Well, it's that time again- another year has gone by and yesterday we found ourselves back at the "Foreigners' Bureau" to renew our residency permits and pay Germany a bit more money to allow us to stay in the country. Last summer, we were in and out within 15 minutes so we figured it would be the same routine. But of course it wasn't or I wouldn't have the story to tell.
First we waited in the hall for 15 minutes. Then we went into the office and talked with the same woman we've worked with for two years. But she passed us off to a colleague who gave Aaron a 4-page form to fill out and sent us out in the hall. The form is the same one we filled out when we first arrived in the country (at which time we had someone translate it for us). This time, alone and without a dictionary, we were stumped on a few questions. It took us another 15 minutes for the form.
Then we were back in the office working with someone new. Since Aaron's passport expires next April, Herr Foreign-Office-Worker cannot issue a residency permit beyond that time. Since my residency is dependent on Aaron's employment and residency, I am in the same boat. But the issue made sense and we were okay with it. We'd just have to come back in the spring with Aaron's new passport and get new stickers. So Herr FOW printed out the stickers that go into our passports, only to discover, horror of horrors, that Aaron's book is full! Well, not really full. There are still pages left but apparently they are not the right kind of pages for a residency permit. Of course, Aaron was thinking, "Just put the stickers on a blank page and I'll deal with the U.S. if they don't like the placement. Besides, I'm getting a new passport in less than a year." Our new government friend just kept muttering, "Your passport is almost full. It's full." He went into another office and came back, confirming with other staff members that the book was indeed full.
We were sent to the basement to pay for the privilege of this experience, while he mulled over how to handle the situation. When we came back, suddenly I had to fill out a form, similar to the one Aaron had just filled out. I think he was stalling for time. By this point, we'd been there an hour. Finally, FOW came out to the hallway with our passports and a separate piece of paper for each of us. Since Aaron's passport expires in April and since there is no appropriate place to put his residency sticker in the current passport, we have a temporary three-month permit, in which time Aaron has to get a new passport and we have to report back to the Foreigner's Bureau for an extension.
Now we have to deal with the U.S. Embassy Consular Office to get Aaron's new passport. He'll have to go in person since he cannot give up his passport for 4-6 weeks (we're traveling to England and Puerto Rico in August). The office is open for a total of 16 hours a week, you can't make an appointment and it's a three-hour drive from here. Round Two, let the fun begin!