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Büro-cracy

May 21, 2009

I’m not exactly sure if this blog serves any purpose beyond keeping friends and family informed of what I’m doing here in Germany, but just in case it is ever passed along to anyone crazy enough to do something like move to Europe on a whim, I’ve go some immigration/staying-for-longer-than-three-months advice for these hypothetical readers.  Get ready, you can only lace boring information with so much wit:

  1. Go to the embassy of whatever country you are intending to spend a bunch of time in (we’ll use Germany as an example here) before you go.  You can come for three months without any previous applications etc, but you may qualify for some sort of visa in the US.  And it all changes when you get to the country – you can no longer apply for visas, you have to apply for a residence card.  But the embassy may at least have some good advice.  And good advice about visas usually includes big words that are much easier to understand in a language you actually speak.
  2. If you don’t do that, or it doesn’t help, once you’re in the country find out if there is some faction of the government that gives advice to immigrants.  In Berlin it’s called the Auslånder Beauftragter.  They will use the above mentioned big words and you probably won’t understand and it will be really frustrating, but they will eventually tell you what your options are (or rather, you will eventually understand) and what documents you need to take to the Ausländerbehörde (immigration office) etc.  This saves you waiting in lines that put the DMV to shame only to find out from some poor staff member with no patience that you have all of the wrong pieces of paper and you have to come back again the next day, again, at 7 am.
  3. Enroll in a university.  I’m not exactly sure how this is done, but if you can figure out a way, I recommend it.  It is about a thousand times easier to stay here if you are some sort of student, even in a US university.  For instance, I have two internships, but I can’t get a visa for either of them because I’m not a student.  Also, if you come here just to learn German, you have to take a class that prepares you to enter a university here anyway, so they will assume you want to study even if you tell them you probably won’t.
  4. Or they will recommend you get married.  So will everyone else.  Its not for everyone, but it does make it easier to stay.  My parents have forbidden me from getting married over here, but if you’re going to have two passports, a country in Europe and a US passports are probably the best two you could have.  Just saying.
  5. You can also go to Switzerland or somewhere out of the Shengen (its sort of like the EU but different – European politics are complicated) every few months, but its kind of frowned upon and I think doesn’t always work.  Some people swear by it, but I’ve found going through immigration in other countries a lot easier if you appear to be legal somewhere.
  6. Do not, under any conditions, wait until the week before you three month tourist visa is up before you start going to government offices.  Start asking around as soon as possible and make a plan – especially if you don’t have a job right away and have some free time.  Trust me.

The German word for office is Büro, and there is a reason it sounds like bureaucracy.  I survived, but barely.  At least I don’t have to worry about again until I hypothetically go to school here.

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2 comments

  1. good advice alex. haha


  2. I miss your posts! I don’t even know how you are in germany anymore- how did you survive? I’m assuming here that you did not marry an e.u. citizen.



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