Brian & Ann's European Experience

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A Taste of Bureaucracy

Just to give you a typical example:

I called up the local school a few weeks ago to see what it would cost to take Dutch lessons. Immediately the receptionist said: "Do you have an inbeurgeringskontract?" To which I replied: "God bless you."

Apparently, if you have this unpronounceable piece of paper from the government, then THEY pay for your Dutch lessons. This is a service to help newcomers learn how to speak Dutch so they can integrate into Dutch society better. Okay... get paper... free school. Got it.

This morning I met with a representative of the WIN, the Dutch agency responsible for handling the 'intake' of foreigners. To get this meeting I had to call them, explain what I wanted, answer a few questions correctly, and then wait for them to send me a letter with an appointment time. The letter did come in timely fashion (three days after my call), and the appointment was only a week after my call. So far so good.

I show up at the meeting. The woman is very polite. She immediately tells me that she looked into my 'file' at the town hall, and (of course), I do not yet have the necessary paperwork completed: I don't have my official residence permit.

The residence permit is, of course, handled by another department, so there really is nothing she can do. When I mentioned to her that the residence permit may take six months to get, she immediately knew the answer to that one: "Yes, but usually before the actual permit comes they send you a letter saying that the permit is coming."

Rube Goldberg would be proud.

It's good to know that so long as the Dutch bureaucracies remain standing the Dutch Post Office will remain solvent.

Ah, but we are not yet done. It IS possible for me to get started learning Dutch. If my wife, who is an EU citizen and legal resident, writes a 'garandstelling' (Bless you again) letter stating that she will pay the costs for the school if for some reason the residence permit is denied, then they will go ahead and send the inbeurgeringskontract (You really should get that checked out) to the school which will result in...

...another interview!

See, you can't just start taking classes, silly! You have to have an interview to determine what kind of classes are best, what your schedule is, yadda yadda yadda. I seriously contemplated showing up at this interview and putting on my best retard act. ("Hahv you theen my weiner?")

But let's get back to this 'garandstelling' letter where my spouse promises to pay if for some reason I should be denied residency (keep in mind that it's only ME that needs the fucking permit):

Brian: "So what do you need in the letter?"
Bureaucrat: "Her name and address, that she will pay, and your name and address."
Brian: "Do you need her SOFI [Social security] number?"
Brian:"Do you need a bank account or credit card number?"
Brian:"Should she include a copy of her passport?'

If the Dutch Government denies my residency I wish them the best of luck collecting from Catherine Zeta Jones-Bishop, 123 Flurneygurney St., Dordrecht.

Also, by signing up for the inbrughrugrufkontract I automatically enroll with YET ANOTHER government agency, the VIZO, whose purpose is to provide support to people moving to the Netherlands. They will be contacting me to make sure I am fully supported, that I am getting by fine in the Netherlands, and that I am not roaming around the streets with pneumatic bolt cutters stealing bikes. I envision this as kind of like my Dutch parole officer.

Naturally, the VIZO will send me a letter.
To set up an appointment.
To have an interview.
Where the first thing they will tell me is, of course:

"You don't have the right paperwork."


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