17 Dec Bureaucracy…applying for a German visa, part 1
For a while now, we have talked about getting a year long visa in Germany. This visa would allow us to travel within Europe and the Schengen zone, without having to worry about the 90 day visa rule. So it only made sense to work on it, while visiting friends and family in my
hometown in Germany. A couple days after arriving in Neustadt, we went to the city hall to get registered in town, by using a family address. This is the first step to get an ‘Aufenthaltsgenehmigung’ or ‘permission to stay’. Since we have lived here 16 years ago, me as a German and Ron as an American, we still happen to be in the system. However, within the last few years, I have become an American citizen as well, which meant we both have become foreigners in Germany.
In general, nothing can be established, gained, or revoked without having to fill out a stack of paperwork in Germany. Most of the time you have to go to one office to obtain an application, turn that in for another paper from another office to apply for whatever it is you want to apply for…except when it comes to losing your own citizenship, this must be the ONLY thing which one can lose automatically without filing paperwork–just by simply applying for another citizenship…go figure!
So here we are to the dismay of the very nice city-hall worker, who has a heck of a time trying to correct all of our information in her computer. At times though, she must think we held her position before, at least that’s what her questions imply:
“So you left as a German? Now, how do I put you in as an American?” After a long time of staring at the computer screen and asking questions, she continues: “I think I’ll put Ron’s name in like this, and put your information in like that…what do you think?”
…A little annoyed with the situation I reply with a smile: “Well, I am not sure Frau ‘L’ but it sounds wonderful. If somebody should not like our info, we’ll just send them your way and tell them: it’s all Frau ‘L’s’ fault!” 🙂
Frau ‘L’ seemed a little unsure of how to take that respond. But we do not mind, we are officially registered…now to deal with the immigration office.
In Germany, each bigger town or county’s capital has its own immigration office, where an official decides over visas, permissions to stay, or work permissions independently.
Upon arrival at the office, we are handed a few papers to fill out and are asked to come back the following morning with the filled out application, our passports, a copy of our marriage certificate, proof of health insurance, a bank statement, and passport pictures.
That sounds easy enough!
After returning in the morning we are asked into Herr ‘S’s’ office to go over our application.
With a very slow monotone voice, an expressionless face, and very little personality, he asks us some questions and looks into his immigration-law-book to see under which law he might be able to give us a permission to stay.
Very bored, he asks: “So you used to be German, where are you born?” I could not help but think of Ferries Buhler’s economy teacher while I answered him:
“Right here in town!”
Without a sign of any emotion or enthusiasm he continues: “That’s funny, and now you are asking for permission to stay?” Was that a question or a statement?
Not really finding that so funny, but..”Yes!”
“Do you plan on staying here for good and working here?”
“No, just a long visit.” Thinking that working really was NOT in our travel plans, yet.
With a long, silent pause he consults the law book again, eventually we hear some mumbling like “That doesn’t work…this does not apply..”
After a few more minutes of silence, Herr ‘S’ reappears from behind The Book, gives us his first, somewhat crooked smile and asks: “Do you speak German?”
Huh, did I miss something?! I could have sworn, what we were conversing in was German! So with a little uncontrollable attack of sarcasm I respond: “I thought so, most of the time people even know right away that I am Frankonian”, funny conversation to have in a heavy German/Frankonian dialect, I must say. Although there might be a couple of proper German speaking people out there arguing, that whatever was spoken in this office had anything to do with real German. Yet, the response finally lured out the first sincere smile on Herr ‘S’s’ face.
Still Herr ‘S’ asks very monotony: “You plan on keeping your home address in the US, while residing here?”
“Perfect, then there is a possibility for you to apply for a one year visa with permission to work.”
“Do we have to work?” That would really not help us get anywhere with our travel plan!
“No, not as long as you are able to take care of yourself and have health insurance.”
With that he goes over all of our paperwork. Everything seems to be in order; except our international travel insurance does not satisfy Herr ‘S’s’ expectations. According to him the insurance premium is too cheap and the policy is not compatible with the German government run insurance. His suggestion in the still expressionless voice: “You have to buy better insurance before we can accept the application.”
Ah yes, good way to get us all excited before shooting us down! This just seemed too easy for German bureaucracy.
Ok, looks like we have to go shopping for insurance!