Moving from SA with SA husband and 3 kids with Dutch passports

Hi there

I'm hoping that someone on this forum will be able to help us get an idea of the "work flow" involved in moving from SA (Cape Town) to Utrecht in our particular context?!  Here are some salient details:

- I have a Dutch passport and live in South Africa
- My husband has a South African passport and live in South Africa
- Our three children of 16, 14 and 10 all have Dutch passports
- I am a senior business analyst and speak fairly good Dutch (ik heb in 1993 in Nederland gewoond, en heb ook familie in Nederland)
- my husband used to be in IT and has owned and been the director a cable manufacturing company for 11 years; he speaks good Afrikaans and picks up languages pretty well
- We have visited the Netherlands a number of times and have family in Amsterdam and Meppel
- We'd like to be able to get to the Netherlands by early July 2019
- We are visualising probably trying to rent a furnished apartment to start with, and then to eventually buy once we've settled down

I am aware of the fact that there is a LOT of paperwork for us to get from Home Affairs (unabridged birth certificates for Alistair and our three children, as well as an unabridged marriage certificate).  A scary prospect on its own!  These then need to be apostille'd and be less than six months old (which is why our existing paperwork is regarded as obsolete, I assume).  I also gather that Alistair will need to get a long-stay visa and MVV, and possibly also do a civic integration examination.  And I will need to be able to prove that I have a contract of at least 12 months offered to me. 

This is where things start getting hazy for us, and we're not sure:

(a) exactly what the process is,
(b) which steps can be done in parallel, and
(c) how long we can expect the whole process to take?

I gather there is an application form to complete, but am not sure at what point this can / should be done?  Is there anything that I need to apply for myself?  Do the children need to apply for residence permits / visas?

I also have no idea at what point we should be trying to find a place for our children at schools in Utrecht, if we're hoping for them to start school in September 2019?  We still also need to make a call as to whether we just go the easy (but expensive) route of putting them into international schools, or if we perhaps just also enroll them at a "taal school" in Utrecht.  I have been in touch with a company in the Netherlands who've indicated I shouldn't have too much trouble finding a job, so I am wondering, too, when it would be good to be putting my name forward for roles.

Any ideas and advice will be welcome!

Hi and welcome to the Forum.

You and your kids will have no problems in entering or living in Holland; just a quick point on education; it's compulsory in Holland up to age 18.  Kids are streamed into MBO, HAVO and VWO at age 12, so 2 have already missed it and 1 may well struggle, but at least has a chance.  The main requirement in the streaming process is that apart from academic ability, their ability in the Dutch language (written, spoken and reading) is assessed; if they are not at a Dutch native speaker level when assessed, they will be streamed MBO (no discussion) which may well mess up any chance they had of going to university - MBO is more aimed at manual workers, apprenticeships, the other 2 being the academic stream.  It is possible for exceptional students to move across, but it's not guaranteed, the teacher/school can block it.  International schools are extremely expensive, so much so that when we did what you are contemplating, we couldn't even consider it.

I don't think a Taal school is an option either for any under-18's, they have to be in fulltime education.  Our experience was that our kids picked up Dutch very quickly, but we spoke it at home before we moved back to Holland, so they weren't stressed by it.  As Afrikaans speakers, they will find things a bit easier, but as a language, Afrikaans is a mixture of Dutch, German, English and African tribal languages as they were spoken 200 years ago and the language has never developed as other modern languages have.  Nobody in Holland (except other South Africans) can speak it, although many will understand bits of it; it's mainly the South African accent that causes the issues. :)

For your husband - the Dutch Government department for this (the IND) has a website with all the details you need; this link will take you there.

Job searching from abroad is problematic; unless you have a unique skill that they are crying out for, with most agencies, unless you can start work tomorrow morning, they aren't interested in talking to you about specific positions until you are living in Holland; for the same reason, sending long-range, speculative CV's tend to end up in the bin.

If you have any further specific questions, please come back to me.

Hope this helps.

