You are just a number

Visa bureaucracy

This might sound like fiction – but it is a true story.

Diego studies in Canada. He is a Colombian citizen. His sister Ana is studying in Germany. She wants him to spend Christmas with her, as she can’t miss classes and won’t be able to travel. So she invites her brother to Germany.

End of story? Unfortunately not.

This is how it ends up:

November 26th

Ana’s visa is a limited student visa and has to be renewed soon. She has no regular income and lives from money her parents send her. To visit Germany as a non-EU citizen, you must guarantee that you can finance your own travel and living costs. You also have to buy a travel health insurance with a minimum coverage of 30,000 Euro. If you can’t do this, the person inviting you has to to be able to cover all costs, including the health insurance. As Ana is a student, she can’t guarantee for her brother’s travel and living costs.

November 30th

She looks for a bailor to be able to invite her brother to spend Christmas with her. Luckily she has a friend, Jakob, that accepts to invite her brother. Jakob writes a letter to the German Embassy in Canada, stating he will cover all costs of Diego’s visit.

December 6th

A few days later, the Embassy writes back. “This invitation is not what we need”, says an Embassy employee. “You have to print out our special form from our website, take this form to the immigration office of your town. There you will get another form, a green one – signed and sealed by the immigration office, which will cost you 25 Euros. That’s the one we need. And please no copies. You have to send us the original green form”. Jakob then immediately goes to the local immigration office in his German town, but he his sent back home, for he has to schedule an appointment. “I don’t believe this”, says Jakob. “Diego’s flight is booked for December 16th and the appointment they gave me is for December 15th! That form will never arrive on time in Canada!”

So Jakob tells his friend Ana: “Your brother will have to postpone his flight. I’m sorry, but they had no other free dates at the immigrationn office….”

December 15th

Jakob, an Austrian living in Germany, is at the local immigration office.

The immigration officer starts filling out all required fields and checkes Jakob’s documents. Then the officer asks: “Do you have a legal residency permit?” “Well, I’m a EU-citizen. I don’t need a residency permit for Germany”, says Jakob.

“Oh, yes you do. You need your certificate of freedom of movement (Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung)! You have to carry it around with you all the time! I’m sorry, sir, but without this paper I can’t issue the form that you need”, the officer replies.

“All EU citizens have the right to move and reside freely in the EU. It is not true, that I have to carry that certificate with me all the time! That’s just unnecessary bureaucracy”, says Jakob. After a discussion with the immigration officer, Jakob got the green form he needed.

December 18th

The green form arrives at the German Embassy in Canada. Diego is able to travel a few days later, just in time to spend Christmas Eve with his sister.

All this bureaucracy not only causes a lot of psychological stress, it is humiliating and is an attack on human dignity. These kind of stories happen every day.

In the end, this story went out well. But there are many that don’t.

The names of persons were changed, as they want to remain anonymous.

Author: Josephine Landertinger Forero

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