How to get your Social Security Number as an exchange student

First of all, getting your Social Security Number (Burgerservicenummer) in the Netherlands is not a funny act to do. It’s extremely annoying and strains your nerves. Do you want to know why? Here you go, but before I’m telling you about my experience how I got my Social Security Number, I will give you some background information.

What is the Burgenservicnummer (BSN) ?
A Burgerservicenummer (BSN) is the citizen service number, a unique registration number for everyone who lives in the Netherlands.

The BSN will facilitate any interaction with the Dutch authorities: starting a job, opening a bank account, deducting your taxes and social security contributions, using the healthcare system, applying for benefits, announcing a change of address, etc. (

Ok, now as you know more about this mysterious and important BSN, I should come to the actual story.


Wednesday, 16. September 2015, Utrecht, The Netherlands

I followed the invitation e-mail of my school for the „Utrecht municipality registration evening“. There it said:

„The municipal registration is necessary by Dutch law for all temporary residents (students) who are to stay in the Netherlands longer than 4 months.

Utrecht Town hall offers a central evening registration to students who arranged their housing early. With this early information the Utrecht Town hall have been able to prepare (prepared is different) their administration so the student can receive a social security number (BSN) directly at the time (haha – nice joke!) of the evening registration.“

After struggling to find the Utrecht Town Hall and asking two random people, who couldn’t help me at all and consulting Google Maps, I finally stood in front of the Stadsplateau 1 „directly behind the Utrecht central train station“ as it said in the invitation e-mail. Well, directly behind the Utrecht central train station, actually could mean anything. Additionally, everything around Utrecht central train station is under construction, so this makes finding your way even harder.

Anyway, I made it there and went into this building with the thought that it „should not take longer than about 15-20 minutes“. It was 6 p.m. at that time.

The reception – basement


First thing I saw, after I entered the building was a huge line of people waiting. No information, no person who advised people what they should
do – nothing. Oh a sign – „Reception“ – looks like they could help me. So I lined up in the queue and asked some other students about the process.

They said there are three lines, the first line for the surnames S to Z, the second for L and R (ok, whatever) and the last one for A to K – my line. Don’t ask me why they arranged the names like that, it doesn’t make any sense to me. Especially, when the only labelled box was L and R.

For this job, it needed three ladies and most of the time one was doing everything with the box A to K. The box lady L and R had basically nothing to do and the lady with the box S to Z did something sometimes or shouted out loud that her box was for the surnames S to Z.

After standing in the A to K queue for approximately 15 minutes, I received in exchange for the look of my Identity Card a paper with my data which I should take up to the first floor.

The first floor
So I went up the stairs and didn’t know what I was supposed to do now. There were people waiting on the left and on the right side besides the stairs on the first floor. So I asked a security officer what I had to do now. He explained that I had to go to the right side.

The right side of the first floor

Ok, so did I. There were eight counters and randomly people standing around. I wasn’t the only one who seemed a bit lost. Because I wasn’t sure if I needed to get a waiting ticket, I asked a girl in front of me. She said: „No, not really. You just line up behind a counter.“ Well, ok, this step only took me 3 minutes. (Yeah!)

I went to counter number 6 and the lady wanted to check my papers and my identity card – again.

Yeah – why not doing the work twice to make the process much longer and to hire even more people who do the job which basically one person could have done at the same time? I call this provision of work or Arbeitsbeschaffung (German).

Then I needed to sign the paper after she made sure that my name, date of birth and address were correct. Soon after, she sent me to the other side of the first floor without any paper and said that I had to wait there until they called my name.

-ok, just a question: Are you kidding me?!-

The left side of the first floor

Getting your BSN number

There were approximately 110 students standing around four counters. Some have already been standing there for about 40 minutes, some just arrived like me. It was
noisy. Everyone was annoyed, even the people who worked there.

Each of those four people were shouting names and countries like Armando Rodriguez Perreira, Portugal or Xing Hang Ho Bo Wuh, Taiwan etc. (I made this names up – so don’t worry) 

They waited for the person to come and checked AGAIN their ID or passport and asked AGAIN if everything was correct on the paper.


What I liked about this system was, that it was very exciting and quite challenging because it was hard to hear your name cause it was so noisy, moreover you never knew when you could expect your name because some have been there just for  about 3 minutes and received their number and some have already been waiting for an hour and last but not least the atmosphere around 110 annoyed students was just awesome.


Yeah! That’s me. I made it!

Totally annoyed of this whole procedure I went to my counter, grabbed my number and left as quickly as I could. It was 7 p.m. and my only thought was: Let’s get out of here!

In the end I was quite happy that it didn’t take me that long and I finally left with my BSN, not as happy as when I walked in but still in an acceptable mood.



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