DigiD

I migrated to the US from Holland in 1992 and have dual American and Dutch citizenship. Since I worked as an educator in the Netherlands before I came to the US I’ll have a small pension and social security benefits coming from Holland after I turn 65 in March 2016, and as I have some financial planning to do for my retirement I went on line and tried to log on to my account at the agency that administers Dutch government pensions, ABP, but my access was denied. I was informed that from now on I could only log on with DigiD, a new creation of the Dutch government.  Subsequently I found out that I would also need DigiD to get information on line from the Dutch Social Security Administration, SVB.  So I tried to register for DigiD on line.  The first obstacle I ran into was that I would need a ‘burgerservicenummer’ or BSN, the Dutch equivalent of a social security number that was introduced after I left Holland.  When I called the DigiD helpdesk I was told that my BSN should be in my passport, but in my passport, issued by the Dutch Consulate in New York City, that space was left blank.  Ready to give up on DigiD I called ABP and asked them to mail the information I needed to me.

To my pleasant surprise the documents I received from ABP a couple of weeks later included my BSN, which allowed me to find out what I needed to know from SVB over the phone, but also made me decide to give DigiD another shot.  After entering the required information on the DigiD website I first got the message that I would have to visit a ‘balie,’ a special desk, with my passport, in order to get my DigiD activated.  The message included a list of those desks, none of which were in the US.  For me, living in New Jersey, the closest ‘balie’ was in Paramaribo, Suriname.  There are also desks in Bangkok, Wellington and some European capitals, but not in the UK or North America.  When I again called the DigiD helpdesk I was assured that they’re working hard to add more desks, but that for now Paramaribo or Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport were my best options.  Since it so happens that on Sunday, 12/27/15, I’ll have a layover at Schiphol, I made an appointment at the ‘balie’ there for that day and again entered my information on the DigiD website, where this time I got the message that it could not be processed.

In response to my subsequent inquiry the DigiD helpdesk informed me per Twitter Message that I could only apply once I had been de-registered as a resident of Amsterdam, my former hometown, for which I would have to show up in person, with my passport, at City Hall.  City Hall is closed on Sunday, and I would not have had the time to go there anyway, so I finally decided to give up on DigiD, which will make my communication with Dutch government agencies much more complicated than it needs to be.

In the Internet age, the whole process is an anachronism.  DigiD claims that it creates extra security, but in the end all you get is a username and password, only known to the user and DigiD, which can be stolen just as easily as any other  username and password, via spyware or other forms of identity theft.  The same level of security can be established on line without having to visit a ‘balie.’

Sadly, the way the process is organized shows complete disregard on the part of the Dutch government for its citizens living abroad, many of whom will never live close enough to a ‘balie’ to get DigiD, and therefore will have significant difficulty accessing information they’re entitled to.

Hugo Kijne

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