Chances are you've heard of DigiD, but have no idea what it is, let alone how it will make your life easier. For those of us waiting for someone to help make this digital leap easier, the wait has ended. Lori Evans has the scoop on all things DigiD – even how to pronounce it!
When I moved to The Netherlands from a rural American town a few years ago, I encountered a huge lifestyle difference that caught me by surprise: the ubiquity of technology in daily life. Before moving here, I was still writing checks, using a landline for my telephone, accessing government offices by mail or in person, and finding online banking slow and cumbersome. Now, I am learning to love electronic transactions: from public transportation, to online banking, to uploading health care reimbursement forms, digital is the way to go!
Thus, it is no surprise that here in the Netherlands, there is an easy way to access all kinds of government documents without personally trudging to a distant office, kids in tow (especially when it’s raining, which is often). May I present to you – the DigID!
DigiD - Your Digital Identity
The DigiD is a way to prove your identity online. When you visit a government office, you must often present an ID card, passport, or driver’s license to prove your identity. Once you sign up for your DigiD, the government knows it’s you – it’s linked to your BSN number and other information about you. When you login with your DigiD, you get access to hundreds of Dutch government websites. Information you previously had to collect in person is now available on your home computer; you can check on all kinds of personal documents this way. Some agencies now even require you to have a DigiD.
If, like me, you tend toward the back end of the technology-adoption curve, you probably hadn’t heard of DigiD until recently. Or maybe you'd heard of it but have been avoiding another new online process! I can assure you the whole DigiD process is very simple. The main DigiD website is super helpful, available in both Dutch and English, has loads of FAQ’s to answer all your questions, and easy instructions for how to get your DigiD.
How to Say It
I have to give a quick tip on the correct pronunciation of DigiD. As an English-speaker, I assumed it was pronounced “didge-eye-dee”. Wrong! I quickly discovered that particular pronunciation can annoy native Dutch speakers! They will usually correct you when you say it incorrectly. The correct pronunciation is “digh-ee-day,” with the famous Dutch “g”. You may discover when you say it correctly that the people you’re speaking to, whether on the phone or in a government office, will suddenly smile and be more helpful.
You must make sure you keep this information confidential. No one may ask you for your username, password, or activation code – not via e-mail, telephone, or any other way.
Keeping Your DigiD Secure
Your DigiD consists of a username and a password of your choice. You must make sure you keep this information confidential. No one may ask you for your username, password, or activation code - not via e-mail, telephone, or any other way. In fact, I recently witnessed on online scam with a website using an URL similar to the official government URL asking for the DigiD to access. Good thing it looked fake! You must be as vigilant with your DigiD as you are with credit cards, bank card info, etc.
For additional protection, you can apply for your DigiD with an extra verification step via SMS. Some organizations require the extra SMS verification to use their files. You can still use the SMS function without a mobile phone (in case you still have one of those landlines I mentioned). In this case, you receive a voice message on your fixed phone number.
Important note: If you set up SMS, you have to wait three days for an activation code to be sent by post. So if you need to use your DigiD quickly and don’t need the SMS code for your first task, you can actually skip that step and add it at a later date.
When you log in with your DigiD, a secure, encrypted connection is established between DigiD and your computer. If you are concerned about security, you can check the DigiD website for more details about the many ways they try to keep your data safe.
Who Accepts DigiD?
The list of organizations for which you can use the DigiD is a mile long. There are banks, healthcare organizations, pension funds, water boards, municipal governments, courts, and many more. You can access student aid, the Tax Authority (Belastingdienst), and the police. You can even use your DigiD with HEMA, although for what I’m not exactly sure!
Quickly Complete Tasks with Your DigiD
Here are just a few examples of routine duties you can perform easily from home with a DigiD:
- Access the SVB or Sociale Verzekeringsbank (Social Insurance Bank) to check how much kinderbijslag (child allowance) you will get and when it will be paid.
- Receive and file tax bills with the Belastingdienst. Their website also allows you to change the bank account you would like them to use for any tax refunds (always lovely when you get them!).
- Check water bills and tax with Waternet.
- Log-on to the UWV or Uitvoeringsorgaan Werknemers Verzekeringen (Social Insurance Agency) to sign up for unemployment/sick leave benefits.
- Do a calculation with the rekentool (online calculator) on your Gemeente (local goverment) website to calculate and request an official quotation for the cost of buying your erpfacht (land lease).
- Request an excerpt from the municipal personal records database through your local Gemeente website.
- Empower others to use you DigiD without actually giving it to them, such as lawyers helping you navigate a government process or tax advisors filing your taxes.
So, spare yourself all those trips to government and other offices. Get a DigiD for convenient, at-home, digital access, and enjoy a cup of tea in your pajamas while you take care of life's tedious but necessary paperwork in the comfort of your own home.
Lori Evans is a writer and musician/piano teacher from the USA, heading into her third year in the Netherlands. She lives with her techie husband, her delightfully grumpy 15-year-old son, and two mellow cats that seem not to have noticed their transatlantic transplanting. She’s slowly adjusting to fiercely missing her 19-year-old daughter attending college in NYC.