why should you have it if you want to work in the Netherlands? 1000 1000 ReadySteadyGo

In the Netherlands, as in any other country, working involves administrative and tax obligations. One of these is to obtain a BSN number. If you are going to work in the Netherlands, read the BSN compendium and find out all about this number!

What is a BSN/SOFI number?

If you have already been interested in what life is like in the Netherlands and whether it is worth going there to work, you will certainly know that one of the basic duties of every Employee is to obtain a BSN number. BSN stands for Burger Service Nummer, which literally means citizen service number in Dutch.

As a general rule, Dutch citizens and those wishing to live in the Netherlands for more than four months can apply for a BSN. However, in practice, it is often also applied for by temporary workers who, like you, are only going to the Netherlands for a few weeks, e.g., for seasonal work.


The predecessor of the BSN, still in use in the Netherlands but gradually disappearing in official practice, is the SOFI, or rather the Sofinummer. This number can be applied for by people who wish to stay in the Netherlands for less than four months. However, it is only used for tax purposes. The BSN has a much broader application, as it is also used in contacts with public administration offices and, as an Employee of an employment agency, you also give it to your employer as a personal identification number.

Initially, each region in the Netherlands was allocated a pool of SOFI numbers. However, in regions with a high population density, e.g. in large cities, where the population was more than the available SOFI numbers, it happened that the same number was allocated to several people. This, in turn, generated problems in settling correctly with the tax authorities.

Nowadays, there is a slow move away from issuing a SOFI number, as the BSN is a much more functional number. It can be used for a wider range of purposes, so having both BSN and SOFI numbers has become pointless.

What does a BSN look like?

As with other numbers, the BSN is also a sequence of numbers and characters, given to each person individually. At the office, you will receive a document the size of an A4 sheet, which is the official confirmation that your BSN has been issued. Remember to take good care of it! It is best to photocopy this document and keep it with other important documents in a place where it will not be destroyed.

Where is a BSN useful?

Once you have a BSN, you can use it not only when dealing with the tax authorities or your employer, but also in many other situations. It is useful for:

  • in dealing with formalities at almost every government office in the Netherlands,
  • with your doctor,
  • with an insurance company,
  • at school,
  • for the registration of care benefits or housing benefit,
  • if you want to receive health care benefits,
  • to prevent identity fraud.

How to obtain a BSN?

The process for obtaining a BSN is very simple. The number is issued on application by the Dutch municipal authorities.

Dutch address

In order to obtain a BSN, you must have a Dutch address where you are staying – this will be provided by the READY STEADY GO agency. This is one of the advantages of going to work in the Netherlands with our agency. You don’t have to worry about finding accommodation and therefore an address to give to the municipality.

Proof of identification

In order to obtain a BSN, you will also need a valid and undamaged identity document. As we have already written in the article What to take on a trip to work abroad, you must have at least one document proving your identity in the Netherlands. This can be an identity card or a passport, but it is best to take both with you (if one is lost or damaged, you can use the other).

Remember, however, that the document you wish to present to the office must be valid and undamaged. The clerk will scan the document, so if there are, for example, scratches in important places, such as watermarks or your personal details, the office may refuse to issue a BSN.

Obtaining a BSN number with the help of a temporary work agency

When you go to work in the Netherlands with our agency, you can count on assistance in obtaining a BSN number. If you have the necessary address and identity card or passport, an Employee of the agency will make an appointment for you at the municipal office. For the convenience of carers and Employees, appointments are made on fixed days of the week, usually Monday and Friday.

You will be informed of the date and time of your departure through the agency application – you will find it in the place where the work schedule appears. Prepare the necessary documents and be at the meeting point at the appointed time. You will be taken to the office by a driver from the agency. Don’t worry about being alone – you will be accompanied by a supervisor from our agency and other Employees who, like you, need to obtain a BSN number.

The whole process at the office is also easy. Your carer or driver will assist you in translating the documents and handing them over to the official. As long as the clerk does not have any problems with scanning the document or any other problems, the whole BSN procedure will take about an hour, or a little longer if there are many Employees from our agency applying for a number at a given time.

At the end of the process, the driver will drive you back to the place of departure. Simple, right?

What should you do if you lose your BSN?

The document you receive at the office is very important because your employer will use it to settle your pay. So, if you lose it, you will need to get a duplicate, and to do this you will need to go to the office again.

In this case, inform your supervisor, who will arrange an appointment for you at the office. This time, however, you will have to pay a fee of around €20 for the issuing of the BSN.

Your BSN number is also sure to be on your payslip, or salaris, and on the jaaropgaaf, the Dutch tax card issued by your employer after the end of the tax year. You can present one of these documents to your next employer as proof of your BSN number.

How much time does the agency have to issue a BSN?

Your BSN will be issued by the agency up to 3 months after your arrival. You will be informed of the exact date and time of your BSN through the agency application form.

Your personal identification number

Having a BSN makes things a lot easier, so it is a good idea to apply for one at the Dutch municipal office. However, you can only do this once you have arrived in the country, and our agency will help you with this.