German Bureaucracy

Over two weeks into my time in Trier and I’ve finally opened my bank account. It’s been some time coming, but I’m finally (hopefully!) done with the paperwork associated with coming to Germany as a language assistant.

Crossing the border into Germany is always an anxious experience for me. I’m one of the people that bolts off the plane and hustles to the Passkontrolle. In Germany they have two queues for people entering the country: one for EU-residents/EU-pass holders, and the other for proper foreigners. I, of course, get streamed into the latter. Funny though, I always find that the eagerness with which I rush off the plane wanes when I get to the front of that line, and wait with trepidation for the Bundespolizei officer to glance up at me. They always look so big and intimidating.

The border guard looks up and beckons me forward with a hooked finger. I approach the desk. “Ausweis,” he demands. I hand it over. He snaps it open to the photo page. I figure he can’t even have looked at it properly before he starts flipping through, looking at my visa stamps.

Wie lange bleiben Sie? How long are you staying for?”

“9 Monate. 9 Months.”

“9 Monate?!”

His tone does not help my increasingly broken German. I manage however to stutter out an explanation, that I’m taking part in a cultural exchange program, yadda yadda, and while I don’t yet have a Visa I’ll get one when I go to the Ausländeramt (Foreigners Office) in Trier and report in, I’ve done it before, you see, there’s that visa there from 2009/2010, and I have papers here from the Bundesregierung and my school and the –

He cuts me off. “Okay, aber vergessen Sie nicht, äy? Das kostet viel. Okay, but don’t forget, eh? That’ll cost ya.”

“Oh, okay.” He hands me back and passport, and waves me through.

(Don’t get me started about the Canadian border coming back, ugh)

As a Canadian, you can enter Germany (and the other Schengen Agreement countries of the EU) and immediately receive a 3 month tourist visa, giving you leave to visit the country. If you’re coming to Germany though to study or work, they prefer it if you figure this out ahead of time.

I did not do this. My program instructs Canadian assistants to enter Germany on a 3 month tourist visa with the intention of staying for nine months, with the recommendation that you sort yourself out (bureaucratically speaking) after you’re settled into your placement. Hopefully then you’ll get yourself a temporary residency permit.

Shortly after arriving I registered myself at the Einwohneranmelderamt, or the Resident Enrollment Office. This office is located here in Trier on the ground floor of the Trierer Rathaus (City Hall, so to speak). The whitewashed room is long and narrow, and eight or nine desks sit in front of large windows that reach up towards the ceiling. Behind some of the desks sat some more indifferent members of the German civil service. Once it’s your turn it doesn’t take too long to register, though you might run into some confusion with them when they don’t accept you weren’t registered at your last address in Canada. What do you mean, you weren’t registered? We don’t do registration like that! Luckily we worked through that fairly quickly.

The final step to becoming more or less legal was a trip to the Ausländeramt. You’d expect such an office to have an intelligently located secretary or front desk where you could make your inquiries/ask for clarification on what you need to do. Nope. Instead you walk around the hallways, reading bureaucratic German signs on peoples’ doors. Once you’re fairly certain you’ve found the person you need to talk to, you stand awkwardly outside their door for a little while. Should I just open it? I can’t hear anyone inside. But maybe the door’s thick? There’s no window. If there was a window, I could see if he was busy. Do I need an appointment? Maybe I need an appointment, I’ll come back lat- no. Let’s just get this done with. Wait, what else does it say on his door? Let’s take a look. Man, that type is small…

Suddenly the door swings open and you jump back, just in time. Out come two (presumably) foreigners, and the door swings shut behind them before you have a chance to see if anyone else is inside. Back to square one.

What do I do now? Do I knock? Do I just open it? Nuts to it all, knock and swing the door open and start verbally bombared the cross looking man behind the desk (briefly the question of why he’s cross and not startled flicks through your brain, but it hardly registers). “Hallo brauche ich einen Termin ich bin einen Kanadier und bin hier für die nächste 9 Monate an einer Gymnasium als einen Fremdsprachenassistent –

He cuts me off. “Oh, Fremdsprachenassistent? Foreign language assistant? Bitte füllen Sie diese Formular draußen aus. Please fill this form out, outside.”

Turns out it wasn’t too difficult. He knew what he was doing. He did however point out that last time they had done my Aufenthaltstitel wrong, and he went over to give his colleague who did it last time an ear-full. I was lucky too, as one of the other assistants apparently got someone who did not know what they were doing and had no idea how to process her!

With all this done and over with now I can relax a bit and feel more “eingelebt”, or “lived in/settled down”. Hopefully I don’t have to move while here, or else I have to do it all again!

Well, except the border.


About supertylor

British Columbian 20-something spending a(nother) year in Trier, Germany.
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One Response to German Bureaucracy

  1. HAHA! I would be so nervous too! 🙂

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