Next Stop: Immigration Part II 🇩🇪
The exception of the century.
About a month ago, I regaled you all with my epic immigration failure. This piece seems to have resonated with more of you than most things I write. Fellow immigrants to Germany wrote in with their commiserating tales of bureaucratic bullshit. Others simply lent an empathetic, digital ear.
Because that newsletter did so well, I’m taking a lesson from Hollywood –– milking this puppy dry with a sequel.
(I’m just realizing what a disturbing metaphor that is. Anywho…)
Last week, I returned to the Landesamt für Einwandern. It was my rescheduled appointment following the debacle from my last visit in February.
My expectations were low. Lower than low. So low, I’m looking up at the devil. See, due to a series of events, I’ve switched jobs again since that last appointment. This meant I was again in a new position, well within my six-month trial period that’s common in German contracts. (For those who don’t know, most German employment contracts begin with a six-month trial period called ‘Probezeit’ where either side can terminate the arrangement for any reason.)
I had since learned that the issue with my previous denial was that Germany doesn’t want to reward permanent residency to someone in their trial period, lest they loose their job and become a leech on their precious social system. Never mind the fact that I had nearly six years of stable employment, paying into their social system to back me up. It’s all scheißegal to them. They don’t give a shit. You see, this is a building where empathy goes to die in the kind of medieval torture that would make William Wallace faint. (How’s that for a reference?)
I sent numerous emails to my case worker prior to my follow-up appointment, asking if I should even bother coming. No response. I figured I would be wrong not to show up and wrong to show up, knowing I was still breaking the rules. Damned if you do, damned if you Deutsch.
I decided I should go, but that I would bring Melanie along because of a clause listed on the eligibility requirements that reads, “Proof of sufficient income to sustain oneself may also be provided by the spouse or same-sex civil partner in the event of marital or civil partner-ship cohabitation. In this event, both spouses or same-sex civil partners must, however, appear in person.”
Maybe, I thought, they would let me slide if they saw the whole financial picture.
The return to the Landesamt für Einwandern is much the same as last time, except under the comfortable warmth of June. I come up with a signal (aggressively adjusting my face mask) to let Melanie know if the case worker is the same putz I dealt with last time. Gratefully, it’s someone else –– a larger, rounder version of the putz. Imagine if Humpty Dumpty got the Pinocchio treatment.
I try to stay as chipper as possible despite the bleak environment. He smiles when he wishes us “good morning.” It’s always nice to see a glimmer of humanity in this building.
He asks who “she” is.
“My wife,” I explain.
“Oh, alright,” he responds, turning back to his computer as I launch into my prepared line I practiced, in German, on the train.
“I read that I could also prove my ability to sustain myself in Germany through marriage,” I explain. “So she’s here in case you need her information, too.”
“Is she German?” he asks.
“It only applies if the spouse is German.”
“Oh,” I say, knowing full well it doesn’t say anything about the spouse having to be German. (Have a look for yourself, if you’re bored enough.) But after last time, I’m not about to protest. I know now that not all of the rules are listed in a publicly, easily digestible format.
“Well, then she’s just my audience!” I joke.
A miracle. He laughs at my stupid quip! Well, not so much as a laugh as a presumably polite chuckle.
But then we get down to business and he references my case file. He knows I was here in February and failed to receive my permanent residency because I hadn’t been at my job for more than half a year. So, I prepare to get instantly rejected again.
I hand over the requested documents, namely my work contract, proof of employment, and last six paystubs. There’s instant confusion as he asks repeatedly for my proof of payment.
“My salary is in my contract and those are the paystubs,” I explain. He flips through my paperwork again and eventually drops the point, apparently satisfied with something he found. Who knows what. I’m not about to ask.
Then the question comes.
“How many times have you changed your job this year?” he asks incredulously.
“I started the year with one company, then I switched jobs to another company. But then the war started and investment dried up, so now I’m with another company.”
I hate mentioning how the war in Ukraine impacted me, especially as a Ukrainian mother next to us is busy securing residency permits for her mother while her father is back home “making war.” But the thing about investors is true.
As I explain, the same exhausted look crawls across his face that I saw with the putz during my last visit. “The problem is that you cannot be in this six month trial period and get permanent residency,” he says.
“I understand, but I tried to email…” I start to explain. The case worker shuts his eyes and winces as if sticking up for myself were akin to a metal rake being run across a chalkboard.
“You are not the only person,” he says, rolling his chair back to his desk.
“I know, but I sent several emails for over a month, asking if I should still come in.”
He holds his hands up, like a wizard summoning someone kind of protective shield. I’m not going to argue. That didn’t work last time. Besides, I came into this appointment with zero expectations of getting permanent residency.
I shut up. He turns back to my paperwork and his computer screen. Silence. Then, he gets up and says he’ll be back.
“Absolutely rage-inducing,” Melanie whispers. “So rude.”
“You’re supposed to be my calming presence!” I remind her.
“Sorry, I know!”
I have no idea how long he’s gone before he suddenly returns and waves at me like a driver telling you to cross the road. “Alles gut,” he says. “All good.”
He sits back down at his desk. I lock eyes with Melanie. Are we getting an “Ausnahme?” I wonder.
An “Ausnahme” is an exception. I learned early on in my years in Germany that those with power get their jollies off by letting people know that they broke or simply didn’t precisely follow their interpretation of a rule. After making you feel like an idiot, they might grant you an “Ausnahme,” benevolent Buddhas that they are.
We watch on in silence as he clacks away at his keyboard. He asks for my passport and current ID. Then, I have to scan my index fingers –– a process I remember from previous successful immigration appointments.
“Is this really happening?” I wonder.
I continue to hold my breath and squeeze Melanie’s hand under the table until he rolls over with a piece of paper. The paper, he explains, is as good as a permanent residency card but that I will receive my new plastic ID in the mail at some point in July.
“You don’t need to come back here anymore,” he says. More joyous words have never been uttered.
“Did we just get the Ausnahme of the century?” Melanie whispers.
We leave in a shock, shuffling through the hallway to the check-out where I pay for my permanent residency card. Payment is accepted. And it’s done. It’s over.
I am a card-carrying permanent resident of the European Union.
And that putz from last time can geh kak afen yam. (Look it up, kids.)