08 February, 2010

In the Beginning...

It began about three months ago. I received my very first summons, or "Intakegesprek" from the Gemeente Almere. I would be expected to present myself to the Sociale Afdeling at 11.00 on a Thursday morning to begin my integration process. Clearly this was not possible. I had to work.

Now, before I get into this, as my very first post in the blogosphere, let me give you some background information about me and my situation...

I met Maarten in 2005 while he was backpacking in Australia. He took a tour from Alice Springs to Uluru and Kings Canyon and I was his tour guide. I'm not sure if I need to expand on that... Fast forward two years, I had relocated to Edinbugh and Maarten came to visit. We had not seen each other since our Central Australian Adventure, but had stayed in contact via email and phone calls fairly regularly. So we took another tour, this time both as passengers, to the Isle of Skye and were joined at the hip from that point forward. We commuted back and forth between Edinburgh and Almere for almost a year, desperate to make the relationship work. It became very clear that the long distance relationship was not going to work and someone had to make the leap. That someone was me. Almost two years later we are planning a wedding, own our own home (well have a mortgage), and are arguing about whether or not we can get a cat (I want one, he doesn't). All in all, it is domestic paradise and we make each other very happy. But, it has taken a lot of effort to get to this point. Let me explain.

After much hoop jumping and a lot of money out of pocket later, I finally earned my residence permit as Maarten's "spouse." I initially arrived with a Working Holiday Visa, which for Australians (under 31) is the easiest and cheapest way into the country. The information on obtaining a Dutch residence permit can be obtained here. You will need your birth certificate when you arrive. Not for the IND (immigration), but for the Gemeente (City Council). They need it to register you in their system, but you can be registered without it, as an incomplete registration. From memory, the Gemeente does not have my birth certificate on file. Not because I didn't have it, but because I had not had it apostilled by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia. I assume it is a similar department in other countries.

You must be prepared to jump through quite a few hoops and run around in circles to get where you need to be amongst the bureaucracy in the Netherlands. You need to be registered at the Gemeente to obtain a visa, and you need to have a visa to register at the Gemeente. Before arriving, I prepared myself by obtaining a Schengen Visa, however as an Australian I don't believe this is necessary. I think we can come and stay initially for 90 days without any visa. This I found out afterwards, but because I stress very easily (you'll see later if you follow my inburgering process, I'm sure) I was pleased that I arranged it before landing. Because the information from the IND is quite often inconsistent, it can be quite a struggle to find your feet. The Schengen stamp in my passport informs me that I need to report to the "Aliens Police" within three days of arriving. This quite misleading. I interpreted this as being the Gemeente, when it actually means an IND office. You must make an appointment with the IND to obtain the visa. Because I did not know that the IND is the Aliens Police, I found out from the Gemeente that I was in the wrong place. Thankfully they could give me an incomplete registration which actually helped my cause! The earliest appointment I could make in Amsterdam was more than two weeks later, which was a problem as I was supposed to report within three days of landing, so we found an appointment in Zwolle, about an hour's drive north west of Almere the next day.

When we arrived in Zwolle, the process to obtain the WHV (working holiday visa) was very straight forward and cost me 20 euros (from memory, but it may have been 30). I was then able to work immediately and complete my registration with the Gemeente and obtain my BSN (burgerservicenummer), which is like a tax file number or National Insurance number or Social Security number. Without it you cannot be paid by your employer. Once your registration at the Gemeente is complete, the BSN comes through within two weeks. Note, you can work while you wait for the number, but you cannot be paid for it.

Fast forward six months we began the spouse permit application (as we were informed that we should expect the visa to take six months to process), so we headed back to the IND with our 830 euros in hand and submitted the application. You should note that it is important to bring all documents to the appointment. You will need to ensure you have a "No Recorded Result" notification from your home country's Department of Births Deaths and Marriage. You will also need this certificate to be apostilled the department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the same as your birth certificate. This apostille and certificate must have been issued within the last six months prior to lodging the application, and in Australia, it is not cheap. Be prepared to part with almost $100AUD for the certificate and apostille.

There is also a condition of obtaining Dutch Health Insurance. We found it was not necessary according to our consultant at the IND, only that we must have it before renewing the visa in 12 months time. Do NOT fall into this trap. I had travel insurance from World Nomads which was valid for a further six months, and according to the consultant, this would be OK. This is not true. Once the insurance policy ended, we applied for Dutch Health insurance via Zilveren Kruis only to be told that I must have insurance from the start date of my permit (six months previous) and that I would be expected to back pay to that date, with a discretionary 30% 'fine' on top of that amount. All in all, about 1000 euros. I am still watching the post every day, because this bill still hasn't arrived, more than six months further down the track!

On waiting for the spouse residence permit to come through, we found that rather than the six months we were expecting to have to wait, it came through in under six weeks! And that is including the Christmas and New Year period. Lucky me!

This has become much longer than anticipated for a small introduction to the Inburgering experience! We are now uptodate on my personal situation, and now ripe to be integrated. As I said earlier, I received my summons, and it was time. But time for what? Hopefully we can find out together....

7 comments:

MissNeriss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maarten Muijs said...

Reading this makes me realise how much we've been through already!
I hope the inburgeringscourse is gonna be an easier hurdle to take!

Connie Koorevaar said...

Nerissa, this is really good. I'm curious how the rest will be, hopefully much less stressful!

Jan Williams said...

Excellent,hopefully your experiences will help alot of other Aussies wanting to move to Holland.Very proud of you!!!

American Cloggie said...

Boy do I remember this! I also learned the hard way that you get different answers from each person you ask the same question to.

My verblijfvergunning also came much faster than expected but was, of course delayed by the fact that we didn't know our marriage certificate needed the apostille stamp. According to all my paperwork the IND and Gemeente has I was married, but all my husband's paperwork on file said he was single. Meaning I was unable to apply for my residence permit and we couldn't get married again in the Netherlands because I was already married and he "wasn't". So we had to wait for the stamp from the US and pushed a few days past the 90 days I was technically allowed to stay in the country (shhh, don't tell anyone!). Just amazing what they put us through, huh?

I'm in the process of being inburgered here in Utrecht and am really looking forward to hearing about your experiences through your blog!

Valentijn said...

Helpful blog! One thing I want to point out is that the Aliens Police aren't the gemeente or the IND. It's a branch of your province's police force. Anyone staying in the country less than 90 days (like us prior to the IND meeting where we get the 6 month stamp) must register with them unless staying at a hotel or camp site.

MissNeriss said...

Ah, the Aliens Police. Thanks for clarifying what they are. Not even my Dutch partner could point me in the right direction for that one.

In the end it wasn't a big deal for me because I was at the IND withing 3 days anyway...

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