Improved services for international staff
The opening of the Service Centre for International Staff on 19 January signals a higher level of support for international staff. The Service Centre in the main administration building at Rapenburg 70 will be open every morning, ready to answer any questions.
Smooth immigration process
Currently, 32% of academic staff at Leiden University are non-Dutch. The main help that newly appointed international staff receive from the university has so far been aimed at ensuring a smooth immigration process from countries outside the EU (plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein in terms of immigration), and providing assistance with finding housing.
We've had the impression for some time that there was a need for more support, and that impression was confirmed in a survey conducted by HRM among international staff at the end of 2015. Although the Netherlands is known to be country where just about everything is well organised, you need to know how the arrangements work, and where to go to get things done. 'Things that are obvious to us, are by no means obvious for someone from abroad,' says Marlon van Leeuwen, head of the Service Centre for International Staff.
Van Leeuwen radiates enthusiasm about the new services and she is sure the same applies to her staff of four. 'People need somewhere to live and they want information about healthcare. They want to know if they can use their driving licence here, how to find the right school for their children and where they can learn Dutch. There are a thousand and one questions they need answers to. Our office will be open every day until 12.30 so people can just walk in and ask their questions. We even arrange the appointments staff need to have as soon as they arrive, with the Leiden municipality, for example.' The Service Centre for International Staff also takes care of the now completely electronic immigration procedures. The Centre is the one-stop-office for all services for international staff.
Tax information and social activities
The survey showed that there were two other needs, namely information on taxes and social activities. For the first of these, a contract has been made with a specialist tax office that will have regular consultation hours. So-called 'Easy Landing' days will also be organised for international newcomers and their partners and children to make sure they do indeed have an 'easy landing'. These days will give them the chance to meet other people in the same situation. Every new international member of staff will be offered an intake discussion so that the staff of the Service Centre can get to know the kinds of questions and concerns that occupy international staff.
In terms of accommodation, Van Leeuwen says that Leiden University has over 358 apartments, 169 at Boerhaavaelaan and 189 at Wassenaarseweg, some of which are in the renovated former Anatomical Lab. That may seem like a lot, but at the moment the apartments at Boerhaavelaan are being renovated, which means there's sometimes a gap between demand and supply. Van Leeuwen: ‘Then we have to do some work on managing expectations.'
The new Service Centre for International Staff is up and running and the staff of the Centre are all set to receive their first visitors.