Saturday, April 5, 2008

I go New York!

The following is an account of my actual experience obtaining a visa/residence permit to stay in Germany until June 9th.

My 90 days were just about up, but after hearing horror stories of the time commitment and process from many of my classmates, I waited until the absolute last possible day to get my visa. My Canadian housemate, Erica, had done the same so we left the house early Monday morning and arrived at the Abteilung Auslaenderangelegenheiten (no, I am not making up that word) at about 6:40am, twenty minutes before they opened. Erica had tried to go on her own the previous week and was turned away as they were already full. They told her to come back Monday at 6:30am. When we got there at 6:40am, a line of at least 50 people had already formed. When they finally opened the doors, many people behind us started cutting in line and forcing their way in. Once corralled into an actual line inside, the smell of nations filled the room. It's really amazing the fragrances that people choose to have represent themselves. As you might imagine from an earlier post, this process involves waiting for a waiting number. Once you get to the first agent, they issue you said waiting number and a waiting room number.

If the first room had the smell of all nations, then our waiting room had the food of all nations (and I'm not talking about the grocery store in Cville). First it was tuna. Then a very strong bread smell, Indian food, and some things that I just can't classify. The smells weren't all food and from time to time the strong stench of pull-over coming from the hallway would infiltrate the waiting room. After a few minutes, everything seemed routine - another big digital board that would beep and flash when a new number was ready to be served, then you were off to the corresponding room.

After around 20 minutes the board began to display only "F01" and finally went blank. It was broken. After some time someone would occasionally come to the room and shout the numbers. Once the number is called, you get the form (Couldn't they have given this out earlier?). The form was very long, very confusing, and very repetitive, with lots of bad translations. They clearly don't want anyone to be here. Eventually, they call your number again and you take your form and all of your documents (passport, registration with the city, bank statement showing that you have at least $588 Euros a month to live on, letter from school saying why you are here, proof of health insurance, and photos) and turn them in. My photos were rejected because I had a very slight smile. She said, "Kein Zaehne." (no teeth) and told me to get new photos from the machine upstairs.

I go to the elevator and get in. It goes down instead of up. Then it breaks. Everyone gets out in the basement (which is chained off because we're not allowed to be in it). I climb over the chains and up to the floor with the 7 euro (rip off) photo machine. There's a huge line and the machine is slow. I get the photos and take them to the lady. After maybe a half hour of waiting, my number is called again and I go to the corresponding room. In this room, a different lady gives me a plastic card which I have to take to a different floor and use a machine to add cash to the card so I can go back to her and pay her 50 euros to get my passport back which now has the fancy page pictured above. At 9:40am, three hours later, the whole thing is over with and I can officially stay in Germany. I'm not sure that I want to anymore.


Anonymous said...

I once ate schnitzel
Beer is tasty
Enjoying your blog
while at home with fussy baby.

Enjoy the smells of Germany. Drinking a beer and thinking of you!!! Susanne

Anonymous said...

Dude, that photo looks like one of those assassin agents in the Bourne Supremacy. I've only been to Bavaria, but what an experiment in socialistic, anti-American culture. Good beer though.. My fave was Augustiner as they had some super-beer that the monks used to drink when fasting. Jim