Living in the Netherlands

Your rights when you have applied for asylum:

Last update: January 2013

•    Shelter: from the moment you report yourself at AC Schiphol or AC Ter Apel you get shelter, food, a small financial allowance and medical health care. If you went to AC Ter Apel you will be moved after one or a few days to another shelter in an AZC (asylum seeker shelter). If you went to AC Schiphol you will have to stay in a closed center during the asylum procedure (minors will be moved to an open facility (AZC))  

•    Free legal support: you will get help from a lawyer. You can either find a lawyer yourself (or with help from VVN or another support organization) or a lawyer will be appointed to you. For both you do not have to pay.

•    Support/advise from Vluchtelingenwerk (VVN): This is a non-governmental organization that you can ask for information or advise. They can help you with obtaining documents from abroad or evidence for your asylum motives, which can be very important for your asylum procedure.

•    Free health care: You can ask for a doctor if you need one, and it is important to do so.

•    Health situation check: doctors of Medifirst will ask you in a short interview about your medical health situation. They will report this to the IND. It is important that you name your medical problems in detail (also psychological problems, such as trauma, stress, sleeping complaints), because these may support your asylum story and in this way the IND has to take your health situation into account during the interview.

•    Interpreter: You always have the right to speak with help of an interpreter in your first language. Be aware of different dialects. You have the right to choose for either a male or a female interpreter. It is important always to mention when the interpreting is not correct, otherwise IND will hold you accountable for any mistakes in your asylum story.

•    You can ask a person you thrust to be present during the interviews.

[!] If the rights listed above are not met, it is your responsibility to demand your rights (ask VVN or your lawyer for advise).

Your rights when you do not have papers

Surviving illegally: If legal stay is not possible you may try to survive illegally in the Netherlands, for example by learning Dutch and finding informal jobs and informal rooms to rent. Making use of your social network may be the best way. It is not easy, but possible. And when you do not have a residence permit, it is important to know your rights and know which help you can find where. (For more detailed information on your rights and useful addresses in different towns, check and

