Why moving to Germany means a 3 month occupational ban

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.

 

The Chronicles of Sharen- Part 52

Part 52- A new employee

This week we got a new employee, A. It’s strange, I know I should be happy for Sharen, one, because she is happy, and two, we do need a new employee. But for some reason I am a little jealous. I feel like I have to prove myself again, even though I know I am doing a good job.

I met A last year at a seminar, he had heard about Sharen, and was curious about what it was like to work for her. He wanted to come and shadow her, but at the time Sharen said no. He seemed a little odd to me at the seminar, aloof, loner type, not willing to socialize with the other participants at the seminar. Maybe he is just shy.

Sharen is putting him to work immediately, even though I am here still working. Sharen said that she is really excited about having him here, and that his knowledge base is good. I did tell her about him being awkward at the seminar, but like usual she just brushed my opinion off.

I am nervous about the whole situation and how it will work out. Sharen said that he will get all the new patients from now on unless they are specifically referred from my patients or ask for me. I know everything will be okay, and that I have more than enough patients, but she is making this into a big competition rather than a partnership or team. Maybe she wants to inspire us to sell more visits and recruit more patients, who knows.

Otherwise things have been fine around the office. Ann, our secretary, is like she always is. She is skeptical of the new guy, and going a little crazy, because getting a new person means that the reality of the situation is slowly coming to life, I am leaving. Ann and I have gotten pretty close, and her way of expressing her emotion is to get stressed about something completely unrelated, instead of just voicing her feelings. She will be the person I miss the most though, she has been my only confidant during these difficult times. She sees everything that goes on as well, the things that Sharen does. But somehow, even though she knows its wrong, she always finds a way to justify it, or give Sharen the benefit of the doubt. She will be the one to stay til the bitter end, no matter what happens, because she is too afraid to change something in her situation.

For now, I’ll try to be nice to the new guy, and will keep you posted about the things going on here in the always exciting world of Sharen.

The Chronicles of Sharen- Part 2

Part 2- Jumping in at the deep end

 

I started working for Sharen a couple weeks ago, and things have been pretty crazy. I’m really enjoying practicing so far, and there have been many eye opening experiences and a very steep learning curve too.

I didn’t expect to be seeing any patients at first, but she was overbooked and needed me to work from day one. Overwhelming to say the least! But I did it. Its a funny feeling, feeling a little unsure because you are just starting out, but having someone sitting across from you expecting certain things, and hoping that you can help them. I had to overcome my fear very quickly and find my professional self.

What is really interesting is that despite my nerves as soon as the patient was lying on the table and I started palpating, I found great comfort in that, a calmness. Probably because it’s something that I have done so many times before. They don’t really prepare you for the communication part with people and how to interact with them, but they prepare you for being able to diagnose and treat someone, and that is the fun part.

I don’t see Sharen as much as I thought I would, but with both of us now working, I suppose that is to be expected. I have a few tasks that I have to do, posting for our blog, keeping up the social media pages, and lots of new books that Sharen wants me to read. She also keeps talking about this course series that she wants me to do so that the patients get a similar care experience no matter who they see. Which is completely understandable, but it is pretty expensive, and since I just moved to another country, just started practicing, and have a big student loan, I am not sure when I will be able to do these courses… but I’m sure we will figure everything out in the end. Right now I’m just enjoying actually being able to put my skills to use and helping people feel better!

The Chronicles of Sharen- Part 58

Part 58- another new employee

Just a few weeks left for me here. The reality that I am actually going to get out of this toxic situation is finally setting in.

Sharen has been in a bit of a panic the last month or so. Because she hasn’t been able to find a replacement for me. A, the employee that quit, was supposed to be just that. She has interviewed a few people, but no one has wanted to take her offer.

Luckily for her, this week she interviewed and hired someone in the space of two days. Maybe it was out of desperation, or maybe its really because she thinks he will be a good addition to the team. I don’t know. And at this point I don’t really care. I do care that my patients will be taken care of, and that makes it hard for me to advise them to stay here at the clinic, because I know the true character of Sharen, and that deep down she has lost sight of the reason we do what we do, to help people. But there is not much that I can do.

So the new employee, S, seems nice, from the area, little bit of experience, and very naive. I cant help but thinking how he will change in the course of a year or two with Sharen. Right now he is all wide-eyed with admiration for her and her accomplishments, but he doesn’t know her like I do. I see myself, on my first days, in him, and think about how much I have changed and the things that I have seen in the past 3 years.

I feel sorry for him, but there is no way that I can tell him not to work there or what is coming for him. He needs to experience it on his own, and will likely, like all the other associates, be gone in less than 3 years.

The Chronicles of Sharen- Part 57

Part 57- when your boss pushes an employee out the door for quitting. 

 

In part 55, I talk about the new employee we had. Yes HAD. Said new employee (A) is now gone. Only 7 weeks with us and now gone for good. He quit, and then was tormented by Sharen because nobody doesn’t want to work for Sharen. (or so Sharen thinks). So if someone leaves the company, Sharen takes it very very personally and will use any means necessary to justify that that person was somehow wrong, and Sharen like always is right.

Right, so the employee said he was going to quit, then Sharen got mad, and tried to fire him. After that everything started getting worse. She took his key away, wouldn’t let him be in the office alone, took his patients from him, scolded him for standing too close to a freshly painted white wall, and so many other things. She also talked bad about him every day behind his back to the other employees.