Cynic
Expat Team

I have not much to add as what Cynic already told but I would like to give you an extra advice: start now with Dutch language for your kids and husband.

Thanks so much for the incredibly quick response, Cynic!

The part about the kids and school is disappointing (and surprising) for me.  But thanks for warning us! Chloe (our oldest) is at one of the top schools in South Africa (with the best results), so - even if SA education doesn't have a great reputation - the education she's getting I'd say is very good!  She speaks Afrikaans well and is in the top stream, and is already practising Dutch with great excitement on Duolingo, as a start :).  She would be mortified to be going in to a stream that doesn't allow her to move on to university.  So perhaps it's a case of either just biting the bullet and putting her into an international school (the one in Utrecht thank goodness looks like one of the most affordable ones around, even if it will seriously sting us financially) or getting her into the MBO stream and then hopefully getting her to "prove" herself, so that she can move over to one of the other two streams at a later stage.  Even if she finishes school a year later than we would have here, it may be worth it!  Then, as far as Dylan (our son who is just about to turn 10), I see that there is a bilingual school called Onder de Bogen in Utrecht.  I'll try to reach out to them and see what they say.  He is of course learning Afrikaans - so that will help a little to speed things up - but just the early days of it!  With our 14-year old (Julia), we will need to think about things.  Perhaps the same story as Chloe, although she isn't as strong academically.  I've been told that school fees at an international school are tax deductible.  Are you aware of that?

When I mentioned the Taal School I was just referring to for July and August of next year, while the kids are on holiday.  But possibly that's not an option either  :unsure . I think your advice about us speaking as much Dutch as possible while we're still in South Africa is an excellent one and the best we can do!

As far as work is concerned, I've been in touch with an amazing recruitment company that specialises in placing IT people from abroad, at a fairly wide range of companies.  Thank goodness!  They've seen my CV, have had a long conversation with me, and will keep things in a holding pattern until the time is right.  So I know the timing will be a very tricky thing, but hopefully Floris will be able to guide me there :).

Thanks again, Cynic :).

Hi again,

I'm not a tax expert, but I came across this link which may help answer your questions regarding tax reduction for school fees.  It seems to revolve around the 30% tax ruling for highly skilled migrants; I'd definitely recommend that you try and pursue that.

The Taal-school that you mentioned is a great idea and certainly an option (I did exactly that when I first moved to Holland); just Google something like "Talen Instituut" and the name of the town you are looking to live and you'll get some results.

Please come back if you have any further specific questions.

Hope this helps.

Cynic
Expat Team

Thanks again for your help, Cynic!  Really helpful :).

By the way, the link for the language school in Utrecht is http://www.taalschoolutrecht.nl/.

Hi again.

I just checked your link; the website tells us it's a basisschool, which means up to 12 years only - so good for your youngest.  It may be worthwhile speaking to them for advice on the best path for the 2 elder kids as well - you can't be the first/only person with your situation.

Hope this helps.

Cynic
Expat Team

Hi Capetownkari,

I don't know exactly how it works for foreign non-Dutch speaking children (since I grew up in Holland), but I'm sure there will be schools that can offer your kids the right opportunities. Many schools offer a combination of the mbo-stream with havo and vwo, and in that case it's often easier to switch from one stream/level to another. And after graduating from one stream you can go on to the next and finish that in only two years (so from mbo to havo and from havo to vwo, which is required for university).
I can image the language will be a bit of an obstacle at first, but children learn fast! Maybe a private teacher just for the language will be helpful?
Since your oldest is already 16, it might be an option to consider international school for her; that would be only two more years until she could go to university and plenty of time for her to learn the language. Depending on the field of study, a lot of universities offer a lot of their courses in English.

Good luck with all your preparations!

Hi DeDiana

Thank you so much for your message, which is encouraging, as it suggests that there is a degree of flexibility around moving from one stream to another  :) .  And it's great to hear that there are universities that offer studies in English.

My main "fear" at the moment is that our goal of getting to the Netherlands in early July next year will not be possible, due to the long lead time that seems to be required for completing the entire process (as efficient as we may be on our own side). 