  • Medical care: Only when you are in an asylum procedure (or in some other cases) you receive a health insurance. Every undocumented migrant has the right to get medically necessary health care, but in practice it can sometimes be difficult. There are support organizations who can help with arranging a doctors appointment. When you do not have a health insurance and cannot pay a doctor, the doctor or specialist has to reimburse the costs at CVZ (dutch abbreviation for Board of Health Insurances). This is possible with all health care that normally is included in a basic health insurance. In the Netherlands you always first have to go to a 'huisarts' (general practitioner) who can direct you to a specialist. You can also get help from a psychologist or psychiatrist when you have psychological complaints, such as stress or sleeping problems. As well it is possible to get medication. Costs from hospitals and pharmacies can be reimbursed when they are contracted with CVZ. The costs for dentists and physiotherapists cannot be reimbursed. Contact a support organization when you need one but don't have money to pay for it.
  • Legal aid: It is possible to get free legal support. You can either find a lawyer yourself (or with help from a support organization) or a lawyer will be appointed to you. Usually you have to pay a contribution, but when you do not have income, you can ask for reduction or exemption of the costs at the Legal Aid Board. There are also support organizations who can give free legal advice.
  • Shelter:
  1. in an AZC (asylum seeker center) is possible when you asked for asylum (generally only the first time), when you have a positive decision on art. 64 (postponement of departure on medical grounds) or have asked for shelter while awaiting that decision. Pregnant women have the right on art. 64 and shelter from six weeks before the expected date of giving birth until 6 weeks after.
  2. In a GOL (family location), shelter from the government, is possible for families with minor children. When you are not in procedure anymore there will however be attempted to deport the family.
  3. WMO (Social Support Act): Night shelter for homeless people: in cities there is limited and very basic shelter for homeless people. Many of these shelters do not accept people without papers. In some cases it is still possible to (temporarily) get access to this accommodation.
  4. WMO: Women’s shelter:The women’s shelter is for women who are a victim of domestic or sexual violence, including women without residence permits when they apply for a permit as a victim of domestic violence or human trafficking.
  5. Important: Rights in this area of WMO are still in development. The right to food and housing has been set down in European and International Conventions. A number of lawyers have successfully argued that vulnerable groups such as children and the sick should be guaranteed access to these things. For latest news on court cases on social security rights you can check the website (only in Dutch).
  6. Crisis shelter (Noodopvang) is sometimes possible when you are in a procedure, when you are sick, or when your situation is very poignant. You can request for shelter at INLIA or ask a support organization to do this for you. People without a residence permit can under certain conditions be given accommodation, although capacity is very limited.
  7. It is not criminal for other people to offer you shelter. Officially they have to inform the police when a foreigner stays at their house. In practice, however, the police never checks. When the person that gives you shelter gets money from Social Services, it may be that there will follow cuts on the allowance of this person, when social services find out that there are two persons living there instead of one. The person can proceed against their decision to cut, with help of a social security lawyer, when you, when you stayed at this persons house, do not have a (formal) income.
  8. Renting a room: Even if you don’t have a residence permit, you can rent accommodation. You are not permitted to rent from a housing association (an organization offering relatively cheap social housing). You are only allowed to rent from a private landlord. When you rent, you do have tenant's rights.
  • Money: you only receive money, and other provisions such as shelter in an AZC and a health insurance, (under the regulation Rva) from COA when you asked for asylum (generally only the first time) and when you have a positive decision on art. 64 (postponement of departure on medical grounds). There are some extra groups that can ask for money (under the regulation Rvb) from COA: migrants and their children who are in a procedure for family reunification, children, victims or witnesses of human trafficking and victims of domestic violence. Sometimes support organizations or churches can help you with money, although their capacity is very limited. If you have a minor child, you can try to ask for a child allowance from Social Services, perhaps with help of a lawyer. Although by law not possible, in a court decision of 15 June 2011, it was possible for a mother without a residence permit, who stayed here for a long time, partly legally.
  • Work: when you don't have legal stay, you are officially not allowed to do paid or voluntary labor. However, in practice it is possible to have black jobs. For example cleaning, babysitting, jobs in construction, horticulture or in restaurants. The labor inspection sometimes checks companies on illegal workers. An employer can get a fine of 4000 or 8000 Euro a person. You as an illegal worker do not get a fine, but you can get arrested and be kept in alien detention. If you do work, you officially have the rights under the labor law. There are however employers who want to make use of your vulnerable position and let you work under very poor conditions or let you work involuntarily (for example in the sex industry). In this case, you can report the employer to the police and you might get legal stay under the B9 regulation for victims of human trafficking.
  • Food: Organizations for homeless people in most bigger towns, churches or mosques, support organizations and food banks (voedselbanken) may be able to help you with food.
  • Education: Children in the age of 5 to 18 are obliged to go to school, also children without residence permit. Education is for free, except of the voluntary contribution for festivities. An organization called Stichting Leergeld may sometimes offer support in case there are costs you cannot afford. The regulations concerning internships are still in development, according to a recent court decision undocumented minors should be able to work when it is part of the school curriculum. After 18, you have the right on education as well, but often you cannot get a scholarship and the tuition is very high for non-EU-citizens. The Foundation for Refugee Students UAF can sometimes help students who have asked for asylum earlier. There are possibilities for undocumented adults to follow Dutch language course or other courses for free, provided by support organizations or community centers.
  • Birth registration: Every child born in the Netherlands must be registered within three days after birth at the municipality. It is important to do this in order to get a birth certificate for the child. A parent without a resident permit cannot register the birth. The registration must be done by somebody who was present at the birth, so a midwife, doctor or a friend who was present can do it as well.
  • Marriage and divorce: it is possible to marry, only when both partners have a passport, legalized birth certificate and a legalized proof that you are not already married before. With these documents you should go to the municipality in which the legally residing partner is registered. The municipality can ask the aliens police to investigate your marriage: when they think that the marriage only takes place in order to obtain a residence permit, you can be arrested.

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