There must be some rule against an employer submitting her employees to listen to verbal assaults against another person? Its almost a form of torture, listing to someone talk poorly about someone that you have grown close to, listening to them telling lies about his character. “He will never make it as a manual therapist, he is too quiet, and weird, I just cant get along with him”. And all this being said only a few weeks after Sharen told me all the great things about him, why she hired him, and how he was going to replace me and be much better than me. And if you are thinking, why didn’t you just say something, the reason is because Sharen is not the person people stand up to. She is an overbearing narcissist whom no one ever confronts, even if they know she is wrong. This is the type of person we are dealing with. Someone who never lets you get a word in.

I will never understand how someone can switch their personality and beliefs like a light switch, without ever assuming any fault or admitting that maybe they perhaps made a mistake somewhere down the line.

In the final days A was there he was miserable, and I saw him decline rapidly, I saw his confidence wavier heavily, and he was not the same person going out that he was coming into the company. That was distressing and gave me insight as to what I might encounter in my final days as well. He finally took his leave and we resumed “normal” clinic life, with Sharen acting as if A was never even there at all, while the secretary and I mourned over the injustice that we had witnessed over the past months. Life always goes on, and time always seems to make seems less painful. I hope that where ever A is, he is in a better situation and doing well.

 

 

The Chronicles of Sharen- Part 59

Part 59- when your boss doesn’t abide by employment laws

Employment laws here state that every employee is entitled to get paid for holidays that have not been taken during the year. Apparently it gets recorded on your termination of employment form when you leave.

Leave it to Sharen to be the person that doesn’t want to abide with the law. Or at least thinks she is above the law. I have 9 holidays that I am entitled to be paid for, since I never take sick days, and I rarely take holidays. Back to those 9 days… Sharen came up to me today and said that she didn’t think that she should pay for those since I “owe” her money still for courses that she told me to take if I wanted to work with her.

So basically she doesn’t want to pay something she is legally required to as an employer. And then does what she can to blame me for it. If only I would have worked harder to get more patients I would have already paid her back for the courses, says Sharen.

I was finally able to stand up for myself and stand up to Sharen, and told her that if I was entitled to something legally then she is to pay it. And that I don’t owe her anything as I get paid peanuts for doing a lot of work and long days, and six months ago we already agreed that I had paid her off. So why is she bringing it up again now? Just to try and get out of doing something? To manipulate the situation and make me feel like I haven’t done enough?? To somehow make herself feel better? I don’t understand it. The amount of money I brought in because of the number of patients I saw, I paid off the courses almost 2 x already. Why cant she accept that? Even when faced with the numbers themselves, she still has the belief that I owe her something. And I don’t like being in that position at all. That was one of the biggest reasons why I decided to leave, being nearly blackmailed by someone who told me that they would support me, horrible feeling.

All that matters is that we were able to come to an agreement. In the end she suggested I take 4 days off and then she would pay me the rest of the days in the form of an extra weeks pay. I just want to get out of here as quickly as I can and with as little struggle as possible.  Not sure that will happen, but we will see.

The Chronicles of Sharen- Part 60

Part 60- Saying goodbye to Sharen

It’s my last week with Sharen. Since A has left (the associate here for only 6 weeks), things have been relatively peaceful. And it seems the struggles of the not so distant past, have become nothing but a bad dream to most of the office. Except for me. I will never forget the past year, and all the crap that has happened here. But besides the small struggle with the pay last week, things have been okay. Sharen even took me out to a farewell lunch. Its funny how someone who always seems so mean can throw this one nice thing in and expect it to make up for everything else that has happened.

I cant help but think, geeze, what was I thinking taking a job here? At the time, it was my best option. Things were not all bad either, I have learned a lot of things. Sharen is a great practitioner and I appreciate her help with getting a lot of new information. But she a terrible manager, especially when it comes to employees. So if nothing else I have learned things that I shouldn’t do when I am running my own practice.

The hardest part of leaving has been saying goodbye to the patients. One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in my adult life. I have become really attached to many of them, seen babies born, kids graduate, family members die, careers develop and careers fall. I have experienced hundreds and thousands of moments in other people’s lives. Things that they have chosen to share with me, that they may not share with other people. The patients are the only reason that I made it through these last shitty 9 months.

I recognized that someones calf pain was intermittent claudication vs. just normal muscle pain, and he told me that I “saved his life”, I treated a cauda equina disc bulge at L5, nearly the worst type of disc bulge there is, conservatively, and helped the guy to be able to get back to his life without surgery! I have helped so many pregnant women get to term without pain and with easier births, I have helped scoliosis patients life easier, when other practitioners wouldn’t touch them, and I helped people achieve their athletic goals, like running a marathon or a triathlon. I have realized the power in the chiropractic adjustment, the power in truly listening to people, and the power in connecting with people and how those in themselves can each be important tools to getting people better. I have been called a healer, magic hands, and had my hands prayed for by patients.

I told myself when I graduated that I wanted to change the world, change the way the world viewed health care, and do that through helping people’s spines and nervous system. Its easy for us to look at our lives and think, geeze, I’m not really doing anything important or interesting, like so-and -so is. I fall into this often, but looking back at what I wanted to achieve and seeing what I have done so far, I think I am right where I should be. There are so many small stories like these above, which make my heart swell with love and pride and gratitude when I think about them again, that make me proud to call myself a chiropractor.

Everything in life changes. And I don’t want to end up being one of those people that stayed in an unhappy stressful situation, just because it is stable and comfortable. I want to be one of those people that can look back at their life and think, I made mistakes, I made the wrong decisions, I made good decisions too, I kept learning, I never gave up on my dreams, and I wasn’t afraid to change when I knew something was wrong, I lived a full life.

I know that I am leaving here, having made a difference in a lot of peoples lives. That I have made my presence known in the community, that I have stimulated people to think differently about their bodies and about healthcare. And despite all the crap with Sharen, that is enough for me.

Cheers to a new adventure….