I moved to Germany in the middle of August with my German Spouse. I am not an EU citizen. Having previously lived in an EU country, and gone through the tedious process of work permits, I was expecting it to be difficult. And since I am now married to said EU citizen, and since we are moving to the home country of that citizen, I expected the process to be much easier. Unfortunately I was completely wrong on that assumption.
We moved to the city of Cologne in North-Rhine Westphalia in western Germany. Three months before we came over, we emailed the department for foreigners and asked them what we needed to do so that I would be able to work when I get there. Their reply was friendly and basically they said that all I needed to do was to go to the Bürgeramt (citizens office- there are many around Cologne, and you go to the one you are closest to), to register me being in the city (Anmeldung). Everyone in Germany is required to do that. And then go to the Auslanderamt (foreigners office- which is usually in the Bürgeramt), bring my registration, passport, and our wedding certificate and that would be it. There was no other information given, so naturally we were thinking that this would be a pretty easy process and that I would be able to work soon after arrival.
Fast forward 3 months to mid August, and we have done just that:
Step 1, The Anmeldung. It is easy, you wait, take your passport, and proof of residence (the landlord is required to provide this), and they basically put you into the system that you are living in the city.
Step 2, go to the Auslanderamt. We waited for about 30 minutes until we were seen, told them we were here for family reunification, (since I am married to a German citizen), then we had to fill out a big packet of paperwork, specifically the §28 AufenthG zur Familienzusammenführung. After that we were called back into the office and that’s where the problems started.
First off, I didn’t have a certificate that proved which German level I spoke at. Background is I have been taking German lessons for the past 3 years with a private tutor. And since I was speaking German with the lady in the office I didn’t expect her to tell me that I now need to prove my German skills with a certificate.
Secondly, I didn’t have my working contract from my future employee with me (as I didn’t know it was necessary), to which the lady said that if I would have had it she could have given me a stamp to work, but since I didn’t my paperwork would be sent forward to the next department, the Integrationsamt. She also said that if I could get the contract in the next few days and bring it back, then she could give me a stamp to work. So I did that, my employer got the contract to me and I went back to the office. I spoke with a different lady, told her everything that the other said, and gave her the contract. She said that it was not possible to give me a stamp, and that my file had already been forwarded to the Integrationsamt and that I am was allowed to work until I talk to them.
Step 3, wait for the Integrationsamt appointment. I believe it was the following week, sometime end of August that I got my letter from the Integration department. I was scheduled for an appointment in 6 weeks- the 10th of October.
This was infuriating for me. Let me give you a little more background info. I am a highly skilled worker from the USA, with a German spouse, with a German company that wants me to work for them. All the while the city of Cologne, doesn’t accept me speaking German in the office to the civil servants that work there, and having an employer that believes my German is good enough to work, as proof that my German is acceptable for me to “integrate” into the society. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why they do this, and I think it’s important for people coming into a foreign country to have a basic understanding of the language. But when someone comes into your office with more than a basic understanding of the language, with a job offer from a German company in a high skilled position, and has a German spouse, you think it would be in the best interest of not only the individual, but the city and economy as a whole to let that person work. Well Cologne doesn’t think so.
I called the Integration department promptly, again speaking to them in German, and asked what I can do to prove that I don’t need to take an Integration course on the basics of the German language. She said that I need to have a B1 German test certificate and then I also have to take an Orienteering course on German history and democracy. Now wait just a minute, a course on democracy? As someone coming from the USA?? Yes, it might be debatable to some, but the US is a democratic land in theory. So again, why do I need this orienteering course? So the next step we did was to try and find somewhere to get the B1 test done.
All the Goethe Institutes in the west of Germany were already booked out until November, so we had to travel to Dresden in the east to do the test. I got my results in less than a week with of course the 180 euro test fee and travel costs, but thankfully I passed the B1 exam. So next thing we did was call the Integration department again, and tell them we had the certificate, and asked if there was any sooner appointments, fortunately for us there was one about a week before my official appointment. So I went there with my certificate and passport, they copied it, were friendly, and everything was fine. Interestingly enough, they now said that the Orienteering course was
“freiwillig”, or voluntary. Huh?? After these phonecalls where they told me that I HAD to take the course, now all of a sudden its voluntary? Well…. Okay. She also said that in the next two weeks I would get a letter from the Auslanderamt about my residence permit. I still cannot work.
Fast forward to present time. Its been 3 weeks since I was in the the Integration department and I have no letter from the Auslanderamt. So we called them this morning, and of course, they say, oh why would she say two weeks? It takes 6-8 weeks after that for the normal processing. Really???
So here I am, a highly skilled worker, with an employer waiting for me, who speaks German at a B1 level, sitting at home losing income and all for what? Because the city of Cologne wants to keep me waiting for some reason. I haven’t even gotten any documentation from the Auslanderamt that says that I actually started the process with them.
As a summary, the most irritating things are:
1. Initial contact did not correctly and fully inform us about the consequences (steps to take, costs to expect, “professional ban” with a student loan payback in the back), but was in a “happy-happy” mode
2. The information provided between “Amt für öffentliche Ordnung – Fachgruppe Arbeitsmigration”, “Bezirksauslaenderamt Lindenthal” and “Integrationszentrum” contradict each other regarding next steps and waiting times.
3. it’s hard to reach people, e-mails need a long time to be answered … oh, and
4. if it is not finished after 90 days, you are supposed to leave the country, but the process might need longer.(§2 FreizügG/EU )http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/freiz_gg_eu_2004/__2.html
I have names and dates and phone numbers for all the information above. I have other friends, also highly skilled workers that are going through or went through a similar situation in different German States. Have any experience with this? I would love to hear from you about your experience.