Germany doesn’t actually have green cards, but I basically got the equivalent of one this week! It was a bit of a process – I had to register at the city office and get health insurance before applying, and then make an appointment at the foreigners office. That was all over a month ago.
When the day of the appointment finally arrived, Christian and I met up a bit early to go over everything. We had both dressed up a bit, trying to look like responsible, pleasant citizens. I was really nervous – these offices are infamous for their bureaucracy and rude employees. We walked in and handed the woman our paperwork. She looked at the ID photo I had brought in and said, “I see that you like black and white photographs.” I realized she was comparing the photo with one that was stapled to a pile of documents on her desk -the records of my visa applications in Berlin from 2000 and 1995/96! I couldn’t believe it. Was she looking at a picture of my twenty-three year-old self? I will never know but this definitely confirms the stereotype of Germans as extremely well organized.
Christian and I were asked to leave briefly and fill out two declarations of our marriage. I was so nervous that I didn’t even read the form, just copied down what Christian was writing. Only later did I learn that we had declared that we married for love and that we legitimately want to be together. Such an important form, and I hardly paid attention!
We sat in the waiting room, waiting to be called back into the office. There were two young Chinese women who were friends and two African men who were making friends. I thought about how many times I had been to these offices, struggling to understand the visa process and never sure if I had the right paperwork. It was certainly hardest in 1995 when I could hardly speak German and was caught in a weird Catch-22 trying to get permission to work as an English teacher. It was great to be there this time with Christian and felt confident that he could work out any problems that might occur.
We were called back to the office. The woman took our declarations and told me that I had a visa that allowed me to live and work in Germany for three years. She had already put the visa in my passport, a lovely pink and silvery sticker with a hologram and my black and white photo. She asked if we had any questions. I think we were both so surprised that we couldn’t think of any. I wanted to leave quickly in case she changed her mind. We walked down to the first floor, paid a 60 Euro fee and went and had lunch.
How much harder would it have been for Christian to get a green card in the US? How much longer would it have taken and how much more would it have cost? Our friends Misook and Noah told us that they were continuously probed by the US government for more evidence that their marriage was legitimate. Christian and I may one day decide to live in the US and have to go through all of this, but for now I’m legal in Germany and all is well. I just have to find a job.