Dear Cloggie Queries,
We are still in the struggling phase with immigration. What was that like for you? How long did it take before getting to feeling secure and accepted (ability to work, etc.). One of our good friends applied for the relationship permit today, and we are interested in hearing stories about it!
My situation is a bit different as my Dutch partner and I were already married when I moved to the Netherlands. However, I know what it's like to struggle with immigration to this country! Boy oh boy did we struggle!
When I came over in early December 2008, we knew nothing. We got married in the US and took my American dog with us, so our heads were wrapped around wedding plans and pet immigration and not at all on Tiffany immigration.
As I said, we got married in the US and only by a pastor. Since our marriage hadn't been validated by the government in either country, as far as the Netherlands was concerned, I was married (I had gone through the painstaking process of changing my name and marital status on all my identification: passport, driver's license, social security card, etc) but my husband was not. Because of that, I wasn't able to apply for my verblijfsvergunning (residence permit).
We didn't find this out until I'd been in the Netherlands for almost a month. At the same time, we were told that I couldn't stay in the country for more than 90 days without an official visa. And in the remaining 60 days I had left, we had to get a certified copy of our marriage certificate to the secretary of the state we were married in to get an apostille stamp, get the stamp sent to us in the Netherlands, apply for my residence permit, and have the application accepted.
Needless to say, it was 60 days of nail-biting. My father had written my name and my parents' address on the self-addressed-stamped-envelope we had to provide for the apostille seal, thinking he could deliver it to us on their next visit. He had forgotten that I had requested that all mail addressed to me be forwarded to my address in the Netherlands. So it took weeks before we got the seal.
Add to that the 3-6 weeks we were told it would take for them to approve my application (assuming they did), and we were terrified I'd be kicked out of the country! Luckily it all worked out. And even if it hadn't, we were told by an IND worker that unless I got in trouble and was reported to the foreign police, I could easily stay past the 90 days completely unnoticed. Because I am married to a Dutchman, my residence permit also serves as a work permit, which made things much easier. Once I got my permit, things really settled down. Other than it having to serve as my main form of identification here, there really isn't much to get used to. Some employers like to see a copy of your permit, so it might be a good idea to keep color copies of the front and back of the card on file. The first permit is only good for one year, but after that, it only needs to be renewed every five years. If you decide to get Dutch citizenship and/or passport, you won't need to worry about the residence permit anymore (which makes things both easier and cheaper in the long run).
I do know a considerable number of expats (mostly gals) who came to the Netherlands on a partner visa, but I'm not one of them. Hopefully some of them will jump on here to share their experiences.
My advice is to ask as many different people as possible what needs to be done (each IND employee you ask will have a different answer), look up as much as you can on the internet, and turn to Expat Help Desks (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague) and ACCESS for help, as they deal with things like this all the time. If you can, make sure you have as much as possible done BEFORE you come to the Netherlands.
They will lead you blindly all over the place, so come stocked with patience... and maybe even some valium!
Do you have any advice on getting through the immigration struggle? Any stories you care to share? If you are here on a relationship permit or partner visa, do you have any advice for Laura and Robert? Leave us a comment!
Photo: jonathan mcintosh, Flickr
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