Thursday, March 15, 2007

Einen Antrag auf Erteilung eines Antragsformulars

As it turns out, I really do have to indulge the Immigration department's every whim when it comes to their new requests for documentation. Thank you to the commentators who suggested checking out the legal side of things: I did that today. As I had suspected, we are under no legal obligation to provide them with this new set of documents/test results/etc, and they can't change my residence status based on whether or not we comply, but they are also under no legal obligation to grant Geekman residency. So basically, unless they ask for something blatantly illegal (e.g. bribes), we have to humour them or they will get the pip and reject him out of spite.

The good news, however, is that we got a written apology from them today for having waited so long before telling us they need all this further information. So if they do at some future date end up rejecting his application due to the lack of time left on his contract, I think this admission that they are at fault for being so slow would give us grounds for appeal.

The other good news is that I strode bravely into the fray today for my first piece of documentation and survived the first battle. The application for my German police record is now winging its flappy little way towards Europe, where it will no doubt sit on some bureaucrat's desk for six weeks before they reject it for being written in the wrong colour ink. Even sending it off was more complicated than you might expect, since I had to get my signature on the form witnessed at the German Embassy. And incidentally:

  • No, they cannot provide you with the form: you have to download it yourself from their website.
  • No, you cannot pay the processing fee to them: you have to get a bank check drawn on a German bank (which costs $28 in bank fees as well as the $27 that they actually require).
  • No, you cannot leave the form with them: you have to take it away again and post it to Germany yourself.
But you still have to drive all the way over there (between 9 and 12: they don't work afternoons) so that you can pay them $25 to watch you sign the bit of paper that you printed out yourself and will have to send away with payment by yourself. They did stamp the form, though. Which makes it the second most expensive stamp I have ever paid for.*

The surrealness of the experience was almost worth the money anyway. Especially the bit with the baffled-looking little man in the booth at the gate.

"Good day. Vot is your business here, plees?"

I stand there struck dumb for a minute because I kind of planned to speak German, but it seems rude not to reply in English when he started it.

"I need a... a..." The English word fails me. I planned on German, damn it. I need a Formular to be beglaubigt. "... I have a form. It needs... witnessing. For my signature."

"Vot form?" He looks disbelieving. I brandish it at him. "For vot is zis form?"

"For a... criminal record."

"You haff a criminal record?" Now he looks terrified.

"No. It's for Australian immigration. They need proof that I don't have a criminal record."

"I see. You vill go to the consular section, plees."

"Where is that?"

"You haff not been here before?" He looks even more disbelieving.


"It is behind that tree." He waves his arm vaguely. "Now you vill put all your knives in the drawer behind you, plees. The drawer marked 'vun'."

"I don't have any knives!"

"Are you sure? Vot about in your pockets?"

"Of course not!" I start to giggle.

He looks at me with extreme disapproval. "Knives are a very serious matter."**

Eventually I convince him I am unarmed, and head through the booth. I start to wander in circles looking for the mythical "consular section" behind some random tree. The little baffled man finally pokes his head out of his booth again and calls, "I gaif you very precise directions! Vy are you not looking? It is up zere!" And points again. As I finally wander off towards the right door he calls after me in exasperation, "If I had known zat your English vas so bad, vi could have speak Cherman!"


* The most expensive was in Germany when I needed to have my student visa stamped by Immigration to say I was allowed to work a part-time job. After they made me cry ("What is the number of your faculty? No, that's the number of your department. The faculty number should be four digits. I need your faculty number. It's no good knowing the name of your faculty. I need the number. I find it extremely difficult to believe that you don't know your own faculty's number. What sort of a student doesn't know basic information like this?"), they charged me 80 Euro for the stamp.

**He is obviously from the South.


liina said...

That is hilarious. I was always too scared to write anything about my hassles with immigration when I was in Australia - I think I was afraid to be deported :) I hope it all works out in the end.

Miss M. said...

Ov course, eef your eenglish iz so bad you could ave just speak cherman anywayz (you know, for keekz)

Miss M. said...

Out of curiosity, what on earth would they get you to do if you didn't live conveniently close to the embassy?

(and by conveniently close I mean up the same end of the country - what about people who want to immigrate to Perth or Cairns? I mean, Australia sure isn't little)

post-doc said...

It would be impossible for me to love this story more. I now have the most delightful picture of all the men I work for standing in line, waiting to deposit their requisite knives in the drawer marked 'vun.'

Knives are, indeed, serious business. :) And good luck with the bureaucratic nonsense.

Ianqui said...

As I finally wander off towards the right door he calls after me in exasperation, "If I had known zat your English vas so bad, vi could have speak Cherman!"

He did not! Oh, that's too funny. It's probably a good thing you didn't speak German, or else he really would have laid it on you for not being native.

rageyone said...

That is quite a funny story at the end! LOL!

Not so funny about all of those requirements and fees.

StyleyGeek said...

Miss M., there is another option besides getting the embassy to witness it. And that is to get a notary public to do so. I looked them up and it appears they charge between $35 and $70 per six minutes for witnessing signatures. (You wouldn't want to be a slow writer!)

So I think the embassy was cheaper. But I don't know what you would do if you lived in a small town with no notary publics (notaries public?) (this city only has about six of them).

StyleyGeek said...

Liina, now you have me paranoid.

JustMe said...

i laugheed out loud as that guy's last line! and i hear you about the bureacraucy. that is one of the positives about being out of fieldwork country where i had to pay the equiv. of 55 dollars for a stamp on my birth certificate... hang in there.

liina said...

Don't worry, it'll work out. It's just an expensive and frustrating experience. And a funny one, the way you write about it :)

Anonymous said...

It is really very bad experience while working with Immigration department. Changes of documents requirement without any notice is a great problem for citizens.


Badaunt said...

This is hilarious. Bureaucracy IS good for something - they provide great material for blog posts!

(The consular section is behind a tree? How ... sweet.)

TenureTrackNewbie said...

...zur Best├Ątigung der Nichtigkeit des Durchschriftsexemplars!

I so understand!

StyleyGeek said...

You recognised it! Extra points for you!