Visa Dramas: Chapter 2: Part 2

Time for a little Visa update.

As you can recall from the last update, our list of things to do is this:

  1. Matt will fly back to Australia. Femke will stay in Holland and continue work at her current job.
  2. Matt will need to get a job in Brisbane.
  3. Once I have a job we will finalise all the paperwork required. I will have to send “certified copies” of papers and general copies and forms to Holland.
  4. Fem needs to call the German Australian Embassy in Berlin to arrange an appointment (Netherlands has an Australian Embassy but they don’t have Visa capabilities – sigh)
  5. Fem goes to the appointment with all the papers. If everything is in order, then she will be granted a temporary spouse visa that same day. This is valid for 2 years.
  6. Fem organises and executes her move to Australia!
  7. After 2 years, we supply additional paperwork to immigration for that period to show us still being together etc and the temporary visa is upgraded to a permanent spouse visa.

There has been some developments since then, which I will now attempt to explain.

I have now put together all of my documentation that I need to send to Femke. This was mailed to her 2 weeks ago and she has successfully received them all. Femke has also received the Australian police check in the mail as well. Yes! All good there. So as far as paperwork that we need there is only two items left.

  • New Zealand Police Check
  • China Police Check

New Zealand Police Check

Femke has sent off both the requests for the New Zealand and Australian police checks at the same time, so it was assumed she would get them back at around the same time. A week after she received the Australian police check, she sent an email to the NZ Justice department just checking up on the progress of it. We were informed they had a large backlog to process and we would just have to be patient. We estimate that she should have the NZ police check in about 2 weeks from now. Nothing too major, just need to wait a bit.

Chinese Police Check

This is where the fun starts. We had a few delays with getting Ebe (Femke’s friend in China) to help us. It turns out we have contacted her at one of the worst times possible. She currently has a lot of major work and personal issues she is currently dealing with which take up most of her time. After a few weeks she was able to help us out for which we were very grateful for.

We all followed the process for obtaining a Chinese Police check and she ended up at the local police station. There she was told that they don’t handle those kinds of requests. So we have hit a brick wall. Ebe and her friend Maggie ring around and try to find out another way to get the police check with no luck.

Fem and I are starting to get concerned. Fem then emails both the Chinese and German Aussie embassies asking for how we are to proceed now. They both respond and say that they acknowledge that some documentation required is very hard or impossible to obtain. If we cannot get the police check, if we show proof that we tried then that would be acceptable.

Yes! A way through this we thought! However there was a catch.

Initially step 4 of our master plan involves Femke going to Berlin for the interview while they process the papers. If everything was correct, she would have been issued the Spouse Visa that same day. But now that we are most likely not going to have the Chinese police check, this means that we would not be able to do the same day processing. The German embassy would have to do some additional enquires through their channels. They recommended the best option would be for Femke to mail in her paperwork and wait for them to process it through their standard queue. This means step 4 has gone from taking 1 day to possibly months. sigh.

Yes there is still a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Late last week Ebe and Maggie said they might be able to get the Chinese police check by going to a bigger police station, but they are continuing their enquires and will get back to us when they can. So we are still hopeful that we might still be able to get it.

So that’s where we are right now. Amazing how an entire visa process now hinges on two sub papers from the police check section! Funny how it all is! Well keep your fingers crossed!

A Dutch life

Several people have asked me what it was like in Holland. How it was different to Australia. So i thought I would do up a blog post highlighting the main differences I found.

Country
Basically it’s flat. Very flat. The only time I rose up was when we drove over a bridge occasionally. It’s a little strange at first but you get used to it. There are some hills to the very south eat of Holland around Maastricht, but that’s it.  The Dutch call themselves “Nederland”. “Neder” in English is “Low”. Makes perfect sense. Australia should be called “HotandHugeLand” by comparison.

Weather
It does vary a lot between summer and winter and I (unfortunately) was only there for their winter. Most of the time it’s overcast, and the sun is not up for very long during the day. Sunrise was around 8am each morning and sunset was around 4:45pm. During midday it never got any higher in the sky that what Aussies usually think is about 3:30pm. In summer it is the opposite and you get large amounts of sun. But alas, I will have to find that out for myself some time in the future. While I was there I also experienced one of the coldest winter in Europe for about 20 years. Which was great for me as I did want to check out snow as I saw so little in New Zealand the previous year. It snowed a few times and there were frozen lakes. These were all good experiences for a Queenslander! The temperature was generally around 0 degrees outside most of the time. I found out I had to really watch my ears in the cold. They tend to stick out a bit due to my hearing aids and if it was 0 or less, my ears would go numb or start stinging if I didn’t have a big beanie on.

Sky
Since we are in Europe which is so heavily populated, there are always at least 2 contrails from aircraft up high in the sky. At anytime of any day (provided there was no cloud cover) you could look up and see several planes.