Does anyone know if it's true that at the time of application (as the Dutch passport holder and therefore the sponsor), I will need to be able to prove that I have a job offer of at least 12 months?  My concern about that is that if IND can take up to 90 days to process an application - and it'd really be best for me to get to the Netherlands with my husband and children with me - that I will struggle to find a company willing to wait for so long before I even start my job, because we have to wait for IND approval!

Thanks a ton.

Kari

As a South African ,married to a Dutch wife for 30 years, being over 70, the IND requirement was for me to remain outside The Netherlands, whilst my wife in The Netherlands applied for my MVV (also known as a the "Spousal re-unification permit"
Essential documents ( which you state you possess) are: Unabridged Birth & Marriage Certificates,  Apostiled at DIRCO.
Take Certified copies of the above as well as SA ID Book & SA Passport. Book an appointment at the Dutch Embassy (Pretoria or Cape Town ). Do NOT use the services of VFS visa company,as they cannot process a MVV application.
The passport validity period must be long to last some years ahead.  Getting a new SA passport can now be speedily applied for at certain banks.
There have been reports of passport applications at the SA Embassy in The Hague, running into delays,so it's best to avoid that route.
Expect to comply with the "Inburgerings proses"
If the SA passport holder can be employed by a Dutch company, things will be much easier.
Good luck.

Hi Kari,

I’ve also looked into this process, I’m also Dutch with a SA husband, both kids on dual passports.

I was informed by the IND that I would have to move to NL first and get a job with a contract at the minimum income level of around EUR1700 (which shouldn’t be a problem). When I have that contract, I can start applying for the MVV for my husband. However, at the time you start applying for the MVV, your husband needs to be in his home country.
So you can either go to NL by yourself and look for a job, set up a home etc..and leave kids and hubby in SA until you’re ready. Then the kids can come over but your husband will have to stay till the MVV comes through (if it comes through, he can be declined theoretically which you then can appeal). They say it takes a max of 90 days for the MVV to be processed. He has to pick up the MVV if it is granted in Pretoria. After that he can travel to NL.

The other option is that you all go together, your husband will need to get a Schengen visa that will allow him to stay 90 days I believe out of every year he has the visa for. You set up a home and start finding a job, school’s etc, and then when you get your contract, he will have to go back to SA until his MVV comes through.

If you have the means and flexibility, that scenario has the least amount of family separation time.

They certainly don’t make it easy.

What would be much easier is if your husband was able to find a job who was willing to organize a work visa for him. Then you don’t need to be separated and you can all go together. But it’s hard to find an employer willing to do that, but not impossible.

He will also need to do the NT2 exam, the Dutch proficiency exam. Start speaking Dutch at home is good advice. Also, if you look on www.marktplaats.nl you can find NT2 books your husband can start learning from or I’m sure there must be an online program.

Hope that helps.
Stephanie

Hi Stephanie

Thanks so much for your contribution and all the suggestions you gave; it really helps to speak to someone in a very similar position to us!  You are right that this process isn't made easy in any shape or form.   And certainly by far the best situation for us as a family is to remain together as much as possible.  Being split up for a while is so hard!

Alistair has already applied and paid to do the civic exam (frustrating that he has to fly up to Pretoria to do so, but that's life, I guess).  He is practising his Dutch very thoroughly! And we are still waiting for 2 of 5 unabridged certificates to arrive.

It does make sense for him to try to get a job before I do, because the chances of anyone offering me a job already in March (knowing I would only be able to start in August or so) are so incredibly slim!  But then - as you say - his potential list is also greatly filtered / reduced by the fact that almost no companies feel like the mission of organising one's work visa!

What are you feelings about putting kids into local schools, at the age they are?

Thanks so much!

Kari

Hi Capetownkari,

I (EU and SA passport holder) recently moved to The Netherlands from Cape Town with my wife (SA Passport) and 2 children (SA passport for my 12-year-old daughter and dual passport for my 4-year-old son) (4 and 12).

