24 October 2004

The German Government System

So, before I could legally live & work in Germany, I needed to get a residence visa and a work permit. Theoretically, this should be easy, because I'm married to a German. If she can live here, than they can't stop me, right? Well, yes. But it is more complicated than that. Here is the adventure we went on trying to get these important yet elusive documents.

Step 1) Go to the Rathaus (city hall) in Flein (where our temporary apartment is) to register our address with the local authorities. This is something strange to Americans, but is required by German law and is the first step of the complex puzzle. Jeannette goes to register us both while I am at work. Whoops!, that won't do, I have to be there in person. But, since they are only open in the mornings, we had to wait until the next morning to get my Anmeldebestätigung.

Step 2) Leave work early Friday and go to get my residence permit. We thought it should be at the Heilbronn Rathaus, but it is closed in the afternoons. So we decided to use the time in the afternoon to get a bank account, also known as Herculean Task #3.

Step 3) So, we swing into the bank, well before it closes. Shouldn't take that long to open an account, right? Think again! We needed to have an appointment first. Make an appointment for Monday at 4:30.

Step 4) Nothing government or banking related is open on Saturday or Sunday, so take a break. So we started looking for our permanent apartment. But that is a different story entirely. (Stay tuned!) But at least we find out that I need to go to the Landratsamt (the government office that handles foreigners like me) instead of the Rathaus to get my residence visa.

Step 5) Monday rolls around, and since I have to leave work early for the bank account appointment, we diecided to kill two birds with one stone and swing by the Landratsamt as well. We were armed with every piece of paper we had (passports, marriage certificate, work contract, Anmeldebestätigungen, shoe sizes, etc.). We stop at the information desk and ask which room do we need to get my Aufenthaltserlaubnis (residence permit). The answer: a piece of paper with the Landratsamt hours, which are all in the morning (except Wednesday!). Hmm, seems like a trend. What do those German government workers do in the afternoons, anyway? Well, at least we have plenty of time to get to our bank appointment.

Step 6) The woman working at the bank was really nice, but she couldn't let me open an account because I am not yet legal to live in Germany. Well, at least Jeannette is. Of course, she doesn't have a job yet, which is also a problem. Even if we had a stack of money with us, and begged them to lock it in their vault, they wouldn't without both of those things. But, we did manage to get the account opened up since we're married and we each had one of the two required items. And it only took a little over an hour. One interesting thing, we're not allowed to have a negative bank balance (huh?) until I have two pay stubs from my job. Hmmm. I guess that means that I can't get all of you loyal readers really bitchin' Christmas presents this year, because I won't have two pay stubs from Germany until at least the end of December. Sorry guys, I was planning on seeing just how negative the balance could be by going crazy for "the holidays"! But since the bank is being such a pain, you'll have to settle for a pack of Twizzlers and more rantings in my blog.

Step 7) So, Tuesday we show up bright & early at the Landratsamt, punch the button corresponding to my last name on the little machine that gives out numbers and *woo hoo*, it looks like we're number 1 to talk to Herr Müller. The instructions say to wait in front of Door #3. So we do. At least 1/2 hour goes by, 1/2 hour after the place supposedly opens, before we get buzzed in. Herr Müller is a really nice guy, but talks awfully fast German, even for Jeannette, which seems funny to me, considering he is working in the Ausländer (foreigner) office. Anyway, he apologized for the delay as he stamped "ungültig" (denied!) on someone else's papers, which didn't put me at ease. Was he some real hard ass? I guess he wasn't. We pretty much had everything he needed, except an application, proof of address and a picture. He even wrote a couple things in the application form for us. I went back to work, ready to be back to see Herr Müller on Wednesday.

Step 8) Jeannette got the proof of address from "Wo der Hahn kräht" (Where the cock crows), the hotel that owns our temporary apartment.

Step 9) Since the photo places probably don't open early, we decided to get my photos at lunch time Wednesday and swing by Herr Müller's office at the Landratsamt then. Just in case you're saying to yourself "What? Are you stupid? Haven't you learned by now that German government offices are only open in the morning!", Wednesday is the special day at the Landratsamt where they actually are open in the afternoon. So, after a nice Chinese buffet (but not all you can eat, rather it is pay by the kilo), some photos and a weird encounter at the cell-phone store trying to re-fill our pre-paid phone card, we managed to make it to the office of Herr Müller.

Step 10) Unfortunately, at that time, there were two people in line before us. One of those people had two small children, at least one of which enjoyed screaming, and in those solid, well-polished stone German government offices, the screams echoed considerably, and my ears are still ringing, 5 days later. Eventually we got in, I got a neat new sticker in my passport and a letter to give to the work permit guys telling them to let me work so that I don't just leech off the German social welfare system. He also gave us the hours to the Arbeitsamt, the place to get the permit. Of course, they aren't open Wednesday afternoons, so the saga continues.

Step 11) Thursday morning and the Arbeitsamt opens at 7:30, before the Hahn has even gekräht. Everythings good - slip on in to a free parking space (one of the hardest things to find in a German city), pop on up to room 413 and bam! they ask me a hard question. How long have we been married? I don't know about German guys, but what American guy knows that? I managed to mumble my way through it and got the paper. I'm legal to live and work in Germany.

Step 12) Drink my first German beer as a legal resident of Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

So that's it. Maybe my saga will help streamline the process for others. I think the key is to have a name in the range of Ck-Hu so you can talk to Herr Müller. He rocks. And I'm not just saying that because I get to see him again next year, to renew my residence visa.

So, I hope that I have learned a little about the German government, so that it will take less than 3 months to renew my driver's license, which expires in February.


At Wednesday, 27 October, 2004 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very frustratingly entertaining, but I you left us hanging with the "weird encounter at the cell-phone store" -- Kr Coffman-Lee

At Friday, 29 October, 2004 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Allan,

congratulations and welcome to the Bundesrepublik. I hope that to renew the driving licence will not be a probleme. But attention: the Straßenverkehrsamt has other openings hours than the Landratsamt !!! :)

Best regards
Frank from ATMEL Duisburg

At Saturday, 29 September, 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just moved to germany and have been trying to figure out how to be legal here...looks like i'll have fun.




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