Monday, September 18, 2006

Visa - It's (Not) Everywhere You Want to Be

I'm not a big fan of the Belgian police station. Every time I go there (ok, the two times I've been summoned), things do not go as planned. Last Friday, my relocation expert/French translator went with me. Things did not go as planned.

Turns out, the visit was part of the standard background check for my residency permit. The police needed to know where I was living, with whom, whether I was working, etc., etc. Not a problem or, so I thought. I supplied them with the information and handed over my passport with a new-found confidence that can only come from a change in immigrant status.

Apparently, upon close inspection of my Visa -- something I never did -- it states that it permits a single entry. What this means is, I had already violated the Visa twice in less than a month since it had been issued. And, more importantly, was about to violate it again in 2 days.

I left the police station to call the Consulate General in Los Angeles for some guidance. She told me that I was not to leave Belgium until I received my residency card, as I did not have permission to re-enter the country. "Officially", I could not travel. When I told her that I had tickets to go to Rome in two days, she told me, in no uncertain terms, that the "official" position was that I could not travel.

She went on to say that, if I was hell-bent on going to Rome (I'm paraphrasing a little here), I should go to the Commune the next day and inform them of this intention, as well as the fact that I had already violated my visa on two prior occasions. Now, I realize that immigration is not exactly my strong point, but, I really couldn't think of a faster way to start a second deportation proceeding than turning myself in for visa violations. Been there. Done that. Not interested in doing it again.

Unsure of what to do, I started asking advice from experts, human resources, neighbors, etc. What I learned is that there is an "official" way of doing things in Belgium and, then there is the way everyone else does things. Many people told me to ignore the single-entry requirement and to go to Rome because no one ever checks these things. To support their position, they used my own two (undetected) violations. Of course, these are the same people that said Americans don't get deported, and we all know that's not true!

After struggling all night with the devil on my left shoulder and the angel on my right, I called my relocation expert/translator and asked her to meet me at the Commune at noon on Friday so that I could narc myself out. I knew from experience that, at the very least, I would have 5 days to get out of the country. This left me with plenty of time to go to Rome with my friend from San Diego and still get kicked out of the country - again.

To be completely honest, on my way to the Commune, I was entertaining some pretty negative thoughts about Belgium. Granted, the present fiasco was my own creating, but, nevertheless, I had sworn that if I ever got kicked out of a country -- again -- I would have a great story to go with it!

At the Commune, I let my relocation expert/translator do the talking. Since my French is still limited to menu items and directions, I'm not completely sure what went down, nor do I want to know. All I know is that I went to the Commune expecting to get deported, but, in a surprise turn of events, I ended up with a temporary residency card!

It's taking me awhile, but I think I'm starting to get the hang of the Belgian way of doing things!

Copyright 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.


Post a Comment

<< Home