If you are a foreigner hoping to stay in Berlin longer than 90 days, you must make yourself known to the Ausländerbehörde.
The Foreigners’ Registration Office or Aliens Department decides your fate. How long you get to stay, what kind of work you can do, what family members can come, everything.
Weirdly, it’s a quite relaxed and not-at-all terrifying place.
It’s a big shabby government building, but there’s a pleasant courtyard with trees, benches and lawns, where people are always picnicking.
There are signs everywhere, but there are no signs saying “No eating and drinking” or “no cellphones”, and everyone is enjoying a beverage, feeding a baby, talking on the phone, whatever.
And whenever you go you see someone you know- like the rockabilly girl with the black-and-white hair, who I’d seen at a flat viewing just a week earlier.
“Did you get that flat?” “No. We found something though.” “Did you find a place yet?” “No.” It’s impossible to find a place here.
This was our second visit, and our first time on our own without our “fixer”. But we got a super-nice case worker who spoke English and our appointment went fine, although the husband was denied the coveted blue card because he lacks a four-year degree and his Associates Degree isn’t in computer science. So our application was switched over to a regular work visa application, which unlike the freelancer visa we have now would allow us to get on German state-type health insurance. Which is basically the point of this whole move. Now we wait a couple more weeks to see what happens. If the regular work visa isn’t granted we appeal.
We have passed through eight of the ten major hurdles to this move.
1. Find a short-term place to lease where we can put our names on the doorbell and get registered with the Burgeramt. We used coming-home.de. It was expensive as FUCK, but crucial to a full-immersion-in-the-system life here.
2. Get a German bank account (majicked by our fixer). We have Deutschebank. Our bank manager looks like a porn star.
3. Get our address registered at a Bürgeramt or Citizen’s Registration Office (you need an appointment; there are no appointments, no one speaks English. Thank the Goddess for our fixer).
4. Get health insurance the visa office will accept. Currently we have ALC. It is cheap but not good.
5. Get a freelancer visa before our 90 days Schengen visa is up. The binder I brought to the appointment had thirty documents in it, all of which had been brought from the US or carefully prepared here. Our fixer got us two years, because she is amazing.
6. Get a full-time job offer for the husband. This part was fairly easy- they are desperate for programmers here. Although please note that he is considered lucky to be offered less than half of what the position would pay in the Bay Area. Programmers have zero special status here. Our delightful porn-star-looking bank manager is considered as valuable a white-collar worker as any programmer and is as well-paid.
7. Apply for a work visa for that job. This part is pending.
8. Find a flat (sublets and short term are easy; an unlimited lease, where you could quite possibly stay the rest of your life in rent-controlled comfort, is insanely hard.) I started researching a year before we left, studying the major German rental sites, and once we got here I looked informationally for three months, getting the lay of the land. Then once the husband got his first check from the new workplace, I looked every waking moment for six weeks.
Getting German health insurance is nine and getting our shipping container here is ten.
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