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  • David VanAssche

Navigating "Residency" vs. "Citizenship": Understanding Your Status as a US Expat in the Netherlands




Making the leap from the United States to the Netherlands under the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) can be an exhilarating move. However, it often comes with a mix of excitement and confusion, particularly around the concepts of residency and citizenship. Many US expats worry about whether this move requires giving up their US citizenship. Let's demystify these terms and put those fears to rest.


Understanding Residency in the Netherlands Residency in the Netherlands is akin to holding a Green Card in the US. It's a status that allows you to live, work, and enjoy the benefits of residing in the Netherlands, without becoming a Dutch citizen. Under DAFT, US citizens can obtain a residence permit, which is similar to the US Green Card in several ways:

  1. Permission to Reside and Work: Just like a Green Card, a Dutch residence permit under DAFT allows you to live and work in the Netherlands legally.

  2. Limited Duration with Renewal Option: The residence permit is not permanent and needs to be renewed, similar to how Green Cards have expiration dates.

  3. No Voting Rights: As a resident, you don't have voting rights in national elections, similar to Green Card holders in the US.

  4. Access to Social Services: You'll have access to social services and healthcare, akin to the privileges enjoyed by Green Card holders in the US.


Citizenship: A Step Further Gaining Dutch citizenship is a step beyond mere residency. It's a process that involves more stringent requirements and a deeper commitment to the Dutch way of life. Here's how it compares to obtaining US citizenship:

  1. Naturalization Process: Similar to the US, obtaining Dutch citizenship requires going through a naturalization process, which includes language and integration tests.

  2. Voting Rights: Dutch citizenship grants you the right to vote in all elections, just like in the US.

  3. Dual Citizenship: The Netherlands generally does not recognize dual citizenship, which is a significant difference from the US. However, there are exceptions, such as for those who gain Dutch citizenship by birth or marriage.


Addressing the Key Concern: Do You Have to Give Up US Citizenship? The answer is no. Choosing to live in the Netherlands under the DAFT as a resident does not mean relinquishing your US citizenship. You can enjoy the benefits of living and working in the Netherlands, all while retaining your identity as an American citizen. The decision to pursue Dutch citizenship is a separate, more profound choice that should be considered carefully, especially given the Netherlands' stance on dual citizenship.


Moving to the Netherlands under DAFT opens up a new chapter in your life without forcing you to close the book on your American citizenship. Understanding the difference between residency and citizenship can help you plan your journey with clarity and confidence. Remember, residency lets you experience life in the Netherlands, while citizenship is about fully integrating into the Dutch community.


If you're considering moving to the Netherlands and have more questions about residency, citizenship, or the DAFT process, we're here to help. Book a meeting with our experts at Expat Relocations, and let's navigate your journey to the Netherlands together.

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