Friday, September 5, 2014

Mistaken for an illegal immigrant

It's Friday, 9 am Munich time and the phone rings. It's the police... They have been informed by the city of Munich that I was residing here illegally and we have to be at the police station in 2 hours.

Here's what happened, my girlfriend and I were visiting friends and family in Canada for a few weeks and then returned to a bunch of mail, including a letter from the city of Munich stating that I was residing in the country as an illegal immigrant. I was surprised by the fact that I was even able to get "IN" the country. If this was an actual fact, I imagine the border/passport control would've stopped me.

In due course, I mail them a copy of my passport and visa, issued by the Federal Republic of Germany, expecting this issue to be resolved. Not more than a week later I get a copy of that same letter in the mail, thinking this might be an automated system it's possible they didn't sort through the pile and found my innocence plea.

And that's how we get to the Friday 9 am phone call, merely 2 days after that letter was sent for the second time, they had already sent the same letter to the police station. The officer in charge of my file was very calm and sympathetic to my cause. He offered his contact information after verifying my legitimacy and told me to refer any further inquiry on my status to him. He proceeded to explain to us how the city of Munich has a central database and they should have access to my visa information but, you know, sometimes... what can you do?

What should've happened was when I signed up for my residency permit for the city of Munich, they should've asked me how long I planned on staying or if I had a certain type of work or travel visa and then put that information in the system. Or take a minute and look in their system before sending off this chain mail of accusations.

After more than 6 months in the country, what happened for them to suddenly notice that I had become an illegal immigrant? A tourist visa is 90 days, so after 3 months I would've expected a notice but it's been more than 180 days and they expect you to resolve this in a matter of days! After several ins and outs from Germany to top it off and I have never been questioned about my visa or multiple entries or residency issues whatsoever.

I thought that going through the trouble of getting the visa before-hand was already enough that you wouldn't have to prove again and again that you're a legit immigrant. There also has to be a better way than sending scary letters telling people that their status is illegal, a little tact would've been much appreciated. So from this point of view whether it's Canadian bureaucracy or German bureaucracy, systems will have flaws.

To most of you, Germany is known for their work ethics and efficiency. I have yet to see this.

This and Neuschwanstein.

For Canadians looking for visa info for Germany this site is very useful: