Yesterday I had an appointment at the Auslanders (Foreigners) office in Hannover. It was regarding my work permit, which will allow me to substitute teach at the international school. If you are a citizen of an EU country, you can work anywhere here. If you come from any other country, you need to first have a job offer and then apply for a permit.
In my work over the the past several years, I spent a lot of time dealing with government agencies and helping immigrants get through them. So I took a nerdy sort of interest in the whole process. The school sent in my application when I signed the contract for cover teaching (that's what they call it here - sounds way better than subbing) around September 1st. So it took about two months to process the permit and cost 40 euros, which the school paid. Our lovely school secretary, Philippa, handled the details and kept apologizing for the hassle and the length of time I had to wait. She didn't realize the patience I have for such things. I don't know how long a work permit takes in the US, but it certainly costs more, and you can't even get an application for health care benefits approved in St Paul in less than three months.
The Auslander's office sent me a list of documents to bring to my appointment - Brian's check stubs from the past 3 months, a current bank statement, the lease for our apartment, a passport photo, my passport, my work contract, and Brian's work contract. This was oddly familiar. I felt like one of my clients, especially as I tried to explain to Philippa what the letter said without really being able to read it.
The Auslander's building feels more like a big post office than anything. It's not even as imposing as the county offices that I am used to and a lot smaller than a US immigration office. I can't tell you exactly where the other people waiting in the lobby came from, but from my experience with the my classmates in German class, I would guess they came from Turkey, Lebanon, and eastern Europe. Philippa came with me and we met with a relatively cheerful bureaucrat who put a big sticker in my passport. It took about 15 minutes.
As for all of the documentation I had gathered, I didn't need any of it. All she looked at was my passport. She did say that when it's time to renew my work permit in June, I will need to show them that I can speak some German and that I am integrating. I caught about 20% of that as she said it and Philippa explained it to me later. It seems fair that they ask that, though I think I am nervous about that interview already!
So now I am legal to work at the school whenever teachers are sick, which apparently happens a lot here. Once I start, I am sure there will be lots of blog material to write about! And in some way, having that work permit makes living in Germany feel a little more permanent...
- Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.