zaterdag, september 18, 2004

The Immigration Nightmare: The documents!

So, my first blog and I have thought long and hard about what to write about. I thought it might be a good idea to let you all know about our little run in with de immigratie en naturalisatie dienst, or the immigration service. A lovely little story full of joy and laughter – not!

So, it all began in November 2003, after Scott and I had decided that one of us needed to move if we were going to continue to maintain the relationship. Although on paper a transatlantic relationship with flights once a month might seem like a jet-set life, it’s quite tiring after about a year and a half! So, for numerous reasons, we decided that we would start with an immigration procedure in The Netherlands for Scott to move over here. On the 1st November 2003, I began researching what we would need in order to do it. We both kinda knew that wherever we decided to move to the procedure was going to be a complicated and frustrating one, but we were not expecting the amount of paperwork that we had to submit. I mean, it’s one thing when your PhD demands 400 pages, it’s another when an immigration procedure demands the same!

Document 1: So, in November 2003, we found out that one of the many documents that we needed was going to be my residency permit. When I moved here in September 2001, I discovered that it’s not compulsory for EU citizens to apply for a residency permit in The Netherlands (all part of the free movement rights). Anyway, I had a balancing act: applying for and paying €28 for a non-compulsory residence permit on the one hand, or not on the other. Hmmmm .. the choice was easy.

However, in order to apply for Scott’s residency permit, we needed my non-compulsory residence permit. Frustration 1 (you’ll soon see that the frustrations quickly outnumber the number of documents, which in itself it pretty amazing, so I’m going to stop numbering them!). Applied in November 2003 for this simple formality. In March 2004, received notification that my permit has been granted, and I needed to wait for a letter from the aliens police. A letter which in , September 2004, I am still waiting for!!

Running costs: €28 Result: Still not received

Document 2: A declaration of Scott’s unmarried status. For those of you reading in the States, you might be asking yourself what exactly this document is. Well, we did the same thing. And it seems that the answer lies in The Netherlands. Here, the Registrar maintains a national list of every wedding that takes place. He or she can therefore produce a document that says not only whether someone is married, but also whether someone is not married. A bizarre concept to an American or a Brit. Well, the American Embassy has come up with a way around this and it goes something like this:

Embassy Worker: How can I help you?
Scott: I need a declaration of unmarried statue.
Embassy Worker: Are you married?
Scott: No
Embassy Worker: Sign here please and that’ll be €30
Scott: Okie dokie

So that was that one. Confused? So were we! As well as that, we were also €30 poorer.

Running costs: €58 Result: Achieved!

Document 2 (legalisation): So you thought that the hassle with document 2 was over. Oh no! It’s not that simple! After going to Amsterdam to get the declaration we now needed to go to the Ministry of foreign Affairs in The Hague to get the declaration “legalised”. That basically means the following:

Ministry Worker: How can I help you?
Ian: We need to get this document legalised?
Ministry Worker: Is it a forgery?
Ian: No
Ministry Worker: That’ll be €10 come an pick it up between 12 and 12.30 today.
Ian: Okie dokie

Running costs: €68 Result: Achieved!

Document 3: Extract from the municipality where Ian lives. When you first arrived in The Netherlands everyone must register with the local city council. This is free and you need to provide them with your passport and some other documents. Well, I had done this way back in September 2001. In order to satisfy immigration requirements I then needed a copy of some of that information. That costs €10 to get the information on yourself, which you gave free of charge! I mean, it’s hardly top secret information. The document includes your first name, your surname, your date of birth and your address. Woooooo! Classified stuff hey!

Running costs: €78 Result: Achieved!

Document 4: Birth certificates. At last something we have heard of! But oh no, with an added twist. We needed to try and find an “apostille stamp”. This stamp verifies the document which you have obtained from a foreign country. On the back of the stamp it is stated:

“An apostille or legalisation certificate only confirms that the signature, seal or stamp on the document is legitimate. It does not mean that the contents of the document are correct.”

Sorry for being an idiot, but I had kinda assumed that the point of this whole stamp thing was to prove the contents of the document were correct, but apparently not. But we were happy; we were now collecting a nice collection of stamps, seals and signatures. Birth certificates cost about €20 per piece and then the apostille costs about €20 per piece.

Running costs: €158 Result: Achieved!

Document 5: Declaration of long-term relationship. This is perhaps the one we we had had the most concerns about. We needed to ensure that the Dutch authorities knew that we were in a serious relationship. The fact that we had been together for, at that time, about a year, and had lived so far about, raised concerns on our part. But here’s how the conversation went. Oh by the way, this all takes place at the City Council Offices.

Council Worker: You want to begin with an immigration application?
Ian: Yes
Council Worker: On what ground?
Ian: Family formation.
Council Worker: Are you in a relationship?
Ian: Yes.
Council Worker: With whom?
Ian: Him. (pointing to Scott sitting next to me)
Council Worker: You need to sign that you are in a long-term relationship
Ian: Ok
Council Worker: Sign here

Once we’ve done that, then we need to pay to begin the immigration procedure. €430!

Running costs: €588 Result: Not yet achieved but that’s another blog!

Document 6-12: These were all pretty straightforward (pay slips from the last three months, copies of our passports etc,), and didn’t really cost anything in terms of money or time.

However, I have kinda jumped a step, because before we got to the city council to fill in the declaration that we were in a long-term relationship, we first had to find out where we needed to fill that in. And that is a whole other blog ……