Getting yourself registered and keeping your official papers in order is extremely important as an expat in a foreign land. If you don’t believe me, I will be happy to share Mother India‘s voice notes, stating repeatedly of how I need to do it right and keep them in order. Bonus – she explicitly tells you the consequences if you don’t. They are scary.
Anyway. Back to registration. I am a Blue Card holder’s spouse. This changes the process a tad-bit. Make sure you know where exactly do you stand before you start the process.
Step 1: Health Insurance
I have had medical insurance for last eight years – just that I never paid for it. It was a part of the remuneration package. Gone are the days of free medical insurance. Here, you get yourself insured, and pay A LOT of money every month as premium.
Mister had an insurance plan from Teckniker Krankenkasse, which allowed him to add his spouse sans surcharge. We went up with my documents (passport, photographs and marriage certificate) to its Lindenthal branch, and were taken care of almost immediately. A representative entered my details in the system, generated a request, and ta da! No, I didn’t get a medical card right away – I was informed that it will be mailed to my house in a couple of weeks.
I received a letter about a week later, requesting a copy of my marriage certificate. They had also sent along an empty envelope for me to mail it in via Post Office. I went to their office and handed it in person. I am old school like that.
The card arrived in three weeks. Now, I can go to all the doctors I want and not pay a dime. What fun!
Step 2: City Registration
Wait. Yes, you have to wait. For hours and hours and hours. Bürgeramt Lindenthal is the place that registers you as a resident of Köln. This is also the office where you go if you need to update any of your stats – address, name, marital status, etc.
The process had changed in recent times and it caused a few hiccups in my registration. Just like N, I went to Bürgeramt with my documents and our house’s contract. After waiting for two and a half hours, the kind man behind the desk told me that the process had changed and now I need to get a form filled by my landlord. He also extended the offer for me to come directly to his desk instead of waiting the next time. Bless him.
Form duly filled, I went back. And guess what? That man was nowhere to be found. So I gave in to destiny and waited almost three hours for my turn. More bad news awaited me. Because the house has been contracted by N, some of the form was to be filled out by him and not the landlord. I argued some, but it was to no avail.
I went back and came in for round three. This time, the problem was my marriage certificate. I had asked the Embassy in Dubai if I need to get it translated to German and they told me English translation works just fine. This chap insisted on German translation.
Another twist – my marriage certificate was still with the German Embassy in Dubai.
A dear friend (you should totally check her out) collected and mailed it to me.
Round four – I went back with the English translation, and worked my charm until he agreed to accept it. Okay, not really charm. Just relentless convincing. He agreed to register me, but left the marital status blank. I was single in the eyes of German systems – high-five!
City registration done. Phew!
Step 3: Foreign Office and Residency Card
If you think I had exhausted my fiasco tank, you are wrong my friend. Letter of appointment at Amt für öffentliche Ordnung der Stadt Köln arrived the day of appointment. Obviously I missed it. I went to get another appointment, and was asked to come in a two weeks later. The date was very close to my temporary visa expiry date, but still within the bounds.
Round two – I went in (on time for a change) to find out that the person who was handling my case is on holiday. Three ladies tried to figure out what to do but they were helpless. All had appointments lined up; one had a 15 minute break and volunteered to process my application. Faith in humanity restored.
She entered my details, verified documents, and gave me a temporary visa for another three more months. This was meant to get me by until my card arrived, which would take another six to eight weeks.
The card is now ready for collection. I only figured that out recently while going through my junk emails. Yup, now they chose to email.
I will be happy to share the visa process details in case you need help with it – just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know it can be daunting and frustratingly lengthy, but eventually it works out. So don’t worry too much – ask people around. They are much friendlier than they look.