Offshore:Admin Hacks

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ADMIN HACK 06.03.2017 16:29 52°24'16.1"N 4°53'12.1"E inside: 16.7°C outside: 9°C

Living on a boat, in the Netherlands, you cannot register your address unless you are the lucky owner of one of the 2500 official houseboat addresses in Amsterdam. I moved to Amsterdam from Belgium last year in September. One month after, I bought an 8m motor cruiser boat without a working motor and really old batteries. The interior covered with lacquer paint applied by the previous owner without paint hardener.Touching the walls, you were covered in paint. I was aware the boat a big project to take on, but the premise of low cost living and an adventure after graduating convinced me after all.

Buying an official houseboat address was never an option for me so I needed to find an alternative way to register in the Netherlands. At first I registered myself as an RNI – a form of registration for someone not living in the Netherlands. This form of registration enables you to receive your BSN number, and work in the Netherlands. I thought I was administratively set after registering for the RNI until the manager at the hostel I work two days a week, informed me I had to get an official address or else they would not be able to extend my contract. Apparently the RNI registration is only valid for four months.

It took me quite some time studying official websites to figure out what to do. Luckily I do speak Dutch. I found an administrative construction that permits cross-border workers of the BeNeLux to be registered in one country and work in the other. Once again I believed I was all set, so I did not look further. A month later I received an email from my employer: the construction is meant only for people living in a city situated next to a border, which I am not.

Consulting peers, I found out that I could register at a briefadres. This is an address of a friend or family member living in the Netherlands and who is willing to collect your mail. This registration can only be done by the main tenant and just two people can be registered at one ‚briefadres‘.

So I started looking for this type of address. I knew housing is a challenge in Amsterdam, but I did not know a lot of my friends were also not able to register at their place, even if they rented an apartment or room. This precarious situation is created by the housing shortage in Amsterdam and the need to register to be able to work in the Netherlands. House owners let out an apartment without giving the tenant the possibility to register at that address. That way the owner him/herself can stay registered at the address.

After one month of looking for a possible ‚briefadres‘ I got desperate. My work contract was about to expire so I made an appointment at the city hall. I personally went there instead of calling them constantly and spending fortunes on phone credit. Once at the city hall I got the best service ever, utilising my Flemish accent, I explained my situation. Finally the city hall employer found a way to register me: at my job. This is a service they provide for expats living in hotels. I just needed proof of extension of my contract and a permission from my job, which I both received. Just 5 days before my contract expired, on my birthday January 25th, I was able to register for one year at a briefadres!

But my administrative struggle has not yet ended. I soon realised that basically anything you have to apply for in the Netherlands is a hustle if you do not have a physical mailbox. For instance: If you work for a Dutch company you are obliged to have health insurance. I am already covered by a Belgian health insurance, that has better conditions than the Dutch health insurance, but no choice… I had to apply for Dutch health insurance. I received my insurance card by mail. You can apply for zorgtoeslag (a compensation for health insurance) online, but only if you have a briefadres. They need to mail you papers and you have to mail them back. For a DigID (login system for government websites) you need a mailbox,…. and so forth.

If you want to live off-the-grid in the Netherlands and you come from another country I suggest you rent a room for some months first, to fix your administration before starting to live on a boat, in a yurt, or on a trailer.

To be continued...