People
The Dutch people are pretty much the same as the general western people. I didn’t have any issues with anyone. There is a stereotype that the Dutch are sometimes arrogant or rude/blunt. I didn’t find that to be the case at all. I can’t say the same thing for French occupied Belgium thou.

Television
I reckon about half of all Dutch programming is English shows with Dutch subtitles. This is only a rough guess as I did not watch a lot of TV. This is  one of the reasons why almost everyone speaks English. They have the same sort of shows as we do, but curiously they also have shows from the 80’s such as the original Knight Rider and the A team. These were indeed a blast to watch! They are so crap they are funny! They also had Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares at 7:30pm on weekly totally unbleeped which was great! My ears were getting sore from the constant high pitched bleeping on the censored version. It’s also refreshing to be somewhere where censorship is not so noticeable. They can tolerate people saying “fuck” and “shit” occasionally without causing a big uproar like you get here in Australia from small minded but highly vocal minority groups.

Language
Just about everyone speaks English very well in Holland. As mentioned above, about half of the TV shows are American or British. A lot of the advertising in billboards and in shops as you walk around is in English too. It’s the same in music shops. Sure they have Dutch singers but most of it is the popular US/UK artists. So basically, a Dutch person would need to understand English to some degree in in order to understand all the labels and ads around then.

I did make a bit of an effort to learn Dutch. It was mainly the different types of food! :) (Bosche bollen! Oh they are so yummy!) I was going to enrol in a Dutch speaking course once I got a job there, but that ended up not happening. :(

Traffic
Most cars in Holland are small. This is absolutely vital since there is hardly any space on the roads! It’s always very narrow in the towns. If I was there with my Holden Commodore I would have sheered off the side mirrors before the end of the first day! A lot of the traffic signs are printed down on the roads rather than on signs on the side of the road. This was a little confusing for a simpleton like me. When you throw in the fact they all drive on the other side of the road (compared to Australia) I was glad I didn’t have to drive anywhere. The first time I was driven around a round about I felt so uncomfortable as it felt like I was going the other way!!  There is also not a lot of car parks in towns/cities either. This leads to most people using bikes to move around.

Bicycles
Pretty much everyone in Holland has a bike. They are an awesome way of getting around. Since the land is so flat and there are hardly any car parks it’s just the ultimate solution! No impact on the environment and everyone gets a little exercise as well. You can also cram hundreds of them in a small space. The road network also caters for bike riders very well. A lot of intersections are areas reserved for bikes and there are a lot of bikes lanes next to the roads or on the footpath next to them. I was very impressed. You also don’t need a helmet. It was great to have the wind in your hair (what little hair I have left anyway) as you cycled down the street. Except for when it was very cold. Then it got painful!

Food
Fast food is not as noticeable in Holland as it is in Australia. Sure they still have McDonalds, KFC, Subway etc but no-where near as many as we do here. To make up for this shortfall the Dutch have gone all out on pastries, meats and cheese. They have incredible foods in these areas! From the absolutely yummy Bosche bollen that you can only get from Den Bosch to the many varieties of cheese to the many different cuts of meat and sausages you can get. With all this yummy food, you don’t really find yourself craving a Big Mac. :)

There are the occasional cheese speciality shop in Australia. In Holland this is the norm. Even their standard supermarkets have a massive cheese section filled with rolls and rolls of cheese. Ice tea is also a major drink. Soft drink is not. Most supermarkets have coke, a sprite, but only one or two other flavours and no-where near as much as the varieties of ice tea. Which is great as I do like ice tea that does not taste like crap!

I think this will do for now.. I might do some more blog entries on other topics of life in Holland if there is any demand. Is there anyone out there? ……

Sinterklaas again!

Last night was the 5th of December here. This is where Sinterklaas is celebrated in the homes in the Netherlands. You could think of the the evening of the 5th of December as being the same as the morning of the 25th of December in Australia.

The table of goodies before we started Fem with her cat Fem's mum feeding the cat

The only main difference I noted was that the presents were not under a tree, but they were in a bag (Sinterklaas’s bag!) that was brought down from upstairs when the time was right. So after watching some very important shows on TV (Dutch soaps), Fem and her mum went upstairs to bring down the bag.

The cat amazed at how awesome the 50D is Fem with the bag!

We then had drinks and yummy nibbiles (including Fem’s delicious apple turnovers) on the table while Auke, handed out the presents. The presents were unwrapped one at a time so everyone can see your reaction and enjoyment. I was very happy and surprised with what I received. This included:

  • A book called The Undutchables which is an accurate and humorous take on life in the Netherlands.
  • A soft bicycle seat cover to help my not yet fully formed biker’s bum.
  • A sample of local Waalwijk beers and liqueurs.
  • A giant M in rich milk chocolate. Yum!

After the unwrapping The gifts I received

It is Dutch tradition to give small poems along with the gifts on Sinterklaas. Fem and her parents got their Dutch poems first, and with my final present I got my poem as well.

I have attached a copy of it below as I thought it was very sweet and well done!

The poem I got