Thursday, May 04, 2006

Why I Lost Heart Last Night

My miniature 'long dark night of the soul' will pass, as it does everytime but sometimes I get lost in the farce that is moving countries.

It breaks you a little because the affect is cumulative.

I applied for a long stay visa based on living with a native and it sat in the local office for a month or two ... someone forgot to send it out, they were sorry.

I waited months for my file to be processed in Brussels and then waited some more time for the 'unexpected' police visit, to make sure I was actually living at the address and with the partner I had written about.

When he came late, he was a little miffed that I hadn't been home when he came a few weeks before ... seeming not to realise that an 'unexpected' visit is difficult to plan for, especially when you have 12 hours of nederlands class to attend per week.

My paperwork stack is stupendously big and stupendously stupid ... duplicate requests are not uncommon and cost the same amount each time.

Initially, I wouldn't have applied from within Belgium however on learning that my New Zealand version of a Belgian embassy was based in Australia, it became more feasible to apply from within the country I was already in ... complicated by the fact I'd just spent the previous two years living in Turkey.

On checking into applying for all my paperwork from within Belgium I was told 6-8 weeks ... which seemed quite a long time back in those heady days of innocence.

I was told 6-8weeks once more, as the process dragged. Later I was called a liar for saying that any of 'her staff would have made this kind of statement'.

After a few months in process, I asked the local official processing my application if things would have moved more quickly if I had gone home to no job and no house ... he grimaced and said, 'probably not'.

I guess the thing that makes me so tired 8 months into the process of getting legal to work, is the duplication of expensive documents; of being told my passport isn't proof of nationality; of being someone else's financial responsibility/burden due to the excessive amount of time taken to process someone who is more than capable of earning her own way in the world; of time taken in this age of computers and unemployment ... is the Belgian immigration service simply under resourced?

Perhaps it's a story.


Daily Dog said...

under resourced? :)
No, it's just the Belgian way. Belgians know that when they have to deal with the government it's never easy and it involves enormous amounts of paperwork.

But the government is aware of the problem, though. They ran a website for a while, where people could post complaints ( and they have an actual minister in charge of simplifying administrive procedures.

I went trough all that when I had to get the paperwork done for my retirement and my application for disability benefits.

Usually it just takes time and a whole lot of patience, but in the end you get what you set out to get, so don't give up hope yet. It's just the Belgian system.

V-Grrrl said...

While I can't honestly plead financial hardship, I hate that I don't have the option of pursuing work here--especially after receiving offers to work as a freelance writer here.

Essentially, when I met with an expat employment counselor, he told me the process of becoming employable would likely cost me more than 2,000 euros and that I would have no guarantee after paying all those fees and doing the whole paper chase that my permit would be granted. And then, of course, I'd lose roughly half my income to Belgian taxes, and as a writer, well the income is modest to start with!

This is a temporary situation for me--I can only imagine how frustrating it is for you. Good luck

Alison said...

Go sit on your balcony in the sun with a nice glass of white and a great book. It will get better, I promise :)

woman wandering said...

Oh daily dog, your 'it's just the Belgian way' made me laugh kind of. I hate to criticise the country I want to enter but the idea that my passport wasn't enough proof of my nationality' slowly got under my skin and grew into something that became ridiculous. How can I win anything here.

Anyway, thank you :)

v-grrrl, it must have been so frustrating to turn down freelance work ... 2,000 euro in pursuit of non-guaranteed permit, it's crazy. I don't understand why I'm not more useful here as an working tax-paying citizen ... I tell myself it's some kind relationship test that only the strong, the desperate or those who only need babies survive.

Lol, thanks Ali ... wine at 10am on the balcony, even this kiwi saw the slippery slope in that idea. I retired to my bed and tried climbing out the right side of it just after lunch. I am working on mood elevation as we speak ... I expect normal service to return momentarily.

Thanks for writing guys, I felt like such a whining baby writing this post and yet it seemed an important part of the immigrant (although I prefer to refer to myself as an expat) story.

Dobermann said...

They're just checking out if you REALLY want to live in there. I can imagine how frustrating that is..

That passport thing is funny. I would understand it if you were presenting a passport of some 3rd world country (sorry) and were not caucasian type (you're kiwi so sorry. ;) ). I don't mean to diss anyone, but in the case of "Ummumbilanca" native I could've understood the "no proof" thingie. And this only because I've seen my share of self made passports during last 10 months..

Just hang on in there!

woman wandering said...

I know doberman, but I've been so polite, so sweet, so obliging for 8 months now and it's getting crazy and I want to earn money.

I can't see the sense in not making me a tax paying immigrant member of this society ... instead they're leaving me out on the streets where, if the extreme right newsletters that arrive uninvited and free in my mailbox are to be believed, I might become some kind of frustrated car-burning crazy immigrant woman.

Mozza said...

There's a lot of ill-advised mistrust about immigration. The worst is for economic reasons: as you say, how can you refuse an active element of your society? Immigrants are an economic blessing: they arrive after their childhood, hence are not a burden, and they are more resourceful than the average people (which their willingness to emigrate demonstrates).

A friend of mine lives in Belgium and keeps on saying "If it's not complicated, Belgians don't like it". I hope you'll soon see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Ms.Baker said...


Ah, bureaucracy. You should come to Kuwait and try to get your paperwork done here. it would make the processing of paperwork in Belgium seem like travelling at the speed of light.

As a Kuwaiti, I now know something of war, having lived in it's shadow for almost my entire life ( in spite of the rich and spoiled Kuwaiti stereotype, since not all Kuwaities are like that). The only thing that wins is war itself when we humans start one, which seems to be a pretty consistent thing these days...

Hang in there, we have a saying in Arabic that goes : "every delay has it's benefit in disguise"...or something like that :)


woman wandering said...

I had to smile over the the rich and spoiled Kuwaiti stereotype ... you and misguided are the only two Kuwaitis I know and I think you're both lovely :)

And as for the Arabic saying ... "every delay has it's benefit in disguise"... it's true.

There have been so many benefits to this time of not being able to work but there have recently been a series of personal events that it made it difficult to stand all the delays and lack of income :)

Thanks for taking the time to make me smile anyway.

woman wandering said...

Thanks mozza. I will happen but sometimes I just hit a wall when too much goes wrong in my daily life.

You know, one of the most upsetting elements of the anti-immigrant feeling is the fact that immigrants are proactive, seen in their willingness to move when things are difficult or when they want to improve their lot ... so few people seem to realise how much courage that takes. Sure I'm one of the least courageous examples of it all ... no boat crossing, no country of origin bias, and I'm living with a native which is so much simpler than coming here with no one. :)

Maybe one day people will stop being scared of these outsiders ... we might evolve lol ;)