Ana read my last blog and commented, “Geez, you make it sound like these visa troubles you have been having are much more dire. You have a visa. You can stay in the country.”
So let me back up a bit and yes, perhaps, my view of what happened last week is a bit tainted by the fact that I was depressed about returning to Berlin.
I have a student visa. And it is good until November of 2022. No danger of getting kicked out of Germany BUT the student visa only allows me to work a mini job if I want to work at all. A mini job is limited by hours and pay. I can’t make more than 450 Euros a month on this visa (technically 470 euros a month if the job gives me health insurance too but if I want to stay on my spouses insurance, its 450). I have a mini job. Right now I have a six month contract with the university that I am attending (thus the student visa and not really attending all that seriously) to be a teaching assistant for Bachelors literature students. I teach every third week and grade essays and facilitate q and a sessions, etc. I get to work 35 hours a month for my job cap.
BUT since I married a permanent resident I can apply for a family unification visa…baslcally I can hop on her visa. This visa would allow me to work as much as I want and have no limitations on that. This is a better visa. And it isn’t contigent on being enrolled at the university (although there are some BIG advantages to being enrolled like the public transit pass). Anyway, last week I went to apply for this visa.
I had made the appointment in September for Jan. 4. This is how appointments here work for the immigration office. It’s a pain. BUT I had gotten an appointment and Ana and I made our way to the office across the city to go to our 8am appointment. We had all of our paperwork, mounds of paperwork, and our passports and our appointment confirmation and our vaccination apps ready to prove our vaccines. We were ready. We got there 10 minutes or so early and waited in the designated waiting room. Our number popped up and we hurried to the assigned office. We went in and acknowledged the woman and registered quickly this would all be in German (expected and still hard). We gave her our passports.
Problem. I am from the US and we were on the US floor but Ana’s passport is Serbian and that is a different building and due to a bug in their system it had assigned us to the US floor rather than the Serbian floor even though it should have sent us to the Serbian floor. Instead of really helping us figure out another plan, this woman announced that we were in the wrong place, she couldn’t help us and we would need another appointment but it wasn’t happening that day.
WHAT? We tried to talk to her about it and she was firm…not here, not today. Ana put on her stubborn face while I turned away and she went to pursue answers in the Serbian part of this complex. I didn’t know what could be done and in these things, in German, I feel like a fish out of water. But there went my fearless wife to negotiate. She found an office for latecomers to appointments in this particular building and found a man about to leave but not without talking to persistent Ana who told him we needed his help. He took off his already packed backpack to look at what was going on, made some copies and told us he would send an appointment our way.
Best we could do for that day. We walked away. I was devestated. I know you think this is a strong word for someone who still has support and a usable visa but it seemed to hold much more for me. This is another blocker to me feeling perhaps fulfilled here. I don’t like having these limitations and feeling so held back from potential opportunities. Churches aren’t hiring here and while my German is much better than I ever imagined it is not conducive to a lot of work that needs fully fluent German but still even if I found a job, this is a major block.
Plus we did everything right. We check appointments again to find a flaw in this system no matter what we inputed to be honest.
So again my persistent wife got on the email and found ways to email the immigration office, to explain to them the issues and what happened to us and they somehow responded. We scanned our paperwork and sent it in. We pursued the options and lo and behold an appointment for today was sent our way.
We arrived this morning at 8am to an empty immigration office which is highly unusual. We were allowed in after we showed proof of appointment and vaccination and found every place empty until the person who set up the interview arrived. We followed her in and answered questions. And after 10-15 minutes she had approved my visa. We walked away triumphant.
It’s a win after what felt like a string of not so wins. We have been working in a number of systems that feel endless but today felt like a significant answer. After four years of living here, I could work full time without restriction or certain enrollment or justification. It feels a bit more ok to be here and fully me if I can find the outlet to use this visa in. It won’t probably change right away but it feels like a step in the right direction.
(yesterday after a win of another appointment to explore another time I find a postcard with the message lifted on the side of this post…a small win to continue to exclaim as well:))