Official documents that you need when immigrating from the US to the Netherlands

You and your family are immigrating to the Netherlands next month! Awesome, you are more than welcome! However, have you prepared for all the documents that you will need? The US is a common law country, whilst the Netherlands is a civil law country. Regarding identification and civil registration, there is a big difference. Hereunder, we will discuss a few common documents that one surely needs to take care of before coming to the Netherlands.

Birth certificate

Upon your arrival in the Netherlands, you will need to register yourself with the city hall (“gemeente” in Dutch). Most Dutch city halls will ask you to show your legalized birth certificate. Your birth certificate needs to be legalized through obtaining a special stamp (“apostille”) from the secretary of state. For example, if you were born in Seattle, you should have your US birth certificate legalized by the Washington secretary of state. If you, your partner and your children were born in different states, then you will need to contact the various secretaries of state and ask them to legalize your birth certificates one-by-one. In some US states (eg. Alaska, Hawaii, Utah and US Virgin Islands), the lieutenant governor is responsible for issuing apostille certificates. This means that you may need to contact the Office of Lieutenant Governor.

Name change order

In some common law countries, it is super easy to adopt a new name. For example, in Great Britain, one can change her name from “Suzy Lee” to “Trish Amalia Lilou Caroline dos Santos” through signing a ‘deed poll’ in front of an English solicitor. After signing such a document, Suzy Lee will become Trish Amalia Lilou Caroline dos Santos immediately. Unfortunately, such a name change is not recognized in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, one must initiate a court proceeding if he/she wants to change his/her name. If you have changed your name in the past, you should try to locate the court order and have the court order legalized by your secretary of state. If you don’t have such a court order, it can be challenging for a Dutch city hall to verify the link between the name on your passport and the name on your birth certificate. However, if you adopted your partner’s last name after marriage, you don’t need to show a court order in relation to this name change.

Marriage certificate

If you are married, you should have your marriage certificate legalized by your secretary of state.

If you are divorced or your spouse passed away

If you are divorced, you should have your certificate of divorce legalized by your secretary of state. If your spouse passed away, you should have your late spouse’s death certificate legalized by the secretary of state.


If your birth certificate name is Noah James McGee and your passport shows only your first and last name (“Noah McGee”), you may want to ask for a new passport mentioning your full name. If there is a discrepancy between your birth certificate and your passport, a Dutch city hall can refuse to accept your birth certificate.

The other parent’s approval  

If you are divorced and you have joint/sole custody of your children, you should ask your children’s other parent to give you a written declaration granting you the permission to let your children immigrate with you to the Netherlands. Some cities have a special template for this purpose. If you need such a template, please feel free to contact our office. Also, you should ask for a copy of the other parent’s passport ID page. Even if you have been granted sole custody of your children, you should consider asking for such a written approval from the other parent, as the other parent has probably ‘right to visit’.

Is everything clear? Let’s do a hypothetical.


Imagine that Sven Pennoyer was born in Massachusetts in 1979. However, at the time of his birth, his original name was Sylvester Pennoyer. At the age of 21, he started disliking his name. So, he decided to change his name from Sylvester to Sven. At that moment, Sven was working on a project in Vermont, and he had the intention to live in Vermont indefinitely. He filed a petition with the Probate Division of the Superior Court of the State of Vermont, and it got approved by the court. Two years later, Sven Pennoyer married Mary Neff, a native of Wyoming. Mary Neff is four years older than Sven. She has a child with her ex-husband Thomas Keeton. They divorced in Colorado five years ago. Their child’s name is Alan Keeton, a native of Colorado. The court granted Mary and her ex-husband Thomas joint custody of Alan Keeton. Sven married Mary in Utah. One year later, they got a baby girl, whose name is Margaret Pennoyer. Margaret was born in Oregon. Now, Sven, Mary, Margaret and Alan want to immigrate to the Netherlands. Which official documents do they need to prepare for?

(If you want, you can work out the answers on your own before checking the standard answer below).

Answer: (1) Sven Pennoyer’s birth certificate legalized by the Massachusetts secretary of state; (2) The superior court’s order legalized by the Vermont secretary of state; (3) Sven and Mary’s marriage certificate legalized by the lieutenant governor of Utah; (4) Mary Neff’s birth certificate legalized by the Wyoming secretary of state; (5) Mary’s divorce certificate legalized by the Colorado secretary of state; (6) court order regarding the custody of Alan Keeton legalized by the secretary of state; (7) Thomas’s Keeton’s written approval, granting Mary the permission to take Alan to the Netherlands; (8) Thomas Keeton’s passport ID page; (9) Alan’s birth certificate legalized by the Colorado secretary of state; (10) Margaret’s birth certificate legalized by the Oregon secretary of state.

More questions

If you want to move to the Netherlands under the Dutch American Friendship Treaty or if you have any questions about your US documents that you would like to use in the Netherlands, please feel free to contact us through filling out the contact form.