Monday, January 21, 2008


Warning: lost post.

What a day. Otherwise known as, Julia and Dani do Race Around The World Haarlem, or, Treasureless Hunt. The day was supposed to be pretty simple, although we know it's never like that. But still, one can hope. The landlord wanted to check with the town hall on what the deal was with us staying with her before giving us a photocopy of her ID, or the last thing we were told we needed to complete registration. From January 1, there is a tax that depends on how many people live in your home, so even though we were saying that she is a friend and we are housesitting while she is on holidays, she was worried that she'd still be taxed. By this stage, we were willing to pay whatever the tax could be, and mind you, this could all have been worked out months ago had the Dutch consulate given us the right information.

So we were told, hand in these forms and the town hall will stamp our passports with a residency permit, then take the passports to the tax office and they will issue us with our sofinumbers then and there. Which was perfect with our training day lined up for Tuesday.

With the registration office at the town hall only open 9am-12pm, she went there first thing and came over afterwards. Good news, no need to pay taxes, just sign some new forms. And even though we'd been asking her for one thing - a photocopy of her ID - she didn't have it so emailed me a copy of it. The internet cafe doesn't open till lunch time, and our lady at the town hall told us she could print it from an email, so off we went. The one lady who we've been dealing with there is vague and has given us wrong information before, but is quite nice. Let me describe the town hall of Haarlem. You get a ticket and wait, and there are floor-to-ceiling silver doors on one wall that look very imposing, very I've-seen-people-go-in-there-but-I-haven't-seen-people-come-out. Her office is behind one of those doors. So we go in, and our lady isn't there. It's someone else, someone decidely unfriendly looking. A bureaucrat who gets off on that little bit of power they have over you. She refused to access our email saying "I don't know anything about computer programs" and slid our papers back at us. "Ok we'll try and print off her ID somewhere and come back before 12pm". "You'll have to come back by 12pm".

Thus started our bolt around town. Shops don't open in Haarlem/Amsterdam on Mondays till 12/1pm. Luckily, luckily, we found an internet cafe near the station that was open, so printed off her ID and raced back by 11.30. And when our number was called, we found our lady back behind the desk. I almost kissed her. She took our papers, and told us we now had to go to the IND, the immigration department, which was the first we'd been told out of half a dozen visits to her. And that it would take four weeks to process. At this point, I felt my insides falling to the floor. My first thought was, I've had it, I'm off to London, and was already imagining curry nights at my local pub. My next thought was to find calm, although it wasn't easily forthcoming. While we stammered she confirmed it would take four odd weeks to get our passport stamped, then, excitedly asked, "you're not on a Working Holiday Scheme are you?" (again, she knew us well by this point) and proceeded to wave away our worries, saying that the process was much more streamlined for us. Except when pressed, she told us exactly the same procedure, with the same wait. She told us to make an appointment with the IND in Hoofddorp, and instead of taking our passports once stamped back to the tax office, to bring them to her and she could issue us with a sofinumber.

Straight away I called the IND to make an appointment, and while confirming my details over the phone, my phone credit which was full cut out. 5 minutes' worth. Dani tried, same thing. We went to a pay phone and shovelling about 10E worth of coins into the phone, Dani got an appointment - in two weeks. I couldn't of been angrier. The phone cut out before she could confirm the time, and out of coins, we decided to just go to the IND and see exactly what was going on.

22E to get there, mind. It was so windy we couldn't walk, literally trying to walk and couldn't. Luckily we got a ticket to see someone, and waited in the queue, with the Ghana woman who is no doubt in a more desperate situation than us, and the young Russian girl hoping to stay with her Dutch boyfriend. We got the loveliest, funniest guy. As suspected our appointment time was never lodged, and he took pity on us and made an appointment for tomorrow. He gave us forms to fill out, told us what to bring for tomorrow and confirmed that our passports would then be stamped which we could take to the town hall for our sofinumbers.

We screamed for joy! From total despair to light at the end of the tunnel in a few short hours.

It means we've missed out on our training day tomorrow but hopefully there'll be another, and we'll hit the Amsterdam pavement in the afternoon with a few leads.

As much as we love this place, the Netherlands should never have agreed to a Working Holiday Scheme. The rules changed at the end of November and no-one, on the Australia end or here, knows what the rules are and the bureaucracy for a one year visa is too convoluted. While we lament that Spain and Australia have not signed a WHS agreement, it's perhaps Spain realise that they can't handle the extra paperwork.

On a sparkly note though, managed to purchase tickets - met Visa - for Jane Birkin next Friday. Yippee!


Cookie said...

I'm so sorry you both have (had) to go through this. Very glad though of the nice IND guy, it's not very like them to behave in a nice manor:-) Keep the faith!

Deep Kick Girl said...

Holy shit, JB. I'm sweaty and breathless... and that's just from reading about your adventours. What is going on over there? Have these people been taking lessons in how to screw with people's brains from NSW DoCS and the Federal Immigration Department?

Damn useless bureaucrats.

Good luck, may the force be with you.

And don't forget yum cha and a Sunday afternoon at WBJ is only a short plane trip away. You don't need any special forms!

Julia said...

Thanks so much Cookie! Still keeping the faith!

KB: thanks, it seems bureaucrats are the same around the world. Pff. We'll have yum cha soon, love you!

Mathilde said...

absolutely unbelievable.... i know the Dutch have perfected bureaucracy but this is getting absolutely ridiculous!

I really hope you can get it sorted soonish... does this mean no work until the sofinumber? :-/

Julia said...

Mathilde: thank you so much. I might understand this level of bureaucracy for something more long-term, but for a one year visa, it's completely loco!

Some have said we can't work till we get the sofinumber, some have said we can but won't get paid. Either way it's not much fun but our fingers are crossed!

AlphaChick said...

There is always light ... no wonder how long the tunnel x

Sarah said...

what a bloody nightmare. As I was reading it I was thinking the same thing..."stuff this rubbish...go to London"

Glad it is all sorted out. For the moment...because tomorrow is a new day with a new beaurocrat to deal with!