Our move was from an administration process kinda bumpy, but all in all rather smooth. We had a hiccup with the IND process with my Wife as her employer had advised her incorrectly as it turned out. But we managed to work through it with no major stress. We have been here since August and have both our children in International schools.

This is where I would like to share some insights regarding the school.

My initial plan was my daughter (12) would attend an international school. she is as smart as a button and is loving school and we recently had a parents meeting which she presented to us on her school experience to date and I could not have been prouder or happier with our choice and how she has responded. She has made friends and they already have enjoyed reciprocated sleepovers.

My plan for my son based on his age was that he go into a bilingual school and learn and be integrated into the Dutch way of life and culture as quickly as possible. I think I asked all the right questions and reviewed 4 bilingual schools with physical visits and interviews before deciding on the one he would attend. I, however, didn't ask the single most important question which was. How many English speaking children would be in his class, not just the school?

As it turned out he was the only English speaking pupil and all the others were Dutch, so he was alienated and became very unhappy over the following 2 months. We had numerous meetings with the Teachers and pushed him to learn Dutch and to initiate play with his classmates. It was, however, easier for the other 4-year-olds to just play with their Dutch mates. No one was mean to him or bullied him, he just had no interaction or engagement. Last month I bit the bullet and put him into an international school and he once again is loving going to school. He went to Reddam when we were in Cpt so was already familiar with a formal school day and has adapted well since the move.

So please ask the question, all the best with your plans. I do hope it goes smoothly.

Regards

Hi Kari,

Oh that’s interesting, please tell me the procedure for the exam your husband is doing?

Well, our kids are 7 and 5 and I’ve spoken Dutch to them consistently so they would get along fine in a Dutch school.

It’s the separation issue, as you say. Terrible! That’s the main reason we’ve been putting it off.

Let’s keep in touch,
Stephanie

Hi Nemeziz_ZA

Thanks so much for your insights with regards to schools!  Clearly you put great amounts of thought into the decision of where to place your children, and then still realised there was a factor you'd not thought about!  But I'm really glad to hear that they're now all really well settled in and happy.  Happy children is something we all strive for, isn't it?!

If we were to simply take the "safe route" of international schools, the big thing for us (with three children) is the great expense, and it's tricky from afar to find out the prices of the various schools (as I understand that some of them are quite decently subsidised by the Dutch government, making them slightly more affordable)!   We'd be wanting to base our decisions about where we're located and find work based on a town or city where there is a good international school that is the most affordable for us.  Are your children at the school(s) in Hilversum?

Thanks again!

Kari

Hello Kari,

You are so right, If the kids are happy then generally speaking then so are we. So yes making sure that they are happy was a big consideration for me.

Our son goes to the IPS in Hilversum and our daughter to Laar en Berg in Laaren (Laar & Berg Secondary Education). It opened this year due to the lack of capacity at ILS in Hilversum and the strong demand.

The ability to have an international school hosted within a Dutch school, with its facilities and the added benefit of mingling with Dutch students in school break has been a wonderful experience for her!

I recall you were looking at settling in Utrecht?

Hi there

Sorry it's been a while since I replied!  Thanks so much for the response about where your children are at school.  I will check out those schools!

Yes, the idea has been to find ourselves work in Utrecht, and schooling for the kids nearby.  But as things are standing now, we're getting progressively unsure about it being a feasible reality.  It feels as if keeping our little family together without me having to head over there months in advance to secure a job (and trying to find a role where my strong command of English and my currently conversational command of Dutch is adequate or just what is needed) in order for us then to finally apply for a residence permit for Alistair is almost impossible!  It feels so daunting and - with three school-going kids who may or may not fit into Dutch schools - filled with potential pitfalls. 

Perhaps we will feel differently soon.  But for now we're even considering the UK or Scotland instead?!

Kari, that’s exactly how we feel. Do some research into the so called “Belgium route.” It’s supposedly a lot easier to get into atleast Belgium, where you have to stay for a short while before you can then move to NL. I believe it’s possible for Alistair to stay with the family if you go that route. But have a dig around.

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