For those who follow me in FaceBook I posted that my visa was approved. There is a longer story that goes back to last spring. Ilka came to visit for Derby Week and the week after. Of course at this point we were engaged and had not set a date. This was a time we also had many serious conversations about our life together including where to live. It was obvious at this point she was going to be appointed as the team lead in addition to the job of incident coordinator (assigning work to the team) that she already had, as she was familiar with balancing workloads and tickets. She told me that she loved her job, and felt there was a lot of room for her to grow with this company and the real possibility of promotion as well. Without hesitation I told her I was willing to move to the NL instead of her moving to the US, but we would need to find out what the requirements were for me to immigrate. After she left for the NL again, she contacted the IND which is their Immigration Service. She found out basically the requirements were be American, don’t be in trouble with the law. As a US citizen, there is no language requirement (most immigrants from other countries must have a basic understanding of Dutch, or speak English) So I mailed her the documents she needed and she mailed me the form I needed to sign. I returned the form to her and we waited. She got a letter stating they need a certified copy of my divorce decree. So I went down to the courthouse and got a certified copy of the divorce decree. She received a letter stating that the copy I sent was not what they wanted. About 2 days before I was flying to LA to meet her, and get married in Las Vegas, I finally realized they need a state level certified copy of the divorce decree, similar to current birth certificates (I’m proud to say I have a photocopy of my birth certificate & the newer form both certified) or death certificates. So after I returned from our marriage, I was going to request a copy and mail it over. Ilka left LA on a Friday night, I left on Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon I call Ilka in Chicago and she is absolutely in tears and nearly not understandable. She had gotten a letter from IND saying my request had been denied. After she calmed down and was able to read the letter without crying, she saw it had been denied for 2 reasons: 1) She did not have a permanent job & 2) I could not prove I was not married. She went to work Monday morning spoke with the folks in HR, it seemed her records had never been updated to reflect that she was a permanent employee of her employer (the records said she only had a contract until December 31 which was true until May when her contract was amended to open ended) so the HR folks updated her record and sent a letter explaining this to IND. She then went to legal where they explained to her that I needed to prove a negative, that I was in fact not married. She called the caseworker at IND (she had an actual person not a phone tree that ended up with a phone bank of random people) and explained everything to him and asked about proving a negative. He reviewed her records and asked “You called me a while back about getting married in America? Did you get married?” her answer was yes “Did you request an apostille copy of your marriage certificate?” an apostille is required to allow other countries to recognize marriages performed in the US. The US has the same agreements with hundreds of countries, in the US it has to be certified by the Secretary of State for the state you are married in, for us the Nevada Secretary of State. She answered yes, as I specifically requested (and paid handsomely for) an apostille copy of the certificate. “Well then once you have it, send it to us and we can appeal the decision, he will be able to get his visa, will he come to the NL before the visa is approved?” She told him she would contact him again once she had the marriage certificate, which gave us time to figure out when I could arrive. We decided almost immediately that I would be in NL by my birthday (December 8) but I did want to celebrate Thanksgiving with Ray as well. Once she received the apostille marriage certificate, she called IND told them that I would arrive on December 3. The caseworker told her that should be enough time, but that he could no longer help her as appeals were handled by another team.
So on December 3 I arrived at Schiphol Airport on a tourist (90 day) visa. January 17 was 45 days and I was getting a bit worried. Ilka had called the caseworker in early January and he had no idea what the status was as he only handled new requests and was not able to find out about appeals. So on January 16, I got the letter dated January 14 stating my visa was approved for 5 years until December 3, 2020. I needed to go to the nearest IND office for a photo, fingerprinting & my signature, no appointment needed (the government not needing appointments….I have a bad feeling about this.)
So I arranged for my father-in-law Aad, to take me to the nearest office on Tuesday January 19 to wait to get my biometrics (their term) completed. So he arrives, of course I think it’s true the world over there is no parking close to the office, so he drops me off says he will find a spot, park, and come wait with me. I walk in and the nice gentleman at the desk assures me only the biometrics can be done without an appointment. He hands me a ticket with the number B307 on it and tells me the seats and the tote board with the ticket being served is to my right. I turn, fearing the number on the board…It is B306. What? 1 person ahead of me? In the waiting area is maybe 5 other people, I’m guessing all with appointments. I sit for maybe 2 minutes and nice lady opens the door and calls out 307 in Dutch. I hold up the slip and walk in. There are 2 folks in the room, plus myself. She asks for my passport tells me to remove my jacket and invites me to sit. The set up is genius. There is a obviously specially designed table with a stylus and a small place to write, 2 finger slots and the table has a back with a digital camera and lighting system built into it. I sit down, she pulls up my file on the computer asks me to look directly at the camera, it raises to eye level, the area around the camera lights up eliminating all shadows and takes my photo. She asks if I like it. Like it? I look like a convict with a scowl on my face. “Actually no, ma’am. May I smile?” “Sure, but you can’t show your teeth.” “Thank You.” She retakes the photo and it is much, much better. After the photo, I sign my name in the block, she compares it with my passport and says it’s good enough. And last and this trick must be known the world over because I did it when I needed to fingerprint someone digitally in 2010, she asks me to hold out my hands and squirts hand sanitizer on then. After rubbing it into my fingertips, I give her the fingerprints without any retakes. She thanks me and tells me I will receive a letter when I can schedule my appointment to pick up my visa identification card. All of this from the time I walked in took less than 10 minutes. So I step out of the office and call Aad he tells me he had finally found a parking spot but would be right over to pick me up. While I was waiting, I quickly snapped a photo of the sign on the door. It took longer for us to drive to the IND office (about 15-20 minutes each way) than it did for me to get the biometrics done. Aad was happy about that as he wanted to get back to Ria, my mother-in-law; she recently had outpatient surgery and he is taking very good care of her.
As I was started writing this I got an e-mail from Ilka, it seems her warehouse is very interested in hiring me since I have forklift experience (thanks UPS) and I am a native American (English) speaker. Scotch & Soda (the fashion company) has a warehouse in LA that they need to communicate with, and sometimes there has been a disconnect between them as no one in the warehouse speaks American English as a first language. I have actually been to the warehouse in LA, we visited there in October before the wedding and met the staff then. Ilka forwarded an e-mail she got from the warehouse saying they wanted my personal information (passport, letter from IND, address, etc.) to hire me. So my next post could be either Dutch Visa Part II or My New Job, only time will tell….