Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Deported’s Tips on Immigration: Lesson Four - Finding the Humor in the Absurd!

I like to think that I am a fairly patient person. Usually, I'm pretty optimistic. But, truth be known, Belgian bureaucracy has almost broken me. Any day now, I expect to hit the cursing, finger-pointing, name-calling stage.

To recap, my tourist visa expired while my inscription for a visa was pending. The computer automatically generated a Ordre de Quitter la Territoire upon expiration of the tourist visa. The OQT was served without anyone checking to see if I had a pending inscription process. Efforts to revoke the OQT were hampered by the loss of my entire file. Another copy of the file was submitted in Brussels. The Belgian Consulate then informed me that service of the OQT automatically cancelled my pending application and that I would have to re-re-resubmit an application!

Apparently, I have been approaching this whole immigration thing from the wrong angle. I opted to follow the advice of a professional relocation expert, relied on the assurances from the Commune, sought advice from human resources, and jumped through all kinds of bureaucratic hoops (on 2 continents), yet, twelve months later, I still don’t have a visa.

Ali Guisse, on the other hand, quits eating and he gets in – without filing even ONE application. (Check out the story on http://www.expatica.com/, June 9th news article.) To this guy, part of me says, “more power to you. You clearly are much more motivated to live in Belgium than I am.” I’m not giving up food to live in a country where 2 degrees Celsius is considered a “nice day” in the winter. Period. End of story. (I have, however, boycotted Belgian chocolates, beer and waffles until I am allowed back into the country, but I don’t really consider this a hunger strike. I call it “diplomatic revenge.”) But, there’s this other side of me – the one that has submitted THREE applications – that is slightly irritated (understatement of the year) with the process.

Since I last posted, I have been obtaining additional “official” documents to forward to the Consulate General in Los Angeles for the re-re-resubmittal. The catch, of course, is that I found out that I needed these documents while on my way to Florida to spend time with my nephews. As luck would have it, one of the needed documents was in Texas, one in California and one in Brussels!

If anything, I’ve learned that it takes a village to get me back to Belgium. For the Texas document, I had the Belgian Embassy FedEx a friend of my little sister's, i.e. a complete stranger, the certified copy of my birth certificate so that she could take the certificate to the Secretary of State and have an apostil placed on it. She then FedExed it back to the Consulate. So, I owe Liz Garza a great big thanks for all of her help, and a great big bottle of tequila for not stealing my identity!

From San Diego, I needed an “official” document saying that there was no “official record” of Dan and I being married in San Diego. Frankly, I’m a little confused by this particular request, especially since a marriage certificate can be on file anyway in the US. (I guess the 10 years of tax records, from both the state and federal level, as well as certified copies of our mortgages, all of which show our marital status as “single,” just doesn’t cut it with Belgian authorities.) Nevertheless, my great friend Marti took care of this for me. Thanks Marti!

From Brussels, I needed Dan to sign yet another form. Remember how my file was lost in Brussels? Well, his file seems to be similarly afflicted, yet to a lesser degree. His file was missing a declaration he signed in October of last year. Since we all know the importance of forms to any bureaucracy, Dan and the relocation expert went to the Commune on last Friday to sign yet another copy of the form. In an abundance of caution, and at the suggestion of the relocation expert, Dan signed FOUR copies of the form and had each of them notarized. Dan faxed the form to the Consulate later that day.

Here is a direct quote from an email Dan received in response to the fax he sent the Consulate: “It occurs only too often that the City Administration supplies the incorrect document for this type of visa.” Yep, he had been given the wrong form!

The Consulate emailed us a “sample form.” On Monday, Dan returned to the City Administration with a copy of the “sample form” and was told that there was no such official form! The lady at the Administration suggested that he just fill in the sample form and have it notarized, which he did.

I spoke with the Consulate and she will be submitting the application on my behalf on this Friday. (For some reason, applications are only submitted on Fridays.) I have no idea how long it will take before a decision is reached. I still have my fingers crossed that I will be back by the Fourth of July, especially since I have a girlfriend who has been in Brussels for the past 2 weeks (non-refundable plane ticket purchased before I was deported) waiting for me to get back so we can see a little of Europe together!

© 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.


Blogger Manic said...

You'll be able to come back to Belgium one day. Maybe not tomorrow, and probably not even the year after that, but one day, highly likeable your death by then, you'll be able to return to this chocolat country of great beer.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

Time to start offering sexual favors and batting your big green eyes, Sugar. Practice tossing your long California blonde hair and leaning over the counter in your halter top when requesting a little help with your residency permit.

3:15 PM  
Blogger woman wandering said...

Ohhh vgrrrl how I laughed. Really, I got pulled up and almost fined by the police here and it's a VERY SERIOUS business ... I wouldn't have dared bat an eyelashes. Very serious ...

I had to link to this post Cindy ... I have so much anger and frustration about how long it's taking for me to be allowed to work now. Mostly I can do the Pollyanna thing and wax lyrical about the 'opportunities this downtime has given me to examine where I want to go in life' but it's not always easy and I hate not having an income.

Anyway ... good luck!!

4:08 PM  
Blogger Cindy Lane said...

Hey V,

Been there, tried that! Unfortunately, my batting, smiling and flashing did not phase Mary at all. I guess she has seen it all by now.


4:21 PM  
Blogger Manic said...

Ohh try the I'll send you a ton of Belgian chocolats and I'll trow in a crate or five of beer. That'll persuade any Belgian.

4:42 PM  

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