Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of running “I Am Germany,” a Twitter account that is curated by a new resident of Germany each week (if you are on Twitter and don’t follow the account yet, I highly suggest it!) — unfortunately, I also had the displeasure of having to deal with a load of German bureaucracy.
Right at the start of the week, I realized that it had been over 6 weeks since I had applied for my new residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel), and my caseworker had told me that I should contact him if I hadn’t received it by the 6-week mark. To make matters more desperate, I was getting ready to leave for an international vacation the following week. So, I called the foreigners’ office (Ausländerbehörde) to ask when my residence permit would be ready, and thus began my latest adventure with German bureaucracy.
Calling the Ausländerbehörde
After calling the Ausländerbehörde and getting passed around from one person to the next, I finally got some good news: my residence permit had been ready at the local office for a few weeks. The bad news: it has not yet been “processed.” Uh huh.
After a little begging and complaining on my end (and a sexist comment on his end), the man on the phone finally agreed to finish processing my residence permit that day. Good news, but the conversation still left a bad taste in my mouth. So, I tweeted this tongue-in-cheek comment, which attracted some amazing responses.
In case you don’t get the reference: The Killers – Human
Visiting the Bürgeramt
The following day, I headed to the Citizens’ Office (Bürgeramt) right when it opened at 8am — the exact time that the man on the phone had told me I should go in order to pick up my new residence permit. Check out my thread of tweets to see what a bumpy ride that turned out to be…
In review, my morning played out as follows:
– I arrived at the Bürgeramt at 8am
– I waited for 20 minutes to be seen by a Beamtin
– the Beamtin could not find my new residence permit but could see that it had been “processed”
– the Beamtin suggested that my residence permit was probably on the desk of the Beamter that had processed it the previous day
– aforementioned Beamter wasn’t answering his phone
– the Beamtin then suggested that my residence permit could be in the basement
– I was sent back to the waiting area while they looked in the basement
– 25 minutes later, the Beamtin called me back to her desk
– I received my residence permit!!!
All is well that ends well, I suppose! Although I missed the last train that would have gotten me to work on time, they did finally find my residence permit in the basement (still don’t know why or what the hell that means), and I can continue to live and work in Germany, my Wahlheimat.
Many of the followers of “I Am Germany” seemed surprised by my tweets so far that day. German citizens in particular seemed to have thought that when someone marries a German, then they automatically get permanent residency (or maybe even citizenship?). Either way, that’s just not true.
After getting married, I immediately applied for a new visa/residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel für Familienangehörige). My caseworker gave me a visa for just 1 year, and my husband and I had to sign some documents that said we would inform the foreigners’ office if we were to end our marriage. After one year of marriage, I returned to apply for an extension of that same visa. This time, my caseworker gave me 3 years.
It is only after a full three years of marriage that I will be eligible to apply for permanent residency or German citizenship. However, both of these come with many other prerequisites and contingencies. Marrying a German citizen is not an easy shortcut to German citizenship.
My personal highlight from this entire residence permit adventure came 3 days after I had already received my new permit:
German efficiency certainly does not extend to the country’s bureaucratic system.