Monday, April 24, 2006

You would think

You would think that after 4 1/2 years here, I would have by-passed some ethnocentric thinking regarding the immigration system in regard to North Americans. However, it seems that each time I am faced with immigration problems; it creeps back into my thinking. It is going to give me an ulcer. Shouldn't there be some differences between how we are treated as opposed to those from Nigeria, for example?

Somehow, when Ron and I renewed our annual visas after the first year, each of us had different dates for renewal for the following year. His second visa was renewed for 268 days and mine for 365. This put us into different cycles for renewal and has continued as such ever since. This created an issue when we applied for our 5 year Residency Permit since we had to wait for my 3 full years of residency before we could apply. Waiting, however, cost us dearly.

Even if your application is being processed for the 5 year Residency, you still have to maintain your annual Visa. Ron's Visa was to expire two months before the Residency permit was due to be approved or rejected. Hence, he had to reapply for an annual Visa for the sake of the two months. To make things more complicated, this also entails applying for a new Work Permit first, though Work Permits will not be needed any longer once we have the Residency permit. Confused yet? This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Our worker from the agency who charges us arms and legs for their services to 'help' us get our documents calls Ron the Tuesday before Easter to tell him that he has to go to Immigration and reapply for the annual the Tuesday after Easter. She then gives him the list of documents he needs to collect. Bear in mind that Good Friday, most businesses including our accountant and lawyer's offices are closed. Easter Monday is also a legal holiday.Ron went around like a hyperactive child on speed, collecting what he was told he needed from various places, but some would not be available until Tuesday morning. He appointment at Immigration was at 2:00 that afternoon. After all of this running, we were not aware that the tram we would normally take to the Immigration office was out of service, so he had to take three buses to get there, arriving 15 minutes late. We thought he had done a fine job and all was well. But alas…

This last Friday morning we were planning on taking the 10:00 train to Vienna to meet people who were friends of friends and we had only met once before. At 8:30, Ron gets a call from our agency. The worker told him he needs a form from the APEH (Similar to the IRS) office showing he had been paying taxes and that the accountant has filed his tax returns. Of course, on Hungarian time schedules they needed to bring it to Immigration that afternoon. He had to try to track down the accountant, but was told he would not in the office until 9:30. When he found the accountant, he said that the taxes do not need to be filed until May, so they are not done yet. He gave Ron a form to take to APEH.

I called the people we were meeting and told them not to count on us until sometime later, if at all. Ron ran to the accountant and then to APEH to stand in line. In the meanwhile, I get a call from the Immigration attorney from the agency working with us telling me that Immigration wants a letter counter-signed by our attorney stating that the business gives permission for me to live in the flat. On Thursday before Easter, they had called and said they needed this letter for Ron. At that time, I had called our attorney who was on his way out of town for the weekend, but he arranged for another attorney in his office to write the letter, sign it and deliver it here on Easter Monday (to the tune of $$$).
Now this Immigration lawyer said that our worker from IRC was 'misunderstood' and we need the letter for ME, not for Ron. I was so livid, I told him to call our attorney and speak with him directly since their 'misunderstandings' were costing us money. I gave him the number and e-mailed our attorney to expect the call. The business is in both of our names, there is no one else involved in the business, it seems insane that this should be such a hassle.

By 3:30, Ron was not back yet from the tax office, so I called the people we were to meet and left a message that we were not going to make it and to call me back. I called the hotel we were going to stay at and cancelled the reservation without a refund. It was through Priceline.Com so it was 45 Euros, another waste of money due to the agencies inefficiency. I was so angry, I knew I could not be civil and relaxed. Ron got back at 4:00 with a paper from APEH, called the Immigration attorney and ran it over to the agency office. The attorney said he did not know if that would be sufficient. Ron said he lost his temper and demanded to know how Immigration could require a tax return that was not due until next month.At 6:00, I received an e-mail from our personal attorney saying that the Immigration attorney had not called him yet about the form for the flat. I verified that his phone number was correct and he gave me his mobile also, which I e-mailed to the agencies attorney.

The people in Vienna called later Friday night and asked if they could come here for the day on Saturday. I was so upset over the hassles, loss of money and general idiocy over this whole thing, I was feeling totally anti-social but I told them yes anyway. So they showed up Saturday morning. They wanted to go to the thermals and we sent them off on their own; I needed the time to decompose over these turns of events. They were planning
on taking the 8:20 train back to Vienna after taking us to Shalimar, an Indian restaurant for dinner. We lost track of time and they missed their train when they got there. They were back on our doorstep and stayed over night. They are leaving this afternoon.
All during Friday's confusion with phone calls between attorneys, two students who I really care deeply about each had an interview for a scholarship to the US. If accepted, they would go to either Bard or Trinity College for one academic year, have all of their expenses paid, and receive a monthly stipend, a new laptop computer, and a travel allowance at the end of the term. They both thought we were going to be in Vienna, but were calling me for the good news, bad news. One received it and the other did not. I had to work hard at being excited and sad for each of them, not letting my mood interfere with theirs and not sharing with them the mishaps of the weekend.At the same time, the land line phone was ringing, the mailman was at the door with a package and I was ready to tear someone apart. Knowing Balazs would be gone for a year was bittersweet. We have dubbed him our 'nephew' since we have become so close to him. We are going through a joyful mourning which added to the heavy burden of emotions. He is like the kid we never had and is here often. He is Ron's sidekick for anything involving classical music performances.

So things are still not settled as far as we know with Immigration. On Monday we have to contact our worker and see what still needs to be done yet. The race continues. I hate this!!! I keep asking myself if it is all worth the aggravation. The jury is still out.

After the fact, I remembered that my teaching partner's engagement party was Saturday night, but though I told him I would not be able to make it, I also had forgotten to bring their engagement present on Thursday, the last teaching day of the week for us. Ron, the master wrapper had forgotten to wrap it on Wednesday night since I did not remember to remind him. Then I forgot all about it on Thursday, when I saw Aaron, my teaching partner, so I never mentioned anything at all. What a heel I am. With all of the other calls from the agency, before Easter weekend, things became chaotic.I swear I will never refer them to anyone. After this is all over, there will be a major entry discussing the details with their name and fees, plus their trumped up charges.

I am going to curl up into a ball now.

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